Archive for November, 2009
We’re continuing a tradition at Working Parents started last year. Asking you to take a moment this weekend to discuss your desires for how you want to live the end of your life. If you are seeing this issue come up a lot in the blogosphere this weekend, that’s because more than 100 bloggers are putting up the same post, in an effort to help start “the conversation”–one of the most important you’ll ever have. If you want to reproduce this post on your blog (or anywhere) you can download a ready-made html version here.
Last Thanksgiving weekend, many of us bloggers participated in the first documented blog rally to promote Engage With Grace a movement aimed at having all of us understand and communicate our end-of-life wishes.
It was a great success, with over 100 bloggers in the healthcare space and beyond participating and spreading the word. Plus, it was timed to coincide with a weekend when most of us are with the very people with whom we should be having these tough conversations–our closest friends and family.
Our original mission to get more and more people talking about their end of life wishes hasn’t changed. But it’s been quite a year so we thought this holiday, we’d try something different.
A bit of levity.
At the heart of Engage With Grace are five questions designed to get the conversation started. We’ve included them at the end of this post. They’re not easy questions, but they are important.
To help ease us into these tough questions, and in the spirit of the season, we thought we’d start with five parallel questions that ARE pretty easy to answer:
Silly? Maybe. But it underscores how having a template like just five questions in plain, simple language can deflate some of the complexity, formality and even misnomers that have sometimes surrounded the end-of-life discussion. Over the past year there’s been a lot of discussion around end of life. And we’ve been fortunate to hear a lot of the more uplifting stories, as folks have used these five questions to initiate the conversation. One man shared how surprised he was to learn that his wife’s preferences were not what he expected. Befitting this holiday, The One Slide now stands sentry on their fridge.
So with that, we’ve included the five questions from Engage With Grace below. Think about them, document them, share them. Wishing you and yours a holiday that’s fulfilling in all the right ways.
(To learn more please go to www.engagewithgrace.org. This post was written by Alexandra Drane and the Engage With Grace team. )
If you or someone you know would like to prepare an advance directive, this site contains downloadable forms for every state and Medline Plus has a section containing lots of background information on directives here.
This is a week to give thanks-and to say goodbye.
After six years at BusinessWeek and four years as a lead writer on this blog, I will be leaving BusinessWeek on Dec. 1.
Working Parents was started by my colleagues Amy Dunkin, Anne Tergesen and Toddi Gutner, based on the conversations we had about our families-usually on Monday mornings. Since the blog’s launch in January 2006, we’ve been successful in our mission to “lead a broad discussion of the issues and day-to-day concerns of working parents, offering up interviews with work/life experts, examinations of relevant research, and personal accounts of bouncing between separate, sometimes conflicting worlds.”
Some of my favorite posts How Mac ‘N Cheese is Like a Cigarette and Honoring a Wonderful Life were written by my colleague Cathy Arnst. A post I wrote on The Motherhood Penalty went viral. And I constantly refer back to an interview with Leslie Morgan Steiner, author of Mommy Wars.
I feel especially grateful that I was able to ride the BusinessWeek train for as long as I did. I’m also thankful to McGraw-Hill, which owned BusinessWeek for the past 80 years. The corporation has a commitment to work-life issues, incredible benefits, and an impressive women’s network. A flexible work schedule kept me sane during the past five years. In addition, my BusinessWeek managers and peers were especially supportive during a rough period when my son had seven surgeries. For that, I am eternally grateful.
I’d also like to thank the other bloggers out there who keep the conversation alive. Special shout-outs to Cali Williams-Yost, Marci Alboher, The Sloan Work an Family Research Network, The Families & Work Institute, The Juggle, The Motherlode and countless other thought leaders out there.
Have a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.
