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What does Steward & Sheridan, PLC offer, and what is your role?
Our practice area relates to estate planning as a major starting point in many cases, and, whether or not we’ve done that for the particular client, we also handle Medicaid application work related to long-term nursing home stays. So maybe that client or other person who contacts us ends up in a nursing home, and it looks like they’ll have to stay longer than their Social Security benefits provide for, and they should consider the possibility of Medicaid benefits, especially if married. Rules are very different for couples. Medicaid nursing home stay expenses are quite high, $11,000/month. Most over 60 need to consider possibly needing longer-stay nursing home care at some point. This can be taken into account with the estate planning process, and provide some protection for the person’s assets. It’s important to have these discussions early so decisions can be made, or at least evaluated, as there are quite a few different options that should be addressed.
We also offer probate and trust administration—dealing with the assets, paying the bills, and distributing to the beneficiaries, which sometimes can be simple, and other times not.
Clients meet with me or Angela Hentkowski. We’re the only actively practicing certified NELF (National Elder Law Foundation) attorneys located in MI’s Upper Peninsula. We’ve both been certified for quite a while. There’s a level of expertise and knowledge that goes into that rather than someone who just occasionally goes into these areas. Our knowledge base addresses elder law, and we keep up with it on a very regular basis, as things change quite often.
We have many clients with disabled beneficiaries—their children or grandchildren. In many cases, a disabled person will need to rely on government programs to provide services, particularly medical services, so in most cases it’s best to establish a special type of trust that will be there for their lifetime but can be used for the beneficiary. Advanced planning is needed to put this into place.
How did you get into this line of work?
The firm I was in forty years ago needed somebody to do the probate and trust work. I was interested even in law school, so I started doing that work way back then. That depth of experience is very helpful in today’s world.
In 2010, a substitute statute replaced Michigan’s 1978 probate law, making it more comprehensive, and it has been modified since. I worked on the 2010 MI trust code substantially, and a bunch of other statutes and statutory amendments. Over the years after that, I was directly involved in the probate planning section.
I was also directly involved with membership in committees related to the elder law and disability rights section of Michigan’s state bar. Angela and I have been very active because we feel it’s important to keep up on what’s happening and be part of the process so when changes are being discussed, we have input into those considerations.
Medicaid is largely driven by federal stature that the state is supposed to follow but in many cases does not, resulting in litigation. Recently, Angela and I were directly involved in litigation on Michigan’s Department of Health & Human Services applying a federal statute in a way we felt was wrong. This went through the Court of Appeals. Some situations become way more involved than you want them to be. It’s necessary to have knowledge of statutes that apply and their wording, especially in Michigan, because sometimes Michigan feels it does not have to follow federal requirements.
What stands out about your firm?
We have a depth of knowledge and explain stuff. When we meet with a client the first time, we review their total assets because that’s driving elements. They must be taken into account regarding options we’re recommending or pointing out, as well as the family situation, including whether or not there’s a disabled child or grandchild, and whether or not the client is a veteran of the U.S. military. That can open up additional benefits the client may be eligible for in the future. As people get older, those disabilities can change, so that’s something to consider.
We always start with the client’s concerns, their family situation, and what they’d like to accomplish regarding the distribution of their assets. We spend quite a bit of time discussing factors going into making it all work, I think more so than most attorneys, so clients get a better sense of the overall complexity, and why an estate plan is needed. So there’s an ongoing discussion. It’s important for clients to revisit their estate plan every several years so it still fits their situation. People live longer now than their parents and grandparents did. The chances of disability are much greater than when they didn’t live as long. The chance of outliving one or more of their children is greater. Quite often people don’t think of this. That’s something we worry about all the time because we keep seeing it.
You don’t have to be wealthy to need estate planning.
In the U.P. in particular, your family may have a camp or other real estate that’s been in the family a very long time. Many will a property or camp to all of their children. That’s often asking for long-term problems. Everybody’s got to get along and do what they’re supposed to do. Forever. And if the kids ever have any credit issues, or divorce, now the property’s at risk.
I developed a special type of trust over many years specifically to deal with that. It’s something others don’t have. We go over its pros and cons with the client to see if it fits with their present and long–term goals.
