Caring About the Caregivers

By Scott LaFee

March 18, 2020 6 min read

Most family members and unpaid caregivers looking after older adults say they feel listened to when talking with the adults' health care providers. But a new survey highlights two areas where they say they could use more help.

1. Access to clinicians. Fewer than half of caregivers surveyed said they actually interact with doctors.

2. Almost half of caregivers said they were never asked about needing help tending to the person under their care, while about 20% said they were always asked.

Body of Knowledge

At rest, your stomach holds about 7 ounces of stomach acid and bile. It has the expansive capacity to hold nearly a half-pound of food at one time, if necessary. The average capacity is about 32 ounces or one-quarter gallon.


69: Percentage of Americans surveyed who support keeping in place the landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling (protecting a pregnant woman's liberty to seek an abortion without excessive government restriction).

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation

Doc Talk

Palpebral fissure: the elliptic space between your upper and lower eyelids — in other words, the part of your eye visible to others when your eyes are open. In adults, this space roughly measures about 10 millimeters vertically and 30 millimeters horizontally but varies considerably by individual.

Mania of the Week

Dipsomania: intermittent bouts of craving for alcohol, otherwise known as a form of alcoholism.

Hypochondriac's Guide

"Trombone player's lung" is a colloquial term for hypersensitive pneumonitis, a general medical term for inflammation of the lungs caused by inhaling bacteria-laden dust, vapor or, in this case, the microbe-rich air from inside a brass instrument. It's not a unique affliction. Variations of it are sauna worker's lung, bird fancier's lung, cheese-washer's lung and snuff-taker's lung.

Trombone players face an additional risk: horn player's palsy. This is a form of facial paralysis caused by the nerves of the face being damaged by the high air pressures required to play instruments like the trombone or trumpet.


"My own prescription for health is less paperwork and more running barefoot through the grass." — Terri Guillemets

Medical History

This week in 1819, the first clinical description of an allergy was delivered by Dr. John Bostock to the Royal Medical and Chirurgical Society meeting in London. Bostock's paper was titled "A Case of the Periodical Affectation of the Eyes and Chest." It was, in reality, a description of his personal sufferings. Nine years later, he published a longer paper describing 28 similar cases. For many years, doctors called it "Bostock's catarrh," an ailment characterized by a congested nose, sneezing, itchiness of throat and palate, with similar eye symptoms. Pollens of grasses, weeds and trees were ultimately blamed. Laypeople came to call it "hay fever" because it was worse during hay harvesting season.

Perishable Publications

Many, if not most, published research papers have titles that defy comprehension. They use specialized jargon, complex words and opaque phrases like "nonlinear dynamics." Sometimes they don't, and yet they're still hard to figure out. Here's an actual title of actual published research study: "The effect of acute increase in urge to void on cognitive function in healthy adults."

Australian researchers asked healthy volunteers to consume a couple of glasses of water every 15 minutes until they could no longer ignore the call of nature. During this time, they were regularly tested on cognitive skills.

Not surprisingly, as the urge to urinate grew ever more pressing, the participants' cognitive function, primarily attentional and working memory, declined proportionately. It returned to normal after micturition (the scientific name for peeing).

Sum Body

Q: Once, doctors believed that all human ailments were the result of "four humors" out of balance. Can you name them? For bonus points, what were their colors?

A: Melancholic, phlegmatic, choleric and sanguine. The colors were black, blue, yellow and red.

Medical Myths

Natural sugars like those in fruit are not "better" than those found in cakes and candy. In fact, the biological effect of high-fructose corn syrup is essentially the same as that of honey. The problem is the amount: a slice of cake or a candy bar contains a lot more sugar than an apple, with little to none of the other nutrients.

Last Words

"Too kind, too kind." — English social reformer and founder of modern nursing Florence Nightingale (1820-1910), upon hearing that she had received the Order of Merit from King Edward

To find out more about Scott LaFee and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

Photo credit: klimkin at Pixabay

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