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October 30, 2010

November health observances: diabetes, lung health, caregivers & more

American Diabetes Month - Available resources include fact sheets, newsletter inserts, bilingual posters and a Diabetes Stops Here Blog. Nearly 24 million US children and adults live with diabetes, and an additional 57 million Americans at risk, there is no time to waste. One out of every three children born today will face a future with diabetes if current trends continue. A new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that on the current path, the diabetes population may triple by 2050.

In line with the month's focus on increasing awareness and prevention for diabetes, other medical association are conducting coordinated campaigns:

American Podiatric Medical Association is raising awareness about diabetes related foot care and the the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society has issued a Guide to Diabetic Foot Care. In their accompanying press release, they note: "The statistics surrounding diabetes and diabetic related health issues are staggering. Diabetes is the cause of approximately 60,000 lower extremity amputations performed annually in the US."

November is also Diabetic Eye Disease Awareness Month. Diabetes is the leading cause of new cases of blindness in adults 20-74 years of age, but the National Institutes of Health recently issued a diabetic retinopathy. For more resources from NIH on this topic, see Prevent diabetes problems: Keep your eyes healthy and Facts about diabetic retinopathy.

Lung and Pulmonary Health
Lung Cancer Awareness Month. One of the focal points of the month will be the 35th annual Great American Smokeout on November 18, which offers numerous resources and tools aimed at helping smokers to quit. There are several other areas of pulmonary health that will be observed this November. It is also and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) Month, which includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis, and Pulmonary Hypertension Awareness Month.

Caregivers Month
November is National Family Caregivers Month. It is estimated that 65 million Americans provide vital care to a family member, partner, friend or neighbor. The national Family Caregivers Association offers an array of caregiver tips, tools, resources, and links. It is also National Hospice and Palliative Care Month, raising awareness about end-of-life care options.

Other November events and observances

October 23, 2010

Cool Tools & Useful Sites

Here's a grab bag of work / life sites and tools that we've found handy:

Dimdim - an online meeting, web conferencing and webinar tool that bills itself as "twice the power at half the price of WebEx or GoToMeeting." Host meetings, video chats or web conferences; broadcast audio or video; share a desktop or a whiteboard; pass control to any participant; record your sessions. There's no software to download and some services are also made available free.

Return to Work Knowledge Base - an ongoing project by The Foundation for Research into Injury and Illness in the Workplace Inc. to collect and present global research on the subject of returning to work after an illness or injury. The articles are written in an easy to read format with perspectives on the evidence presented for Employees, Employers, Health Professionals and Insurers.

The Awesome Highlighter - do you ever want to send people to a website, but want to point out only one section of the page? Awesome Highlighter lets you do just that. Highlight the text that you want share on a web page, then get a link that will display the page with your highlighting which you can then share.

2010 Workers' Compensation State Premium Rate Ranking - Oregon's Department of Consumer & Business Services compares workers' comp premium in all 50 states plus the District of Columbia as of January 2010.

10 Obscure Google Search Tricks - Lifehacker says, "Dozens of Google search guides detail the tips you already know, but today we're skipping the obvious and highlighting our favorite obscure Google web search tricks."

Pidgin - a universal chat program which lets you log in to accounts on multiple chat networks simultaneously. This means that you can be chatting with friends on MSN, talking to a friend on Google Talk, and sitting in a Yahoo chat room all at the same time.

Communicating With and About People with Disabilities - the Office of Disability and Employment Policy offers a chart with affirmative and negative phrases when speaking about people with disabilities, as well as general communication tips when interacting with people with disabilities.

StillTasty - this site, which bills itself as "the ultimate shelf life guide," will provide information about how long a food or beverage will stay safe and tasty, and recommendations for the best way to store foods. They also offer ideas to help you eat better, save money, and help the environment. You can even download an iPhone app to crate grocery lists or be notified when your food items need to be used up.

RightSignature - allows you to create and sign legally binding documents online, in a way that is faster and more secure than executing paper documents. Upload your document and enter recipient(s) information. RightSignature emails recipients a unique link to a page where they can review the document, fill out any necessary text fields, and sign. Recipients may sign online with a mouse in seconds. Other signing options include Type-to-Sign, sign on iPhone, sign on BlackBerry, and sign on a faxable signature page. Plans start at $14 per month and include unlimited documents sent each month, unlimited document storage, reusable templates, and other additional features.