We also helped with the correction of a Michigan Health & Human Services interpretation of federal Medicaid law in the Hegadorn case. This was a big deal that took many years to get done. It ended up being a unanimous decision by the Michigan Supreme Court, which is somewhat remarkable.
What do you find most challenging about your job?
One challenge is keeping up with all the changes. Another is dealing with the state of Michigan not following Federal rules for Medicaid. Also, sometimes a client believes they can find out this info on the internet and do their own plan. The thing is you don’t know what you don’t know. You can find some info online that may or may not be correct, and you don’t know how it all fits together. That’s our job—figuring out how it all fits together and making that work.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Helping people, and helping them prepare for the future. In some cases, helping them deal with a medical crisis, nursing home practice, and especially issues affecting the spouse, and otherwise trying to protect for the benefit of their ultimate beneficiaries.
Most people don’t want to make donations to the government that they don’t plan for. And if they don’t plan, the risk of this is much greater, just as with your income tax return. We’re always working with what the law provides and what’s permitted to minimize this.
Excerpted with permission from the Spring 2021 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2021, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s Healthy Cooking columnist will be teaching through the Peter White Public Library, Marquette, MI on Tues. March 30th, 7 to 8 PM – through Zoom
Casseroles are great winter time comfort dishes. Chef Val will teach how to make a whole foods casserole featuring brown rice pasta. The recipe features a white sauce with two different types of mushrooms-maitake and white button. All the health benefits of the ingredients will be discussed as Chef Val teaches how to make the casserole. The recipe is vegan, whole foods, plant based, organic, anti-inflammatory and delicious!
When it comes to keeping women strong and healthy, soybeans and products made with soybeans can be very helpful. Soybeans contain easily absorbable iron, many B vitamins, and carotin, support detoxification, promote vitality, and feed and nurture the lungs and large intestines.
Soybeans made into tofu are high in calcium. When made into tempeh, it is 19.5% protein. Containing all eight essential amino acids, it is a complete protein. When made into miso, it has 11 grams of complete protein in each tablespoon. And by fermenting it to make the miso, its healing properties are enhanced. Miso is a living food containing lactobacillus, a healthful micro-organism that aids digestion. There are so many wonderful health benefits from soy foods, I can see why we have been eating them for thousands of years.
Studies have shown soybeans can support your bones by reducing bone loss due to osteoporosis, helping to reduce the risk of fractures. Researchers conclude that their findings indicate postmenopausal women and others with low bone density could benefit from consuming soy.
I feel there is a lot of confusion about the plant-based phytoestrogen isoflavones found in soybeans. This part of the bean does not disrupt your estrogen levels, it balances them. If your estrogen level is too low, it raises it; if your estrogen level is too high, it lowers it. These isoflavones also have been credited with slowing the effects of osteoporosis, relieving some side effects of menopause, and alleviating some side effects of cancer. They have also been shown to dramatically lower the undesirable LDL cholesterol. It is interesting that in China, where they eat soybean products such as tofu, tempeh, and miso every day, until recently, they did not have a term in their language for hot flashes.
Wooden kabob sticks
1 lb. fresh firm tofu
1 onion (cut in chunks)
4 carrots (cut in long, round diagonals)
1 yellow summer squash (cut in cubes)
20 radishes (cut in thick rounds)
1/3 cup tamari
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup water
2 Tbsp. each: brown rice vinegar and mirin
1 Tbsp. brown rice syrup
1 tsp. basil
1 tsp. thyme
Arrange tofu and all vegetables in a shallow dish, lying flat and not stacked on top of each other. Whisk together marinade ingredients and pour over vegetables. Let marinate for 30 minutes. Take the wooden kabob sticks and place tofu chunks and vegetables on each one, alternating the vegetables to make each kabob unique. Heat a skillet and brown kabobs on each side, or place kabobs on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. To grill the kabobs, soak the wooden sticks in water for 20 minutes first, then prepare kabobs as described above before grilling.
Chef Valerie Wilson, a.k.a, Macro Val, has been teaching cooking classes since 1997. Visit her website to purchase her cookbook Year Round Healthy Holiday Cooking, set up a phone consultation, or listen to her radio show, http://www.macrval.com. Facebook, Macro Val Food.
Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Have you noticed the vitality of the arts in the Upper Peninsula? As with any example of robust health, many factors have combined over time to create this success. One woman who played a key role in this by example, educating, and organizing, is Anita Meyland.
