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6 tips to improve your vision

By: Bel Marra Health | Eye Health | Saturday, November 18, 2017 – 06:00 PM

vision tipsThe world can truly be a beautiful place, as long as you can see it. Unfortunately, as we age, our ability to see all of the world’s wonders can diminish. Objects may appear blurry, double, or generally distorted. Although some changes in vision occur naturally through aging, there are proactive things you can do to ensure that your diminishing vision doesn’t get worse at a quicker rate. The following tips will help ensure you preserve your vision so you can continue to see all that the world had to offer.

6 tips to improve vision

Go outside: Less and less of us are actually heading outdoors anymore, especially as we get older. This is actually problematic for our vision, because eyes require oxygen and healthy blood vessels to be able to see properly. Regular exercise, especially outdoors, is a good way to ensure your eyes receive adequate oxygen and that your blood vessels in your eyes stay healthy. Furthermore, it’s been shown that staying indoors simply watching TV is linked with nearsightedness.

Maintain healthy blood pressure and glucose levels: Macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy are the leading causes of blindness in the U.S. Both conditions are closely linked with hypertension and diabetes. Taking the necessary steps to control both factors can go a long way in protecting your vision.

Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables: Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients and vitamins that feed and nourish your eyes. You will want to make sure to eat a wide variety of them—and not just carrots—in order to receive a variety of these nutrients that can help you maintain healthy vision.

Keep your eyes safe: When you ride a bike, you wear a helmet. When you roller skate, you wear knee and elbow pads. When you are performing tasks where objects can get into your eyes, you must wear safety glasses. Whatever activity you’re doing, think about how it may affect your eyes and take the necessary steps to prevent injury from occurring.

Wear sunglasses: Another threat to your eyes is the sun, so wearing sunglasses can protect them. It is known that the sun’s rays can contribute to cataracts and other types of corneal diseases. You will want to make sure your lenses offer UV protection for maximum safety. Lastly, never look directly at the sun.

Have your eyes checked regularly: If you skip out on eye exams, damage and other problems could be occurring. Unfortunately, if not caught early enough, it could lead to permanent damage. Being able to see your eye doctor regularly ensures that problems are discovered early on so that treatment can take place sooner. Furthermore, your eye doctor not only offers insight about your eyes, but your eyes reveal a lot about your overall health too.

Related: How to improve vision: 11 home remedies to improve eye health

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Managing through turbulence in healthcare: Tips for health execs

What can I do to prevent this in the future?

If you are on a personal connection, like at home, you can run an anti-virus scan on your device to make sure it is not infected with malware.

If you are at an office or shared network, you can ask the network administrator to run a scan across the network looking for misconfigured or infected devices.

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Health Tips: Suggestions for Maintaining Good Health!

1. To sleep early at night and wake up early, at least one and a half hour before sunrise (an ambrosial hour), is good for health.

2. Health is not merely the fitness of the body. It includes an exhilarated and peaceful mind and brain.

3. To meditate and worship for 10-15 minutes in the morning after awakening provides mental peace and happiness.

4. To remain healthy and for the prevention of ailments, take a compatible and beneficial diet always. A person who follows a compatible diet does not require any medication.

5. During meals, be in a peaceful and cheerful state of mind. Spare some time for yourself at least during meal hours.

6. Take food in time. Food taken before the digestion of the previous meal is harmful for health. It is a golden rule in Ayurveda to eat only when hungry. Otherwise, fast for one meal of the day.

7. Yogurt at night and sleep during the day time (except in the summer season) is harmful for health.

8. Exercise is beneficial for the body, but exercising or working more than the body’s strength is very harmful.

9. Both obesity and emaciation are undesirable. Obesity is more harmful and is a root cause of various ailments, so beware of it.

10. Do not take disease lightly, because sometimes ignoring a common disease may become fatal.

11. For good health, an appropriate diet according to the season is recommended and one must eat less than their appetite.

12. Take 1-2 glasses of lukewarm water in the morning. Intake of lukewarm water containing the juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of honey is very useful. Do not take tea and coffee on an empty stomach in the morning.

13. Locking of teeth during defecation prevents loosening of teeth even in old age.

14. In the morning, hold water in the mouth and sprinkle cold water in the eyes. Also clean the palate with the thumb to keep away diseases of eyes, ears, nose and throat.

15. Massaging the balls of the feet with mustard oil before bathing keeps the vision normal even in old age. Walking barefoot on green grass in the morning improves the vision. Full body massage with mustard oil, once in a week along with massage of the soles of the feet and thumbs is very beneficial. It promotes circulation and relieves excess Vata.

16. If possible, gaze at the rays of the sun at dawn for five minutes daily to improve eyesight.

17. Brushing the teeth after each meal and before sleeping at night removes food particles from between the teeth.

18. Add lemon juice to bathing water to keep away body odor.

19. Practise yogasanas and pranayamas regularly after morning ablutions and bath. This keeps away all kinds of diseases. It keeps the mind peaceful and makes the body healthy and strong. It also enhances mental strength.