BusinessWeek is running its annual list of the best city or town for raising kids in each state in the nation. The rankings are based on a calculation using a number of criteria, such as schools, housing costs and crime rate. The overall winner? Tinley Park, Illinois:
Tinley Park, with its top-rated schools, low crime, beautiful parks, relatively affordable houses, and easy access to jobs, is the winner of BusinessWeek’s Best Places in America to Raise Kids. Working with OnBoard Informatics, we chose a winner for each state, but the Chicago suburb—only an hour south of last year’s winner, Mount Prospect, Ill.—scored the highest. Named after the village’s first railroad master in the 1800s, Tinley Park has two train stations, which carry commuters to Chicago in 45 minutes. Single-family homes for sale in Tinley Park start at $166,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bath house spread over 1,200 square feet to brand-new four-bedroom house for $630,000. All three of the main high schools serving Tinley Park are ranked in the top 100 in the state. And the students are closely tied to the community and often stay there after graduating.
I know nothing of Tinley Park, but New York’s winner certainly gave me pause–Tonawanda, right next to Buffalo. My mother grew up in Tonawanda and my grandmother lived there until the day she died at age 96, which I guess makes it a good place to grow old. But when I think of all of New York State, it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for raising kids. Then again, as a western New York native, I do like to see that part of the state get it place in the sun, in part because it doesn’t get a lot of sun.
The list always stirs up a lot of controversy. Check it out and let us know where you would prefer to raise your kids.
At South High School, during a Q&A session on Nov. 16, First Lady Michelle Obama made these insightful remarks on juggling her public job as first lady with her private job as mother to Sasha and Malia.
Question: What is one of the most difficult things of being First Lady?
MRS. OBAMA: The most difficult things of being the First Lady? Wow. There are a lot of advantages. I mean, let me begin by saying that. I came into this position having absolutely no idea what to expect. But I can say that it has been an honor and a privilege to serve in this role, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. From the moment we started campaigning, the ability to travel around the country and to meet people — whether they were voting for my husband or not — who were open and engaged and thoughtful and caring and patriotic and loyal, you’re just reminded that this is a really solid country, doing really good things.
So over the course of the campaign I got really pumped out about wanting to do my very best in whatever way for this country — for kids, for military families, for mothers struggling. It’s just, I get pumped up to try to make sure that I’m working my hardest and that I’m not taking anything for granted.
But with that, you know, comes the challenge of having a role that’s very public and raising kids and making sure that my girls don’t get lost in all of this — because they’re young and they didn’t make this choice.
So the President and I are always balancing the role that we play in public with making sure that home is home and that we’re present and accounted for, for our kids — not as Michelle and Barack Obama, but as mom and dad. And that means that on a day like this, I leave in the morning, I come back before they go to bed. That means when they have an event it takes precedent over everything — whether it’s a school play or a soccer game — they know if I can be there, one of us, we will be there, and we will be there not signing autographs or taking pictures, but being mom and dad. I do it by making sure that I know what my kids’ homework is and that I’m asking them questions, and I know who their teachers are, and I know who their friends are, and they still feel like they have a life.
So striking that balance sometimes is tough. And because I care so much about my kids, I want to make sure that they come out of this as whole as possible. So you’re always struggling with making sure that you’re doing right by the country, but you’re also doing right by your kids.
We know you’re busy, and we know you want to save money. With holiday shopping around the corner, here’s a list of tips from Michelle Madhok, founder of SheFinds.com and MomFinds.com, to help you get your gifts quickly and at a savings. Because much as the kids may love them, Madhok’s ideas about holiday cheer don’t always include big-box toy stores around December.
Shop Online. Only.
Avoid the holiday mayhem entirely. Schedule time with each child to cybershop – most stores will save the contents of your shopping cart for a few days, so you can revise according to your budget when all the kids are done. Kids will love the special time and the fact that they get to control the clicks, but you’ll have control over what ends up in the cart.
Pare Down Your Search
If you have some idea of what you want to buy but aren’t totally sure, Pronto is a great place to start. The shopping search engine is accurate and user-friendly, and with photos and price ranges for all the results. Start in their toys and games or baby sections, and keep refining till you have a few choices in your preferred criteria.
Subscribe, Don’t Buy
If your little ones tend to have fickle toy tastes, try giving a toy rental subscription to RentAToy or BabyPlays. They’re like Netflix for toys, and the same logic applies: They reduce the clutter that comes with an enormous toy collection, and keep things interesting with new toys when your tot tires of the current one.
