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Irene Maher, Times Correspondent

Irene Maher

Irene Maher has reported on health for more than 25 years, mostly for WFLA-Ch. 8 in Tampa. She now writes about personal health and wellness for the Tampa Bay Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3416

Email: imaher@tampabay.com

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  1. Glen Campbell's wife Kim discusses challenges, guilt caregivers of Alzheimer's patients, others face

    Life Times

    If there's one thing Kim Campbell would change about caregiving for Alzheimer's patients, it's the attitude so many of us have toward transferring a loved one from home to a long-term care facility. According to Campbell, it's often the most kind, loving decision you can make. It's not a sign of failure, but one of acceptance that you need help. It shouldn't be a source of guilt.

    Kim is the wife of country music legend Glen Campbell. They've been married almost 35 years and have three children together, all of whom performed with their father's band. In 2011, the couple revealed that Glen has Alzheimer's disease. "Glen did so much to remove the stigma, to open a national conversation when he went public with his diagnosis," said Kim, 58, in a recent phone interview from her Nashville home. ...

    Kim Campbell was at the Suncoast Hospice’s Empath Health Service Center in Clearwater in May as part of a free event hosted by Empath Choices for Care, a member of Empath Health, and Arden Courts Memory Care.
  2. Dementia: learn about a living will extension, better communication and resources

    Life Times

    Make your wishes known

    Empath Choices for Care, one of the organizations that co-sponsored Kim Campbell's late-May visit to Empath Health in Clearwater, has launched something new to help people plan for their care should they develop dementia. It's a document that was designed to be an extension of a completed living will. "Living wills are great, but they only apply during a small window of time at the end of life, when there's little or no hope for recovery," said Tracy Christner, executive director of Empath Choices for Care. "When someone has dementia, there are many care decisions to make before the end of life. Dementia can last for many, many years. That's why it's important to document your wishes early, before the stress of managing a terminal illness affects you and your family." ...

    Tracy Christner is executive director of Empath Choices for Care.
  3. Old-looking hands and what you can do about them

    Health

    If you really want to hide your age, hide your hands. • Hands are often forgotten when it comes to anti-aging prevention measures and cosmetic treatments. You dye your hair, spend big bucks on Fountain of Youth skin creams for your face, and dip into savings to have Botox injections and lifts for the eyelids and jowls. • But most of us — okay, it's primarily women — forget about our hands, which, experts agree, will say more about your age than your hair, face and neck. • Here are some things to know about hands:...

    Prominent bones and veins become more common as we age.
  4. Less invasive treatment lowers risk for those with an abdominal aortic aneurysm

    Health

    At 92, George Luzier wasn't up for major surgery to repair a potentially life-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, also known as a triple-A or AAA.

    The aneurysms develop silently and often grow larger over time. The larger they are, the more dangerous they can be. As with most people, Luzier's was discovered by chance a few years ago when a doctor ordered a scan of his upper body for another medical reason. ...

    Using X-ray images to guide the placement, a multidisciplinary team led by Dr. Bruce Zwiebel and Dr. Murray Shames places the Z-Fen during a procedure at Tampa General Hospital.
  5. Message for national stroke month: If you see the signs, get to the hospital fast

    Health

    Every 40 seconds in the United States someone has a stroke.

    This interruption in blood flow to the brain can cause lifelong disability, even death, if the symptoms are not recognized and treated within a few hours. According to the American Stroke Association, death from stroke is on the increase again after years of decline.

    Yet 80 percent of strokes are preventable by taking commonsense steps such as controlling your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar, exercising and not smoking. But almost as important as prevention is knowing the warning signs of stroke and treating them as a medical emergency worthy of a call to 911. ...

    Yolande Petit-Homme, 60, of Lakeland is shown in April 2016 with daughter Jen, 31, who recently moved from Wesley Chapel to Atlanta. Yolande had a stroke in 2015. She ignored the signs for days and did not get a clot-busting drug. She has weakness on her left side. She works hard at rehab, hoping to resume such daily tasks as bathing and dressing. But, she is back to two of her favorite activities: attending church and handwriting letters.
  6. The essentials of skin cancer prevention: self-checks, sunscreen and covering up

    Health

    Would you recognize skin cancer if you saw it?

    The American Academy of Dermatology chose May, Skin Cancer Awareness Month, to launch a nationwide campaign it hopes will get you to check yourself and a loved one for suspicious skin spots that should be evaluated by a doctor.

    The new awareness campaign, "Check Your Partner. Check Yourself," urges us to take self skin checks seriously. Anyone who sees you regularly — not necessarily a trained professional — might notice a spot, freckle, mole, bump or crusty patch that has changed or just doesn't look right. If they do, take action and have it checked. If you notice the same on someone else, speak up....

    Patel examines the back of Mike Meggison of Tampa at the Mole Patrol screening.
  7. National 'take back day' for unused prescription drugs lets you safely empty your medicine cabinet

    Medicine

    That collection of prescription pills, liquids, sprays, patches, tubes and blister packs is sitting in your medicine cabinet, getting old. You no longer need them or they're expired, but you don't know what do with them. Don't just flush them down the toilet or toss them in the trash. Instead, get rid of them Saturday during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day, sponsored by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration....