Anita was born on March 5, 1897, to an artistic Milwaukee family. Her father, Fredrick Elke, learned how to paint frescoes, painting on wet plaster, and his work decorated many area churches.
Anita graduated from the University of Wisconsin in 1917 and became an art teacher in Milwaukee. Upon marrying English teacher Gunther Meyland in 1924, they moved to Marquette where he had been hired by the normal school, now Northern Michigan University.
Although others called Anita “the grande dame of culture” in Marquette, “patroness of the arts” and even “bohemian,” the words she most often used to describe herself were “teacher” and “dilettante.”
Anita loved to teach.
She taught art in the Marquette and Ishpeming schools. She brought a group of women painters together who met every week for eleven years, studying a new painter each week,and then learning to paint in that style. She created “The Paintbox,” a children’s program held on Saturday mornings for any child who wanted to attend. She taught adult education art classes within the school system and for the elderly residents of Pine Ridge. She’s best known for organizing and naming Marquette’s first “Art on the Rocks” show in 1950, showing the work of ten local artists, most of whom she had trained. Her work with the Lake Superior Art Association and the Art on the Rocks show earned her countless awards, including the naming of the gazebo at Presque Isle Park (the site of Art on the Rocks for many years) after her.
It’s more surprising that she would embrace the term “dilettante.” We’re now in an era that venerates specialization. The term “dilettante” suggests a dabbler—someone who never takes anything too seriously. Anita would vigorously disagree. She never stopped learning new things and never stopped sharing them.
So, in addition to her painting, Anita learned to weave, and organized an Upper Peninsula weavers group. She studied pottery, and 200 pots from her own collection formed the basis of a pottery exhibit at NMU in 1980. She learned, and then taught classes in scrimshaw, quilting, spinning, pewter, ironwork, beading, candle-making, and woodcarving.
Nor did Anita limit herself to the visual arts.
She was a charter member of the Marquette Community Concert Association, and active in the Saturday Music Club. She wrote a play for Marquette’s Centennial in 1949. A newspaper article from 1984 describes her eagerly preparing for the upcoming U.P. Young Authors conference, planning a theme based on cats—ranging from T.S. Eliott to Garfield.
What about Anita Meyland as “bohemian”? Scrapbooks from the early years of the Lake Superior Art Association include a 1963 invitation to “Vida’s Vignettes—An Evening with Vida Lautner, Artist.” The Tuesday evening event began with a reception at 8:30, followed by a talk at 9, “art and punch on the rocks” at 10:30, “the vernissage” (showing) at 11 p.m., and then at 3:00 a.m. “Comes the Dawn.”
There were people who thought the name “Art on the Rocks” was inappropriate because it suggested drinking. Anita was not inclined to change it. In a 1978 interview, she was described as “a little indignant” at the prospect of a return to provincialism in the arts, saying “I’m afraid we’re going back in that direction.”
Above all, Anita Meyland believed you should never stop learning, and never stop growing. Anita continued pursuing her multiple artistic interests right up until her death on March 7, 1995, just two days after her 98th birthday.
Ann Hilton Fisher grew up in Marquette and remembers Anita Meyland in her lovely home on Pine Street. After a career as a public interest attorney in Chicago, she and her husband have retired to Marquette where she volunteers with the Marquette Regional History Center. This article is adapted from a presentation given at the History Center’s 2019 cemetery tour.
Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Ordinary, caring people who think clearly, express themselves logically, and communicate effectively are actively shaping our future. They view the big picture, including future generations, and recognize actions we have to take today to improve tomorrow. They rarely start out with privilege and authority. They mostly start just with passion and determination. Maybe it’s you, or your neighbor.
That’s how women such as Naomi Klein, Vandana Shiva, Naomi Oreskes, Winona LaDuke, and Erin Brockovich became recognized and powerful. Because of them, our lives are better.
It isn’t always facts and figures that persuade.
It’s style and relationships. How and to whom you communicate is often more effective than what you communicate. It’s knowing how to say something, how to get through a preconception or bias that makes the difference. Gentle persuasion can lift a very heavy stone. Compassion, not just for your subject, but for your partner, friend, and neighbor, keeps doors of communication open.
