The History of Johns Hopkins University: The First Research University

Courtyard view of buildings at Johns Hopkins University

“Our simple aim is to make scholars, strong, bright, useful, and true.”
Daniel Coit Gilman, JHU’s first President

Johns Hopkins University, founded in 1876 takes its name from 19th-century Maryland philanthropist and entrepreneur Johns Hopkins. With the help of the first president, Daniel Coit Gilamn, Johns Hopkins, the nation’s first research university, opened not only the university but other institutions such as the university press, the hospital and the schools of nursing and medicine.

Located in Baltimore, Maryland this private university has just an 11% acceptance rate and is consistently ranked in the top twenty schools in the US. Admissions officers. While acceptance can be difficult, once accepted, students can choose from over fifty-one majors and forty-three minors, many that are nationally ranked. Additionally, a few core values Johns Hopkins looks for when recruiting students are an excitement to learn, strong ties to the community, leadership, courage, innovation, curiosity, and ambition.

Fascinating Facts about Johns Hopkins

  • The Johns Hopkins University Press, founded in 1878, is the oldest continuously-operating university press in the United States.
  • The university’s graduate programs in public health, nursing, biomedical engineering, medicine, and education are considered among the best in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report.
  • Johns Hopkins claims 29 Nobel laureates past and present.
  • Claiming he did not deserve the salary he was offered, Albert Einstein turned down an invitation to join the Johns Hopkins faculty in 1927.
Research scientists working in a lab one is using a microscope

The Leader In Research

Since conception, Johns Hopkins has focused its efforts on research and the pursuit of discovery in fields such as humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, international studies, education, business, health, and medicine.

Over 140 years with research being the core of what this university thrives in has led to incredible advancements including:

Health & Medicine Specific Research

  • Cataloged more than 80 percent of the proteins in the human body—the “proteome”—as a biomedical resource
  • Showed that half-matched bone marrow transplants are comparable to fully matched tissue
  • Developed a blood test for cancer
  • First cancer genomes decoded
  • Pioneered exchange of kidneys among incompatible donors
  • Developed and received FDA-approval for an immunotherapy drug for cancer based on genetic glitch rather than organ site
  • Isolated and cultivated human embryonic stem cells, the undifferentiated cells from which an entire human being eventually develops
  • Invented the first implantable, rechargeable pacemaker for cardiac disorders
  • Discovered restriction enzymes, the so-called “biochemical scissors,” which gave birth to the entire field of genetic engineering
  • Developed the “blue baby” operation to correct congenital heart defects, ushering in a new era in open heart surgery
  • Helped develop the first effective treatment for sickle cell anemia
  • Showed that retrolental fibroplasia, which causes blindness in premature infants, was related to high concentrations of oxygen used in babies’ incubators

Other Areas of Research

  • Captured the first color photograph of Earth taken from space
  • Identified high rates of infant deaths in motor vehicle accidents, leading to the passage of child safety restraint laws
  • The system of water purification by chlorination
  • Took the first detailed images of images of Ultima Thule—the most distant space object ever explored
  • Designed, built, and operated the Parker Solar Probe, a NASA spacecraft that will travel within four million miles of the surface of the sun
  • Confirmed the authenticity of the Dead Sea Scrolls, speeding acceptance as genuine of these earliest biblical manuscripts
  • Sent a spacecraft to Mercury to orbit the planet and see its entire surface for the first time
  • Designed, built, and operated the New Horizons spacecraft, which completed a flyby of Pluto
  • Introduced the rubber glove for use during surgery
  • Developed the first supersonic ramjet engine
  • Built JEDI, one of nine scientific instruments aboard NASA’s JUNO spacecraft, which is orbiting Jupiter
  • Conducted the first large-scale research study of conditions of inequality in American schools, which resulted in the landmark report “Equality of Educational Opportunity“

The Global Impact

Beyond these incredible discoveries and advancements, another thing Johns Hopkins prides themselves on is their global reach. Johns Hopkins typically has 6,000 graduate and undergraduate students that hail from 111 countries each year and more than five hundred undergraduate students have the opportunity to study abroad in forty countries with campuses in locations such as Bologna, Italy, and Nanjing, China. On top of that, there are more than 12,000 alumni that are currently living outside the country that help make up the sixty-three international alumni clubs.

Moving past just their students and alumni, the Johns Hopkins Health System currently treats over almost 4,000 patients from over 145 countries. There are also international research and training sites and programs in more than one hundred countries. Some of their most notable global impacts include:

Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health – a leader in public health research and education with practices in more than one hundred countries. This program specifically has had major advancements against health threats such as polio, road traffic injuries, malnutrition, gun violence, HIV/AIDs, and addiction.

Jhpiego – a nonprofit health organization affiliated with the university that has spent more than 40 years in 155 developing countries aiming to improve the health of women and families.

Johns Hopkins Alliance For a Healthier World – an initiative that brings together experts from a range of disciplines to address global health challenges and advance global health equity.

Johns Hopkins Medicine International – a program that offers personalized care for patients traveling to Hopkins from outside of the United States and works closely with affiliates from around the world to help improve global health care.

Johns Hopkins University has made its mark with its research, incredible advancements, groundbreaking discoveries, and global impact with no indication of slowing down. From multiple Nobel Prize recipients, over 2,000 inventions awaiting patents, scientific revelations, and famous alumni – JHU proves to not only be a leader but ahead of the pack when it comes to research, discovery, and global leadership.

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Tree Pod Burials: A Life After Death

Large oak tree in a meadow with the sun shining through its branches

A mighty wind blew night and day
It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark
Until the oak was tired and stark

But still the oak tree held its ground
While other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke,
“How can you still be standing Oak?”

The oak tree said, “I know that you
Can break each branch of mine in two
Carry every leaf away
Shake my limbs and make me sway.

But I have roots stretched in the earth
Growing stronger since my birth
You’ll never touch them, for you see
They are the deepest part of me.

Until today, I wasn’t sure
Of just how much I could endure
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you
I’m stronger than I ever knew.”
– Johnny Ray Ryder Jr.

Humble Beginnings

For centuries, trees have been associated with unmovable strength, wisdom, power, protection, and most recently, a new way to be buried and honored after death. Tree pod burials are a very straightforward concept which involve putting human remains into biodegradable pods rather than traditional caskets.

These urns are meant to break down over time allowing the encapsulated remains to be broken down into the soil and become fertilizer which results in the tree growing in place of a headstone. As of now, it is most common for tree pod burials to be for cremated remains but have the potential for the entire body to be encapsulated as well. If a body is placed in a capsule, it cannot be embalmed or otherwise prepared and will be placed in the fetal position within the pod.

Hands holding a tree sprout

The tree pod burial concept was introduced in 2016 by two Italian designers, Francesco D’Angelo and Adriano Del Ferro. Their burial system, known as Capsula Mundi which is “world’s capsule” in Latin, consisted of human remains, typically cremated, wrapped in a natural fiber cloth that are then stored in an eco-friendly, egg-shaped pod.

