“ When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life”—John 8:12

Fourth and last of our series of articles  about “LIFE HAPPENS:  Plan Ahead”, will focus on

“When it’s time to make a CHANGE, how to do it!”

Life does not come with a book of instructions!  Change is inevitable, but can be much more emotionally smooth, if we plan ahead and look for guidelines to empower us.  Since our local faith communities are primarily senior, or with senior parents, we will look at SENIOR CHANGES.  These changes may come in the form of family changes (loss or estrangement of a child or close relative, need to care for grandchildren, distance separating families), divorce, death, illness, injury, financial disappointments or choices creating crisis, change in ability to care of self or home, change in vision or hearing, spiritual disappointment or theology change, or emotional and mental health changes that create loss of focus or plans.   Any of the above create a need to realign our thoughts, dreams, goals, and plans.  HOW WILL WE DO THAT???

Two resources recently crossing my desk are the following:  Foxy Old Woman’s Guide to Living with Friends”(could include men, too!) by Cynthia Cary; and “the Boomer Burden, dealing with parents (or own) Lifetime accumulation of Stuff”  by Julie Hall.   Either may be found in the library or Amazon. 

Both address thoughts on the following:

  • When change happens:  Where will I live? Have you thought that one out?   Some options are living alone & loving it, living with extended family with shared expenses, retirement living settings (remember they are no longer called “A Home”), or group home settings.  Do you want to live with children or have them live with you? What about smaller homes or RV’s.  How about sharing a home with several friends with similar needs.   Look at your finances, health status, emotional needs, and happiness. YOU HAVE A RIGHT TO AN OPINION AND SAY IN THE PLAN!!  Planning & thinking ahead prevents chaos.
  • How do I know the time is right for change?  Awareness of the aging process begins the thinking process.  Is there a decline in mobility, vision problems, loss of interest in favorite pastimes, irritability, hearing loss, confusion, repetition, short term memory loss, fatigue, unopened mail, unusual spending, fear of financial change, discomfort or fear where you are living, depression or anxiety, or falls?   The next step is to look at living situations, consider options (have lunch at living settings & assess), seek help evaluating finances, speak with Doctors about health changes, open the conversation with family or friends, and  keep a journal or notebook of questions, changes, concerns, and ideas for your future. 
  • Important factors to consider may be the following:  Who are my allies & resources? What are my contemporaries doing?  How can I begin making plans so MY wishes are met?   Am I  aware of scams and those looking to deplete my funds.?  Do I  have an updated Will and Life Plan Documents?  Begin sorting, marking, & giving away items of importance.  Be good to yourself and consider, talk about, and write your wishes.  Begin planning BEFORE the above changes become difficulties.  Look at the resources in your community (you may need to change communities to receive the benefits you need).  Consider your vision of the next 5,10,20 years and begin planning for each stage.  Look at family history and longevity as you make financial and life plan goals. 

Prayer, Planning, Patience, Positive Attitude, and Protecting your dream and assets will make change manageable.


Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN

Parish Nurse Consultant


“My Spirit abides among you; do not fear“Haggai 2:5

 Third in our series of addressing “Life Happens:  Plan Ahead”, is “How not to be blindsided by LOSS!”

Loss occurs in our lives in many forms.  Loss of self esteem, Loss of dreams, Loss of a plan, Loss of a job or beloved pet. Loss of a love or life partner (through separation, divorce, or death).

You can probably add to this list from your experiences.  Seldom does one progress through this earthly life without some sort of loss, and as we have stated, “Life Happens”, so to look toward prevention and wellness, we must learn to PLAN AHEAD!!

Excellent resources that can be roadmaps for dealing with loss are the following:

*“Life after Loss”, A personal Guide Dealing with Death, Divorce, Job Change & Relocation.  By Bob Deits.  This is an excellent classic in crisis intervention with wise guidance.

* “How to Survive the Loss of a Love” a resource when emotional injury takes place and a guide to healing is needed.  By Bloomfield, Colgrove, & McWilliams.

