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Happy Older Americans Month! How Are You Celebrating?

grandmother and girl

Written by Bonnie Tse.

There is Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and even Children’s Day celebrated in certain cultures. If there is a day to honor our seniors, it would be in May. May is Older Americans Month and we are sharing fun ways you can spend time with your grandparents and seniors in your life. Here are a few healthy activities to do together.

  • Plan trips. Visiting new places and exploring scenic routes can help motivate everyone to stay physically active. You do not have to go far to plan a local trip. There are also many parks, museums and attractions in the city that offer senior discounts. Check out the NYC website for more information and a list of senior friendly activities.
  • Cook and eat meals together. Your grandparents may be culinary experts of your family recipes. Find a day when the whole family can learn recipes and cook together. Challenge your seniors, family members or yourself to see if you can make heart-healthy versions of your family’s favorite dishes. Read our fact sheets for tips on how to lower sodium and fat in your meals.
  • Discover new hobbies and interests together. Learning something new is always exciting. For seniors, whether it’s learning a new language, skill or hobby, keeping the brain mentally active helps to improve their memory. Take classes together at your local library or recreation center. Many recreation centers in the city offer seniors low to no-cost membership fees. Our Health Center also has free health educational workshops that you and your grandparents can attend. We cover different health topics such as healthy eating, diabetes management, stroke prevention and blood sugar control. View our workshop schedule here.
  • Plan a family volunteer day. Volunteering provides a meaningful experience that is often linked to better health. The act of giving one’s time and energy to support a cause builds our self-confidence and sense of achievement. Volunteering brings people together and shows that every individual, regardless of age, is capable of making a difference. For seniors, volunteering also gives them an opportunity to meet new people and do activities they like. Make it a family tradition to volunteer at a local organization. Visit the NYC website for a list of volunteer organizations and fun opportunities.

At the end of the day, any activity you do together is irreplaceable. Celebrate Older Americans Month with your grandparents or a senior you love today.

Written by Bonnie Tse. Bonnie Tse is part of the Health Education Department at the Charles B. Wang Community Health Center. She has a bachelor’s degree in Nutrition and Food Science from Hunter College.


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A Call for a Better Mental Health System

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Written by Teddy Chen, LCSW, PhD

Most social workers have a few clients that leave an impression. They change your view on mental health, and the system, and motivate you to stay in the field to make it a better place for them.

The first time I saw her was at a community hospital’s psychiatry clinic where I worked as a social work clinician. She was a new patient who just started showing signs of a mental disorder. She was amongst a group of non-English speaking immigrant patients, but she stood out—she was a student of an Ivy League university with a passion for art and architecture.

I saw her again in a clinic recently, more than twenty years later. Her hair had turned gray and she is now a middle aged woman. Her speech is disorganized. Her mood is labile. She is angry with the voices she hears that frequently criticize her. She is confused and scared by people surrounding her on the streets that she thinks is trying to hurt her. She does not trust even her own family. She cries and screams hysterically when she is upset. She complains that she cannot find a quiet place to live. The evil illness has devoured this once bright young woman.

When I listen carefully, it is clear that her passion to study art and architect is still intact after two decades. Actually, she has spent the past twenty years hanging around campuses and libraries. She continues to pursue her dream ineffectively while the rest of the world sees her just another ‘mentally disturbed’ person.

Just like all of us, most of the victims of mental disorder have dreams they want to pursue. Because of the negative impact of their illness on their brain, the challenges are daunting. And the rest of us are not helping. I have met a psychiatrist who told me his story of being diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was in his teens. We at times see that success for schizophrenia is possible. But most of the victims of mental disorders are just forgotten by the society. One million Americans with serious mental disorder are not even getting treatment. We continue to let patients enter jails and prisons, or we leave them at the street corners or the morgues. We, as a society, need to do a better job.

The country is paying huge human and financial costs for not caring for the millions of Americans with mental disorders. We need better scientific research and knowledge to understand and to treat mental disorders. We need better attitudes towards people who suffer from mental disorders. Being a social work clinician and seeing patients day in and day out, I have a hard time distinguishing mental disorders from human suffering. Is the severe depression of a seriously abused woman just a medical condition, or a result of suffering in her life? Is treating the symptoms of her depression with the best medication enough?

I believe we need a mental health system and professionals that takes care of the entire person, not just the disease and symptoms. This is the mental health system that I and my team strive for.

Written by Teddy Chen. Teddy Chen, LCSW, PhD, is a New York State licensed clinical social worker, and the director of the Mental Health Bridge Program at the Charles B. Wang Community Health. The Bridge Program is a nationally recognized service model of providing total healthcare by integrating mental health with primary care.


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Celebrating Nurses |Top 10 Reasons Nurses Are Important

Nurse-week-blog

This week is National Nurses Week, and we are so thrilled to have the opportunity to celebrate our nurses. We talked to Tracy Wu, head nurse of adult medicine, and Vanessa Huang, assistant head nurse of adult medicine, as well as numerous more nurses at our Health Center, asking one question: Why are nurses so important? Here are the top 10 reasons we think nurses play an essential role in the health and wellness of our patients.

1. As part of the Medical Home, our nurses care about both the patient’s physical health and emotional health. We treat the person, not just the disease.

2. Our nurses meet the unique needs of each patient, whether that is short term care for when they are sick, and long term support for chronic conditions.

3. Nurses are the ones who spend the most time with patients during their medical visits. They take the time to make sure patients understand their health.

4. Our nurses promote preventive health, both in our health center and in the community. As part of a community health center, nurses play a vital role in community outreach.

5. Nurses explain various procedures or medications to patients so that they can make their own informed decisions regarding health issues and to better self-manage their health.

6. Nurses are a part of each patient’s healthcare team. Nurses help facilitate communication between doctors and patients so they receive the best care.

7. Nurses help ensure continuity of care for patients by following up with patients after their visit.

8. Our nurses consider all factors that may affect one’s health, like socioeconomic or psychological factors. From there, they can refer patients to appropriate services that they need.

9. Nurses serve as team leaders to ensure a good work and patient flow.

10. Our nurses provide advice and emotional support to not just the patients, but also their families and caretakers.

Happy National Nurses Week! A big thank you to our dedicated nurses, who are a source of care and compassion to our patients and community.