    A Tampa resident drops off unused prescription drugs at the 2011 Statewide Drug Take Back Day.
  8. The Dish: JJ Layton, executive chef at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, talks cooking hospital food for thousands

    Cooking

    Imagine cooking for more than 4,000 people each day. For most of us, it's hard enough just getting lunch boxes packed and a family meal on the dinner table every night.

    But JJ Layton, executive chef at St. Joseph's Hospital in Tampa, has experience cooking and preparing thousands of meals for people of all ages — from toddlers to grandparents of multiple cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with widely differing taste preferences and food traditions and a variety of food allergies and dietary restrictions. That's what he and his team of 30 cooks, plus a small army of support staff, face each day when they come to work....

    A plate of mac and cheese, with steamed broccoli and grilled chicken.
  9. Implanted devices offer an alternative to CPAP machines for some sleep apnea patients

    Health

    Mark Yegge knew he was a snorer. But when he found out that he also repeatedly stopped breathing during the night, followed by gasping for breath, he knew it was time to see his doctor.

    "I didn't believe it until someone taped me sleeping," the Clearwater resident said.

    A sleep study confirmed he had obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, the most common sleep disorder, which affects about 18 million Americans. It occurs when the tongue, tissue and muscles in the throat relax during sleep, become floppy and block the airway. ...

    Mark Yegge, 51, of Clearwater identifies the location of the aura6000 System, which was implanted in 2016.
  10. Treatments vary for painful plantar fasciitis, but rest is the best

    Health

    You might say Judi Briant has spent more than 33 years on her feet. As a teacher with Hillsborough County schools and a professor at Hillsborough Community College, she was always standing or walking.

    "That's the way I work," said Briant, who retired from Armwood High but still teaches at HCC. "I can't sit down and teach, I'm always on my feet in the classroom."

    On some days she'd put in another 3 miles at home on the treadmill. ...

    Judi Briant is back to her usual routine after treating plantar fasciitis, an inflammation common for people who are on their feet a lot.
  11. Avoid being one of the millions who get sick — get the flu shot, doctors say

    Health

    Some people have to get the flu before they'll get a flu shot.

    They'll miss a week or more of work or school, suffer through high fevers, body aches, headaches, a sore throat and coughing before they vow to do everything possible to prevent or lower their chances of getting the flu again. The flu, they feel, is that bad.

    Gabe Echazabal of Tampa can tell you all about it. He never wanted to get the shot after hearing the stories of people who got the bug despite getting the vaccine. He also heard that the vaccine itself might make him sick. ...

    Gabe Echazabal of Tampa was diagnosed with influenza B in February after he had extreme fatigue, back aches and fever.
  12. Groups work to ease the path to recovery for those with eating disorders

    Health

    Robin Murray was in her 40s when the eating disorder she battled as a teenager and young adult came roaring back.

    Suddenly, she returned to the destructive behaviors of her youth — restricting, bingeing on and purging food, plus overexercising to compensate for any calories she managed to keep down.

    During her earlier battle, which lasted 15 years, Murray went through several different treatment facilities and once came close to death because she had become so thin....

    Robin Murray is now 48 and lives with her family in Safety Harbor. During her earlier battle, which lasted 15 years, Murray went through several different treatment facilities and once came close to death because she had become so thin.
  13. Raising awareness of congenital heart defects

    Health

    February is heart month, set aside not just to remind adults to watch their blood pressure and get some exercise but also to draw attention to an often-forgotten group of heart patients: children.

    From newborns to college students, children can be diagnosed with heart abnormalities that happened before birth. These defects, known as congenital heart defects or CHDs, can be life-threatening, medically complex and require lifelong treatment. And later in life, they can put a patient's own children at risk for the same conditions....

    Adam Verigan, who works at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, was born with a hole between the lower chambers of his heart.
  14. The Dish: Edward Steinhoff on being executive chef at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts

    Cooking

    What do you put on a menu that ties in to a Broadway play called Something Rotten!? That's the kind of challenge Straz Center for the Performing Arts executive chef Edward Steinhoff faces every day when he comes to work. Steinhoff, who took over the post in August, loves the change from creating food for typical dining venues to creating recipes and menus that reflect whatever is on stage at the Straz. ...

    Executive chef Edward Steinhoff poses for a picture at the Straz Center for Performing Arts in Tampa.
  15. The Dish: Sea Salt owner and chef Fabrizio Aielli on Italian food in America, fresh ingredients and more

    Cooking

    Fabrizio Aielli wants people to know that Italian cooking is more than long pasta swimming in red sauce.

    "In the past people thought spaghetti and meatballs or linguini Alfredo defined Italian food. Heavy sauces covered in garlic and cheese," he said. "But this is not Italian food."

    On Nov. 6, at his restaurant Sea Salt in St. Petersburg, Aielli is hosting one of seven Immersion Dinners being held around Tampa Bay in conjunction with the Dalí Museum's current food-focused exhibit "Ferran Adria: The Invention of Food." The sold-out dinner will have a carnival theme that aims to celebrate Aielli's home city of Venice, Italy, and to show diners what, exactly, Italian food can be: Nitrogen popcorn and kumamoto oysters will reflect a foggy day in Venice; a mini cone of peanut butter foie gras and a glass of rose brut champagne will transport guests through St. Mark's Square; seafood and black ink risotto will nod to the city's famous waterways. ...

    Fabrizio Aielli and his wife, Ingrid, pose with a catch of the day at Sea Salt restaurant at Sundial in St. Petersburg.