Get Cash Back
A no-brainer for saving during a big shopping season: shop through a cash-back service like Bank of America’s Add It Up program, which gives Bank of America customers up to 20% cash back on purchases from participating retailers. The Bank of America program has over 300 retailers, like Land of Nod, so it might make sense to check the list before deciding where you’ll buy a given toy. You can even take advantage of double cash back offers from retailers like Apple Online Store and BestBuy.com.
Set Yourself Up For Deals
Know where you’ll do some of your shopping already? Sign up for that retailer’s e-mail newsletter list, and you’ll be the first to know about sales, spend-and-save offers, and free shipping – sometimes they’ll even throw in a coupon code. Toys R Us, Babies R Us and Target are particularly good for big brands like Fisher Price and Mattel; Giggle and FAO Schwarz have great selections of European and Eco toys.
It is the season of swine flu, and what parent out there isn’t scared, even as we keep telling ourselves our concerns are overblown? At least I kept telling myself my concerns were overblown, until I met a mother last week whose 24-year-old son had just spent three weeks in hospital, receiving antibiotics intravenously, because of swine flu. This was a healthy young man with no underlying risk factors. Now I’m scared.
Should I be? According to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), probably not, but it’s not a bad idea to get my 11-year-old daughter vaccinated anyway. And if you do get the flu, be concerned if the symptoms seem to improve, and then worsen again–it could be a sign that the flu has set off pneumonia or another bacterial disease.
There have been almost 4,000 deaths from H1N1 (the virus that causes swine flu) nationwide since the epidemic started last April. That’s nowhere close to the 36,000 people who die each year from standard issue seasonal flu, but the difference is that 90% of those flu victims are elderly. Swine flu appears to be far less deadly for the aged, possibly because a similar strain of virus was circulating when they were young and they built up immunity. That means that deaths in young people are disproportionately higher, but overall deaths are much, much lower.
To figure out just who gets sickest, researchers sponsored by the Calif. Department of Public Health studied statewide data on California residents who were hospitalized with H1N1 flu between April 23 and August 11, 2009. They found 1088 cases of hospitalization, and 11% of those died. Just like with standard flu, the most fatalities, 18%, were in persons aged 50 years or older. Eight children, 7% of the total, died.
Overall, 32% of the hospitalized were children younger than 18, with infants having the highest rate of hospitalization. The median age (midpoint) of the victims was 27 years, slightly younger than typically found during a flu epidemic. Here’s a key point: two-thirds of those hospitalized had underlying medical conditions that put them at greater risk from the flu, such as asthma or cerebral palsy. If you are healthy, you have less to worry about.
But here’s another key point–over half of those hospitalized were obese. The researchers warned that “obesity may be a newly identified risk factor for fatal pandemic 2009 influenza A(H1N1) infection and merits further study.” Given that one-third of the population is obese, including 10% of children, that’s a worry.
In another study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) of 36 children who died from H1N1 from April to August, researchers found that six had no chronic health conditions. But all of the children had a bacterial infection, the most common being staphylococcus aureus, the most frequent cause of staph infections. A third of the population carries this staph bacteria, usually in their nose or on their skin. There is a particularly worrisome strain of staph called MRSA that is resistant to the most common antibiotics, and can be deadly. Because the flu causes upper respiratory damage, it can allow the staph bug to make its way into the lungs. So again, if you or your child improves, but then gets sicker, it could be a sign that a bacterial infection has taken hold and you should seek medical attention immediately.
From the latest CDC briefing, where it was announced that the virus is active throughout the nation:
We wouldn’t expect this many states to have this widespread of a disease. Flu can last until May. We don’t know what we will see with this virus in general. Most of the illness is in younger people. More than half the hospitalizations are in people under 25. 90% of the deaths are in people under 65. A flip-flop from what we see with seasonal flu. The pediatric deaths are high…Two-thirds of the children who died from the H1N1 virus have underlying condition that is increase their risk of this problem. The leading underlying conditions in children who have died are severe neurologic problems like cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy and asthma in terms of contributing to the severe outcomes.
