Six Ways to Reduce Caretaker Fatigue

Caring for a loved one fighting cancer or coping with the aging process can be exhausting. The sick or aging loved one needs a variety of things on an hourly and daily basis and it can feel like a more than full time job to ensure all these needs are met. There are several things you can do to keep yourself from getting fatigued or burnt out and able to continue providing care.

Be Realistic

Recognize and accept that you have limitations and that it’s okay. Set goals that are realistic, break them down and prioritize them in ways that make sense. Say “no” where you feel you need to in order to protect your peace of mind. While your loved one may need daily care, you don’t have to take on additional tasks such as hosting large family meals.

Get Support

There are many ways you can get the support you need to continue as a caretaker for your loved one.

  1. Look for support groups in your area and visit a few until you find one you’re comfortable continuing with.
  2. Ask for help. Although you may be the main caretaker, it’s not on you to do everything. Make a list of things you need help with and delegate to people with the skills to handle them.
  3. Socialize. It may feel like going out with friends or other family members is too difficult. You’re tired and you do need to rest, but having fun with your friends and family will revitalize you and lower your overall stress level.

Have Personal Goals

As a caregiver, your primary focus is on the sick or aging loved one in your life. To provide the most effective support, however, you need to take care of yourself. Set health goals such as getting enough sleep, being physically active a certain number of days per week or eating healthy meals. Your body needs care, too. Don’t hesitate to make time to do that for yourself.


Seriously. Laughter truly is healing. Even if you have to fake it, it engages the muscles used in genuine laughter and releases endorphins and other lovely chemicals in the brain. Watch a comedy show or sitcom to help stimulate some laughing.

Find Inner Peace

Whether it’s meditation, prayer, hiking or some other form of relaxation it’s important to make time to engage in activities that help you re-center and return to your inner peace and calm. Caring for your spiritual and emotional needs is as critical as caring for someone else is emotionally draining and requires inner strength and patience.

See Your Doctor to Combat Caretaker Fatigue

It’s easy to overlook your own yearly checkups and screenings in the midst of running your loved one to their myriad of doctors’ appointments. However, your doctor is responsible for helping ensure you’re healthy. Making time to get your screenings and talking with your doctor about any concerns your have with your health or being a caregiver can help alleviate or treat potential issues before they arise.

Royal Jelly Helps Chemo Related Fatigue

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month. Breast Cancer effects thousands of women and their families each year. Thanks to diligent researchers, the disease is far more treatable than it once was. The treatments, however, come with many side-effects including fatigue. The bees are here to help!

Queen for a Day

In the beehive, royal jelly is used to feed the queen bee. It’s the only food she eats. In addition, royal jelly is placed around the bee larvae in the comb cells to nourish them as the grow into adult bees. Recently, studies have begun looking at how royal jelly could be used to help humans.

One of these studies recently appeared in the Electronic Physician. The researchers looked at 52 Iranian chemotherapy patients. Half of the patients received processed honey and royal jelly while the other half received pure honey. Both groups were given measured doses and instructed to take the doses twice daily for four weeks.

The participants were assessed for fatigue levels before, during, and after the study. Researchers used a visual assessment and fatigue severity scale and compared the results across both groups. At the end of the study, researchers found a statistically significant reduction in cancer-related fatigue (CRF) in the participants who received the processed honey and royal jelly.

Although further study is needed, these results seem to indicate that women experiencing fatigue from their chemotherapy treatments could benefit by treating themselves as queen for a day (or for the course of their chemo treatment).

Radiation Bee Gone

Radiation is often a necessary part of breast cancer treatments. Although the radiation removes cancer cells, it also negatively impacts healthy cells. There is some evidence to indicate that royal jelly counteracts the harmful effects of radiation. In addition, the hive provides other products that can help counteract the side-effects of radiation including propolis and honey. Propolis, when ingested may protect intestines from radiation damage and honey can be used topically to treat any burns or skin irritations.

Have you used royal jelly or other hive products as a complementary treatment? What were the results?

Can Prayer Heal?

If you ask someone devoutly religious the question ” can prayer heal “, they’re probably going to say yes. People who don’t claim a religion or have any certain type of faith, may also believe in a sort of general type of prayer–to whatever God might be listening, or to the universe itself. While some find it easy to scoff, research suggests that there is something the idea of asking for help and healing on the behalf of another person.

