Hospice and the Love Hormone

It was her voice I first heard as a child learning my way in the world. [Photo – London Scout/Unsplash.com]

On a thousand and more Saturday mornings, I called Mom.

We talked about nothing. We talked about everything.

Saturday early morning was our weekly date. There were times—I’ll be honest—that it smacked of an obligation. I should call Mom. There were also weekends where the call was interrupted by her schedule or mine. But over the course of those years, the calls were a fixture, a way for us, living in different zip and area codes, to connect for a few moments.

The last call was in the summer of 2013, a few weeks before she died. I miss her voice.

How much do voices matter?

Not long ago, I read about research conducted in 2010 by University of Wisconsin’s Leslie Seltzer. A biological anthropologist, here’s what Seltzer and his team of researchers found when they:

. . . tested a group of seven-to-12-year-old girls with an impromptu speech and series of math problems in front of a panel of strangers, sending their hearts racing and levels of cortisol—a hormone associated with stress—soaring.

Once stressed, one-third of the girls were comforted in person by their mothers—specifically with hugs, an arm around the shoulders and the like. One-third were left to watch an emotion-neutral 75-minute video. The rest were handed a telephone. It was mom on the line, and the effect was dramatic.

“The children who got to interact with their mothers had virtually the same hormonal response, whether they interacted in person or over the phone,” Seltzer says.

The girls’ levels of oxytocin, often called the “love hormone” and strongly associated with emotional bonding, rose significantly and the stress-marking cortisol washed away.

Wow! . . . was how I felt when first running across this research. My quick glance at other like-minded studies confirmed Seltzer’s simple, powerful insights about the impact of the human voice. Read More →

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It’s Hard to Cure Stubborn

“I’ll give you six minutes . . .”

70-90% of the population is right-handed. I’m one of them. When recovering from carpal tunnel surgery on my right wrist back in 2013, various mundane tasks became a tad challenging:

  • Being on or near a toilet (I’m keeping descriptions G-rated).
  • Zipping any zipper.
  • Tucking in my shirt.
  • Brushing my teeth.
  • Washing my left hand.
  • Putting on my dog’s collar.
  • Taking a shower.

All activity seemed an ever-changing obstacle course of once simple gestures and decisions. Fortunately, I have a wife willing to lend a hand. Unfortunately, I am a stubborn guy. She offered to help with my shirt-tucking endeavors. No way! Can I help you zip that zipper? I’ve got it! I relented on the shower. There’s only so many hours in the day and who wants to spend significant clock time air-drying rather than using a towel wielded by a different set of hands?

My ordeal lasted barely a week. Read More →

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The Wonder Pills

Hospice is one of the rare times when all the medical professionals involved in caring for a patient are on the same page.

I wonder how this relates to medications.

Prior to hospice care, it’s not unusual for one doctor to prescribe a pill for your cranky prostate and another doctor to make sure you’re taking a blood thinner and a third doctor to suggest an antidepressant. You, the thoughtful patient, will mention the various pills you’re taking to each physician. If a new doctor claims that a new “wonder drug” is worth trying, you will also tell him or her about the other medications. The doctor(s) will assure you that everything is compatible. The nurse(s) are also reassuring when you worry about your growing list of pills, tablet and doses. The pharmacist(s), of course, will add insights.

So many voices! So many pills!

Nowadays, as we grapple with the illnesses that come with the accumulation of birthdays, our medicine cabinets can become chock-full of prescription bottles. We want to feel better. Take that pill. We want to return to what we once felt like. Try this pill. Grace Slick of the long-ago ‘60s rock band Jefferson Airplane, famously sang . . .

One pill makes you larger
And one pill makes you small
And the ones that mother gives you
Don’t do anything at all
Go ask Alice, when she’s ten feet tall… Read More →

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