7 Collaborative Online Diagramming Tools to Draw any Diagram - "Though these tools you can draw, edit, save and share your diagrams like flowchart, network diagram, wireframe, Organizational charts etc. Most of them have free basic option or free trial that you could use and experience these tools."

e.gg Timer - a free and simple online countdown timer.

29 Semi-Productive Things I Do Online When I’m Trying to Avoid Real Work - There's procrastination and then there's procrastination. This great post offers links to a lot of useful, fun, and inspiring sites and resources.

100 most common English words quiz - Quick - you have 5 minutes to name the top 100 most common words in the English language. OK, its a time waster - but a fun one.

October 22, 2010

What parents need to know about teen suicide

Recently, teen suicides have been in the public spotlight - but sadly, this is not a new issue. We were in the process of compiling resources for parents when a very good newsletter on the topic of what parents need to know about teen suicide was delivered to our mailbox from Children's Friend. This is an excellent central-MA based nonprofit with a mission of "improving the lives of children and those who love them." The newsletter offers thoughts and advice on warning signs from Dr. Jennifer Denaro, who heads Children's Friend's Dialectical Behavior Therapy team. They would like this important information to reach as many families as possible so they've given us permission to reprint it here. You may want to share this with your employees.

Children's Friend
Since Tyler Clementi, a brilliant, 18-year old violinist, took his own life in September, more stories of teen suicides have emerged and shocked people across the U.S. Tyler was the fourth gay teenager to kill himself within only a few weeks, and this past weekend it happened again in Oklahoma.

It would be a terrible mistake, though, to think that suicide is only a risk for gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender young people (often referred to collectively as "GLBTQ"). While incidents of suicide and attempted suicide are more frequent among teens in sexual minorities because of the harassment and rejection they so often face, teen suicide is a much broader problem in our community and nationwide. At Children's Friend we regularly treat both GLBTQ and straight kids who have attempted suicide or injured themselves.

Dr. Jennifer Denaro heads Children's Friend's Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) team. Our DBT is a specialized outpatient program for adolescents who are at high risk of self-harm or suicide, and many of the teens in the program have histories of serious suicide attempts. We asked Dr. Denaro why a young person would try to end his or her life. Here's what she said.

"Most teenagers whom I have talked to after a suicide attempt report that they were feeling very depressed or felt that they couldn't tolerate an overwhelming event that happened, and they were trying to escape the situation or get relief from their feelings. Most kids who try to kill themselves don't want to die. They don't think about death as permanent and seem to be trying to escape feelings such as sadness, hurt, shame or loss. They often don't know what else to do about these painful emotions and feel completely overpowered by them. These emotions take over and result in impulsive behavior. Some teenagers also act because they feel unwanted and unloved."

How sad that young people with so much life ahead of them are in such despair. Most of the kids who take their own lives are probably loved, even if they don't feel they are. The brain of a child or teen isn't fully developed. What is clear and logical to you as a parent may not occur to a young person, so it's important not to ignore signs of trouble.

We thought parents might wonder what warning signs to watch for, so Dr. Denaro has put together the following list of behaviors that should put you on alert:

  • Changes in eating habits
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Social withdrawal (avoiding friends and family)
  • Dramatic mood swings (seems happy one minute, full of rage the next)
  • Increased iritability
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Loss of interest in school
  • Decrease in grades
  • Loss of pleasure in previously enjoyed activities
  • Persistent boredom
  • Sense of hopelessness or guilt
  • Increased conflicts with peers
  • Unusual interest in death/dying
  • Writing poems, stories about death
  • Listening to music about death
  • Obsessing about the suicide of a famous person

Dr. Denaro emphasizes that there are some behaviors that are warning signs of more immediate risk and should trigger prompt action. If a young person:

  • Talks about committing suicide
  • Put affairs in order (for example, saying, "If something happens to me....")
  • Makes comments that suggest that he or she has been considering suicide (for example, says things like "I won't be a problem anymore...," "I'd be better off dead...," or "It's no use...")
  • Gives away favorite belongings
  • Writes a will
  • Writes a suicide note
  • Appears cheerful and at peace after a depressive period or
  • Shows signs of psychosis (for example, hearing voices, bizarre thoughts), then it's time to ACT.

