Whooping cough, an old-fashioned-sounding disorder is back in our midst. Whooping cough, also known as pertussis, is an extremely contagious disease. It is caused by the bacterium Bordetella pertussis,  a distant relation to the bug that causes kennel cough in dogs. While an effective vaccine is available, pertussis is still one of the most commonly occurring vaccine-preventable diseases in the U.S. Prior to the availability of the vaccination, whooping cough was often fatal in infants. Nowadays, children are routinely vaccinated against diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough using the DTaP vaccine. The booster, called Tdap, should be readministered around 11 to 12 years of age. In February of this year, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended that a Tdap booster be given to all adults aged 19 and older who have not received it as an adult.

The Foundation for Community Health (FCH) which is approaching its tenth anniversary was started in 2003 with assets from the sale and conversion of the former nonprofit Sharon Hospital. From its headquarters on Sharon Valley Road on the New York–Connecticut border, the foundation serves northeastern Dutchess and southern Columbia county and northwestern Connecticut.  The mission of FHC is to maintain and improve the physical and mental health of those residing in the area historically served by Sharon Hospital, with an emphasis on serving the most vulnerable, including undocumented workers and their families. As noted by Gertrude O’Sullivan, director of communications and special programs for FCH, “We have an emphasis on prevention, early intervention, and collaboration.”  
Common Misperceptions

“Hospice comes in when you’re about to die.” “Hospice takes place in a special kind of facility.” “Hospice is only for cancer patients.”  “Palliative care just means pain medications.”

These are some of the common misperceptions that many of us have about hospice and palliative care. Hospice, as we know it today, was developed by Dame Cicely Saunders, a British nurse who understood that dying patients and their families had special needs that  were not being met by the medical care system. One of her most important ideas was her focus on the whole patient and what she termed “total pain,” meaning not only the patient’s physical symptoms but also his or her psychological and spiritual needs, as well those of the family. Hospice care as a concept was introduced in the United States in 1971 by the dean of the Yale School of Nursing, who started Hospice, Inc. in the United States.


Skin cancers of all types are on the rise, but the most worrisome statistics concern malignant melanoma, the deadliest of all the skin cancers. Not only are more people getting it, but it is occurring in younger people. Loretta Pratt, MD of the Sally Balin Medical Center near Philadelphia, noted that their practice used to see very few teens with malignant melanoma in a year while now they see them monthly. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, approximately 75% of skin cancer deaths are from melanoma, with about one American dying from it per hour.

Melanomas arise in pigment-producing cells that are responsible for skin color. The most important risk factor is exposure to ultraviolet light in the form of sun light or tanning beds. In fact, a 2010 study from Australia, where melanoma is a widely acknowledged public health problem, showed that daily application of sunscreen can cut melanoma risk in half.



Carola Lott

For some who lives alone, anything that suddenly incapacitates them even for a short time can be a catastrophe.  If they cannot get around and have no one to help them, their only alternative is a rehab or nursing facility, even though they would certainly prefer to remain at home.

Here is where Norma Wright and her Healing Hands Companion team can come to the rescue.  Wright and her staff of 18 nurses care for anyone who is incapacitated, be it the result of an operation, illness, injury or dementia.  They will come to a patient’s house to help them get about even if they are in a wheelchair or on walker. They will help with bathing and getting dressed; they will give the patient their medicine and if necessary change their dressings; they will drive people to doctor’s appointments or to the hospital for rehab and physical therapy.  

Equally important they will provide companionship – taking their patients for walks, reading and just talking to them, which does much to ward off the loneliness that comes to people of a certain age who live alone.

Why as we grow older does our skin start to sag and wrinkle and present such a dreary picture in our bathroom mirror? Is it because we didn’t protect it adequately from the sun? Or is it a normal part of aging? According to Loretta Pratt, MD, a dermatologist who practices near Philadelphia, normal skin aging is a gradual process that begins as early as our 20’s when even sun-protected skin starts to lose collagen. Collagen is a protein made up of fibrous bands that give our skin structure and strength. As collagen and elastin, another elastic fiber in skin, are lost as we ge, the skin loses some of its ability to snap back into place, thus making it more susceptible to the effects of gravity. 

At the same time, just as our spines and hips lose bone mass in the condition known as osteoporosis, facial bone mass also starts to decline. This means that the bony architecture that supported your facial tissues is beginning to recede and no longer adequately supports overlying skin, muscle and fat as it once did, leading to loose, sagging skin. 


Not getting enough sleep, or enough good-quality sleep, is one of the most miserable afflictions that a person can suffer. Beyond the effects of poor sleep on your mood, alertness and concentration the following day, chronic sleep deprivation is dangerous and can have long-term ill effects, increasing your risk of stroke or other cardiovascular problems. Common sleep disorders include sleep apnea, a breathing disorder; restless leg syndrome; sleep-walking; and narcolepsy, a condition that causes one to fall asleep at inappropriate times.

The good news in all of this is that sleep disorders can be diagnosed and treated and restful, normal sleep can be restored through a visit to a sleep center accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. The Sleep Center at Saint Francis Hospital in Poughkeepsie has been operating for 21 years and has been accredited by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine for 9 years. The four-bed unit performs approximately a thousand sleep studies each year, including 30 to 40 on children.