• healthevisits

Winter Driving: Being Prepared Means Being Safe


Driving can be hazardous when roads are covered with snow, ice or slush. Each winter season in Wisconsin, approximately 45 people are killed and 5,000 injured in motor vehicle crashes. Many of these accidents can be prevented by following these safety tips.

  • Avoid driving, especially if visibility is poor.
  • Wait until the snow is plowed; allow extra time to get to your destination.
  • If you must drive, headlights should be on low beam.

Your vehicle also needs attention.

  • Check the battery. Cold can reduce battery effectiveness by 50 percent.
  • Tire tread, anti-freeze level and windshield wipers should also be checked.
  • Have at least half a tank of gas in your car at all times to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
  • Provide an emergency winter kit in your car that includes blankets, shovel, flashlight and batteries, sand or kitty litter for traction, first aid kit, and high-energy, non-perishable foods. Jumper cables, a tool kit, ice scraper and brush are also essentials.

Plan your travels and keep current on the latest weather. You can find the latest road conditions at the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s website at www.511wi.gov, or call 511. Preparedness is always the best prevention tool!

Author: Liz Kracht, RN, BSN

Liz is the Pediatric Trauma and Injury Prevention Coordinator for Ministry Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield.

Everybody gets the blues

Everybody gets the blues

Everyone has days when they feel down. It’s normal. Life has its ups and downs. You may experience a feeling of profound grief after a life-changing accident, illness or the loss of a loved one. You may feel an emptiness and loss of purpose following the completion of an important event or project. Financial stress may be pulling you down. These are normal human emotions.

But when do the “blues” become the murky grays of depression?

When we talk about depression, we are referring to overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, emptiness and gloom that last for more than two weeks. These depressive feelings also interfere with a person’s ability to function in daily life. When this happens, it’s time to ask for help.

There is hope and help for people with depression.

Depression is a treatable condition; you don’t have to feel like this for the rest of your life. There is help and you don’t have to live through it alone.

If you think that you are depressed or you wonder if someone else may be depressed, take this short quiz.

Author: Michelle Nelson, LCSW

Michelle Nelson is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker on the mental health unit at Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital in Stevens Point.

Eating healthy on the road

Healthy Eating on the Go

Don’t take a vacation from healthy eating and exercise while traveling. A little pre-planning goes a long way.

  • Take regular meal and snack breaks and avoid eating in the car to prevent continuous grazing. Consider packing a small cooler with nutritious food and drinks.
  • Instead of soda, try low sodium vegetable juice, 100% fruit juice boxes or water.
  • Stay at a hotel with a refrigerator or mini kitchen and stock it with food from a nearby grocery store or famers’ market.
  • If you do eat out, split an entrée and dessert since most restaurant portions are larger than recommended.
  • Consider eating your main meal at noon. Lunch menus offer many of the same items as at dinner but in smaller portions and at a lower cost.
  • Limit alcohol, which provides empty calories.
  • If you do stop at a fast food restaurant, try the grilled chicken breast, veggie or turkey sandwiches on whole grain bread, veggie pizza, salads, or regular-size burger without mayo or cheese.
  • Bring your own sandwich and fruit on the airplane.

Don’t be too hard on yourself if you do overindulge. Try to increase your physical activity to burn extra calories by walking instead of driving to see the sights.

Happy trails!

Author: Mary Sadler, RD

Mary is a registered dietitian with Ministry Saint Michael’s Hospital, Stevens Point

Keep your family safe from carbon monoxide poisoning


During winter, we work to keep the cold air out and the warm air in. But keeping fresh air out may cause deadly indoor air quality hazards.

Carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is a real threat that escalates in fall and carries through the winter as temperatures drop, and we become more dependent on heating systems. Carbon monoxide is a colorless and odorless gas caused by the incomplete combustion of fuels such as natural gas, fuel oil and gasoline.

Look for the following signs of carbon monoxide:

  • Sooting at the appliance or vents
  • Sharp, bitter odor of gas
  • Wavering yellow gas flame

One of the best ways to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning is by installing a carbon monoxide detector.