Once the pod is implanted in the ground, a tree is planted directly above it, as time passes the egg will break down and the remains will undergo the process of decay. During the decaying process, nutrients and microbes from the remains will nourish the tree as it disintegrates, aiding extra aid allowing for the tree to grow and thrive.

Growing Green with Interest

As people start gravitating towards more green burial options and past traditional funeral services, we notice tree pod burials popping up more frequently. With worldwide issues stemming from climate change and individuals wanting to be more eco-conscious, traditional funerals that put nonbiodegradable materials such as hardwood, steel and toxic embalming chemicals into the earth are slowly losing traction and interest quickly as more alternatives make themselves available.

Hands holding potted seedling

Beyond the need to be eco-friendly, tree pod burials are also significantly cheaper than traditional funeral services. Traditional services can cost up to $12,000 while tree pod burials can range from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on price of the urn and cremation services in your state. Typically, the biodegradable urn costs $457 but there are cheaper alternatives available as well. You will also need to plan out the cost of a tree but typically a sapling can cost around $55 but it truly depends on the tree chosen.

Other costs will lay in where exactly you want to plant your tree. If you have land or special permission to plant, you can save serious money on burial plots. If you go this route, be sure to check local laws because not every jurisdiction allows for human remains to be buried on private property. On the other hand, if you decide on a conservation burial land, burial fees are typically required to acquire land and protect the tree, these fees can be anywhere from $1,000 to $4,000 depending on the land.

While initially, burial pods seem costly, they are still significantly cheaper than traditional funerals offering budgetary relief, a smaller environmental impact while the tree will continually contribute by providing oxygen, improving air quality, climate amelioration, and wildlife support for years to come.

Choosing A New Life

While tree pod burials are still relatively new and can be off-putting to those who have not considered nontraditional burial practices, the popularity of creating a life after death has proven enticing enough to create a real need for it in the funeral industry. Tree pod burials are the answer for individuals who want to be eco-conscious with their after-life plans and ease the financial, environmental, and emotional burden that are typically associated with funerals. If you or a loved one is looking into tree pod burials, be sure to follow all state or jurisdiction guidelines and regulations before beginning the process.

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The Vital Role Of Family In Hospice Care

Woman sitting up in bed with husband and daughter on each side of her holding her

Hospice is a specialized care program that is typically offered to people who have six or less months to live due to a terminal illness. There are some hospice programs that offer long term care if needed and can be offered in the home, nursing home, assisted living facility, hospital, or hospice house.

Fast Hospice Care Facts and Figures

Source: https://aginginplace.org/

  • 1.43 million beneficiaries were enrolled in hospice care for at least one day.
  • The average length of hospice care for Medicare beneficiaries was 71 days.
  • The median length being 24 days for Medicare beneficiaries.
  • 98% of hospice care was provided at the Routine Home Care level.
  • There are currently 4,382 Medicare-certified hospices in operation with most hospices averaging less than 50 patients.
  • Hospice care is not a permanent decision, there have been patients to move off hospice due health improvements.

Hospice care teams include, but are not limited to, doctors, nurses, social workers, and pharmacies, all with the focus of managing a patient’s illness and giving them the necessary emotional, spiritual, and physical support. Hospice also offers benefits such as:

1. Specialized Care – a hospice environment can meet the needs of individuals that require more in depth care, offering comfort and support during the final days.

2. Insurance – hospice care is covered by Medicare, which is the most common health insurance in the United States allowing it to be easily accessible to most people.

3. Personal Assistance – hospice can take care of daily tasks such as laundry, food prep, personal hygiene, and bedside care.

4. Bereavement Support – after death, most hospice centers provide bereavement support and grief counseling to families which include visits from trained grief counselors, grief support groups or remembrance services (level of support varies by hospice).

5. Team Approach – hospice knows that caring for an ill patient is exhausting on all levels which is why the hospice care team is available to patient and family to help provide comfort, support, and rest for tired family members.

The Family Approach

Now while turning to hospice can be an extremely difficult decision for family members, family remains the primary support for a hospice patient. Family members and loved ones being active in the patient’s life even during hospice care is incredibly important for emotional and spiritual support. While hospice takes care of pain and symptom management, has access to community resources, provides the necessary medical equipment and being able to connect with patients on a surface level – family members are there to provide reassurance, love and be an advocate for their loved one.

Being admitted to hospice is not just nerve wrecking for the family but for the patient as well, giving up a lifetime of freedom, being completely dependent on others and accepting the inevitable is not always easy on people, especially with independent individuals. Family members can support loved ones in hospice by:

Advocating For Their Loved One

By working closely with the hospice care time to create a personalized hospice plan, families can accurately reflect their loved one’s preferences. They can also make sure the hospice care team knows their last wishes including how they would like to be cared for, the level of intervention, their end-of-life options, and other related concerns.

Providing Emotional Support

Providing emotional support to a loved one is one of the most important things friends and family can do. Be sure to speak calmly and offer reassurance while reminding your loved one how you value them, the impact that they had during their life, revisit treasured memories, and talk about their interests or hobbies. If you are not sure what to say to your loved one, simply lend them a listening ear or a shoulder to cry on. Providing physical acts, such as holding hands, is also incredibly soothing for patients during an emotional time.

Creating A Comforting Environment

If you can have any control over the environment, create a calming one. Avoid loud music and bright lights and opt for soft versions of both. It has been proven that this helps improve mood and alleviate stress for patients. Calming, familiar music is also proven to help evoke specific memories. Be sure to also keep the temperature comfortable, the bed dry and limit any distracting noises or chaos.

Girl with turban on laying on her side in bed with man sitting beside her showing her photographs

Arranging Visits (Virtual or In-Person)

Seeing a loved one ill is hard, but avoiding them does not help anyone, patients more than ever want to feel connected to their family and friends. Be sure to have regular in-person visits, have scheduled phone calls or do virtual visits via Skype or Zoom. Be sure to remind the patient that they are loved and that you will be in contact with them again.

Choosing Hospice

Though choosing hospice is never an easy choice for family members, it is important for them to not feel defeated over the decision. Hospice truly is a family affair that includes patients and loved ones into care. With family members and the hospice care team coordinating together, it can ensure that patients feel comfortable, valued, respected, loved and heard during this emotionally exhausting time.

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Moving Past Tradition

Why People Are Seeking Alternatives To Traditional Funerals

Two red roses placed on top of a black granite headstone

It is no secret that the cost for a traditional funeral is increasing annually and has been for quite some time with the average funeral costing anywhere between $7,000 – $12,000. These prices clearly are not always easily affordable for all families which can make holding a funeral infinitely more stressful, all while grieving.

When the pandemic hit in 2019 hit, this did not help improve the funeral industry, with more deaths but also more restrictions on gatherings it was becoming increasingly difficult to even plan a traditional funeral. While we have already seen people move past traditional funeral services with cremation, the interest in alternatives has truly peaked in the past several years. Moving forward we see more concern about overall cost, reducing the stress placed on family members, and a need for more environmentally friendly options. Listed below we have covered six, increasingly common, alternatives to traditional funeral services that help meet these new growing concerns.