* DivorceCare: and Grief Share:   A series of support groups and seminars with a non-denominational focus on recovery. Check online for group nearest you.

Each of these resources follows a common thread.  A prevention mode, considering the following:

·         Be AWARE:  Look for beginning stages of depression, disease, difficulty in a relationship or job.  Dig deeper into ‘cause & effect’ and begin making changes BEFORE a crisis occurs. 

·         Surround yourself with a support system.  Communicate concerns (early) with family and friends, utilize resources of Pastoral Guidance, Self-Help reading and support groups, online information and resources.  Be a cheerful receiver of a helping hand or shoulder.

·         Strengthen your spiritual resources.  Pray, Scour the Scriptures, Utilize books, articles, and online information sources for creating a strong, inspired, ‘ready’, emotional health.

·         Know that every emotional loss has a huge impact on your life. “Loss is not the enemy. Living in constant fear of it is.  It takes most people at least 2 years to begin returning to a normal life after a major loss. “(Deits).  Loss is natural and you WILL recover.

·         Play the “What If” game.  If my pet dies, what steps will I follow?,  If I lose this job, what will I do next?, If my spouse dies, what steps shall I follow next?, If I am alone, what, where, & how will I enrich my life next?, If I suffer loss, who will I ask to help me?     Take time to answer these questions NOW.  Prevention paves the way from pain.

·          Attend to your personal WELLNESS.  Do not lapse from eating well, exercise, vitamins, friendships, utilizing respite opportunities, looking for moments of JOY, and care for YOU.

·         Break the conspiracy of silence around loss. Affirm that “I can get through any loss successfully.” Know that grief takes work and tools for that job are available.  Seek them.

Alice Stephenson BSN, RN, PN 


“My spirit abides among you, do not fear” Haggai 2:5

The second in our series of “LIFE HAPPENS” articles will discuss the following:


Emergency  Room visits are not something one plans for,  but as life happens, that time might come. To be certain you are not caught unprepared in an accident or sudden illness we can do some thinking ahead.   

·         Place a card or sticker on each home phone & cell phone with your home address & phone # in an emergency if 911 is called you (or anyone) will be able to tell them where to come.

·         Assure your identification, Insurance cards, phone numbers of important family members or friends, Small pad of paper & pen, & current medication list are all in your wallet or purse where whomever goes with you to the ER can find them and take them with you. 

·         Include a card in your above cards with the name and address of nearest medical facility.  If a neighbor or family member must drive you, they will know where to go.

·         Advocate for yourself by asking questions, make certain Medical Personnel understand your symptoms and questions, and if possible have someone prepared to write down what is told you for future reference.

·         Check NOW to see if your insurance covers ambulance, ER, Urgent Care, or non-admission visits.

Hospitalization may be expected or emergency.  Thinking ahead makes that stay so much more comfortable.   Consider having the following packed, convenient, and up to date to take to the hospital:

·         Insurance and ID, Authorizations, Directions to the hospital with address & phone # for family.

·         Personal toiletries, Chap Stick & lotion that you know works for you, toothbrush, tooth paste, comb & brush.

·         Bathrobe, slippers, socks, comfortable discharge clothes—all labeled with permanent marker.

·         Names & Addresses and Important numbers , paper & pen you might need while in the hospital

·         Current Medication list (do not take your medications except inhalers)

·         Glasses with case, dentures, hearing aids with extra batteries, (ask nurse for container for these & label it. )                      

·         Cell phone & Charger

·         Advanced Directives and Living Will copy.

·         List of available housing for loved ones (such as Taylor House in Flagstaff or hotels by Mayo)

·         Let Admissions know which family or friends may be told your personal healthcare information.

·         Plan for transportation upon discharge and ask Dr. for post hospital prescriptions so they may be filled BEFORE discharge. (be sure pain meds are there when you arrive home)

DO NOT TAKE:   Jewelry, credit cards, cash, electric appliances (shaver, hair dryer or curling iron), or personal electronic devices (except possibly Kindle or Tablet). 