20. Breakfast should include easily digestible, light and fibrous foods, sprouts, fruits and porridge. While eating, chew the food properly to facilitate assimilation.

21. After a meal, sit in the position of Vajrasana for at least 10 minutes, and if possible, walk at night after dinner.

22. Take at least 8-12 glasses of water (3-4 liters) per day.

23. Always sit in a straight posture, and if sitting on the floor, avoid any support while getting up.

24. Always keep the nails trimmed and clean and never bite your nails.

25. Do not drink water while eating food. Take water half an hour before and after the meal. Always drink water in small sips.

26. Before eating, thank God for the food He has provided and consume food as a sacrament of God.

27. Include maximum green vegetables and salad in the diet. Excessive warm and cold food is harmful for digestion. Use minimum spices in the food. Daily intake of seasonal fruits is very useful for health. Do not eat fruit along with food. Take it separately before the meal.

28. Never suppress natural urges of the body such as defecation, urination, sneezing and so on, as it may result in various diseases.

29. To deal with faulty language, conduct and thoughts and also to move ahead in the journey of life, daily at night close your eyes and think patiently, peacefully and introspectively. Work accordingly to achieve and adopt Astanga yoga in life. Do not cover the mouth while sleeping. Maintain proper ventilation in the room while sleeping. Sleeping in the left lateral position results in proper breathing from right nostril which facilitates digestion of food.

30. Do not read or sleep on the belly.

31. Application of oil on the head calms the mind and induces sound sleep.

32. Drinking water and other edibles should be clean and fresh because unhygienic conditions invites various diseases.

33. Dry hair immediately after washing to prevent sinus problem.

34. Blowing the nose forcefully may be injurious to the ears, eyes and nose.

35. Continuous nose picking and scratching the anus may be the sign of worms in the body.

36. Cracking of joints may be injurious to the body, as it causes derangement of Vata.

37. It is harmful to have sex during menstruation, which causes derangement of Vata.

38. Avoid physical exertion such as yoga or running during menstruation.

39. After coitus, milk heated with raw cashews and raw sugar promotes strength and maintains sexual vigor.

(Excerpted from the book ‘A Practical Approach To The Science Of Ayurveda: A Comprehensive Guide For Healthy Living’ by Acharya Balkrishna)

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Defector’s Condition Indicates Serious Health Issues in North Korea

Parasitic worms found in a North Korean soldier, critically injured during a desperate defection, highlight nutrition and hygiene problems that experts say have plagued the isolated country for decades.

At a briefing Wednesday, lead surgeon Lee Cook-jong displayed photos showing dozens of flesh-colored parasites, including one 27 cm (10.6 in) long, removed from the wounded soldier’s digestive tract during a series of surgeries to save his life.

“In my over 20 year-long career as a surgeon, I have only seen something like this in a textbook,” Lee said.

The parasites, along with kernels of corn in his stomach, may confirm what many experts and previous defectors have described about the food and hygiene situation for many North Koreans.

“Although we do not have solid figures showing health conditions of North Korea, medical experts assume that parasite infection problems and serious health issues have been prevalent in the country,” said Choi Min-Ho, a professor at Seoul National University College of Medicine who specializes in parasites.

The soldier’s condition was “not surprising at all considering the North’s hygiene and parasite problems,” he said.

A South Korean soldier runs along a military fence on the road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom at a South Korean military checkpoint in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Nov. 14, 2017.

A South Korean soldier runs along a military fence on the road leading to the truce village of Panmunjom at a South Korean military checkpoint in the border city of Paju near the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ), Nov. 14, 2017.

Hail of bullets

The soldier was flown by helicopter to hospital Monday after his dramatic escape to South Korea in a hail of bullets fired by North Korean soldiers.

He is believed to be an army staff sergeant in his mid-20s who was stationed in the Joint Security Area in the United Nations truce village of Panmunjom, according to Kim Byung-kee, a lawmaker of South Korea’s ruling party, briefed by the National Intelligence Service.

North Korea has not commented on the defection.

While the contents of the soldier’s stomach don’t necessarily reflect the population as a whole, his status as a soldier with an elite assignment would indicate he would at least be as well nourished as an average North Korean.

He was shot in his buttocks, armpit, back shoulder and knee among other wounds, according to the hospital where the soldier is being treated.

‘The best fertilizer’

Parasitic worms were also once common in South Korea 40 to 50 years ago, Lee noted during his briefing, but have all but disappeared as economic conditions greatly improved.

Other doctors have also described removing various types of worms and parasites from North Korean defectors.

Their continued prevalence north of the heavily fortified border that divides the two Koreas could be in part tied to the use of human excrement, often called “night soil.”