Virtual Services

With the pandemic, travel, family, conflicts, or any other issues that may arise when planning a funeral, virtual services have become increasingly popular. Virtual funerals allow loved ones to pay respects and grieve regardless of location or illness, saves money on certain traditional funeral costs, and brings the service to the comfort of home. It is important when holding a virtual service to choose accessible video platforms such as Zoom or Google Hangouts. If you are feeling overwhelmed with the thought of planning the service, funeral homes and other various companies can send a professional to help plan and make sure the service runs as smoothly as possible.

Hosting a Home Funeral

Home funerals are a tradition in many cultures that dates back centuries. With a home funeral, families can prepare the service and body themselves or hire a funeral home to prepare for them. Home funerals create an intimate experience with death but in a more relaxed atmosphere. It is important to remember that while home funerals are legal everywhere you should check with your state’s laws regarding things like if you need a funeral director to file the death certificate, transport the body or any other aspect your state requires a funeral director to be a part of.

Hold An Annual Anniversary Memorial

Not all families are comfortable with funerals and grieving death openly but just because you have decided to skip the funeral does not mean that annual memorials cannot be held. This could range from annual memorial dinners to a formal service. Anniversary memorials are going to be specific to families, do whatever works best for you and your loved ones.

Creating A Shrine

Shrine can be an intense word; but, done right, it can be an excellent way to remember your loved ones. If you want to skip the complexity of a traditional funeral but still want to pay respects to the deceased, a shrine is a good way to still be able to say goodbye to loved ones. Unlike a home funeral when creating a shrine, the body typically is not at the home. Instead, the process of putting this together is more meaningful and a place for all your loved ones to gather, share members, add items and honor passed loved ones.

Planting A Tree

While there are many eco-friendly funeral alternatives one of the most common is hosting a tree-planting ceremony in place of a funeral. This can be done at home or in the park (with permission) and it is a wonderful way to memorialize loved ones. If the deceased has been cremated, family members are able to mix their ashes in to grow with the tree. Typically, when choosing this route, you plan a ceremony as you break ground, plant the tree of your choice, and have friends and family participate by contributing soil or saying a few kind words. Another popular part of the tree-planting ceremony is placing a tree plaque that honors the deceased as a permanent memorial that will stay with the tree.

Carved wooden heart placed on trunk of a tree

Other Eco-Friendly Funeral Alternatives

An eco-friendly burial is an environmentally-friendly alternative to the traditional funeral services with emphasis on earth preservation and carbon footprint reduction. There are plenty of aspects to consider when planning an eco-burial such as:

  • Biodegradable Urns which are created out of material such as recycled paper, wool fiber, compacted peat, and coconut shells that end up having a positive impact on the environment.
  • Eco-friendly Coffins which are coffins that do not impact tree life such as traditional wooden caskets do. The materials can be a variety of materials such as bamboo, banana leaf, willow pine or cardboard.
  • Alternative Transportation is typically meant for loved ones and mourners and suggests finding ways to minimize the cars in the funeral procession and for using more eco-friendly car options for transporting the body.
  • Woodland Burial Sites is an eco-friendlier option than being buried in a cemetery since that environment is 100% natural. Natural burial sites can include woodland areas, forests, meadows, and they rarely allow headstones or memorials.

Important Reminders

When planning the funeral service of a loved one, regardless of the route you take, it is important that it works for you and your family. When choosing alternatives, make sure they meet your concerns, needs, and loved ones wishes. Once you move past traditional funerals, the options are endless on creating a personalized memorial service to properly honor a passed loved one in a way that is special to them and the family. While most funeral alternatives’ costs will average significantly less than a traditional service, prices for all the listed alternatives will depend on size, location, and other various aspects.

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Cremation: The New Tradition

Cremation is a mechanical, thermal, or other dissolution process that reduces a body to basic compounds and is a typical alternative to a traditional burial. Cremation has a steady rise in popularity for numerous reasons such as:

  • Affordability
  • Flexibility
  • Environmentally Friendly
  • Fear of Natural Decomposition
  • Simpler Arrangements
  • Less stress for family members/loved ones
Four urns set on an altar

Beyond The Fire

The most common method of cremation is flame-based cremation which uses flames to reduce remains into bone fragments aka cremated remains. The other, not so common, method is alkaline hydrolysis which is a water-based dissolution process that uses alkaline chemicals, heat, agitation, and pressure to accelerate the natural decomposition. Both methods are legal and will reach the desired cremated results. Cremation typically leaves behind an average of five pounds of remains, but this will vary based on an individual’s weight because one pound of physical remains produces under one cubic inch of ash. It is important that this is taken into consideration during the time of the cremation process and when deciding on urns.

Close up of woman's hands spreading ashes

Once the cremation process is over and the cremated remains are returned, loved ones can choose whether or not to spread the ashes. When spreading ashes, it is important to know what your state requires. While you CAN spread ashes publicly, but in some cases, you need to obtain permission from the local council. If it is on private property, that is not your own, you must obtain permission from the owner. Private property can also include locations such as stadiums and amusement parks. Other places you can scatter ashes are uninhabited public lands, national parks (with a permit and in a designated area) and the ocean (within three nautical miles).

Fast Cremation Facts

  1. While cremation is an efficient process, it can still take anywhere from two to four hours for the actual cremation. Time depends on the individual’s body and other factors. The entire cremation process (transportation, storage, cremation, return) as a whole takes about 10-15 business days.
  2. Holding burials after cremation is a common tradition. Some cemeteries will allow urns to be buried in a plot while others require the use of an urn vault.
  3. Cremation has been around for quite some time. It is suspected that the earliest case of cremation was during the early Stone Age – around 3000 B.C.
  4. Ashes can be stored in columbarium, a structure used to pay respect and house funeral urns allowing family members and loved ones to be able to visit whenever.

Urns, The Treasured Remembrance

Urns, like caskets, come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and themes. When choosing how to honor a loved one, it is important to be aware of all the different options. Currently, some of the more popular kinds of urns are keepsake, biodegradable, companion, veteran, picture, and art.

Woman selecting an urn in a funeral home

Keepsake Urns are smaller in size and are typically used for families who want to share cremated remains of loved ones between multiple people. Keepsake urns are also common after an initial spread of the ashes if the family decides to keep a portion. They range from 1 – 50 cubic inches compared to the typical two hundred cubic inches of a standard urn.

Biodegradable Urns are urns that are made from non-toxic, ecologically-sound materials that will eventually break down naturally in nature. Materials can range from mulberry bark, bamboo, plant materials, wood, paper, cornstarch, organic compost, or natural clay.

Companion Urns are exactly what their name implies, a way to store the cremated remains of two people. They can come in either single or double compartments and are typically used to memorialize couples who want to remain together after death.

Veteran Urns pays tribute to members of the Armed Forces. These urns are specifically designed with patriotic and military themes and are specific to the branch of service the deceased represented.