Nationwide, the CDC reports that there were almost 5,000 H1N1-related hospitalizations between Aug 30 and Oct 10. Of those, 19% were children 4 and under; 25% were 5 years to 18 years; 9% were people 19 years to 24 years; 24% were 25 to 49 years; 15% were 50 to 64 years; and 7% were people 65 years and older.
There were 292 H1N1 deaths reported to the CDC over the 40 day period. The breakdown: children 4 and under, 3%; 5 to 18 years, 14%; people 19 to 24 years, 7%; people 25 to 49 years, 33%; 50-64 years, 32%; and people 65 years and older, 12%.
If you want to stay on top of H1N1 developments, the CDC maintains the most comprehensive and up-to-date web site, found here.
The horrific killings at Fort Hood last week have dominated the headlines, and it’s been hard to shield my five-year-old son from the news. Even so, I wonder is it a good idea to protect your children from what’s happening in the world around us? I asked Suri Roth, a former teacher and young mom to two daughters, for her thoughts. Roth is the founder of the country’s only national newspaper for kids, The Current Events.
As a parent, how do you determine if an event is age-appropriate to discuss, such as the death of a major figure?
It really depends on the child. Is the child aware of this event? In some instances these events pass right over children and they have no interest in knowing. It’s important to determine if the child really wants or needs this information. It is certainly less complicated to deal as a parent on a one-to-one basis with children about a tragic event such as death. Children are most affected by these events if they had a relationship with the deceased. Some children find it comforting to know that the person or people involved not in pain anymore. I have found that with my own kids the primary concern is the “pain factor,” and “can it happen to us?”
I like to draw on what Kathie Scobee Fulgham, daughter of an astronaut who died on the Space Shuttle Challenger, shared with other children whose parents had died in terrorist attacks or space disasters. Kathie describes seeing the shuttle explode over and over again on the TV screen and virtually seeing her dad dying over and over again. She said that each time brought more confusion and pain.
Today Katie shares with children of disaster victims that “the same way your brain doesn’t register immediately when you break your arm,” the victims don’t feel the pain and don’t know what is happening. I talk to my children about this concept and find it very helpful.
However, covering bad news, such as fire or terrorist attack, tends to dominate the headlines. Should we shield our children from those discussions?
We can’t – in most instances, that is. I would certainly not draw attention or describe the details of events that can be frightening to children. Children pick up on what’s happening around them and sense tense situations. It is best to talk to them about the situation so that they feel secure that they are getting the information from a safe, age-appropriate resource and that they don’t have to look for answers on their own, or try to make sense of events on their own, which often leads to misunderstanding and unnecessary fears and anxiety.
The point is to give them the information that they need and not extraneous information that can be harmful. I often focus on what is being done to prevent a given situation from happening in the future, and what steps we are taking as a family and a nation to prevent this from reoccurring. For example, pointing out the volunteerism that took place after 9/11 gives children a sense of “we’re not alone” and helps them shift their focus to positive, and in some instances courageous, actions taken by fellow Americans.
What kinds of news events spark the best conversations with your own family? Sports? Local? National?
I think it is my passion for imparting knowledge that drives these discussions in our home. It’s my tone, my attitude such as: “I came across an amazing news item today…it was about such-and such,” and my children are all ears! Then come the follow-up questions which lead us to explore the topic on a deeper level.
How can schools do a better job of incorporating current events into the curriculum?
In the Information Age, where we are today, current events are a crucial part of education. Textbooks are typically a few years behind and in many instances the information is outdated. If educators make an effort to tie in the news across the curriculum, learning comes alive and becomes relevant.
I can’t think of a better way to spark students’ interest in government than to present the headlines of what’s happening in our government now. The same applies to all content areas. For example: “What is currently happening in the region being discussed in your history class?” “Are there any scientific studies being conducted in the field your science class is exploring now?” By incorporating current events in classrooms we provide our students with a foundation for lifelong learning that they can apply to their everyday lives.
What’s the best way to get kids engaged in the world around them?
Tune into their natural curiosity. What are their interests? Build on them!
For more tips on talking to children about bad news, check out this article from the Portland Examiner.