What should a parent do?

  • First of all, take any comments about suicide or suggestions about suicide very seriously.
  • If your child shows warning signs, acknowledge his or her feelings and provide reassurance and love.
  • Listen carefully to what your child is saying to you.
  • Remind your child that even when things are overwhelming, they can and will get better.
  • Let the child know you want to help.
  • Don't be afraid to ask the hard questions, including, "Are you thinking about killing yourself?"
  • Ask about his or her suicide plans.
  • Get an appointment with a professional, licensed counselor in your area immediately.
If your family is entitled to mobile in-home crisis services, and you know you can keep your child safe till the crisis team arrives, contact your team. If your teenager seems in immediate danger, get to the emergency room at once, even if it means calling 911.

Professional help can make all the difference. Let's keep our kids safe.

October 17, 2010

More on bereavement and funeral leave

Betty Long talks about bereavement leave in Employee Benefit News, suggesting that issues related to grief in the workplace are likely to increase due to an aging workforce. She notes that this is an issue between employer and employee - there are no fair labor standards that require payment for funeral leave. Even the FMLA, which allows for up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, does not encompass funeral or bereavement leave.

To our knowledge, there are no state laws mandating such a benefit. Recently, a proposed mandatory bereavement leave was vetoed in California. Rather, funeral and bereavement leave is a voluntary benefit that many employers extend to their employees on either a paid or unpaid basis. The article states:

"According to a 2007 study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 69% of employees in the private sector get paid funeral leave. Among companies with 100 employees or more, the number rises to 81%, while only 57% of small businesses with workforces of under 100 provide funeral leave."
According to the 2010 SHRM benefits survey, at 89%, paid bereavement leave was the second most commonly offered leave benefit after holidays (97%). Employers that do provide for paid leave generally allow 2 to 3 days per year. Often, when employers don't offer paid leave, they may allow an employee to take unpaid time or may be allowed to use sick, vacation, or personal days.

Employers also frequently struggle with which family members should be covered by a funeral leave policy. Some policies make reference to "immediate family members," while others outline a complicated formula that applies a graduated number of days or hours, depending on the relationship. Once again, we point to employment law attorney Michael Maslanka's sensible suggestions for a bereavement leave for the 21st century

Given the business we're in, we see the devastating impact that grief can have on person, and how the intensity can vary based on the relationship with the decedent, the circumstances of the death, and the emotional and psychological makeup of the person who is experiencing the loss. While any policies and benefits need to be consistently applied, we favor flexibility in applying other leave - such as vacation or personal days. But helping an employee deal with grief is not all about time off - it's also how the employee is treated on their return to the workplace and the day-to-day routine. Employers and supervisors need to understand the grief process and should make outside resources like an EAP or counseling services available. The following tools also can be helpful to share with managers:

When an Employee is Grieving
Grief & Loss: Guidelines for Supervisors
Helping Colleagues Deal with Grief
The Bereaved Employee: Returning to Work

October 12, 2010

Why it might be a good idea to keep your goals to yourself

After hitting on a brilliant new life plan, our first instinct is to tell someone, but Derek Sivers says it's better to keep goals secret. In a recent short TED talk, he explains why.

October 9, 2010

News briefs: caregiver suits, social media threats, occ docs, lessons from ants & more

Caregiver discrimination: the next frontier in suits? - In a 2020 study, the Center for WorkLife Law in San Francisco found that lawsuits by caregivers have increased 400% over the last 10 years. Such suits are also referred to as "family-responsibility discrimination." The study found that the majority of such suits revolve around pregnancy and maternity leave (67%), but other issues such as elder care, caring for sick children, caring for a sick spouse, time off for fathers of newborns or newly adopted children, and caring for family members with disabilities can also be a catalyst for a suit. Jared Shelly of Human Resource Executive covers the topic of how unfair treatment of workers with family responsibilities can lead to costly lawsuits.