But…One individual cannot possibly make a difference, alone. It is individual efforts, collectively, that makes a noticeable difference—all the difference in the world! — Dr. Jane Goodall
For change to actually happen, effort needs to be collective, shaping views for a wide audience.
Share and garner support. Become collective. An excellent example is Greta Thunberg.
Greta Thunberg, a seventeen-year-old Swedish environmental activist, got started after convincing her parents to reduce their own carbon footprint. For two years, Thunberg challenged her parents to lower the family’s environmental impact. She tried showing them graphs and data, but when that did not work, she warned her family they were stealing her future. Giving up flying in part meant her mother had to give up her international career as an opera singer.
Thunberg credits her parents’ eventual changes with giving her hope and belief she could make a difference. The family story is recounted in the 2020 book Our House is on Fire: Scenes of a Family and a Planet in Crisis.
n 2018, at age fifteen, Greta spent school days outside the Swedish parliament holding a sign reading “School strike for climate.” Soon, ordinary young people organized a school climate strike movement called “Fridays for Future.”
Thunberg’s youth and straightforward speaking in public to political leaders and assemblies criticizes world leaders for their failure on the climate crisis. In 2019, multiple coordinated multi-city protests included over a million students each. To avoid flying, Thunberg sailed to North America where she attended the U.N. Climate Action Summit. Her exclamation “How dare you?” was widely featured by the press. Thunberg has inspired what is called “The Greta Effect.” All this has come from a teenager with Asperger’s syndrome, which Greta calls “my super-power.”
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist and author. In the 1950s, she focused on conservation and problems she believed were caused by synthetic pesticides. She and her classic book Silent Spring (1962) were met with fierce opposition by chemical companies. Her book eventually spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides. It inspired a movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
The Rachel Carson Prize, an international environmental award established in Norway, commemorates her achievements and awards women who distinguished themselves in outstanding environmental work.
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter. — Rachel Carson
You don’t have to be special. You have to become special.
Steve Waller’s family lives in a wind- and solar-powered home. He has been involved with conservation and energy issues since the 1970s and frequently teaches about energy. Steve can be reached at Steve@UPWallers.net.
Excerpted with permission from the Fall 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC. All rights reserved.
Welcome to Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine’s “Honoring Women” Thirteenth Anniversary issue! With all of the challenges to so many aspects of our wellness going on this year, we hope to support and inspire you with a closer view of a few of the many U.P. women working to support our wellness holistically.
For some, this can take many forms. Kate Lewandowski coaches breathwork (Breathe Well, Be Well) dance, yoga, massage, and healthy mental practices in Marquette. She also co-owns several businesses, including comprehensive wellness and play center BeWell Marquette, a Thai massage school, and a juice bar – BeWell Elixirs.
Kate explains, “I want people to leave feeling inspired and worthy, more worthy than when they walked in. There are so many right ways, and helping people see and discover that—that’s a motivating piece of it for me.”
Currently, BeWell Marquette’s group classes include mindfulness, movement therapy, self-massage, yoga, dance, Tai Chi, breathwork, and sound baths. Various practitioners are also offering massage, physical therapy, breathwork, sound therapy, clinical herbalism, private yoga therapy, and health coaching. Time can also be booked in BeWell Marquette’s salt room.
“The endless striving to be a successful human, and also the desire to help others be successful human beings,” inspired Kate to go into this line of work. She clarifies, “In part, that means being present to what’s happening and what’s being asked of us. In my case, I’m not the dreamer. Somebody else has grand ideas, and my task is to say yes to whatever needs to be manifested around me.”
She first got into health and wellness as a veterinarian and practiced medicine for several years before realizing her focus was to help people connect to the world around them and each other more than to work with animals. Before her holistic career, Kate worked as a landscaper, a jewelry designer as she and her partner were traveling, and as a wildlife researcher in the field.
Kate observes, “It doesn’t matter what we do; it’s the integrity we bring to what we do; it’s how we go about it that’s important.”
Kate’s favorite part of her work is “seeing the a-ha moments in individuals, hearing the feedback of ‘I’m feeling great,’ ‘this was helpful,’ those personal successes.”
“There’s so much suffering around that I feel is optional (pain is not optional but suffering is), and finding these ways to help…. There are so many options,” Kate adds. After exploring various healing modalities, she has returned to the basics of breath and mind. Kate declares, “The simplicity and power of a nourishing breath and nurturing thoughts are incomparable.”