“Chemical fertilizer was supplied by the state until the 1970s, but from the early 1980s, production started to decrease,” said Lee Min-bok, a North Korean agriculture expert who defected to South Korea in 1995. “By the 1990s, the state could not supply it anymore, so farmers started to use a lot of night soil instead.”

In 2014, supreme leader Kim Jong Un personally urged farmers to use human waste, along with animal waste and organic compost, to fertilize their fields. A lack of livestock, however, made it difficult to find animal waste, said Lee, the agriculture expert.

Even harder to overcome, he said, is the view of night soil as the “best fertilizer in North Korea,” despite the risk of worms and parasites.

“Vegetables grown in it are considered more delicious than others,” Lee said.

FILE - North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children's Day in this undated photo.

FILE – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un smiles as children eat during his visit to the Pyongyang Orphanage on International Children’s Day in this undated photo.

Limited diets

The medical briefing described the wounded soldier as being 170 cm (5 feet 5 inches) and 60 kg (132 pounds) with his stomach containing corn. It’s a staple grain that more North Koreans may be relying on in the wake of what the United Nations has called the worst drought since 2001.

Imported corn, which is less preferred but cheaper to obtain than rice, has tended to increase in years when North Koreans are more worried about their seasonal harvests.

Between January and September this year, China exported nearly 49,000 tons of corn to North Korea, compared with 3,125 tons in all of 2016, according to data released by Beijing.

Despite the drought and international sanctions over Pyongyang’s nuclear program, the cost of corn and rice has remained relatively stable, according to a Reuters analysis of market data collected by the defector-run Daily NK website.

Since the 1990s, when government rations failed to prevent a famine, North Koreans have gradually turned to markets and other private means to feed themselves.

The World Food Program says a quarter of North Korean children 6-59 months old, who attend nurseries that the organization assists, suffer from chronic malnutrition.

On average North Koreans are less nourished than their southern neighbors. The WFP says around 1 in 4 children have grown less tall than their South Korean counterparts. A study from 2009 said pre-school children in the North were up to 13 cm (5 inches) shorter and up to 7 kg (15 pounds) lighter than those brought up in the South.

“The main issue in DPRK is a monotonous diet — mainly rice/maize, kimchi and bean paste — lacking in essential fats and protein,” the WFP told Reuters in a statement last month.

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After Hurricane Maria, mental-health issues haunt Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Her memories of the storm come in flashes: neighbors’ screams, gushing water, swimming against the current with her son.

For Milagros Serrano Ortiz, a 37-year-old grandmother, the nightmare didn’t end when the storm did.

After two days of sheltering upstairs in a house across the street, she returned to find the walls of her own home caked with mud and a vile stench emanating from her cherished possessions, which were rotting in the heat.

Anguished and overwhelmed, she confessed recently to a psychologist at an emergency clinic that she had begun to have disturbing thoughts and worries that she might act on them.

“Like what?” the doctor asked.

Like swallowing a bottle of pills, she said. “Never waking up, and not feeling pain anymore.”

The violent winds and screeching rains of Hurricane Maria were a 72-hour assault on the Puerto Rican psyche.

Now, there are warning signs of a full-fledged mental-health crisis on the island, public-health officials say, with much of the population showing symptoms of post-traumatic stress.

Many Puerto Ricans are reporting intense feelings of anxiety and depression for the first time in their lives. Some are paranoid that a disaster will strike again. And people who had mental illnesses before the storm, and who have been cut off from therapy and medication, have seen their conditions deteriorate.

“When it starts raining, they have episodes of anxiety because they think their house is going to flood again,” said Dr. Carlos del Toro Ortiz, the clinical psychologist who treated Serrano Ortiz. “They have heart palpitations, sweating, catastrophic thoughts. They think, ‘I’m going to drown,’ ‘I’m going to die,’ ‘I’m going to lose everything.’”

With the island about to mark two months since the hurricane roared into Puerto Rico, its residents are still in shock. They are haunted by dozens of deaths caused by the storm, and many more life-threatening near-misses. The reminders are inescapable. They lie in piles of rotting debris as tall as homes that still line many streets and in cellphones that are useless for checking on family members.

Returning to a routine is the most important step toward overcoming trauma, according to physicians and public-health officials. But for most Puerto Ricans, logistical barriers such as scarce water and electricity, as well as closed schools and businesses, make that impossible.

Since Sept. 20, when the storm came ashore at 6:15 a.m., more than 2,000 calls have overwhelmed an emergency hot line for psychiatric crises — double the normal number for that period of time, even though most residents still do not have working phones. Puerto Rican officials said that suicides have increased — 32 have been reported since the storm — and many more people than normal have been hospitalized after being deemed dangerous to themselves or others.

At the emergency health clinic in Toa Baja, where Serrano Ortiz lives, Toro said that he had been frantically calling for help from colleagues in other cities because the facility was overrun with people in need of mental-health care.

