John's Blog
Flu Shots Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 18 October 2017



     Bellamy and Watson offer free flu shots to all employees.


     This year, the shot is a four part, not the usual three parts, containing four strains of flu which have been around in recent years. The Centers for Disease Control have a spotty record when it comes to predicting which flu strain will be the winter whopper and where.


     At the Fields, our guests can handle the flu as they have for 85 or more winters but as they age, it’s the threat of flu turning to pneumonia that worries us the most.


     The flu is a good (or bad) way of finding out whose immune systems are worn out and whose are still robust. Our vulnerable guests will get seriously ill and our robust guests will get mild, annoying, uncomfortable but not disastrous cases.


     We live in such close proximity, eating in common dining rooms, exercising and doing activities and enjoying the living rooms for entertainment, that we are all exposed.


     Feel free to quote me: we all get the flu; we don’t all get sick.


     Now, say it again.


     We wash our hands, push fluids on our guests, relentlessly wash table tops and other surfaces, scrub a dub the bathrooms and no matter what we do, the flu will have its way with us.


     Children with runny noses are dangerous. They get an influenza for the first time and pass it around to their schoolmates and they all get sick, then get well and, along the way, acquire a little immunity to the particular strain.


     The catch is, if the kids get a new nasty flu that my guests haven’t been exposed to in fifty or more years, those little runny nosers are going to spread a new flu around the Fields that could be devastating.


     We’ll be posting polite reminders (warnings) not to visit if you have flu symptoms. Please take your own precautions for your health and for the rest of your family.


    My public health training and feelings about flu shots lead me to suggest that you get a flu shot for your own sake and in doing so, you contribute to the health of the community by decreasing the risk that you will pass on the flu unnecessarily to other people.

Sing the song, Dance the dance Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Sing the song, dance the dance

Back to the drawing board Print E-mail
Written by John Hopkins  
Thursday, 31 August 2017



     The recent international conference on Alzheimer’s disease provided a nice week in London for a few thousand attendees but as for break-through news and “ah ha” moments, they might as well have stayed home.


     It puzzled me years ago that the two widely used dementia medications had nothing in common and worked on essentially completely different hypotheses.


     What they did, simply, was make enough of a small difference to be statistically useful, but barely, and have no bad side effects.


     Even with the bar set so low for drug approval, the last ten years have gone by without a single useful medication coming to market.


     In addition to touting the benefits of “good nutrition, exercise and a generally healthy lifestyle” as though that was news to anyone other than Rip Van Winkle, the field took a long step backward this week. A well-designed, longitudinal study found no effect between people who got a lot of exercise and people who got very little in terms of a risk of dementia in old age.


     Exercise is good for everybody nineteen different ways. It just has no statistical bearing on whether or not people get dementia.


     So, back to the drawing board. My money is on an inflammatory process or more likely processes. Inflammatory changes clearly underlie arthritis and other bone, soft tissue and organ diseases.


     A shift in research targets or at least a parallel track to retry some old anti-inflammatory while new drug developers continue the chase for the holy grail would be worthwhile.

The grail, of course, is also a financial blockbuster whereas a new use for an old medication available as a generic isn’t going to make anybody rich.


     And that’s the point. Or is it?

Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 26 July 2017



     A new study done at the University of Pennsylvania added credibility to the discredited standing of the popular brain training scam Lumosity.


     For years, I have quietly ranted that the claims by Lumosity were misleading and downright mean in light of the implied benefits for delaying or even reversing memory loss associated with dementia.


     I paid for a Lumosity subscription (which was refunded as part of a federal settlement) and, briefly, got a lot more benefit from Ms. Pac Man over the years.


     If Alzheimer’s and global warming exist (and they do) then the claims for “brain training” and the experts who lend their names to the snake oil should be relegated to the bargain bin in the health food isle where the male enhancement products gather dust.


     The International Institute of False Hopes churns out products and services with a frenzy in response to PT Barnum’s famous observation, “There’s a sucker born every minute” (thanks Wiki).


     I’m particularly sensitive to false medical claims about dementia, having spent the past 40 years immersed in brain/mind work. Whether or not other “enhancements” perform as promised is not my interest.


     What I provide at the Fields is a rational, comprehensive program to prolong the preserved cognitive and physical functions which are attacked by Alzheimer’s and other disease processes. Brain and mind and spirit and physical well being were unified in theory during the Middle Ages through the work of Rene Descartes and many others during the infancy of the Scientific Revolution.


     Fast forward four hundred years and we’re not all that much father advanced in theory or practice. The human brain is being attacked by a variety of diseases most notably Alzheimer’s and it will be another hundred years before our great grandchildren can read about the solutions to the dementia puzzle.


    Be assured, the answer won’t come from the charlatans of Lumosity.


     Meanwhile, a vigorous daily program of cognitive stimulation, sociability, nutrition, physical exercise and positive attitudes contribute significantly to quality of life for people with dementia and their families.


     The descendents of Ms. Pac Man- Alexa, Siri, Google Earth, and apps galore for our tablets to strain our brains don’t need to make false claims about their miraculous powers.


They’re just fun.  We play endless mind games and we enjoy nightly 50’s dance parties. These generate neurochemicals that the lumosity munchkins can only imagine.


The Graduates Print E-mail
Written by Kelly McNeal  
Wednesday, 31 May 2017



     It’s becoming an annual rite of passage for us to thank and honor a dozen or more high school, college, nursing school and graduate school graduates who spent a year or six caring for my guests at both Fields.


     This year is special, as we send off Christina B., who came to the dietary staff in high school and left with an MSW and a job on a psychiatric unit in Manchester.


     My father loved education, having been a Depression-era coal miner’s son in Northeastern Pa. and used the GI Bill, as did a million or more of his era, to change the fabric of post-WW II America.


     After retirement, he’d ride the bus from Scranton to New York City, where he had a NYC public library card and he hung around the world-renowned Public Library. Some summers, he’d register at Oxford or Cambridge and travel to England to study Shakespeare.


     In the winters, he was a substitute teacher in the Scranton school district and for years was president of the Scranton Public Library. For him, education didn’t just mean going to school. His education was a life-time process, an endless curiosity, an unquenchable thirst for knowledge for knowledge’ sake.


     I honor him, along with our graduates, each time Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance signals the start of a graduation procession.


     My father missed the I Pad and search engine era by a decade and was probably better off as a consequence. Part of the adventure for him was the travel for education. Whether a walk to the library in Scranton or a trans-Atlantic flight to London, the journey was woven into the fabric of the knowledge.


     The internet, the search engine and the technology of the tablet and Kindle books have changed learning for the better. Soon, global access to education will break down the cultural, racial, ethnic and political biases that hold back civilization from reaching its potential.

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