Picture Urns look like photo frames but have a hidden chamber to store ashes of a loved one. Photos for these specific urns can either be laser etched on to the urn itself or there it is placed in a frame like normal. It is important to remember if you chose the laser etched option that the photo you pick is clear and focused.

Art Urns are a way to mix fine art with the cremated remains of a loved one. Art urns have the endless limitations of art itself. They can be made of materials such as glass, bronze or ceramics and can be created to fit any desired taste.

An Introduction To Terminology

Now when taking part of the cremation process there is plenty of terminology introduced to families. While most of it is self-explanatory, it is important to be familiar with it to make the process easier to understand and go through in general. This terminology includes but is not limited to:

Authorizing Agent: the person(s) legally entitled to control the disposition of the cremated remains.

Direct Cremation: a cremation that happens without any formal viewing

Cremated Remains: the remains of the cremated body after completion of the cremation process.

Cremation Chamber: the enclosed space where cremation takes place.

Crematorium: this building houses the cremation chambers, administrative offices, mortuary prep rooms and cemetery maintenance.

Cremation Interment Container: A rigid outer container that is composed of concrete, steel, fiberglass, plastic, or some similar material in which an urn is placed prior to being interred in the ground, and which is designed to withstand prolonged exposure to the elements and to support the earth above the urn.

Disposition: The shipment, burial, cremation, or anatomical donation of the human body.

Final Disposition: The burial or other disposition of a dead human body or cremated remains.

General Price List (GPL): contains identifying information, itemized prices for the various goods and services sold, and other important disclosures.

Inurnment: The ceremony of burying an urn containing cremated remains.

Processing: the pre-pulverization process of removing any foreign materials from the cremated remains in preparation for pulverization.

Pulverization: the reduction of identifiable bone fragments after the completion of the cremation and processing to granulated particles by manual or mechanical means.

Urn: A structure designed to permanently encase the cremated remains.

Considering Cremation?

End-of-life discussions are never easy especially when it comes to loved ones. If you or a loved one has expressed interest in cremation, be sure to cover areas with authorized agents such as methods of cremation, whether you want to go through a whole body donation program or funeral home, urn styles and any wishes you have for your cremated remains.

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Medical Implants

The MVP of the Medical Market

Close up of doctor's hand holding a medical implant device

Medical implants are man-made devices that are meant to replace missing biological structures, support damaged biological structures, have therapeutic purposes, collect diagnostics, and help maintain daily body functions.

Implants can be used within the human body or on the surface of the body either temporarily or permanently. There is a vast number of implants that aid with sensory issues, neurological disorders, cardiovascular disorders, contraception, pain-relief, alleviation of bone or joint issues, and a variety of organ dysfunctions.

So why are implants a game-changer? A huge reason is because medical implants are equipped with unique responsive polymers that are used to facilitate deployment and ensure the removal of devices with minimal damage to tissue. These unique polymers support important functions such as treating ailments, delivering drugs, controlling infections and monitoring physiological factors. Typically, the application of these polymers is divided by application areas that include:

Xray of human chest showing medical implant device
  • Cardiovascular Devices
  • Respiratory Devices
  • Surgical Devices
  • Dental Devices
  • Orthopedic Devices
  • Ophthalmic Devices
  • Gastrointestinal Devices
  • Drug Delivery Devices
  • Implantable Biosensors
  • Urogenital Devices

Since the first pacemaker implant in 1958 there has been a drastic advancement in all areas such as battery power, functionality, power consumption, and system delivery. One of the most beneficial advancements in the improvement of surgical implant devices and how they operate has to do with whole body donation. This is because body donation allows surgeons and medical professionals hands-on access to cadavers where they are given the opportunity to not only perfect surgical techniques but get an early introduction to new devices. This gives medical professionals a firsthand look with implants as they are created and introduced into the industry.

Another huge step forward for surgical implants was introducing different types of material that are tailor made for different necessities that help reach desired results. As implants improve, materials have become more lightweight, hypoallergenic, and biocompatible. Introducing new materials help ensure desired results with minimum discomfort, or risk of second surgeries, for patients. Current common materials for implants are:

Surgical Mesh – made from inorganic or biological materials that are woven to form a sheet. Surgical mesh can be used permanently or temporary to help support organs or other tissues.

Polyethylene – a common plastic that is often used for medical implants because it does not degrade in the body. Polyethylene is typically used for knee or hip replacement implants.

Titanium – a light, extremely strong, non-allergenic and biocompatible metal that is often used to make implants for dental surgeries. Lately, it has also been used for other medical uses such as hip implants, heart valves and bone screws.

Close up of doctor in operating room holding surgical mesh with a clamp

Polyurethane Foam – a fairly new addition to surgical implant materials, this foam is created by combining memory polyurethane foam with the bone tissue mineral “hydroxyapatite” and specifically encourages the regeneration of bone. They are most common in short term implants such as catheter tubing, wound dressing and injection molded devices.

Polylactic Acid – Often patients with titanium screws need to have a second operation to get them removed to combat this, surgeons opt for polylactic screws due to them being biocompatible and biodegradable.

3-D Printed Biomaterials – this technology uses a microfluidic approach and a device filled with stem cell “ink” that allows repair of damaged bone and cartilage offering precise replications of human tissue.

As advancements are made, the variety of available implants continues to grow rapidly. In just 2021 alone, there have been an impressive forty-one medical devices cleared and approved by the FDA that range from stent systems, standard implants, catheters, and gel implants. Annually some of the most common implantable devices remain to be:

1. Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators

a. 800,000 people currently have ICDs
b. 100,000 are implanted annually

2. Artificial Hips

a. 2.5 million currently have artificial hips
b. 450,000 hip replacements are performed annually

3. Heart Pacemakers

a. Three million people currently have pacemakers
b. 200,000 pacemakers are implanted annually

4. Spine Screws, Rods and Artificial Disks

a. 500,00 spinal fusion surgeries are performed annually

5. Artificial Knees

a. 4.7 million people had knee replacements
b. Almost one million procedures are performed annually

6. Coronary Stents

a. More than eight million people currently have stents
b. Two million stents are inserted yearly

7. Ear Tubes

a. One in fifteen kids get ear tubes before age three
b. 500,000 ear tubes are implanted annually

8. Artificial Eye Lenses

a. Six million lenses are implanted annually

Medical implants are a thriving sector of medical technology with new implants emerging regularly in the market. It is currently dominating the market at an impressive $89 million in 2021. With versatility and innovation directly meeting patient needs, implants are proving to be a safe, effective, and prevalent option for a variety of conditions and patients.

Doctor getting ready to perform a surgical procedure on a woman's eyes
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The Future Of The Funeral Industry

Moving Past Traditional Funeral and Burial Services

Path in a cemetary with flowers on graves on both sides

Funeral services have been around as long as man has. They give family members the ability to have the space and time to grieve, process and pay respects for their lost loved ones. While the funeral industry boomed into a multi-billion industry, traditional funerals are not eco-friendly or wallet friendly which has caused people to turn to alternatives to the traditional funeral and burial processes.