Melissa Copenhaver of Suunta Wellness in Marquette provides holistic health nursing services, auricular acupuncture, and energy work, as well as social and emotional therapy, with a focus on children. She also collaborates and supports other resources for those who have experienced trauma, such as with the Child Advocacy Center and sexual assault examinations, and is an Associate Professor in Mental Health Nursing at Northern Michigan University.
Melissa explains, “Someone seeking holistic nursing services can expect to meet with a nurse to review a health history and identify the goal(s) they want to work on. Together the nurse and the client identify what interventions would be most helpful in reaching their goal(s). Auricular acupuncture originated in the treatment of addictions, but the five points in the ear have also shown promise for addressing things like anxiety and insomnia.” She adds, “Holistic nursing energy work involves the nurses using their hands to help restore balance and harmony through working with the human energy field or life force. I have been using these practices in my work for several years now.”
Melissa started out as a public health nurse. She says, “I always had an interest in health prevention. It seems our health care system is designed to address things once they cause significant impact. Public health nursing works from a prevention standpoint and is relationship-based. As a public health nurse, I was able to work with the same families for several years. We really build a relationship, and we’re able to come up with ways to promote their health. And I think there’s just a healing and therapeutic impact from the relationship.”
“Eventually, I began to realize that if we’re looking at public health, we have to look at mental health, and that my public health nursing work was missing that social and emotional component,” Melissa describes. “I understand that every client comes in with their own story, and possibly a story that includes trauma. And so, I make sure that I’m doing my best to create a safe place for them.”
Melissa says, “I’m so fortunate because I do a lot of different things and I really enjoy all the things I do. It really comes back to those relationships, and also those opportunities to collaborate with individuals to improve their health by empowering them, showing them that the changes they want to make are possible, and that I’m going to be there for them to support their making those changes.”
Reiki practitioner and Reiki Master Penny Seidl of Crystal Haven Body, Mind & Spirit LLC works with individuals as well as animals to help bring relaxation, stress reduction, comfort, support, and pain reduction. Penny explains, “The Reiki energy comes from Source or a Higher Power. It draws in universal life force energy, bringing that back into the body to help attain a natural balance. And I’m the conduit connecting the person with the energy.”
Penny also sometimes incorporates crystal work, utilizing the vibrations that come naturally from the crystals within a Reiki session, or separately. “All living things have a vibration, and so do other items, such as crystals. A frequency is emitted from everything here on earth. Oftentimes people find it hard to grasp that there’s energy coming from a crystal or a mineral. However, old school-style watches have quartz in them to help the mechanism keep time due to the frequency emitted. Most cell phones have LCD screens. That’s liquid crystal developed by Marcel Vogel when working with IBM many years ago. He got crystals to generate energy to show images. Crystals are all around us, and within our everyday lives.
When I use crystals with people, they help bring harmony and relaxation back to the body to help balance return.
I focus on the seven main chakra (energy center) points of the body from head to toe, utilizing the stones I feel would be best for the situation at hand, and for the result we’re hoping to obtain. Individuals are always clothed, often with a blanket over them, on a massage type table. I’ll use the appropriate crystals directly on the body, and also around the body to help with the containment and movement of energy.”
Penny provides her private sessions at a studio in Laurium, and also does crystal placement for individuals throughout their property, helping them create crystal grids for bringing peace and relaxation to their homes.
She started collecting crystals at age four, and comes from a family that used to make jewelry. “I grew up with crystals always around me. Over time, my collections grew, and also my willingness to learn more about earth sciences. Eventually, I noticed whenever I went to a gem or rock shop, I came away feeling either really drained or really energized. I couldn’t put together why, so I started looking into it further. I realized, I’m actually feeling this! It’s not made up. It does affect me! By age thirteen, I began obtaining knowledge from wherever I could about the different properties of crystals throughout the world. And my collection’s started to become very heavy!”
Later, energy work drew Penny because of the relaxation and comfort she experienced when receiving it.
“I enjoyed being immersed within that light. I wanted to learn how to do that for myself, and eventually completed training in the three levels of Reiki and the Master teacher training in the Usui tradition, the original Reiki training that came available.” Penny currently offers online classes, teaching others how to do this for themselves, their friends, and their clients too, if they decide to have a practice.