EDUCATE yourself on the procedure or test your will be receiving before admission if possible.  Utilize the Hospital Library, Parish Nurse or Physician, Websites like www.mayoclinic.org  or WebMD for accurate information.

ADVOCATE for yourself or make certain you have someone with you who will.  Get questions answered, don’t be afraid to ask Nurses or Doctors to clarify information. It is wise to have someone stay with you the first hospital night.   Ask to see Social Service or Dietitian if you have discharge questions or need resources.  If possible let your Faith Community know of your needs for prayer, Pastoral Visits, confidentiality, or equipment.  


Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN


This is the day the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.”   Psalm 118:24

The New Year begins with the suggestion that we make an effort to be better prepared for what we face when “LIFE HAPPENS”.  The Wellness Ministry would like to take the next few months to prompt each of us to think about preparing for the happenings of life.  By being better prepared, we may avoid guilt, stress, regret, and subsequent illness as we journey on.   We will look at the following issues:

Jan:  How to think ahead for the unexpected     Feb:  How to prepare for ER or Hospitalizations    March:  How not to be blindsided by LOSS     April:  When is it time to make a change & How to do it.

PLANNING FOR THE UNEXPECTED:   A recent article in the “Huffington Post” , originally from “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A life transformed by the Dearly Departing”,  is written by an experienced Palliative Care Nurse who states that no matter what stage of life we are in there is no need for regret.  By addressing the following five common regrets,  we may find ourselves not up against the unexpected and facing what is handed to us with a more positive outlook and less stress and DISTRESS.

1.  I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.    Regret provides only suffering and sadness, taking up positive energy and precious time.  Adjusting our choices and being at peace with the past and remembering that each new moment is a new choice, gives us more positive direction.  Health brings a freedom few realize.  Working toward a healthy lifestyle helps us choose to realize more of our dreams and lean on God’s guidance to be true to ourselves.

2,  I wish I had not worked so hard.   This was heard most often from men,  but more and more is the norm for most adults.  Work to increase income that only creates a more complex lifestyle equals regret.  Choosing to balance work with family, friends, and healthy endeavors pays dividends.  Simplifying lifestyle and making conscious choices to create spaces for our priorities brings us to a more expected happy outcome.  “Life is short,  eat dessert first”!!

3, I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.    “Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others”.   Suppressed feelings can lead to stress, bitterness, resentment, and illness. Choosing to express ourselves, with kindness and clarity, as well as listening to others is truly courageous.

4.  I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends:  We move, we change jobs, we get busy, we let life get in the way of the golden friendships that frame our lives.  Make a priority of making a phone call, writing a note, texting a message, jot an e-mail.  Put time on your calendar for these communications and when you have a ‘nudge’, act on it.  Write a Valentine letter & a July 4th Letter as well as the annual Christmas note.   “Make new friends & keep the old, one is silver and the other is gold”.

5.  I wish that I had let myself be happier. Happiness is a choice.  Sticking in old habits, patterns, and comfort zones, effects our emotions and even physical lives.  Laugh more, have stillness in your life, and, don’t let fear of change lessen all that life can be.  Break loose and BE HAPPY.

Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,Parish Nurse

Dr.  ‘Rick’ Brothers,  Parish Physician

“They wanted to hear Jesus Speak”  Luke 21:38

Advent is the time of anticipation of Jesus coming.  We  anticipate hearing Him speak during this Holiday time.  Often we fear we cannot even hear our loved ones, let alone Jesus, speaking to us, with all of the noise, hurry, bustle, stress, sadness, grief, and disappointment obstructing our hearing.  Possibly our Holiday Wellness can be improved by just simply looking at the word ADVENT:

A—Anticipate positive things during this month, allow the words of Jesus to come through.

D– – Increase your devotional time,  that your stress levels will decrease and depression vanish.