According to NFDA, in 2010 the percentage of traditional funerals was 53.3% while cremation was well below at 40.4%. By 2015, we saw a huge jump in the number of cremations with a percentage of 47.9% while traditional funerals fell to 45.2%. Impressively it is projected that by 2025 cremation rates will be 63.3% while traditional funerals fall to 30.9%.

With these numbers in mind, there are plenty of factors why people are moving away from traditional funerals, the main reason being the cost. Funerals are expensive and the industry and price grow steadily every year, making them difficult for some families to afford. Below is a chart that compares the basic expenses included and total cost in a traditional funeral versus a cremation.

Traditional Funeral Expenses

Embalming Process
Visitation and Memorial Services
Burial Plot Cost
Gravesite Expenses
Casket Price
Vault or Coffin Container
Funeral Home Basic Fee
Facilities and Staff to Manage Viewing
facilities and Staff to Manage Ceremony
Transportation Fees (hearse, service car, transporting to and from funeral home)
Cost of opening the ground, placing remains in the ground and actual burial

Cremation Expenses

Basic service Fees
Cremation Fee
Transportation Fees
Cremation Casket
Urn

Optional Expenses For Viewing/Memorial Services:
Embalming Process
Visitation and Memorial Services
Funeral Home Basic Fee
Facilities and Staff to Manage Viewing
Facilities and Staff to Manage Ceremony

Average Total Cost: $9,000+

Average Total Cost: $800-$3,000

While a traditional funeral offers plenty of services, cremations, even if they include viewing/memorial services, are still regularly a third of the price of traditional funerals making them a more affordable option. While losing a loved one is tragic and celebrating their life is important, families can end up going into debt and add unnecessary extra stress over simply trying to afford the outlandish cost that is involved in a traditional funeral.

Other Notable Funeral Industry Trends

While cremation is quickly taking over as the first option for families, there are other contemporary trends popping up in the industry that cut costs, allow for a more hands-on experience, safely bring more people together and offer options beyond basic burials and cremation processes.

Virtual Funerals

Due to COVID-19, virtual funeral services come on the scene in a huge way and are proving to be a growing trend. While many funeral homes have implemented accommodations out of necessity, the popularity of them might transform virtual funerals into a staple service in the funeral industry. With apps such as Zoom, Google Hangouts, Periscope, and other professional streaming services, this trend is beneficial in the growing digital age by allowing people to attend regardless of location, transportation, or health.

Integrating Technology

In addition to virtual funerals, technology has been introduced into the funeral industry in a major way. Since many people rely on the internet for information, all industries must increase their online presence and the funeral industry was no exception. Beyond just being able to offer consumers access to the valuable information, some funeral homes allow you to request funeral services directly through their website. Another emerging technology trend is headstone technology, this is when NFC-enabled microchips or QR codes are embedded into a weather-proof headstone allowing visitors to access online websites that have images, information, and videos about their loved one.

Body Donation

Whole body donation is an end-of-life option that is not only cost effective but incredibly beneficial to healthcare research and education. Opting for a whole body donation program can be done before death and after death, the program will work with families after death and typically covers the cost of transportation, cremation, paperwork and returning a loved one’s remains. This option is a huge financial relief for families and offers amazing strides in disease/cancer research, medical education, and surgical device development for generations to come.

At-Home Funerals

As the name states, at-home funerals are done typically in a family member’s home and are legal in all states. Home funerals cut down on many common funeral costs and are considered to be eco-friendly and helps families process their grief by being personally involved. Some common cut costs are by opting for freezing instead of embalming and, though it is not required, using a Death Midwifery in place of a traditional funeral home director. Now, there are nine states that require you to work with a funeral director on some level whether it’s to file a death certificate or supervise a funeral and burial.

Creative Alternatives to Cremation

While cremation services’ popularity grows, so do the creative alternatives to a typical cremation urn or scattering. Families can opt to use cremated remains to do a space burial, tree planting burial, sea burial and can even be incorporated into fireworks. Cremated remains can also be made into ever-lasting gifts such as memory diamonds, memory glass, parting stones, one-of-a-kind paintings, and vinyl records. Other alternatives to actual cremation include:

1. Aquamation – the process of being “bathed” in water which helps speed up the deterioration process in place of typical cremation processes that use fire.
2. Promession – this is the process where a body is transformed into fertilizer. The process starts by freezing a body in liquid nitrogen then turning into a powder. This eco-friendly burial method helps give back to the earth by helping plant life grow with a nutrient-rich fertilizer.
3. Dissolution – a strong chemical process that is quick and efficient at rapidly breaking down a body. The body immediately dissolves and there are no remains that can be returned to family members.
4. Resomation – this eco-friendly burial method decomposes a body using alkali and water based solutions that are under high pressure that breaks the body to liquid and bone to ash. The remains can be recycled into a garden or collected in a traditional urn.

Choosing how to grieve the loss of a loved one is a personal option for families to decide for themselves. While the traditional funeral and burial always have the appeal of bringing everyone together and offering a place to visit and pay respect to loved ones, the number of alternatives is growing every year. The funeral industry regularly sees more personalized, cost effective, eco-friendly, and intimate ways to celebrate the life of a passed loved one being introduced.

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Gene Therapy: Is This The Future of Medicine & Curing Diseases?

An Introduction To Gene Therapy

Model of a DNA strand being manipulated with pincers

Gene Therapy was first introduced in 1972 with a paper titled ‘Gene Therapy For Human Genetic Disease?’ published in Science by US composed by Theodore Friedmann and Richard Roblin. This outlined the potential for incorporating DNA sequences into a patient in hopes of curing genetic disorders. This introduction followed 18 years of research until on September 14, 1990, the first ever approved gene therapy produced was performed on a four-year-old girl named Ashanthi de Silva. She was born with severe combined immunodeficiency and the procedure was done by W. French Anderson and his colleagues at NIH. This was the first successful procedure that pathed the way for gene therapy as a legitimate technique used to treat and prevent diseases.

Gene therapy is an experimental technique that is designed to introduce genetic material to cells to compensate for abnormal genes or to create missing beneficial proteins. Though a gene that is injected directly into a cell does not function, a carrier called a vector was engineered to deliver the gene, either through injection or IV, by infecting the cell. This technique can allow doctors to treat different diseases and disorders by inserting a gene into the patient’s cells instead of using drugs or resorting to surgery. This can be done several ways such as replacing a mutated gene with a healthy version, inactivating a mutated gene, making the mutated gene more evident so their immune system can identify and attack it or introducing a new gene entirely to help combat disease.

Gene therapy has not had a smooth path in the scientific community. Many scholars doubted the legitimacy and potential of this technique and the doubts grew rapidly with the first death after a gene therapy trial in 1999. This incident eventually led to the closure of the University of Pennsylvania’s gene therapy program which was one of the largest in the world and launched an additional 69 individual investigations of other gene therapy trials. It took almost four years to even begin it’s rebound to the path of being a reputable treatment option for diseases and disorders with no other viable cures.