Penny also appreciates how well Reiki works with other therapies, whether they’re medical, physical therapy, chiropractic, or massage, and how relaxing and re-energizing it can be. “It’s like a tune-up,” she enthuses. “Results vary, however, 99.5% of the time, people experience centering, quieting of the mind, connecting the body, mind, and spirit as one. I like being part of facilitating that… It’s just a thrill to see people thrive.”
Many of Bonnie Cronin’s clients turn to her at Marquette’s North Shore Naturopathic and Acupuncture after they’ve gone to a conventional doctor and their lab results come back normal, but they don’t feel well. They may have less energy, hormonal imbalances, digestive problems, or a combo of these or other issues.
Bonnie says, “Initially, I sit with the person and discuss their history, and all their chief complaints. Then I review all the systems to get a good sense of their overall health…” including their digestion, stress level, support network, social outlets, exercise, and the amount and quality of food and water they consume.
“I see a lot of people with autoimmune issues, so we might work on digestive health, even though they might not have any symptoms. I might do an IgG food panel to check for delayed hypersensitivity reactions which would cause pain and inflammation in the body,” Bonnie explains.
“Then we might do things to help you with nutrients that can be beneficial and replenish good flora in the gut to help repair it. Vitamin D is very important for autoimmune tendencies. It decreases the inflammatory process that’s heightened in autoimmune disorders.” And in some cases, simply eliminating an aggravating food substance has relieved long-term chronic pain and other issues.”
Bonnie adds, “We try to figure out which systems are out of balance, and use the least-force intervention to create change.
With licensure, which naturopaths can obtain in certain states, we can prescribe pharmaceuticals if needed. I think a majority of things can be treated naturally, but there’s a time and a place for conventional interventions, such as treating a kidney infection. But if it were a urinary tract infection, I would treat it with high dose herbs.”
“I think at any age we should feel vibrant, energetic, not have a lot of pain, and be able to do the things we want to do. So that’s my focus when I work on people,” Bonnie declares. “And I also do acupuncture based on traditional Chinese principles to support the systems that are out of balance. Acupuncture is probably best known for pain management as it helps release endorphins, helping people to feel relaxed and handle pain better. It can also be really helpful for digestive issues, blood sugar levels, and other health issues.”
Bonnie always wanted to go into natural health,
and based on what she knew of such careers when in high school, she thought she’d become a chiropractor or physical therapist. “I was very into exercise therapy and diet,” Bonnie explains. “While working on my pre-med degree at Northern Michigan University in the ’90s, I met Vicki Lockwood and learned homeopathy from her. That opened the door to herbs and other dietary things. Then I came across some info on naturopathic medicine and I realized this was it!”
“With naturopathic medicine, we’re always trying to get to the root cause, not just treat symptoms, and use the least-force intervention to create change,” describes Bonnie. “So we work with diet and lifestyle, vitamins, minerals, and botanicals before any kind of pharmaceutical intervention.”
Bonnie also notes acupuncture may offer immediate results for pain relief, hormone regulation, and elimination of allergy symptoms with even one or a few treatments. “Some naturopathic practices can take a couple of weeks or months before showing results. Acupuncture can be a great tool for immediate and also long-standing results.” she explains.
“I just love seeing people take charge of their own health. I want people to feel empowered,” Bonnie enthuses. “We can feel good for the rest of our lives if we take good care of ourselves. That’s what I love.”
Ask anyone, especially a senior, What is a sign of wellness? What tissue epitomizes strength? The answer is your bones and skeletal health. Never have we known so much about bone health, and never has it received so much attention. Our understanding of bone as an organ and a tissue has deepened, especially in the last few years. The public’s level of awareness has been raised as well, and people want to know what they can do to improve their bone health. They know about the problems that result from osteoporosis, especially the potential for fractures and bone injury.
Bone is truly a remarkable tissue, with amazing abilities and wonderful reparative properties. Bone has the principal responsibility of supporting the load imposed upon itclinical herbalism, the human body. The demands placed upon our bones require enormous strength and resilience, while still being relatively lightweight. Bone is a very responsive tissue, altering its shape and configuration depending on the forces it endures, responding to physical stress by becoming stronger.