Crafting positive recruitment messages - At HR Observations, Michael Haberman notes a trend that some employers are refusing to hire the long-term unemployed - including some that actually include "need not apply" notices in job ads. Yikes, that appears to be a pretty ham-fisted approach to recruiting the best candidates. Would you want to work at a company that puts such a mean-spirited message out there in these tough times? Haberman offers several reasons why this is a bad idea, along with concrete suggestions for asserting your needs and screening out unqualified applicants in a more positive way.

We have met the enemy, and he is in our social networks... Steve Boese points to a dastardly new plot to lure your highest performing employees away. No wait, he's talking about that valuable social networking tool, LinkedIn. Hmmm. It looks like it's a desert topping AND a floor wax... head on over to Fistful or Talent to learn more about how LinkedIn's new career planning and visualization tool might pose another challenge to retaining your key employees: Fear and Loathing on LinkedIn.

And in other social networking news... Twitter hits 1 billion queries per day. Search guru Danny Sullivan talks about the implications of this growth as well as the new search technology that Twitter is unveiling. Whether your organization is Twittering or not, you can't ignore the billion-query elephant in the room.

Benchmarks for women - The number of U.S. women with six-figure incomes is rising at a much faster pace than it is for men: "Nationwide, about one in 18 women working full time earned $100,000 or more in 2009, a jump of 14 percent over two years, according to new census figures. In contrast, one in seven men made that much, up just 4 percent." While that's a welcome benchmark of progress, many women's groups say that the wage gap persists, and point to the fact that only 3% of the Fortune 500 CEOs are women. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office shows that there are still too few women in management.

Finding the right occ docs - The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine (ACOEM) joined forces with the International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions (IAIABC) to produce an 11-page "best practice" summary: A Guide to High-Value Physician Services in Workers' Compensation - How to find the best available care for your injured workers. It includes some of the best thinking and contributions from a diverse group of workers' compensation system stakeholders, including employers, insurers, policymakers, and physicians.

The high cost of obesity - Speaking of workers' comp, Yvonne Guibert of talks about how obesity is supersizing the cost of workers' comp claims. In 2008, obesity added $62.7 billion in direct medical costs and $56.3 billion indirect costs, including lost work days.

The power of visualization - In recent years there's been a lot of talk about infographics and creative data visualization used in communications, no doubt due to the expanded capabilities of web-based information display. Here's one fascinating example from the BBC: Dimensions interprets current and historic events in a human scale by overlaying them onto a map of where you are. Powerful stuff. When presenting important information to your employees, particularly in complex areas like benefit comparisons, it might be helpful to explore some infographic resources to get ideas for effective communications.

Learning from nature - Ndubuisi Ekekwe talks about leadership lessons we can learn from ants at the Harvard Business Review blogs.

Quick takes

October 4, 2010

October wellness resources

October is a busy month for health awareness observances. We're highlighting two in particular.

First, we are right in the middle of Mental Illness Awareness Week, which runs from October 3-9m. It's sponsored by the National Alliance on Mental Illness, which offers a vast library of resources on the various illnesses and support programs, along with many other tools and resources. In line with this, October 7 is National Depression Sreening Day.

Next, we call your attention to National Breast Cancer Awareness Month (NBCAM). The NBCAM site is a partnership of national public service organizations, professional medical associations, and government agencies working together to promote breast cancer awareness, share information on the disease, and provide greater access to screening services. While the site documents activities around Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is also a year-round resource for breast cancer patients, survivors, caregivers, and the general public.

This is an opportune time to present one of our favorite video clips, which was performed by staff at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Oregon to raise awareness for breast cancer.

Other health and wellness observances for the month include:
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
National Physical Therapy Month
Dental Hygiene Month
National Disability Employment Awareness Month
October 18-24 - National Drug-Free Work Week

October 1, 2010

Friday diversion: The Promotion

If you can relate to this amusing film by Patrick Biovin, you may need a new job. This 4 minute clip takes a dark but humorous look at organizational structures and politics. "Being efficient isn't enough; you have to be prepared for a PROMOTION..."

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