Diseases/Disorders That Could Be Treated by Gene Therapy

● Cancer
● Cystic Fibrosis
● Adenosine Deaminase Deficiency
● Heart Disease
● Diabetes
● Hemophilia
● AIDS
● Immunodeficiency Syndrome
● Leber Congenital Amaurosis
● Blood Disorders
● Neurological Disorders
● Musculoskeletal Disorders
● Retinal Disorders
● Oncological Disorders
● Inherited blindness

Model of a DNA strand on black background

A New Hope For Gene Therapy

Initially, gene therapy was reintroduced in China in 2003 and then in Russia in 2011. These two trials set the path for an incredible boom in gene therapy that the United States quickly followed. After the first initial wave of gene therapy approval between the years 2003 and 2012 in addition to the significant advancements made in the vector technologies, the pace of gene therapy trial approvals rapidly picked up. In fact, the FDA predicts that the approval rate will grow to 10-20 annually by 2025.

2017 was set as a groundbreaking year for gene therapy due to multiple successful trials. These trials include a boy from France who was cured of Sickle Cell Disease after receiving treatment from Bluebird Bio. In the same year, two treatments were approved by the FDA to fight rare types of cancer. In Germany, a boy with a bacterial infection and a connective tissue disorder was grafted new skin with gene therapy, scientists accomplished this by extracting cells from a part of the boy’s body that was not blistered yet. In December of 2017, the FDA approved the first gene therapy treatment called Luxturna that corrects the mutation that is responsible for a range of retinal diseases. In that same month, BioMarin, a company that is working with gene therapy, published early clinical trials showing that nine patients saw substantial blood-clotting proteins that are missing with hemophilia.

Even with the amazing strides accomplished in recent years, researchers still must overcome challenges such as finding better ways to deliver genes, avoiding disrupting other gene’s functions, and targeting specific cells. On a more positive note, gene therapy on average results in an increase of life expectancy by anywhere from 5 to 15 years. Gene therapies also gives individuals the option to opt out of invasive surgeries or daily disease management life plans and it typically takes around only 10 months to complete a trial. Incredibly, as of 2021, there are currently 21 FDA approved gene therapies:

1. ABECMA (idecabtagene vicleucel)
Celgene Corporation, a Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

2. ALLOCORD (HPC, Cord Blood)
SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center

3. BREYANZI
Juno Therapeutics, Inc., a Bristol-Myers Squibb Company

4. CLEVECORD (HPC Cord Blood)
Cleveland Cord Blood Center

5. Ducord, HPC Cord Blood
Duke University School of Medicine

6. GINTUIT (Allogeneic Cultured Keratinocytes and Fibroblasts in Bovine Collagen)
Organogenesis Incorporated

7. HEMACORD (HPC, cord blood)
New York Blood Center

8. HPC, Cord Blood
Clinimmune Labs, University of Colorado Cord Blood Bank

9. HPC, Cord Blood – MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank
MD Anderson Cord Blood Bank

10. HPC, Cord Blood – LifeSouth
LifeSouth Community Blood Centers, Inc.

11. HPC, Cord Blood – Bloodworks
Bloodworks

12. IMLYGIC (talimogene laherparepvec)
BioVex, Inc., a subsidiary of Amgen Inc.

13. KYMRIAH (tisagenlecleucel)
Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation

14. LAVIV (Azficel-T)
Fibrocell Technologies

15. LUXTURNA
Spark Therapeutics, Inc.

16. MACI (Autologous Cultured Chondrocytes on a Porcine Collagen Membrane)
Vericel Corp.

17. PROVENGE (sipuleucel-T)
Dendreon Corp.

18. STRATAGRAFT
Stratatech Corporation

19. TECARTUS (brexucabtagene autoleucel)
Kite Pharma, Inc.

20. YESCARTA (axicabtagene ciloleucel)
Kite Pharma, Incorporated

21. ZOLGENSMA (onasemnogene abeparvovec-xioi)
AveXis, Inc.

While gene therapy is not yet considered a primary treatment option and still must overcome technical challenges, it is continually gaining momentum within the scientific community. The FDA itself is committed to helping the development of these innovative treatments. In addition, there are research and technical advancements happening regularly. As technology grows so do the possibilities to discover the best vector delivery systems, expand the ability to correct rare genetic disorders and cure currently incurable diseases. Gene therapy holds a promise to transform medicine and become a real medical reality offering a new hope to people worldwide.

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Bereavement Counseling

A Look Into Complicated Grief and Noticing The Signs For Help

Grief is a natural response to loss. While it is a universal experience, every personal experience can differ. While conventionally grief is an emotional response, extreme cases can have physical, cognitive, behavioral, social, cultural, spiritual, and philosophical responses. The continuing, heightened state of mourning is identified as complicated grief. Individuals experiencing complicated grief, should seek help to be able to heal and move on from loss.

Close up of a sad person leaning & clutching hands with another person comforting them

The Signs of Complicated Grief

As the saying goes, time heals all wounds. Some people can find themselves healing from grief in a relatively short period of time, being able to move on, can continue to day-to-day activities and carry out social interactions. For other people, grief can leave them stuck in the same spot while life moves on around them. There are several signs to look out for if you or someone you know is having trouble dealing with grief.

  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Depression
  • Constant crying
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Increased irritability or anger
  • Panic Attacks
  • Blaming oneself for a loved one’s death
  • Loss of passion for hobbies/activities
  • Constantly keeping yourself busy to avoid facing your emotions
  • You/someone you love are experiencing unexplained illnesses
  • You/someone you love have experienced multiple losses in a short period of time
  • Intense longing for passed loved one
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stomach aches
  • Frequently visiting familiar places in hopes of seeing a loved one or avoiding familiar places entirely to avoid triggering memories
  • Substance abuse/addictive behavior (alcohol, drugs, gambling)
  • Avoiding social interaction, even with close friends and family
  • Suffering unexplained illnesses
  • Hallucinations/voices
  • Numbness to emotions
  • Fear of forming new relationships entirely
  • Unable to perform self-care
  • You/others expressed worry for well-being
  • Denial that a loved one has passed away
  • You/someone you love lacks support

The Different Grief Models

In 1969, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified the Five Stages of Grief:

Denial – a defense mechanism that helps the brain not only numb the intense emotions that come with grief but gives individuals more time to overcome these same emotions. Moving out of the denial stage will cause suppressed emotions to arise, which can be quite difficult for people to face.

Anger – this stage is considering a masking effect that hides the other emotions and pain one carries with grief. This anger can be directed at other people or inanimate objects. Not everyone experiences the anger phase, while others tend to linger here. When the anger subsides, the rational part of your brain begins to process what is happening.

Bargaining – while feeling vulnerable, helpless, and experiencing intense emotions, it is normal for people to try to regain control by creating “what if” and “if only” scenarios.

Depression – this is considered the “quiet” stage of grief. Some may find themselves lost in their emotions while others embrace them and work through them in healthy manners. Depression is not a well-defined mental state; it can be messy, vary from person to person, and leave individuals overwhelmed and confused.

Acceptance – though this stage may seem like the silver lining, acceptance is not necessarily a happy experience. Though individuals may have not moved past the loss entirely, they have come to accept and understand how life is now. Continuing moving forward will bring good and bad days, but acceptance can help start the healing process.