Warning signs of CO poisoning include:

  • Disorientation or dizziness
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches or blurry vision
  • Muscle weakness
  • Tightness of the chest
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Heart palpitations

Don’t ignore the symptoms. You could lose consciousness and even die. If you suspect someone has been overcome by carbon monoxide:

  • Remove the person and yourself from the area
  • Call 911 and provide whatever basic life support is necessary

Author: Heong Png, MD

Dr Png is the Medical Director for Emergency Services at Ministry Saint Clare’s Hospital in Weston.

Checking in on aging relatives over the holidays

Coping with your aging family members.

Coping with your aging family members.

Holidays mean spending time with family, and if you’re going “over the river and through the woods” to elderly relatives’ homes, it’s an ideal time to check in on their living situation. Discussing aging individuals’ abilities to care for themselves isn’t an easy topic. Loss of independence is a prominent fear for many elderly people, but it needs to be balanced by the risks of living independently with cognitive or physical limitations.

If you haven’t seen your loved one or been in their home lately, consider the following physical, mental and environmental factors that can indicate it’s time to discuss a different living situation or in-home help or care.

  • How does your loved one look? Be on the lookout for significant weight loss or gain, which could be indicators of injury, illness or a big change in diet caused by difficulty shopping or cooking as usual.
  • Not keeping up with personal hygiene is another indicator that your loved one might need help. Memory trouble or injuries could result in a disheveled appearance or body odor.
  • Also be aware of your loved one’s stature. A stooped posture, shuffling walk or exhibiting trouble doing regular activities likely indicates physical frailty and loss of strength.
  • If you’re having trouble bringing these physical changes up, remember that, left unchecked, they could result in greater injuries down the road.


  • How does your loved one seem to be functioning around the house? Be on the lookout for unusual clutter such as unopened letters or bills, which could be signs of memory issues or trouble dealing with finances. Ask to go through that mail with your loved one to check if there are references to past due payments, overdrafts or other financial concerns.
  • Mental decline can also be seen in driving habits. Check your loved one’s vehicle for signs of inattentive driving (dents, lack of upkeep, lack of fluids or services) and suggest going for a drive to see if they are remembering their seatbelt, able to focus on driving, or exhibiting anxiety driving at night or on highways.
  • Aging individuals are also at risk for depression. Take a look at your loved one’s calendar or ask them about hobbies, activities and clubs to see if they have cut back on activities they once enjoyed.


  • Things around the house that seem small—like spills or a few cobwebs—can actually be a sign of dementia or general decline because they signal a lack of follow-through or physical limitations.
  • Check the kitchen for foods past their expiration dates or duplicates of the same item. Duplicates could simply mean your loved one is buying in bulk, but it could also be a sign of memory trouble. Along those same lines, make sure there is adequate food available in the home.
  • Accidents are more common for elderly individuals, so be on the lookout for signs of fire—charred items, burned edges, disassembled smoke detectors—or broken appliances.
  • Individuals who can’t adequately care for themselves often also have trouble caring for plants, animals and property. Look for dead or dying plants, pets with grooming, hygiene or food issues, and red flags like clogged gutters, broken windows or other maintenance problems.

If it seems that your loved one needs help, make sure that it is a collaborative discussion and solution. The prospect of losing their independence may cause your loved on to feel anxious, resentful, frightened or angry, so have a one-on-one conversation bringing up your concerns with specific examples. Be sure to avoid accusations or becoming frustrated, and encourage them to consider their safety and if they would want people they care about living in similar conditions. Remind them that you both have the same goal—for your loved one to be safe, happy and healthy during the holiday and all year long!

Author: Ann Patek

Ann Patek, RN, MSN, is the Service Line Director for Palliative Care at Ministry Health Care. In this role Ann serves as a member of the dyad providing leadership to the palliative care service line (her partner is Olumuyiwa Adeboye, MD). Ann’s interest in palliative care stems from her experiences working with patient’s in many settings along with witnessing friends and family coping with serious illness.

Ann received her Bachelor’s degree from Marquette University and earned her Master’s degree from University of Wisconsin – Madison.

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