V–Visualize joy, visualize wellness, visualize absence of pain, visualize presence of peace.

E— Energize your life by decreasing your sugar intake, exercising daily, and getting adequate rest.

N– Note the positive things happening around you, write notes of gratitude and connection.

T—Take Time for yourself!   Allow a few moments in each Advent day for reflection, prayer  planning, and peacefulness.

Allow the Advent Season to speak to and strengthen your spirit.

Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN

Parish Nurse Consultant


“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” I Peter 5:7

JULY  WELLNESS  reminds us to focus on first, our vision, and second summer protection.  Two recent articles prompt us to new awareness.

Protecting our vision during the sunny, bright summer months is of paramount importance.  All ages need to remember to protect from UV light by using sun glasses at all times when outdoors.  Even cloudy or overcast days may allow damaging UV rays to stress our eyes.   Hats, visors, sun shades and porches can be our best friends.  Statistics  state that up to 80+% of Arizona adults will develop cataracts.  Protecting eyes as early as possible make decrease those statistics.   Wise use of eye drops that dry and constrict eye fluid is important.  Annual dilated eye exams and update of vision prescriptions are recommended.      Obtain prescription sunglasses if you are a daily glasses wearer, or try the “Cocoon” type sunglasses that fit over prescription glasses.      New research aimed at those at high risk or who have early or diagnosed Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)  addresses adjustment of the 2001 recommended use of “AREDS” formula vitamin supplements.  The Journal of American Medical Association states a new study shows that  eating a diet high in omegs-3 fatty acids plus nutrients lutein and zeaxanthin, found in leafy green veggies, eggs, & corn, as well as the “AREDS”  supplement combining high dose Vitamin C and E, beta carotene, zinc, and copper reduces the risk of worsening AMD by 25% in some people.   Those at risk of lung cancer or who smoke should  skip the beta carotene component.      Ask your Opthamologist about this supplement for you.

Another recent  article  from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  identifies a potentially fatal antibiotic resistant bacterium which has surfaced in many hospitals and care facilities.   CRE or Carbapenem-Resistant Enterobacteriaceae has become seriously infective and dangerous.  This bacteria found is found in the GI tract.   Those at risk are patients with devices like ventilators, catheters, and IV’S and those who have taken long courses of antibiotics.    Individuals are encouraged to do the following to protect from this difficult infection:

  • Inform your healthcare provider if you have been hospitalized in another facility or country
  • Take antibiotics sparingly and only when prescribed  for a specific condition
  • Ask all healthcare providers  (YOU CAN DO THIS AS YOUR OWN ADVOCATE) to wash their hands with soap and water or an alcohol based hand rub before and after touching your body.
  • Clean your own hands often, especially before preparing or eating food; before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth; before & after changing wound dressings or bandages, or handling medical devices;  and after using the bathroom.

Be your own advocate and protect yourself and those around you.

Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN

Parish Nurse Consultant


June, 2013

“Let the dawn and the sunset shout for joy”   Psalm 65:8

“I can’t seem to sleep”, or “I have a terrible time falling to sleep”, or “I am so tired all of the time”,   are all statements that are commonly heard.   Does this pertain to you?    Let’s look at “SUMMER SLUMBER” and how we may facilitate our increase in sleep and energy levels.