The Dual Process Model of grief was created by Margaret Stroebe and Henk Schut in 1995. This model breaks down the process of grief into loss-oriented activities and restoration-oriented activities. It is believed that during the grieving process, individuals will switch between both activities until they have accepted or “moved on” from the loss.

Loss-oriented activities are stressors related directly to death which include crying, yearning, sadness, denial, anger, dwelling on death and avoiding restoration activities.

Restoration-oriented activities are stressors that actively distract you from grief. This could include adapting to a new role, developing new ways of connecting with loved ones, working, cleaning, tending to everyday chores, exercise and even cultivating a new way of life.

In-Person vs Online Counseling

When an individual decides to get help with their grief, there are in-person and online options to help best suit the person mourning and their lifestyle.

Circle of people sitting together holding hands

In-Person Counseling allows one-on-one time with a counselor where individuals talk about their feelings of grief then the counselor will suggest healthy coping mechanisms. Another option for in-person counseling is a grief support group. These groups, usually run by a trained facilitator, offer a safe place to work through your emotions with people who share similar experiences.

Online Counseling has a wide range of options for dealing with grief. If an individual has limited time or mobility, they can get access to online support forums that offer help and information from home and do not always require interaction. One-on-one grief counseling can take place over the phone, FaceTime, Skype, or similar applications for people in rural areas, who have limited health resources, or social anxieties. There are also online grief support groups if an individual wants more structure than a forum. Typically, you can join a group session in real time or view a recording later.

Moving on From Mourning

If you or someone you know are experiencing the signs of complicated grief and are ready to receive help, Research For Life has resources to connect people with Bereavement Counseling. Sometimes grieving can feel endless, regardless of if an individual was prepared for loss or not, but it does not need to stay that way. In addition to receiving counseling, it is important to take care of oneself by facing/expressing feelings, maintaining interests, not letting people dictate how one grieves, and looking after one’s physical health. With the right help, moving on, healing and acceptance is possible for all.

“The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not ‘get over’ the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you have suffered. You will be whole again but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same nor would you want to.”
– Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and David Kessler

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Identifying and Caring for Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia

Senior man losing parts of his head due to increase in memory loss

Caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s Disease or Dementia can be demanding. There are constant worries of deteriorating behavior, making the best choices for their well-being, and if the care they are receiving is adequate. There are ways to ease this difficult journey. First is by remembering that you are not alone. More than 11 million people in the United States alone are unpaid caregivers for loved ones with dementia or Alzheimer’s. Second is understanding the difference between the two and how to specifically cater to each.

Commonly, Alzheimer’s and dementia are two terms that are used interchangeably when in fact one is a specific disease, and the other is the overall term for memory loss.

Alzheimer’s Disease

Alzheimer’s Disease is an irreversible, progressive brain disease that destroys memories, thinking skills, language problems and motor skills. This is due to the brain cell connections and how the actual cells degenerate and die. Currently more than 6 million people have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and this number is predicted to more than double to 14 million by 2060.

Very rarely is Alzheimer’s caused by any specific genetics and is believed to be caused by a blend of genetics, lifestyle choices, environmental factors and many other complex brain changes that affect the brain over time. Due to these factors causing damage to the brain, Alzheimer’s disease tends to show exceedingly early clinical symptoms. Someone with late-onset Alzheimer’s disease will see symptoms in their mid-60s while early-onset can start as early as a person’s 30s. Alzheimer’s Disease also requires a medical diagnosis and there are some key symptoms to look out for.

Infographic depicting the symptoms of Alzheimer's disease

Other symptoms can include confusion in the evening hours, anger, depression, delusions, mood swings, restlessness, lack of restaurant, paranoia , wandering, inability to create new memories, personality changes, inability to combine muscle movements, loss of appetite, and meaningless repetition of words.

While monitoring symptoms, keep in mind there are seven stages of decline to recognize Alzheimer’s. These stages range from unnoticeable to extremely distinguishable. Recognizing these stages and where your loved one may be at is key to getting a care plan to not only help maintain quality of life but keep loved ones safe.

Normal Outward Behavior – you will not usually notice any change in your loved one since change happens unnoticed in the brain in the beginning.

Very Mild Changes – this stage can simply include mishaps such as forgetting words or misplacing objects.

Mild Decline – this stage introduces a noticeable change in a loved one’s thought and reasoning processes.

Moderate Decline – this is when the changes you noticed in stage three become more prominent. People start to forget details, small personal details, and difficulty with tasks.

Moderately Severe Decline – loved ones could have trouble remembering their address, dates, and how to dress appropriately. This is typically when supervision might need to be started.

Severe Decline – when a person can recognize faces but not names. This stage is when delusions can set in and there will be a decline in motor functions. You also might notice a change in their sleeping pattern or weight loss.

Very Severe Decline – this stage is when basic abilities such as eating, and walking begin to decline. This final stage is when caregivers are absolutely needed to ensure quality of life.

Dementia

Unlike Alzheimer’s, dementia is not a disease. It is also not a normal part of aging. It is the overall term for the loss of memory, language, problem-solving abilities, and social abilities. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia, affecting 44 million worldwide.

Dementia is caused by abnormal brain changes that are caused by damaged nerve cells and their connections in certain areas of the brain. There are several types of dementia that can affect people differently and that have various symptoms. The common denominator between types of dementia is protein deposited in part of the brain.

Infographic depicting symptoms of Dementia

The image above depicts the overall signs of generalized dementia. Since dementia is just an overall term though there are several irreversible, progressive dementia types besides Alzheimer’s disease. Four common types, plus their common symptoms, are:

Vascular Dementia is caused by damage to the vessels that supply blood to your brain. This can cause strokes or cause other serious brain affects. Common symptoms are difficulty with problem solving, loss of focus, restlessness, depression and slowed thinking.

Frontotemporal Dementia is caused by breakdown of the nerve cells and the connections they have to the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. This type is typically characterized by increasingly inappropriate social behavior, loss of empathy, loss of inhibition, loss of judgment compulsively wanting to put items in their mouth and eating inedible objects.

Mixed Dementia is a condition where a person has a combination of more than one type of dementia. The most common is Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. Typically, there will be a more prominent type of dementia and symptoms will match that, but symptoms vary person to person.

Lewy Body Dementia is a progressive dementia that causes a decline in thinking, reasoning, and independent functions. This is because of abnormal microscopic deposits that damage brain cells. Symptoms include confusion and alertness that drastically varies, well-formed hallucinations and sleep disturbances.

Caring For Alzheimer’s Disease or Related Dementia

“There is a moral task of caregiving, and that involves just being there, being with that person and being committed. When there is nothing that can be done, we must be able to say, “Look, I’m with you in this experience. Right through to the end of it.” – Dr. Arthur Kleinman

If a nursing home is not currently an option, the bulk of responsibility falls on the family member turned caregiver’s shoulders. Though adjusting your life around a loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be challenging, there are a few ways to help ease the transition.