Bone requires physical forces be placed upon it, at least partially in the form of resisting gravity, to survive and thrive.
We know more about this process than ever before. At last, we begin to grasp how bone responds to physical activity. Advances in technology have allowed us a better, more thorough understanding of the biology and physics of bone. We know its healing abilities are excellent, at least partially because of its well-endowed blood supply.
As we are all aware, aging affects bones, as it does every part of the human body (and everything else). But certain eras are associated with more significant bone changes. Bone loss begins or accelerates at midlife for both men and women. The goal during this time of life is to keep bone loss to a minimum. For example, between the ages of forty and fifty, bone loss may progress more slowly in both sexes with effective interventions. Unfortunately, during menopause, there is a period of more rapid loss in women. Both sexes may lose a total of 25 percent of bone during this period. This phase can occur anytime between the ages of fifty and seventy.
The frailty phase typically occurs in adults over age seventy. One common occurrence in this phase: bowing of the spine, called kyphosis, due to spinal fractures secondary to osteoporosis. But, be aware these phases are generalized. It is important to know fractures are not a natural consequence of aging. They can be avoided, to some extent. Your chronological age, as an individual, is a given, so we must focus on those factors over which we have some control—our diet and physical activity.
Osteoporosis is the excessive, or “pathologic,” thinning or loss of bone density.
With this common disease, bone substance is lost, making the bone lighter, thinner, and, of course, weaker. When progressive, it can lead to loss of height, stooped posture, humpback, and severe pain. Osteoporosis is characterized by the systemic impairment of bone mass, and strength, resulting in increased risk for fragility fractures, disability, and loss of independence.
Falls frequently result in fractures when thinning of bone has occurred. In seniors, or anyone with certain risk factors, falls are a real and ever-present threat. One approach to the problem is participating in a fall prevention program, helping us to protect our bones by reducing the risk of injury. Programs such as these, addressing muscle strengthening, balance, and gait training, and home hazards evaluations, all help to reduce the number of fractures that occur.
Gait-assistive devices are important, although patient acceptance can be a real issue. Bracing and supports can be beneficial, but are utilized far too rarely. Re-evaluation of prescribed and over-the-counter medications being taken for possible unexpected consequences is also recommended. Oftentimes, one person may receive prescriptions for multiple medications from multiple providers. Many pharmaceuticals have the potential to have psychotropic qualities, meaning they alter perception or mental acuity in some way, and should be reduced or replaced.
Osteoporosis is the most common and most well-known of the bone diseases.
Sometimes referred to as the “fragile bone disease,” this loss of bone mass is often caused by a vitamin deficiency, particularly calcium, vitamin D, or magnesium. Its development usually starts with osteopenia, the precursor to osteoporosis, in which there is early bone thinning.
According to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, osteoporosis affects 54 million Americans, mostly women. Millions more Americans are estimated to have the low bone mass of osteopenia, putting them at risk for osteoporosis. The morbidity and resulting expense is incalculable. For starters, we know that almost two million Americans a year suffer a fracture attributable to osteoporosis.
It’s well-recognized and proven that physical activity is important for bone health.
Exercise, in all of its varied forms, helps to reduce the risk of falling in later years. This is common mantra holds true throughout the many phases of life. Exercise helps to increase or preserve bone mass. Resistance training, whether with machines or weights, is especially helpful.
We can improve our own bone stock. Still, we have no control over some of the most important factors in developing healthy bone. Studies indicate that genetic factors are responsible for determining fifty to ninety percent of our body’s bone mass. Heredity issues not only limit how much bone a person may acquire, but also affect bone structure, the rate of bone loss, and the skeleton’s response to environmental stimuli, such as certain nutrients and physical activity.
Healthy, sufficient nutrition is important in maintaining optimal bone mass.
We also know the optimal type of nutrition and activity will vary across our life spans. A person’s nutrition over the years is clearly essential to preventing this debilitating disease. It is widely accepted that adequate calcium and vitamin D intake are necessary for good bone health, and the nutritional benefits of these two nutrients go far beyond their boon to bone health.
Because the average American consumes levels of calcium far below the amount recommended for optimal bone health, it has been singled out as a major public health concern today. Vitamin D aids in the absorption and utilization of calcium. There is a high prevalence of vitamin D insufficiency in nursing home residents, hospitalized patients, and adults with hip fractures.