  • Try to aim to a consistent hour for sleep,  keeping your inner ‘clock’ consistent
  • Gauge your personal rest at your own needs, not others around you.  You may require only 6 hours of nightly slumber where another in your family or friends needs 8-10 hours to function well.
  • Get some sunlight during the day, every day.  This can increase your alertness and by exposing yourself to natural light each morning you help set your natural body clock.
  • Exercise regularly,  often morning exercise helps jump start your energy and alertness. Yoga or stretching before bedtime may also be beneficial.
  • Avoid late and large meals in the evening.   Try stopping all food & beverages (except water) within three hours of bedtime.
  • Surround yourself with dimmer light and avoid computer or television screens with bright light before bed.  Melatonin (the sleep hormone) is released more readily with less exposure to bright lights.
  • Resist watching TV or using your Tablet or Laptop or Phone in the bedtime just before bed.  Try to limit bedroom activity to sleep and sex only.
  • Create a cozy sleep environment.   Cool, soft colors, clean fresh linens, quiet noise, comfortable pillows, and decrease pets or children sleeping in your bed are all helpful.
  • Assess your medication, supplement, or pill intake.  Avoiding sleeping remedies or pills, and timing your regularly medications  to avoid stimulation before bed is helpful.
  • Don’t worry if you wake up in the middle of the night.   If you are awake for over 20 minutes, get up, sit in dim light, read or listen to music, returning to bed when you feel tired.
  • Lay down your worries and ask God to carry them through the nice, then awake rejoicing with a positive outlook on each new day.
  • LAUGH before bed.  Laughter reduces stress, increasing oxygen circulation,  breaks to stress/worry cycle,  and elevates the restful hormones before sleep.

May your SUMMER SLUMBER by restful and peaceful.

Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN

Parish Nurse Consultant



 “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”  Psalm  34:4

May is Mental Health Month.  We look at MIND-body-spirit wellness for our overall health, thus it is very important to look at mental health issues and concerns.   There have been so many concerns in the past year about awareness of mental health issues, it is important for each us to look inward  and around us to identify and advocate for Mental health follow-up and treatment. Mental Health America www.mentalhealthamerica.net has adopted a program focused on  “Live Your Life Well” .  They offer a brochure “Are You Feeling Stressed Out”  and great information on the above website.  Each of us may identify symptoms of mental health concerns and make an effort to work with these issues as we would our physical symptoms. Some common mental health conditions that may lead to distress and ‘dis-ease’ are Stress, Depression, Panic Disorders, Mood Disorders, Bipolar Disease, and stress of caring for a loved one or aging parent.   Do we know how to recognize cause for concern?

What Are the Signs of Depression?

Persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood

Difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or sleeping more than usual

Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain

Loss of pleasure and interest in once-enjoyable activities

Restlessness, irritability

Difficulty concentrating at work or at school, or difficulty remembering things or making decisions

Fatigue or loss of energy

Feeling guilty, hopeless or worthless

Thoughts of suicide or death

Are you experiencing the signs of stress?

Feeling angry, irritable or easily frustrated

Feeling overwhelmed

Change in eating habits

Problems concentrating

Feeling nervous or anxious

Trouble sleeping

Problems with memory

Feeling burned out from work

Feeling that you can’t overcome difficulties in your life

Having trouble functioning in your job or personal life

Ways of STAYING WELL when you have a mental health condition are as follows:

Connect with others;  Advocate for yourself; Get care you need (regular check ups & medication monitoring); Plan your sleep schedule; Manage stress; Exercise (at least 30 min. 3x weekly); Do something you enjoy ( at least 30 min. 3xwk);  Eat a well balanced meal plan–heavy on veggies & fruit; Get help with Smoking or Substance Abuse; and Know your community resources for help.


Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,CDE, Parish Nurse Consultant

April, 2013


The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore  I hope in HIM!”  Lamentations 3:24

April, on the Wellness Calendar, is the month when we focus on  the following wellness issues:

Alcohol Addiction Awareness,  Stress Awareness,  Cancer Control Awareness, Child Abuse Prevention, DONATE LIFE  (organ donation month),  to name a few.    Upon reading a recent devotion on the above scripture,  the suggestion that looking at the ‘congestion’ in our lives is important. That ‘congestion’  often causes wellness issues such as , grumpiness, stress, reliance on alcohol or medications for relief, or causes us to act in hurtful ways towards others .   The devotion author suggests  the ‘dis-ease’ that might be causing our issues is “HURRY SICKNESS”.  ” This sickness appearing every time we try to do too much and  think it’s still not enough.”   Jeffery Japinga, the author of this devotion states that we get our flu shots, shingles shots, take vitamins, try to eat right and exercise,  but if we don’t do this daily prescription for “Hurry Sickness”  we may miss the major preventive measure for wellness.   The following suggestions may help :