Because it is in a flood zone, Toa Baja was one of the worst affected areas in Puerto Rico. At least four people died there and water levels peaked at more than 12 feet. The city of 80,000 west of San Juan flooded multiple times, each time that it rained after Maria passed.

In his nearly 20 years of practicing medicine, Toro said, he had never before hospitalized as many people with suicidal or homicidal thoughts in such a short time period. Of about 2,500 people who had been to the clinic since it opened two weeks earlier, more than 90 percent were referred for mental-health screenings, Toro said. He and other practitioners at the clinic had referred at least 20 people to psychiatric wards elsewhere on the island.

‘‘This is an emergency situation,’’ he said. ‘‘It’s still affecting us. There are people that we haven’t seen.’’

Prolonged losses of electricity, water, communications or infrastructure have been linked to the onset of mental health crises, said Dr. Domingo Marqués, the director of clinical psychology at Albizu University, a prominent graduate school of psychology on the island with clinics in two major cities. All of those elements have been relentlessly present in Puerto Rico.

‘‘And this is all happening at once,’’ he said. ‘‘What we have lost is the foundation that holds a society together.’’

He said that Puerto Ricans would have to adjust their definition of normalcy just to function: ‘‘It’s ‘I survived. My family didn’t die.’ That’s the new definition of OK.’’

This hurricane season has caused mental distress, and strained resources for treating it, throughout the Caribbean, according to reports from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Dominica and Antigua.

The mental-health division of the Puerto Rican health department received $3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate a response to Maria, said Suzanne Roig, the administrator of the Puerto Rican agency.

Its doctors have been knocking on doors in the worst-hit parts of the island and visiting emergency shelters where people who lost their homes have been living.

‘‘We are trying to reach people to tell them that this crisis will pass,’’ she said, ‘‘and that they should not make permanent decisions.’’

The agency also started an initiative to monitor social media, and staged interventions in a handful of homes of people who posted what appeared to be suicide notes.

During high-volume hours, its staff members have been taking on extra shifts and working overtime to respond to the increase in phone calls to the 24-hour emergency crisis hot line.

For Serrano Ortiz, another threat to her mental and physical health loomed.

Before the storm, a scan of her throat had indicated that she might have cancer for the second time. But she has not been able to get any more information about her prognosis because her doctor’s offices have been closed.

At the emergency clinic, she told Toro that she might not have the energy to fight the disease again. When she looked in the mirror, she said, she saw in herself a reflection of her home — something dirty, smelly and tainted.

‘‘I don’t feel like myself anymore,’’ she said. 

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A health-care plan from 2000 years ago could help America today


There’s a group of Christians who have peace of mind even while America’s health-care system seems to spiral out of control. As an expression of our faith, we’ve opted out of health insurance entirely and decided to directly share one another’s medical costs.

We are inspired by a 2,000-year-old Christian tradition first practiced by the early church. The first Christians “had everything in common” and “shared everything they had,” says the Book of Acts. They met each other’s needs.

Our ministry, Medi-Share, was founded upon this principle in 1993, and today we help more than 300,000 people share each other’s medical costs. In that 24-year window of time, our members have shared over $1.4 billion of health-care expenses within our community and saved an additional $690 million through discounts we’ve directly negotiated with providers on our members’ behalf.

We’ve managed to do all this with our average member contributing about $350 a month.

As a not-for-profit religious community, we do our work exclusively as a service to society. And contrary to the largely impersonal experience that is the American health-care system, we strive to make our members feel like they’re part of an extended family.

Our members don’t just share medical expenses like strangers vaguely connected by their checks going into the same giant pool of money. Each month, they know precisely whose expenses they are contributing to, and they have the opportunity to connect with each other via prayer requests. This allows them to encourage and get to know one another.

Our members celebrate together when a new child is born or cancer is beaten. They grieve together when a loved one is lost or when tragedy befalls. No one has to navigate life’s ups and downs alone.

Health-care sharing isn’t right for everyone. Some people should use insurance. But sharing has been the right choice for our members. It’s connected families from coast to coast and transformed the health-care experience of hundreds of thousands of members.

A member of four years recently started struggling with heart problems and just a few months ago had surgery with severe complications. He ended up spending 26 days in the hospital and accumulating more than $170,000 in bills. After we negotiated down his fees, our community stepped up and took care of the balance.

He wrote us recently: “I can’t thank you enough for doing exactly what you said you would do when I joined.”

These are the kind of health-care solutions America needs – initiatives that will connect us to one another and help us help each other. That’s what health care should be about.

There’s just one thing I hope for in whatever comes of the debate happening between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and it is that they understand and empathize with the health-care needs of the American people.

In this time of constant and confusing change in our nation’s health insurance markets, Medi-Share offers protection and peace of mind for millions of Americans whose plans are in peril, or who just want the security and satisfaction that comes from being part of a community committed to the biblical model of meeting each other needs. After all, there’s nothing more important than our faith and our health.