Medicine and Spirituality

Yes, prayer may be able to help heal someone who is ill or injured according to Larry Dossey, a Texas physician who began with the belief that science and spirituality were two separate concerns. Dr. Dossey wanted to answer the question “can prayer heal” with a scientific result.  A true legend,  Dr. Dossey was a battalion surgeon during the Vietnam War and went on to become Chief of Staff of Medical City Dallas Hospital in the 1980s. He also held several advisory positions over the years, and has received numerous awards.

Watching some cases of spontaneous remission after prayer, Dr. Dossey could no longer ignore the possible connection between spiritual intercession and healing. He began to study the connection between the body, mind and spirit, and wrote groundbreaking books and articles asking can prayer heal.  In his 1989 book “Recovering the Soul,” Dr. Dossey introduced the idea of the nonlocal mind–a mind unlimited by the constraints of the body or brain that can affect someone else through the power of prayer. He has written several books since then, and many are often used as teaching textbooks in programs in over 80 medical schools that focus on the connection between intercessory prayer, healing and wellness.

Prayer for Heart Patients

One study of prayer’s effects on health in 1988 involved patients in a coronary care unit. Approximately half were prayed for, with their knowledge, while the other half was not. The group that had been prayed for needed less medical intervention and had fewer health problems than the control group. All participants had to sign a release form before the experiment began and did not know which of them would receive prayers.

Healing Animals

Can prayer really heal someone who doesn’t know he or she is being prayed for? A study of prayer’s effects on a nonhuman species suggests it doesn’t matter. A study of 22 wounded bush babies who were separated into a prayer group and a control group showed that wounds of the animals in the group that received prayers healed faster than the group that did not. Their blood also showed improvement over the control group.

Prayer for Wellness

It’s also worth noting that the person who is prayed for may benefit, but praying itself may be a healthy thing to do. Meditation has been shown to aid in healing. Since prayer is a specific, focused type of meditation, the person asking for healing on the behalf of someone else may be improving their own health at the same time.

Cancer Treatment with Sound Waves

Most people think of ultrasound, also commonly known as a sonogram or sonography, as the technique used to look inside the body. Ultrasound is most often used to produce pictures inside the womb or to find masses and irregularities that are deep within the tissues. HIFU (High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound) uses the same technology to target a controlled area inside the body to remove damaged cells. There is emerging evidence that HIFU can even be used to treat some types of cancer.

The Science Behind Sound Waves

The ultrasound used to form the image of something inside the body, like an unborn child, consists of high-frequency sound waves that bounce off something solid inside the body. Much like radar or sonar, the waves produce an echo as they come up against solid tissue, creating an outline imagine of that tissue.

HIFU is the same technology but with a wave frequency many times higher than the one used to create pictures. The intensity and small focus of the sound waves are aimed at the cells that need to be destroyed, heating them to a temperature high enough to kill them without damaging surrounding, healthy tissue.

Hope for Prostate Cancer Treatment

The FDA only approved a HIFU device in 2015, the SonaBlate 450, for use in removing prostate tissue with sound waves, though it’s been used outside the United States for several years to treat prostate cancer and other ailments. A study of 625 prostate cancer patients demonstrated that men treated with HIFU showed improvement with very few, mild side-effects, at least in the short term.

In the US, HIFU has been approved for several years to alleviate the pain of metastatic bone cancer by killing the cells in bone lesions. It’s also a fairly common treatment for painful uterine fibroids  for women who don’t want to have major surgery like a hysterectomy and may plan to have children in the future.

Cancer Treatment and Well-Being

The lower cost of HIFU compared to standard cancer treatments and the minimally invasive nature are big benefits, along with the ability to maintain quality of life during and after the treatment without the need to heal from major surgery.

HIFU is also used to treat other types of cancers such as breast cancer, and many cancers where an otherwise small tumor would be surgically removed. Chinese trials on breast cancer patients and many other cancers are pushing the limit of HIFU to see if larger areas can successfully be removed with the treatment.

While HIFU’s use is still limited in the US, SonaCare Medical, the manufacturer of the SonaBlate, says that over 50,000 men have been treated for prostate cancer worldwide.

