DO I REALLY NEED A FLU SHOT?

The flu vaccine greatly reduces the risk of getting or spreading the flu. That’s the short answer.

Influenza, aka “the flu,” is not a simple illness. The symptoms typically include fever, cough, muscle aches, chills and fatigue. It may seem to be of less concern than what promoters claim, but keep in mind that there is a range of severity of each of those symptoms. Many of these symptoms occur with an uncomplicated upper respiratory illness or ‘just a cold.’ However true influenza has some not-so-subtle differences. A cold may come on slowly over several days of minor, annoying symptoms. The flu comes on rapidly, to the extent that most of those who have it can state firmly the date and time of the onset of symptoms, often described as “I was feeling perfectly fine until 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday!”

The best way to avoid the flu is to get a flu vaccine. The flu shot not only helps you avoid the flu, it also helps prevent the spread of flu from person to person. Even though you might not be at high risk of complications from flu, getting the shot lowers your risk of spreading the flu virus to people who are at high risk. Those at greater risk of complications include children under the age of 5, adults over the age of 65 and those people who have chronic illnesses.

Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd advocates for best health possible by sponsoring flu shots, given by the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Association. This year’s flu shot opportunity will be on Sunday September 16 between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and noon. The cost is $38, payable by cash or check; the Minnesota Visiting Nurse Association will submit insurance claims so be prepared to pay whatever co-pay might be required by your insurance company. Credit card payments cannot be accepted. 

Side effects of a flu shot might include mild soreness or redness at the injection site; that should disappear within a day or two. Serious side effects are extremely rare. Some individuals may develop flu symptoms after having the vaccine, however, the vaccine is made from “killed viruses” that do not cause influenza. It is also noted that for the first one – two weeks after receiving the vaccine, a person might feel achy and tired as the body ramps up its immunity,
as stimulated by the vaccine.

Questions about the vaccine should be asked of your physician. For general information, contact Dorothy Ellerbroek, parish nurse, at nurse@goodshepherdmpls.org.

REFLECTIONS ON AGING

Bodies age, as do many minds, but the spirit endures forever

The reality of getting older is cause for frustration in some, while others view it as a normal part of life. For most, growing old is a paradox of reward and loss.

Individual circumstances contribute greatly to a person’s experience of aging. Those who have fulfilled their goals, realized their dreams, engaged in rewarding work, lovingly supported and been supported by their families, and maintained robust health are understandably more inclined to look gently on what it means to age. For others, growing older is accompanied by economic uncertainty, broken relationships, vocational and other letdowns, and the burden of caretaking parents, partners or dependents who themselves are infirmed or aging.

Media coverage has traditionally fueled the perception of aging as a gradual, inevitable slide into dementia, deafness, blindness, loneliness and loss of personal dignity. The truth of the matter is that our bodies do turn a corner: Denial of the physical changes that accompany aging is no healthier, psychologically speaking, than imposing unfound limitations because “I’m too old for XYZ.” Yet accepting and accommodating the facts is far different than preemptively adopting an attitude of doom and gloom.

I’ve come to believe that society has paid too little attention to life’s predictable stages of development on the continuum’s latter end. Think of how child development, with its markers and milestones, is used to understand children. As Baby Boomers approach normal retirement age, the stages of adulthood are elbowing into the limelight, emboldening many a senior to rethink what’s a given.

In his book Becoming Adult, Becoming Christian, James Fowler characterizes early adulthood as a period during which our self-identities develop through relationships to God, to self, in marriage and in teamwork (such as in the workplace). Crises spur us to evaluate the value of these relationships. The degree to which we realistically face crises – by accepting our limitations with grace – is a reflection of our inner depth, at the time.

Middle adulthood brings the psychosocial challenges of career pressure, parenting of adolescents and young adults, caring for aging parents and facing one’s own mortality, among other stressors. We meet these challenges, too, through exploration of our inner strength and hopefully some wisdom. Sometimes we feel we lack the strength to cope with multiple concerns at once. Sometimes we square off with our own limitations for the first time. Always we make a choice in striking a balance with these changing facets of middle adulthood. These decisions have an impact on our ability to adapt in the ensuing years, this stage of life is that on which the elder years are based.

About the time we embrace middle adulthood, along comes the transition to mature age. Maturity is energized by the knowledge that “we have more yesterdays than tomorrows.” Mature individuals feel the urgency of time and may consider what to pass on to the next generation about faith, values, strengths and skills.

Indeed, our memory of all we’ve learned and done is what gives meaning to growing old and becomes our prime contribution to community. None other than St. Augustine argued similarly in the 4th century: “Memory’s huge cavern, with its mysterious, secret and indescribable nooks and crannies, receives all these perceptions, to be recalled when needed and perhaps even reconsidered.” Every one of those perceptions enters into our memory bank, each by its own gate, and is put on deposit there. Mature age, then, is when we make withdrawals from our memory bank, to use as currency to pass along our values and beliefs and wisdom to the next generation.

WE NEED TO TALK . . .

For those who have read the most recent blog entries, you may have wondered how you or someone you care about would respond to serious illnesses. There are often uncomfortable thoughts that come to mind when you think of your own situation – perhaps your past intent to “get things in order” or simply not understanding all the implications of such health care choices.

As you consider end of life issues, you may recall that formerly a document of instruction was referred to as a “living will.” In literal terms, a will is a document that goes into effect after death. From a healthcare perspective, the decisions about what health care you wish to have is now known as an Advance Care Directive. It becomes a legal document after it is witnessed and signed by you. A signed copy of the Advance Care Directive is to be given to your healthcare providers to become a part of your healthcare records.

Often a person’s family is resistant to discuss end-of-life issues because it is hard to do. However, anyone who reads, watches or hears the news has a good opening to ask family members how they would feel about emergency care for themselves or for you. Another helpful conversation starter is after learning of the illness or injury of another person, or after attending a funeral. For those who completed the living will in the past, it is still effective. But it recommended to review it when you reach a new decade of life, when you have a new health diagnosis, if your previously-named agent has died or is no longer able to serve in that capacity, or if you or your agent may have divorced and no longer have the same relationship with you.

The 2018 forms for Advance Care Planning have been improved to a two-page short form, with additional pages that give more detailed preferences for healthcare. But, as of right now, the question is this: If you could not speak, what care should be given, or not given, if there is not likelihood of recovery? The planning document gives you the opportunity to indicate that, if you were to be permanently unconscious with no chance of recovery, you would prefer: 1) all life sustaining treatments be given, or 2) no live-sustaining treat-ments be given, or 3) I can’t decide, my agent shall work with healthcare personnel to make my decision for me.

It is required that the individual making an Advance Care Directive choose someone to serve as “agent,” to make decisions according to the wishes of the person who is ill. An agent agrees to serve as your advocate, will follow your instructions, has legal power to access medical records, can decide when to start and stop treatments, and may choose the healthcare team and place of care. The agent makes the decisions based on what you want, based on prior discussions and instructions. It is most helpful if your agent lives reasonably close to you, for ease and frequency of in-person conversation with you and your healthcare providers.

Your parish nurse is available by appointment for personal consultations and advice as it applies to your particular situation. Later this year there will be opportunity for group discussion of this topic. Note: If you have your documents signed and given to your healthcare providers from the past, they remain in effect until or unless you make changes to them.

Contact your parish nurse, Dorothy Ellerbroek, at 612-518-4357 for additional information or to discuss questions if you have them.