Ted Squires is the chief executive officer of Christian Care Ministry, a not-for-profit organization based in Melbourne, Florida that operates Medi-Share, one of the leading healthcare sharing ministries in the United States. Visit

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Video shows nurses doubled over LAUGHING as 89-year-old World War 2 veteran dies in Georgia care home

This is the chilling moment a group of nurses laughed as a World War II veteran died in a Georgia care home.

The nurses were meant to be fixing an oxygen mask onto 89-year-old James Dempsey after he called for help saying he couldn’t breathe. 

But a surveillance camera captured them laughing as the breathing machine failed, and Dempsey fell unconscious, and records show they waited an hour to call 911.

One of the nurses is seen laughing so hard she is doubled over Dempsey’s deathbed. 

Initially, Dempsey’s family in Woodstock, Georgia, thought he had died of natural causes in Northeast Atlanta Health and Rehabilitation Center in 2014. 

However, his son Tim had promised they would install a hidden camera when he first moved in there as he feared mistreatment. 

Weeks after Dempsey’s death, Tim reviewed the footage – and what he saw sparked a three-year legal battle.

Despite watching the video in court in 2015, the nurses kept their licenses until now that local television station WXIA-TV/11Alive persuaded the court to release the footage to the public. 

Dempsey served in the Second World War, before settling in Woodstock, Georgia

Dempsey served in the Second World War, before settling in Woodstock, Georgia

Dempsey served in the Second World War, before settling in Woodstock, Georgia

WXIA-TV/11Alive says the nurses didn’t surrender their licenses until this September, after it sent The Georgia Board of Nursing a link to the video the nursing home fought three years to keep secret.

And now, it has been shared publicly.  

The newly-released video includes the deposition in court on November 23, 2015.

The video was played to the courtroom as the family’s lawyer Mike Prieto questioned former nursing supervisor Wanda Nuckles.

Before playing the video, Nuckles tells the court nurses were giving Dempsey CPR repeatedly until the emergency services arrived. As the video rolls, the courtroom sees that did not happen.

The video starts with Dempsey, a decorated soldier, repeatedly calling for help, saying he can’t breathe. He also presses the call light, which flashes on at 4.35am. He then appears to start losing consciousness.

A nurse does not appear until 4.42am, at which point she readjusts the bed, turns off the call light, and leaves, as Dempsey struggles for air.

Prieto asks Nuckles if that is an acceptable period of time, to which she responds ‘nope’. He asks if Dempsey appears to be gasping for air, to which she responds, ‘yep’.

‘How does it make you feel watching this video?’ the lawyer asks. ‘Sick,’ Nuckles replies.  

The video then cuts to 6.23pm, when Nuckles and another nurse enter the room. They fix his blanket and adjust his bed as Dempsey lies motionless. 

Prieto says to Nuckles: ‘Contrary to the way you testified previously, there’s no one doing CPR, is there?’ Nuckles replies: ‘No.’

They watch on. Another nurse enters, and all three stand around the bed talking. 

At 6.30pm, as they try unsuccessfully to restart the oxygen machine and Dempsey takes his final breaths, the three appear to be laughing – with one of the nurses doubled over laughing.

In the courtroom, Prieto stops the tape and asks Nuckles: ‘Ma’am was there something funny happening at 6.30am on February 27, 2014 in the middle of this attempt to resuscitate Mr Dempsey?’

Gasping for air: At first, Dempsey is seen calling for help and gasping for air - unanswered from 4.35am to 4.42am on February 27, 2014

Gasping for air: At first, Dempsey is seen calling for help and gasping for air – unanswered from 4.35am to 4.42am on February 27, 2014

First nurse responds: At 4.43am, a nurse walks in, adjusts his bed, then leaves the room 

First nurse responds: At 4.43am, a nurse walks in, adjusts his bed, then leaves the room 

Three nurses attend: This is the moment nurse supervisor Wanda Nuckles (pictured touching the bed in the video, and watching the video in a red shirt) doubles over laughing

Three nurses attend: This is the moment nurse supervisor Wanda Nuckles (pictured touching the bed in the video, and watching the video in a red shirt) doubles over laughing

Eventual chest compressions: Knuckles is seen performing six chest compressions before stopping

Eventual chest compressions: Knuckles is seen performing six chest compressions before stopping

Nuckles replies: ‘I have no clue sir, I have no clue. I can’t even remember all that, as you can see.’

Prieto asks: ‘Do you see any sense of urgency on the part of any of the medical providers here ma’am? Including yourself?’

Nuckles replies: ‘I think I was doing pretty good considering I didn’t have anything good to work with.’ 

Prieto says: ‘Ok well when you testified earlier that you walked in and started giving CPR until the EMTs showed up, that wasn’t really the truth was it?’

Nuckles replies: ‘Sir that was an honest mistake because I was just basing everything on what I normally do.’

