Domestic Violence and the Holidays Harriette Barker, Ph.D, RN

Free Stock Photo: A red Christmas present isolated on a white background


Each year the decorations, shopping, bright lights, Christmas cheer, and celebrations signal the holidays.   Many people are happy, but others are emotionally, financially and socially stressed

Holidays such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and New Year are challenging for persons who are experiencing financial difficulty, loss or social isolation.  Many individuals also experience the “holiday blues,” a form of depression that is more prevalent during this season. Family stress may also be high.  If relationships are fragile, family gatherings may cause increased stress levels.   Partying and excessive alcohol intake are other sources of stress for many people.

Some police departments in the nation have reported an increase in domestic violence during this current holiday season.  However, a reason article in the Huffington Post on this issue suggested the idea of increased violence at holiday time is a myth, because “violence does not take a vacation.” According to The National Domestic Violence Hotline, there is a reduction in the number of persons contacting their service during the holiday season. They suggested that concerns about keeping the family together during the holidays may be the main reason for under-reporting any violence.
Domestic violence can be physical, verbal or emotional.  It may be subtle or coercive.  The abuser may use financial, restrictive, isolation or exclusionary tactics to exercise control over their victim.  For example, not allowing her to use the car to visit family or friends.  In one situation, the abuser canceled a holiday luncheon without informing his partner.

Tips to reduce holiday abuse

  • Clear communication is the key in helping to prevent abuse.
  • Expressing your feelings calmly but firmly is important.
  • Head off situations that are escalating by leaving the room.
  • Eliminate provocative arguments
  • Take time to cool down.
  • Make a budget written in stone. No changes.
  • Monitor alcohol intake
  • Refrain from attention seeking behavior
  • Reach out to a resource when overwhelmed.

You can suddenly find yourself in an abusive situation.  It is important that you have a plan for getting help.  Family, neighbors or friends may be your first sources, but in abusive situations, it is better to contact 911.    Do not accept that your abuser is experiencing seasonal stress.   Do not use excuses to defend your abuser.

If you live in an abusive situation, holiday stress may easily exacerbate any interactions with your abuser.  There are a variety of resources in your community such as shelters, hotlines, churches, non-profit organizations and the police that will offer help.  You should keep a list of them and their contact numbers.  Domestic violence is often difficult to detect, so family and friends should be vigilant for any signs of its’ occurrence during this period.


National Domestic Violence Hotline  Number

24/7 at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). All calls are confidential and anonymous.


Tart: An Acquired Taste

I had a little problem  a few weeks ago and a friend recommended that I drink Cranberry  Juice.  I do not drink juices but went to the supermarket.  The cranberry juices were in different varieties.  Finally, I chose one but after drinking some of it, decided that it was too sweet for my taste.  I went to the health food store and picked up  the same size but it cost three times the price.  The recommended serving was three ounces, which I poured into a glass added four cubes of ice.  On my way back to the living room I took a mouthful and instantly was spitting it all over the place.  Tart!! Sharp!!Acidic!! Hold on a minute.  Who drinks this stuff?  I swear it is going to burn a hole in my stomach.

I was visiting my daughter and took  it with me.  So my teenage grandson wanted to try it.  I told him how acid it tasted, but he still wanted to try.  I watched in amazement as he drank about three ounces of the juice.  What? Is his stomach lined with lead or something? “It is an acquired taste, grandma,” he tells me.

So then I started to think.  As I grow older I cannot tolerate any food or drink that is too acidic.  I remember my school days when  I could eat fruit such as gooseberries, golden apples, tamarinds, lemons, all I needed was some salt sprinkled on the top.  I cannot do this anymore.  With age the stomach acids begin to decrease and the lining is easily irritated.  Back to my cranberry juice, over several days I manage to tolerate it better.  The problem cleared up so I guess that it was worth it after all.


Food Adventure: Bugs Anyone? Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN

Free Stock Photo: Close-up of Mexican fruit flies on a grapefruit


I do not like creepy-crawly things and cannot stand bugs of any kind.  Growing up in the Caribbean with its wide variety of insects and crawlies, I could never think of any insect or worm as food.  Culturally we are a meat and fish-eating people.  I am not adventurous with food.  I prefer to stick to things that I know.

Many years ago, visiting the island of Tobago, I was encouraged to try some of their meat delicacies such as Agouti, Manicou, Armadillo, and Iguana.  I passed.  I could not imagine them going down my throat.  I am also picky about fish.  I only like those with scales and cannot tolerate shark, or shellfish (allergic).  No shrimp, conch, sea eggs or lobster for me.

With my limited food choices in meat and fish, my eye caught an article in a science magazine about eating bugs.   Apparently, insects like grasshoppers are nutritious, iron rich, and comparable to the nutrients in beef.  They could become an alternative source of inexpensive protein that is good for everyone.  Instead of cattle farms, we would now have insect farms that are more sustainable and friendly to the environment.