Bee Venom Therapy

Bee venom therapy, also known as apitherapy, is an ancient form of medicine that was used in Egypt and China to treat a number of maladies, and may be the oldest known treatment for arthritis swelling and pain. Today, proponents claim it can cure everything from chronic pain to Lyme disease. While small controlled trials of the therapy have found the results ineffective or inconclusive for several conditions like Multiple Sclerosis, the use of bee venom therapy to treat conditions that cause pain and swelling like arthritis has been shown effective in some research trials.

Complementary Medicine

Bee venom therapy isn’t a commonly prescribed treatment for any ailment. It’s not approved in the United States for clinical use for anything other than the desensitization of people who are highly allergic to bee stings. There have been clinical trials to measure bee venom therapy’s effects on several different illnesses and chronic conditions, but it’s considered a holistic, complementary form of treatment, and not one regulated by the FDA. Ongoing clinical trials for bee toxin’s effects on osteoarthritis may be working to change that.

Researchers believe that the bee venom helps pain and swelling by reducing the number of inflammatory substances like leukocytes and white blood cells in the synovial fluid that cushions joints.

A Little Pain for Relief

Bee venom therapy clinical trials for things like rheumatoid arthritis and other forms of arthritis have shown that patients treated with the venom had less pain and swelling, and needed fewer traditional medications than before. A study for its effect on neck pain may help reveal whether it can be helpful to treat swelling not caused by an illness.

Most people who undergo this treatment, including well-known personalities like actress Gwyneth Paltrow, actually have one or more bees held against their skin until they sting. Others have the venom injected with a needle.

Finding a Provider

While some doctors may suggest arthritis patients go to an complementary health practitioner, it can still be difficult to find someone who offers the therapy. Beekeepers may know someone who practices it. Acupuncturists may also offer the treatment. The American Apitherapy Society only shares the small network of providers to people who pay to join, because the treatment isn’t clinically approved. Many people find providers through word of mouth.

Treatment Risks

While bee venom therapy may offer relief for arthritis sufferers, it doesn’t come without a potential risk. Most people will only have localized pain and minor swelling at the site of the sting or injection that will fade over a period of hours. But for some, an allergic reaction to bee stings can be lethal. Someone who undergoes this therapy repeatedly may have a greater risk of developing an allergy over time. If you plan to undergo bee venom therapy, be sure there’s an epinephrine injection pen nearby in case you have a serious reaction.

Ease Your Depression, Heal Your Pain

People who are in a lot of physical pain from an illness or an injury often also suffer from depression. It’s not difficult to imagine why someone in pain might feel depressed. But the opposite often holds true, too. Depression may cause physical pain on top of the feelings of sadness and despair.

The Mind-Body Link between Pain and Depression

If you’re depressed and in pain, it’s likely that the pain is at least enhanced by your mood. But don’t make the mistake of thinking your aches and pains are all in your head. Physiologically, there’s a neurologic connection between depression and pain.

Two compounds in the body that act as neurotransmitters, serotonin and norepinephrine, moderate the pain response in the brain, and they also regulate mood. If someone punches you in the arm, these compounds react. And for decades, depression has been successfully treated in millions of people through the use of medications that manipulate the way the brain uses these same chemicals.

SSRIs Help with Mental and Physical Pain

While there’s still much we don’t understand about the brain, a lack of serotonin seems to disrupt the communications between nerve cells in the brain and makes it difficult to regulate mood. The same process may also worsen pain. SSRIs (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) are a common class of drugs known as anti-depressants, like Zoloft, Prozac and Paxil. These drugs slow the brain’s absorption rate of serotonin, allowing it to do its job longer, so that communication between the nerve cells is improved.

SSRIs that only affect serotonin reuptake were the standard for years, but newer types of antidepressants like Effexor, which blocks the reuptake of both serotonin and norepinephrine (SNRIs), and Wellbutrin, the only drug that affects norepinephrine and dopamine levels (NDRI), are regularly prescribed to fight depression today.

Antidepressants and Chronic Pain

Promising research into the area of this depression-pain link may provide new treatments for physical pain without the side-effects and risk of addiction that many powerful pain medications carry. Diabetic neuropathy, fibromyalgia and other chronic pain conditions like ongoing headaches have been found to respond well to SNRI treatment in clinical studies.