The video continues showing all nurses leaving, with Nuckles remaining. She adjusts his bed, and fixes a breathing machine onto Dempsey’s face. She then performs six chest compressions then stops. 

‘Any reasons to stop after six chest compressions there ma’am?’ Prieto asks.

‘Not that I know of,’ Nuckles says. 

WXIA said records showed the nursing home has built up $813,000 in Medicare fines since 2015. 

And while it received a strong inspection report in May, it still has Medicare’s lowest score, a one-star rating.

This case has emerged amid a slew of allegations against nursing homes, some associated with the US Department of Veterans Affairs, regarding care and treatment.  

It is illegal in Georgia to install a hidden camera in a nursing home without prior consent from the nurses and the establishment. However, the revelations from the footage absolved Dempsey’s family of charges.

Speaking to Channel 2, Tim Dempsey said he had assumed his father’s suspicions were over-the-top. 

‘We would have just thought it was natural causes and everything was done that should have been done and he passed away in his sleep,’ Tim Dempsey told Channel 2′s Rachel Stockman.

But reviewing the footage, he said he felt ‘shock’ and ‘dismay’ at watching the nurses, adding: ‘we’ve seen these people everyday.’

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‘We give people their humanity back’: inside Croatia’s pioneering mental health centre

High walls still surround the oldest asylum in the Balkans, an 18th-century building pocked with the artillery scars of last century’s civil war, but the gates are no longer locked. Handles have been replaced on internal doors and bars removed from windows.

“The jail,” said Darko Kovaoic, a 53-year-old poet with schizophrenia who lives here, “has broken open.”

The institution in Osijek, eastern Croatia, is run by Ladislav Lamza, a former social worker who is taking on the government, the health minister, and his own staff to transform the lives of his “beneficiaries” – the patients of what was until recently an old-style asylum.

It was in May 2015 that Lamza ripped down the sign outside – replacing “Home for the Insane” with “Centre for People Like Us” and began moving people out.

“We express many things in that small sentence,” said Lamza. “Because what we have done for the past two centuries is the opposite. We’ve said: ‘You are not like us, you are ugly and mad and I’m not like you.’ This is where we exclude, stigmatise and restrain people for the rest of their lives.

“We have people in need and we provide inappropriate help and the result is catastrophic. I never knew anyone who was rehabilitated. We make equality between criminals and people with disabilities.”

Lamza’s transformation of the centre caused shock and upset: one member of staff pointed out that these were people who should have been “exterminated”.

In four years, 172 out of 200 people have been successfully moved into shared flats dotted around the small city, with carers from the centre visiting them as needed.

As his institution emptied, Lamza ditched the metal bed frames and stained mattresses. Although the paint still peels and the furniture is scratched and sagged, he has turned the bleak, soulless wards into rooms for day classes, a library and a bright cafe where former patients demonstrate how to make pancakes and brew tea for other ex-patients who come by daily to grow cabbages in the gardens or to chat with staff. Staff are no longer janitors, nurses, cooks or cleaners, but all re now “care assistants”. The transformation, says Butkovic Jadranka – formerly a hairdresser here, now running sewing classes and shopping and theatre trips – is amazing.

Slavica Hip left the home three years ago and now lives in Osijek with her boyfriend. ‘In the institution I would take more pills. Now my medication has been reduced. I feel better,’ she says. Photograph: Photo: Robin Hammond/NOOR

“When we first heard of the director’s plans, I was fearful, everyone was fearful, we thought perhaps he had gone a little crazy. But now everything is completely different. Before it was like they were objects, slightly out of focus objects. Just numbers. Like on a conveyer belt. I never asked anyone’s name. Now they are my friends. People are not dangerous lunatics, they have become citizens, they have become neighbours.”

It is 10 years since Croatia signed the UN’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but Osijek is the only one of Croatia’s 24 mental health institutions, which house a total of 6,700 people, implementing its spirit. “We signed this with our fingers crossed behind our backs. The government still wants people locked up, locked away. People with disabilities, whether mental health or physical, have rights. There are four reasons why inclusion is better than exclusion,” said Lamza. “It’s better for a person, it’s better for the community, it’s legal, it’s cheaper.” He says the cost per person per month in an institution is $1,260 (£950). “In the community, even with the maximum 24-hour support, it is $1,020.

“The first day I let people go I didn’t sleep: will she hurt someone, will he cope? But there have been no problems. People have thanked us for giving them the best neighbours they have ever had!”

After 12 years in institutions, Branka Reljan, 55, has spent three years living in the community, in a shared flat with her partner Drazenko Tevlli. She speaks fluent German and English but has suffered mental health breakdowns since university and has let go of old ambitions. Now the couple take great delight in visiting cafes and shops. “We met in the institution but love is not allowed so we lived a secret for 11 years. I say I was in prison before. Now I love to make apple pies and buy spices and oils for cooking. It is wonderful for us to have our own keys, to buy fresh juice and to take a bus. We are satisfied with our neighbours. We are happy.”