Creating a safe environment is a great place to start. Alzheimer’s and types of dementia both impair judgement, vision, problem-solving abilities and increase risk of injury. You can create a safe-space by taking fire precautions, using locks on cabinets with anything potentially dangerous and avoid tripping hazards in frequently walked areas.

Overcoming Communication Boundaries

It may seem frustrating trying to communicate with someone who is slowly losing their ability to, but it is not impossible. When communicating be sure to set a positive mood for the interaction from the start. People with Alzheimer’s are already frustrated enough trying to convey what they say, if you start a conversation frustrated, they will likely follow suit. You can also keep their attention by limiting distractions, maintaining eye contact, using their name, and introducing yourself and who are in relation to them.

Now that they are actively listening to you, talk slowly and clearly. If you need to ask questions, keep them simple and refrain from giving open ended questions or too many choices. If you need to complete a task, break it down into steps and go through them one at a time. Alzheimer’s disease and dementia cause people to feel confused, easily distracted, unsure of their choices or themselves. Reinforce conversations and the completion of tasks with affection and reassurance.

Woman assisting senior woman with cooking

When you need to handle the times where the conversations are not going so smoothly, you can always distract and redirect. Anger and agitation are a prominent symptom of dementia, if your loved one is upset, you can easily change the subject, environment or bring in someone else to the conversation as a change of pace.

Sometimes you might face a complete communication breakdown, where you just cannot seem to connect at all. This would be a time to bring up the comfort of old memories or something that they are passionate about. Topics that are familiar, and do not rely on short-term memory, will always be the easiest to talk about because they are usually still the most distinguished in the mind.

Managing Day-To-Day Tasks

Just as Alzheimer’s progresses, so will tasks due to the loss of overall interest and motor functions. While able, have your loved one participate in as many tasks as they can. This can include dressing themselves, cleaning themselves, helping prepare a meal, cleaning up, or folding laundry – basically anything that pushes the idea of independence with supervision.

One of the hardest things for a person with dementia to lose is their independence. Many will hold on to as much independence for as long as mentally and physically possible. In addition to letting them do tasks stated above such as dressing and cleaning themselves, you should also give them options. Involve your loved one in choices such as picking out their outfit, what they want to eat, or what activities they want to do.

Having a daily schedule that includes your loved one’s preferences will help reduce frustrations. Even though Alzheimer’s and dementia cause memory loss, loved ones can still become used to and follow a routine when repeated. Everyday should not be expected to be the same so plan for occurrences such as spontaneous activities or extra difficult days.

Caregiver pushing wheelchair with a woman in it in a park both are smiling

Alternative Options

It is not always possible for a person to care for a loved one, at home, and unpaid. As Alzheimer’s or dementia worsens, day-to-day care also increases. There are two options for families who need help maintaining their loved ones’ quality of life.

The first is home care which is when a professional caregiver can come to the patient’s home to prefer care. Their care includes dressing, feeding, monitoring symptoms, maintaining diet, household chores, money management, physical therapy, and all other care needs. Home care is beneficial because it keeps patients in a comfortable environment.

Second is a nursing home. Nursing homes are a great option when patients or families do not have a safe, stable environment to ensure the patient’s well-being. Other factors could be work obligations or needing more skilled care. Nursing homes designed for Alzheimer’s and dementia patients are created to have warm, inviting environments and extra precautions in place to help stop wandering and ensure a safe, home-like environment.

Care That Fits Your Family

Regardless of if you chose to care for a loved one yourself, utilize home care or decide on a nursing home – the individual care and safety of a person with Alzheimer’s or dementia remains a top priority. How your family chooses to care for a loved one enduring memory loss is a personalized experience based on specific needs. While patients experience loss of memory, independence, motor skills, social skills, and problem solving abilities – they rely on some type of caregiver to maintain daily living. It is not an easy job to care for someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia, but it is a truly selfless act to do so.

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Research For Life - Understanding Whole Body Donor Consent

Hello, my name is Garland Shreves, CEO of Research For Life. I want to take a moment to discuss some very basic information with you regarding consent forms, in general, that you may encounter when considering to donate to a whole body donor organization.

First and foremost, you need to understand and read the consent form, also known as the authorization form or document of gift, so you know what you are consenting to.  Ask questions of the organization if you don’t understand something. 

 All states require, under the Uniform Anatomical Gift Act, that consent be granted by an authorized agent of the donor or self-authorization before death.

Each state defines who in the consenting class has the most authority to direct donation. Such as the medical power of attorney, spouse, children, grandchildren, siblings, etc. and differs slightly in each state. 

Consent may be given by means of a verbal recorded consent or by a written document of gift.

Research For Life uses a written consent form which can be found on our website.

Understand that the donor or authorizing agent is giving the body to an organization. Once given it belongs to the organization to use in accordance with the consent form.

In other words, the donor organization is free to use the donor provided it does so within the terms

of the consent, it may not use the donor in a manner not consented too.  

The consent may state how the body may be used.  Educational and/or research purposes or some other purpose may be stated or in the discretion of the donor organization.

Research For Life provides cadavers and/or anatomical specimens for education and research purposes and does not do ballistic testing.

The consent may state that the body will be used in whole or in parts. It may also state that the anatomical parts may be used domestically and or internationally.

And most consents will cover some basic things like consent to test the donor for diseases and order medical records to help best determine the medical suitability for the donation.

The consent may also touch on issues like for profit or nonprofit status and if the donor or anatomical specimens will be used by one or more or both types of entities.  Remember that regardless of an organizations tax status they all charge fees to end users who order anatomical specimens and offer those specimens to both for profit and nonprofit entities.

From the very start of the donation process costs to the donor organization begin. 24-hour answering service, transport team to respond 24/7, qualified trained staff paid a livable wage with benefits and retirement, electric, gas, phone, insurances, building payments, maintenance, medical director, and regulatory requirements, and cremation fees. And these are just some of the expenses that an organization may have to cover.

Another item you may see on most authorization forms is a release of liability, a hold harmless agreement, excluding misconduct of course.  

Research For Life states clearly it will not and donor or agent agrees that Research For Life will not be held responsible for acts of third parties in connection with the donation.

Another item that reduces a donor organizations liability is the Anatomical Gift Act prohibits criminal, civil or administrative actions provided there is no intentional misconduct on the part of the donor organization. In other words, if the donor organization acted in good faith it is immune and provided some protection from lawsuits.

Another important part on a consent form is the person signing the authorization attests (affirms) that they have the authority to direct the donation. The donor organization accepts the authorizing agent’s authority in good faith barring any information known to it at the time of donation that would contradict the authority of the person authorizing donation.    

Remember, should you decide to register, tell your family and friends about your decision.

Also, the donation authorization form is not valid until notarized or signed by two witnesses; one witness must be non-family or disinterested party. 

Consent forms contain other important information that you need to read and understand.

All documents of gift or authorizations can be cancelled prior to death.

I want to thank you for taking the time to watch this video and I hope it helped provide you with some basic information regarding whole body donation consent forms.  Thank you.