Additional Ways to Manage both Pain and Depression

Many of the healing techniques people use to treat depression or simply elevate their mood may also affect levels of physical pain. Meditation, relaxation and hypnosis are often used in pain clinics and rehabilitation centers alongside prescription medications like pain relievers or anti-depressants. Relaxation and a focus on positive and calming things may be able to help alleviate both pain and depression. Lifting your spirits may do more than put you into a better mood–it may help you handle physical pain.

Ultrasound Pain Management

Many people associate ultrasound with pregnancy, ObGyn visits and other diagnostics. Since the 1940s, however, ultrasound has been used to induce localized healing. More recently, great healing impacts have begun to be studied.

Traditional Pain Management and Healing

Ultrasound machines produce sound waves that pass through skin and other tissues which produce deep localized healing with little or no sensation felt by the person receiving treatment. In addition, ultrasound increases blood flow, tissue relaxation and scar tissue breakdown – all of which contribute to healing, reduced swelling and pain reduction, according to Physical Therapy Web.

Even more amazing for the needle-phobic among us, ultrasound can be used to deliver medications through the skin. This technique, called phonophoresis, is frequently used to administer cortisone, which reduces inflammation and pain in injuries.

A typical ultrasound pain management treatment takes just three to five minutes, but may be longer if the goal is to reduce scar tissue. The ultrasound machine wand is coated with a gel to reduce friction and kept in constant motion over the area being treated.

Treating Cancer

More recently, British doctors have begun using ultrasound to treat cancer. The Guardian reports that doctors at the Institute of Cancer Research (ICR) have used ultrasound to kill harmful tissues deep within the bodies of patients diagnosed with cancerous bone legions.

This type of ultrasound, known as high intensity focused ultrasound (HiFu), has been seen to successfully treat breast lumps and bone lesions. Researchers speculate that it could also be used to deliver capsules of cancer treatment drugs directly inside a tumor, reducing the negative side-effects of current treatment methods.

Researchers are currently focusing on the use of ultrasound to treat bone lesions related to cancer, but once it’s been perfected researchers believe the technology could have many uses. For example, ultrasound could be used to heat up cancer cells and kill them.

In addition, doctors believe they could inject fatty capsules containing anti-cancer drugs into a patient’s blood stream. When the capsules reach the tumor, ultrasound would be used to heat it up and burst the capsule, delivering the medication exactly where it’s needed.

Researchers have just barely begun to discover all the uses for ultrasound and sound waves. The ways in which they can be used to heal the body are currently limitless.

Reiki in Hospitals

As little as 15 to 20 years ago, the idea of an alternative healing modality such as Reiki being used in hospitals or other clinical settings would have been unthinkable. Fortunately, times have changed and Reiki in hospitals and hospices is becoming more common.


According to an article published by the International Association of Reiki Practitioners (IARP), Reiki and healing touch therapies are one of the top three complimentary practices currently being used in hospitals, with 25 percent of patients requesting it. They looked at the top 25 best hospitals, as ranked by U.S News and World Report in 2002 and found that 60% of them had some type of Reiki program in place.

This uptick in Reiki use is partly thanks to Dr. Oz. The famous heart surgeon has had Reiki and Therapeutic Touch practitioners in his operating rooms for more than 10 years. He’s seen that patients who receive the benefits of these therapies during the surgery experience fewer post-operative complications, both physical and emotional. Dr. Oz has made it a point to talk about these modalities on his television show, which has made them more mainstream.

Why it Works

Reiki treatments, no matter the length, are usually done in a private, quiet setting. Hospitals and other clinical settings by their very nature provide this setting for their patients. There is no additional technology required and long sessions are not necessarily needed to provide patients with the support they need, according to Karuna Reiki creator William Lee Rand.

For example, many patients suffer from needle-phobia, also known as trypanophobia, some to the extent of avoiding medical treatment as a result. Having a phlebotomist or nurse trained in Reiki and providing support to the patient during moments of injection, blood draw, or IV placement is easily incorporated into the normal course of care and makes the entire process easier for the needle-phobic patient.