Some estimates claim that over 40% of Americans have a vitamin D deficiency.
Although sunshine is the best method of increasing your levels, supplementation is recommended for most of us. Current guidelines suggest 400–800 IU per day is adequate, although many scientists say this is not nearly enough. Another controversy surrounds which type of vitamin D is best, D2 or D3. The former is from plant sources and the latter from animals. Most experts believe D3 is better at raising tissue levels.
It is essential we value the impact we can have on our own bone health. While genetic factors are important in determining bone mass, we each need to understand we have a critical part to play. In fact, controllable lifestyle factors, generally referring to diet and physical activity, are responsible for ten to fifty percent of our bone mass and structure.
But too many of us are too sedentary. Many of us know, in a general sense, that exercise is important. Yet how many of us are able to incorporate it into our average day and make it a regular practice? A little self-knowledge has not achieved great gains in levels of personal fitness. It may be time for a different approach. When exercise is prescribed like a drug by one’s family doc, it acts as a prescription medicine. And it is the healthiest kind.
Dr. Conway McLean is a physician practicing foot and ankle medicine and surgery in the Upper Peninsula (Marquette and Escanaba). McLean is triple board certified in surgery, wound care, and orthotic therapy. He has lectured internationally on many topics. Dr. McLean welcomes questions at email@example.com.
When change happens, many of us become uncomfortable, even if we recognize and accept that the one certainty in life is change. I have worked in the Adult Foster Care industry and managed a group home for those with cognitive and physical disabilities. When a new resident would arrive, they often did not fit the written description given by former caregivers. Often, having arrived at a place never seen before, without familiar faces present, a new resident would demonstrate skills no one thought they had, as if an alarm clock had gone off, and now he or she was awake.
I always suggested to staff we roll with it and see what else might surface. How exciting to do so rather than look at the negative side and blame the people who made those meager introduction notes. Once we were told a person would not walk without guidance and assistance, and one day the person did, standing up, walking across the room, and sitting on the floor in a spot of light coming through the window. I smiled and thought, “Oh, this new resident can self-soothe. The person saw a spot of warmth and moved to it like a cat.” Others in my employ looked on with pity that this person sat on the floor; how sad.
I recognize change can be so sudden and complete that we often feel loss, and just like a special needs individual with no compass to navigate the changes before them, it often comes down to what I need in this moment. Warmth, I need warmth. I will walk across the room and achieve that. Here I now sit in a spot of sun. Magical! Change can be a catalyst for magic, and for fresh new insights on living.
Perceptions of change, as well as our coping abilities, vary and we all have differing skill sets.
Often we do not know how to confront or meet what is happening. In such situations, I like to turn to my creative skills: journaling, vision boards or dream-mapping, or creating mandalas of natural items found on walks.
Let’s look at the process of creating a dream-map or vision-board. I like to gather images and items starting at the New Moon and put them into a cardboard box—clippings from the news, old photos, and items culled from old magazines, bits of scrapbook papers, letters, cards, poems.
Then on the Full Moon, I settle into a space created for the moment. I set the stage. Spread out a blanket upon the floor. Retrieve the box of gathered treasures, scissors, glue sticks, adhesive, scrapbook paper, with an artist pad or cardboard as a base. I set an intention, say a positive affirmation, and begin the sifting process on what is rising up through these items for me. Often I am surprised that something I had clung to or felt strongly about initially does not make it through the gathering phase for my full moon collage.
Displaying my new vision board is essential, as I do not always recognize the meaning or message in the artwork I created. I like to keep it present and allow for the true messages to come like whispers on the wind, allowing their guidance to become fully realized. I do not need to take action right away. Change is often slow. But having a catalyst to help with the sorting of meaning and story can be extremely enlightening.
Licensed Massage Therapist and Yoga instructor Kim Nixon Hainstock holds a B.S. in English from NMU, has led vision board classes at Ishpeming’s Joy Center, Essentials Massage and Yoga, and with at-risk youth, and is currently navigating change and finding ways to nurture her journey.
Excerpted with permission from the Summer 2020 issue of Health & Happiness U.P. Magazine. Copyright 2020, Empowering Lightworks, LLC.