  • Check yourself for “Hurry Sickness”
  • Sit on the side of your bed when you first arise for a full TWO MINUTES to breathe, praise God, or just count to 120 to clear your mind and focus on a new day.
  • Find a time (first thing in the morning,  as you sit in your car waiting for someone, before you  turn on the TV or Computer, just after you eat your lunch,  or just before turning off the light at night), to spend time with GOD.
  • Find at least TWENTY MINUTES A DAY for uninterrupted prayer and silence.
  • Make it GOD TIME.

These measures  may help prevent “Hurry Sickness” that may lead to other more difficult health concerns.   Feeling blah?   Overwhelmed?   Drained?    Frustrated?   Angry?  Blue”   Out of control?


Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN

Parish Nurse Consultant


“The wise in heart shall be called prudent; and the sweetness of the lips increaseth learning”  Proverbs 16:21

November is Diabetes Awareness Month.   In my years as a Diabetes Educator I find most of us have had our lives touched by this increasingly prevalent disease.  Whether you have been diagnosed with Type I , Type 2 , or Gestational Diabetes; been told you  are “Borderline”; have a family history of Diabetes, or just have a friend challenged by Diabetes,  it is important to take note of the following information:

  • There is NO BORDER!!   One either HAS Diabetes or DOES NOT  have it.  The numbers tell the story and if you have been told you  are ‘borderline’, you have “Pre-Diabetes” and must take charge of your blood glucose management.  Prevention at this level is most important and can keep you from having complications.
  • “Apple” Shaped bodies are more susceptible to developing Diabetes.  That tummy fat is often due to increased insulin resistence and increased insulin production.   Waistlines over 38 inches for women and 40 inches for men are a RED FLAG for developing Diabetes.
  • Diabetes is often accompanied by High Blood Sugar levels, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Obesity,  & High Triglycerides.   This group of diagnoses are known as “Metabolic Syndrome” and requires  management.
  • KNOW YOUR NUMBERS:    Be aware of your laboratory results and always obtain a copy of your tests and results for your personal file.  KEEP TRACK OF the following NUMBERS:
  • A1C  measures your average blood glucose level over the past 2-3 months.  A1C target if below 7.  Maintaining levels 5.9-6.5 is desirable to prevent complications.
  • LDL Cholesterol (Lousy kind) builds up & clogs arteries.  LDL Target is below 100.
  • High Blood Pressure makes your heart work too hard.  Blood Pressure Target is below 130/80
  • Self Monitored Blood Glucose  is important.  Learn how to check your glucose at home.  Vary the times you check to see what makes your glucose go up or down (meals, exercise, stress). Keep a log of varied times tested and take log to your Physician or Diabetes Educator for consult.   Use these numbers to manage your diabetes.  YOU ARE IN CHARGE OF YOUR CARE.
  • Eat healthy foods.  Diabetes does not mean you CANNOT EAT CERTAIN FOODS.  You just need to EAT MORE WISELY.   Your self-monitored glucose levels will help you see how foods work for you as well as serving sizes and timing of meals.
  • Use the “MY PLATE” model to increase fruit and vegetable servings, decrease size of meat servings, and increase fiber intake.   Including Whole Grains, Low Fat Milk products, and less salt and sugar is wise.
  • Be Active 30 to 60 minutes on most days of the week.  Brisk walking is a great way to stay active.
  • Learning to manage your stressors is important.  If you know what causes you to feel stress (& elevate your blood glucose) learn techniques for changing the stress or your response to it.  (Yoga, Meditation, Sign Chi Do)


If you have questions or need assistance with Diabetes management or your numbers, please feel free to give me a call.

Alice Stephenson BSN,RN,PN


Parish Nurse Consultant & Diabetes Educator