How it Works

As with many things, the effectiveness of Reiki treatments relies in part on the patient’s willingness to receive it. William Lee Rand tells Newsweek about one woman who didn’t feel anything, but then admits that her husband “forced” her to go. It’s understandable that someone who’s closed off to receiving healing energy won’t get its benefits. Just as someone who is determined not to laugh will not find even the most hilarious joke amusing.

Has Reiki helped you through a hospital stay or surgical procedure?

Mindfulness Meditation and Pain Reduction

You know the saying “it’s all in your head”? It turns out there might be some truth to that. Scientists are discovering a connection between mindfulness meditation and pain reduction.

Non-Opioid Process

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), over 11 percent of the U.S. population suffers from chronic pain. Typically, these patients receive pharmacological treatment like opioid medications. While the medications may prove to be effective at managing pain, the CDC believes their use presents significant risks, including addiction.

As an alternative to prescription opioids, the NCCIH conducted a study which showed that mindfulness meditation – where participants turned their attention inward and toward their breath, rather than to what was going on externally – had a positive effect on pain levels. Study participants were given medication to block the opioid receptors in the brain, yet mindfulness meditation still resulted in pain relief.


In the fourth study of it’s kind, Dr. Fadel Zeidan replicated the results of his three prior studies proving that mindfulness meditation reduces pain without accessing the brain’s opioid receptors. In a double-blind, randomized study, Dr. Zeidan studied participants for 20-minutes a day for four days. In every group, including the control group, pain was reduced by more than 20 percent when they used mindfulness meditation. Groups that did not meditate reported a pain increase.

Brain Imaging

In a prior study, Dr. Zeidan coupled patient feedback with brain imaging scans. The MRIs proved that the brain patterns of people who meditate are significantly different than those who don’t. The scans revealed that mindfulness meditation activated the orbitofrontal and anterior cingular cortex, which are associated with self-control of pain. It also deactivated the thalamus which acts as a gateway for sensory information into the brain. With it deactivated, pain signals are not able to enter the brain for processing.

What’s Next

Dr. Zeidan and his team want to figure out the ways in which mindfulness meditation can affect the large number of chronic pain disorders including arthritis and fibromyalgia. At a minimum, they hope to prove that meditation is an effective adjunct to non-opioid pharmacological treatments.

Have you tried meditation to reduce or control your acute pain? How about chronic pain? Tell us how it’s gone for you.

Music and Pain: Calming the Savage Beast

In a previous article, we discussed how sound vibrations can realign the body’s natural vibrations and improve health. It’s no surprise, that the same can be said of music since music is truly just a complex set of sound vibrations. Specifically, music can help reduce and control pain.

Music and Pain Relief: Just a Few Minutes a Day

Psychology Today notes a study that linked two daily sessions of music to reduced pain in chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia, arthritis and other inflammation based pain syndromes. This works best when the type of music is individualized to evoke pleasant feelings or memories in the listener.

Accelerates Time

You know the saying, “time flies when you’re having fun?” It turns out, time also flies when you’re enjoying music. The same Psychology Today article describes a study in which participants were denied access to watches and clocks and placed in an artificially stressful situation (in this case repeated cold baths).

Participants were asked to subjectively rate the length of time they were in the situation. The study concluded that people who listened to happy or relaxing music felt time passed more quickly than those with no music or sad music. It also found that participants who had happy or relaxing music felt less stressed by the cold and that their actual body temperature was higher than participants with no music or sad music.

Reduces Pain Related to Medical Treatments

A study published by Harvard Medical School found that in clinical trials patients undergoing certain medical procedures felt less pain if music was played during the procedures and required fewer sedatives. Further, they found that patients who listened to music in the recovery room had less need for opioid pain medications.

Researchers also found that patients undergoing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for cancer experienced fewer side effects when they listened to music during their treatments. Specifically, the accompanying nausea and anxiety were dramatically reduced by hearing music.

Restoring a Sense of Control

Finally, researchers found that patients with chronic pain or undergoing painful medical treatments felt more in control of their lives and their situation when provided with music as part of their treatment or procedures. It seems that music heals the body in many ways and can be an effective adjunct to traditional medicine in many settings.

Have you found music helps relieve your pain?

For the down to earth