Entomophagy is the correct name for eating insects.  There are many countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe where this practice is an important part of their diet.  Many westerners are not keen on eating these bizarre foods.  However, they are specialty restaurants who are enjoying a new interest in these foods from their patrons.

Image result for free pictures of insect meals

I think of the bugs that grow in the Caribbean, roaches, centipedes, lizards, beetles, butterflies, caterpillars, millipedes, and none of them begin to make my taste buds water.  In fact, most of them I cannot tolerate.  I am a fan of bizarre foods, but sometimes I cannot watch the host eating his delicious choices of insects.  I remember one episode where he had a large Louisiana centipede on a plate.  I just ran from the room.

The best eight bugs recommended in an article in the National Geographic are beetles, butterflies, moths, bees, wasp, flies, mosquitoes, water boatmen, backswimmers and stink bugs.  The online magazine alternate narrowed these down to the three best bugs.  How nutritious are bugs?   They are high in protein, fatty acids such as omega-3s, calcium, and B 12.

Rich in protein and low in fat, Insect Burgers on sale at Jumbo supermarkets in 400 stores across the Netherlands, Stock Photo

Are insects good for your health?  Yes, per the United Nations.  They can help to alleviate world hunger, reduce the risks of anemia, stimulate metabolism, boost the immune system, and are handy in emergency situations.

I do not plan to eat any insects, so I felt good about myself until I came across this information.  Apparently, a lot of our foods have in insect parts.  Peanut butter, tomato ketchup, coffee, packaged food, some red food dyes and chocolate to name a few.  Now I am feeling squeamish.

We have been eating insects since birth.  Before you start gagging, the FDA knows all about it.  They accept that a certain level of bugs in our food is good.  Okay, so what shall I do?  I am thinking of a way to quieten my stomach which is beginning to feel queasy.

I am still curious wanting to find out if there are any entomophagy cookbooks.  I found eat-a-bug and bug-a licious and more.  Such recipes  as Cabbage, Peas ‘n’ Crickets and Bee-LT Sandwich,  may tempt your appetite.  If you are adventurous and looking for food excitement, then you may want to venture into the world of bugs. “If it looks good, eat it,” the host of Bizarre foods encourages us.  Maybe the day is coming when we take his advice seriously.

Interested in bugs cookery you can get a free cookbook at



Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Breast cancer ribbons patterns

Last Friday, I received the sad news that my friends’ thirty-two-year-old daughter had died from breast cancer.  She was battling this disease for the past ten years.

Breast cancer rates in black/African-American women have increased by 20% when compared to those of white women.  The rate of disability and death is 42% higher for this group.  However, the number of diagnosed cases is lower.

There are different subtypes of breast cancers.  One subtype that is problematic for black women is called Triple Negative Breast Cancer.


Understanding Triple Negative Breast Cancer

Estrogen and progesterone are female hormones.  The her-2 gene helps in the growth of healthy cells in the breast. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is diagnosed when these hormones and gene are absent in a breast biopsy (hormone negative).

Many breast cancers are hormone positive and respond well to drugs such as Tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors (hormone therapy). Triple negative breast cancer may not respond to hormone therapy, is more aggressive, difficult to treat, may recur and has a poor prognosis.  However, in the early stages, it may respond much better to chemotherapy.

Facts about Triple Negative Breast Cancer

  • Black/African American women are more likely to be diagnosed with this type of cancer than white or Hispanic women.
  • Death rate is higher than other groups of women
  • Tend to be diagnosed at a late stage
  • Have lower survival rates
  • Approximately 30%of breast cancers are Triple Negative
  • Many women are not regularly screened
  • Follow-up may be lacking
  • Limited access to quality treatment




Risks for Triple Negative Breast Cancer:

Persons at risk for Triple Negative Breast Cancer are

  • Younger people – women and men
  • African Americans
  • Hispanics
  • Women with a BRAC 1 mutation BRACA 1& 2
  • Men with a BRCA 2 gene mutation
  • Using birth control pills for one year or more

Important factors that influence outcomes:

  • Early detection and treatment
  • Early prevention strategies
  • Quality and resources of the facility


  • Lumpectomy – removal of the lump
  • Radiation therapy
  • Chemotherapy


  • Poor during 3-5 year period
  • Does not respond well to treatment
  • Likely to recur

Prevention Strategies:

Black women can make sure that breast cancer is diagnosed and treated at an early stage by:

  • Getting a yearly mammogram if you are forty years and over and have risk factors
  • Genetic testing for BRCA if there is a family history of breast cancer
  • If your risks factors are high screening should begin earlier
  • Performing monthly breast self-examination
  • Regular breast examinations by a healthcare provider
  • Reporting any concerns to your doctor


National Breast Cancer Awareness Month  -October 2016

Metastatic Breast Cancer Day (MBC) October 17

Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN


BLACK BOOMERS: Ten tips to keep you hydrated

Free Stock Photo: A glass of cold water with ice cubes

Keeping the body well hydrated is a problem for many older adults.  Dehydration, (not enough fluid) may cause the blood pressure to drop, and the person is at risk of falling.  It may also cause poor coordination, loss of balance, confusion, disorientation, constipation and heart problems.