Zoran Stih and Ruzica Vidakovic met at the institution in Osijek. They moved out in 2015 and are now married and living in an apartment in the town. Photograph: Photo: Robin Hammond/NOOR

If other asylums in Croatia had any desire to follow Lamza’s care in the community model it would be more difficult. Most were built far from towns.

Rada Matos is the director of Ljeskovica home for mentally ill adults, deep in the Pozega forest, an hour’s drive from Osijek. Lamza describes it as “a warehouse for lost souls”. Matos says she does her best for the 284 people here but points out that Croatia is a poor country and mental health is both under-resourced and stigmatised. “We have no psychologists and no psychiatrists, no professional is interested in coming out here to work, yet perversely we are the main employer in the area for unskilled workers. It’s too far for relatives to visit and there is no community for people to live in even if I had the resources to try. There is a tiny village of uneducated people to whom this is the madhouse.”

There is a long waiting list to come here but few leave. “Maybe two a year,” she said. “We try to explain mental health is an illness, we invite in families, school groups. But what I’d really need to do is move this building somewhere else, somewhere where there is a community.”

Around the grounds and in the corridors, people stand or wander in shabby clothes too big or too small. Miryama Nikoli, 38, is new to Ljeskovica but has been institutionalised for 18 years. Eyes glazed by medication that hasn’t been changed in all that time, she talks to everyone about her daughter, taken away as a baby. “I was sick because of my nerves but now I suffer because of my baby,” she says. “I drink the medicine but I want to see her again.” Matos pulls out her file; her background is heart-breaking and abusive. One line mentions the child, who will now be 18. The file contains four A4 pages.

In Osijek the belief is that lives are better on the outside. Care assistant Vlatka Griner said the hardest task in moving people into the community was to make them use chairs: “At the asylum, they squat in the corridors, smoking. Squat, smoke, move a bit and squat again. What else did they have to do? In only slippers, just slippers because they never went out. When they are in the apartments the hard thing is to get people to sit in chairs. It can take a good two months.

“Then they go to the shops, buy their own food, buy their own clothes, run their own lives. Brush their hair. They’re unrecognisable.”

It is not a solution for everyone. Back in Osijek, Zdenko Kovac, 64, is a convicted murderer and, although he claims the scars on his head are from an axe wielded by his wife and he is not deemed dangerous enough for a secure hospital, he has failed to cope outside and is back in the institution where he wants to stay “until I die”.

“He is someone I worry about,” admits Lamza, “he wants to stay and ideally he will.” For others, it was never the right place. Luka Bobanovic, 36, caught a fever aged seven that left him brain-damaged. His mother handed him over to state care and he has been bounced around from institution to institution. “When he came to us he was very disturbed,” said Lamza. “Eight times Luka went through a door or window, either him chasing staff or them chasing him. The doctor told staff to tie him to his bed. I found him like that, tied to his bed, crying for his mamma. The staff shrugged and told me ‘we are scared of him’.”

Now he lives in a small bungalow with three other beneficiaries and round-the-clock care.“Our work doesn’t end when people live outside the institution,” said Lamza. “We are supporting them to live like every citizen of this town, to fall in love, dance, eat pancakes. I want to give people back a reason to live. That is what we have been taking from them, their humanity.

“I’m ashamed of how people lived before, but I’m happy,” Lamza said, “because they’re happy.”

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Global Health Challenges Offer Social Entrepreneurs Opportunity

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“We have grown far too tolerant of businesses not acting in alignment with the public good,” said Derek Fetzer, director of Johnson and Johnson’s CaringCrowd crowdfunding site for global health. “ Shouldn’t all business, all entrepreneurship be for the public good?

“The spirit of social entrepreneurs is crucial in solving global health challenges, and has been a driving force in uncovering innovative solutions to tackle the ever-changing global health landscape,” Carol Pandak, PolioPlus director for Rotary International, said. (I am a member of Rotary and once wrote an article for the Rotarian Magazine.)

Pandak noted that global health issues hold a unique space on the plant. “It could be easy to diagnose many global health challenges as problems of individual regions and nations.” After all, it has been decades since anyone in the Americas got polio.

She pointed out that the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal number 3 targets healthy lives and well-being for all. “When it comes to global health, there really is no issue from which any group, any nation is immune.” Even with only 15 cases reported so far in 2017, polio is just a plane ride away.

To get a better perspective on global health opportunities for social entrepreneurs, I invited 12 experts and practitioners to join me for a roundtable discussion. You can watch the entire 90-minute discussion in the video player above. Pandak participated only in writing. In a wide-ranging discussion, we covered challenges and opportunities in global health along with specific examples and some key lessons learned.

Credit: Engineering World Health

Leslie Calman, Engineering World Health

Leslie Calman, CEO of Engineering World Health, extended Pandak’s idea. “The answer must be broadly systemic, not singular: a combination of broad public health measures; an educated and paid healthcare workforce including doctors, nurses and technicians; support from governments and NGOs for public hospitals and clinics that serve low-income people; [and] the education of women and girls.”

Entrepreneurs have many roles to play in global health, said Deepak Kapur, the Chairman, India National PolioPlus Committee. He highlights needs assessment, monitoring, cutting red-tape for rapid response to emergent needs, special perspectives of business and industry and piloting new programs.

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Charles Manson says he is in good health in taped prison phone call to pal before being taken to hospital

CHARLES Manson claims he is “solid as a rock” in a taped prison phone call to a pal obtained by Sun Online.

In the bombshell recording, Manson, who is currently serving a life sentence for the murders of pregnant actress Sharon Tate and six others, claims he is feeling “pretty good” when asked how he is doing.

 Manson is currently serving a life sentence at a Californian prison
Manson is currently serving a life sentence at a Californian prison

Gurecki claims the taped call from earlier this year is the last recorded phone call before Manson was taken to hospital last week, reportedly close to death.

It comes as another friend of Manson’s CR Wallace – also known as “Red Wolf” – told Sun Online that reports that the 83-year-old is on his death bed are exaggerated.

Gurecki, who collects and sells Manson memorabilia often posts apparent phone calls with Manson on his YouTube channel.

In the recorded call from Corcoran State Prison, California, Gurecki asks Manson, “What’s happening?” to which he replies: “Solid as a rock, solid as a soul… roll wheel, roll.”

Manson then replied “pretty good” when asked how he was doing.

 Ben Gurecki claims to be a close friend of Manson's
Ben Gurecki claims to be a close friend of Manson’s

Later in the long and rambling conversation Manson rants about an unknown package, saying: “The small people that are trying to get big they tear everything up that we struggled for.

“We did all this on death row, that’s what the package was all about, but the cowards gave the package to the other side because they won’t stand up for our side.”

Much of the call is inaudible but at some point Manson tells Gurecki: “You learn a lot in jail, you don’t tell somebody I’m gonna beat your a**, unless you can do it and get away with it… you say you’re gonna beat they’re a** and you can’t and they beat your ass for saying that.

He adds: “Don’t be faking, that’s it I don’t like lying. I mean I can lie like anyone else, but I know it doesn’t do me no good.”

 Gurecki collects and sells Manson memorabilia like this original Manson police report
Gurecki collects and sells Manson memorabilia like this original Manson police report

Meanwhile Red Wolf, who also says he talks to Manson on the phone regularly, told Sun Online the reports he was close to death were unreliable – and that the 83-year-old had been taken to hospital a few times for “tests and procedures” in the past few months.

Red Wolf, who is part of the pro-Manson environmental group ATWA, said: “The policy of the prison prohibits revealing of inmate health conditions and medical histories….Sadly, Charlie’s friends and associates are essentially left in the dark until he finds an opportunity to tell us himself, which is not easily done.

“He has no access to phone usage while in the hospital, and the CDCR does not allow visitation while inmates are outside of prison grounds.”

 Manson inspired a group of followers to murder seven people in 1969
Manson inspired a group of followers to murder seven people in 1969

He said the recent reports that Manson had a heart problem and only days to live were “false and unsubstantiated”.

“No one outside prison administration and hospital staff has communication with CM [Charles Manson] currently,” Red Wolf added.

“The person, who gave all those grossly exaggerated and overtly morbid statements, has not had contact with Charlie for some time, to the best of our assessment.

“Heart failure is not a known condition affecting CM’s health… The last associate and close friend to converse with Charlie was Black Wolf [a fellow ATWA member], who visited him two Saturdays ago.

“CM has been to the hospital a few times since January for tests and procedures.”

He added however that “death is not something feared” by Manson.

Manson began to gather small group of young, largely female devotees – mainly from broken middle-class homes – known as the “Manson Family” in around 1967.

 Manson, pictured entering court, was charged with seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy
Manson, pictured entering court, was charged with seven counts of murder and one count of conspiracy

In the summer of 1969, he directed his followers to murder in what was part of a plan to incite a race war, according to prosecutors.

He ordered four of his followers – Susan Atkins, Linda Kasabian, Patricia Krenwinkel and Charles ‘Tex’ Watson – to the Beverly Hills address of movie actress Sharon Tate with the instruction to kill everyone inside.

Less than 24 hours later, the gang tortured, murdered and mutilated wealthy LA couple Rosemary and Leno LaBianca.

They used their blood to write “Rise,” “Death to Pigs,” and “Helter Skelter,” a reference to the Beatles song, on the walls and refrigerator door.

Manson and his accomplices were all sent down for the murders, apart from Kasabian who testified against them and played no direct part in the killings.

Manson was originally sentenced to death but was spared execution and his sentence was converted to life in prison after the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty unconstitutional in that state.




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