During hot weather, people tend to drink more to avoid becoming dehydrated, but this is a problem that can occur at any time.  Besides hot weather, you may become dehydrated if you are taking water pills, (diuretics), blood pressure or heart medications, are on dialysis or have a medical condition such as diabetes.

The flu, a high temperature, constipation or a bout of diarrhea can cause dehydration.  Some persons do not like to drink because they fear wetting accidents, lack access to bathroom facilities, are physically disabled or have memory problems.  Some signs of dehydration are dry mouth, muscle cramps, weakness, headache, fainting, sunken eyes, and passing small amounts or no urine.

An easy test for dehydration is checking your urine.  Normally urine is light yellow in color.  Dark, concentrated urine is e an early warning sign of dehydration.  Another test is pinching the skin on the back of your hand, abdomen or chest.  The skin will form into a little tent which should return to normal within five to ten seconds.  If the skin is wrinkled and remains in folds, this indicates dehydration.

Dehydration can be serious and life-threatening if not treated immediately.  Some complications are seizures, brain swelling, low blood volume (hypovolemic shock), acute kidney failure, coma, and death.

Tips for Staying Hydrated

  • Increase your fluid intake – to at least eight glasses of water daily.
  • Eat fruit and vegetables with a high water content e.g.cucumbers, watermelons, celery
  • Drink fat-free or skim milk
  • Drink water before and during meals
  • Try teas, herbal, iced, coffee – limit caffeine
  • Try sports drinks – check for high calories, sugar, and sodium
  • Coconut water – be aware of high sugar content
  • Set up a hydration schedule
  • Carry bottled water
  • Add lemon or orange slices to water
  • Limit diet sodas (high salt) and energy drinks(high sugar)



Harriette Barker, Ph. D, RN, CHC


Black Boomers: No Magic to Weight Loss

Closeup of an older woman wearing a blue sports bra and watch : Free Stock Photo

One of my students presented me with a watch-like gadget.

“What is this?” I asked her

“It is to help you track your steps.  10,000 steps each day to keep you fit.”

A few days later my friend called me.  She was walking home from the train station trying to complete her targeted steps for that day.  Many persons are using technological devices to help lose weight and get into shape.  As I take my daily walk/jog, I see these fitness trackers on the arms and wrists of persons trying to get fit.  Some people swear that the gadgets help them in their goals to be fit.  I often questioned about those 10,000 steps.  It is like drinking eight glasses of water a day.  Good to do, but who is to say that more or less may not be just as effective.

A new study about weight loss and fitness trackers has indicated that technology alone does not aid in weight loss.  The two-year study compared standard behavioral weight loss interventions such as diet, exercise, tips, and counseling with the addition of fitness trackers.  The results indicated that adding a fitness device tracker did not make a significant difference.  It looks great wearing a tracker on your wrist or arm.  However, moderation and consistency in the diet are still the basics of weight loss goals.

Is there a place for technology such as fitness trackers in the battle of the bulge?  I believe that these devices can play an important role in helping persons to become motivated to achieve their goals.  However, this technology is not magic.  Those persons who are trying to lose weight must commit to healthy lifestyle changes that help to promote and sustain their weight management goals.


JAMA. 2016;316(11):1161-1171. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.12858.

Black Boomers: Did you get your Flu Shot?


I hate taking needles.  You would not believe that as a nurse, I gave out my share of needles,  As a result of this fear, for many years I refused to take an annual flu shot.  I had received one many years ago that made me sick, so I did not bother to take any more.

The winter of 2014 changed my mind.  The Sunday after New Years’ Day, I was down with the flu.  It was rough.  I felt like I was going to die.  The pain in my body, the cough that hurt my chest, no energy, no interest in food.  It was terrible.  Last winter I screwed up my courage and took the shot.  I had mild flu-like symptoms, and a sore arm, for about two days.  Then in March of this year I came down with the flu, but it was not as severe as last year.

Since taking the shot four days ago might arm was sore for about two days, but I did not have any other flu symptoms.  I have also been boosting my body with supplements, so I am hoping that I will escape it this flu season.

There is a lot of controversy surrounding the benefits of taking the flu shot and other vaccinations.  Some people believe that taking shots can do more harm than good. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended a flu shot for persons 65 years of age and over.  This age group is at the greatest risk of contracting a severe form of the flu with complications that may be life-threatening.

Two vaccines designed for the sixty-five plus age group are:

  • High dose –has been used since 2009. It is stronger and more effective than the regular dose.
  • Fluad – is a newer vaccine for the 2016-17 flu season. It is stronger than the high dose vaccine.


  • Both of these vaccines may initially cause mild side
  • Do not take the nasal spray form of the vaccine if you are sixty-five years of age and over.


Tips to Protect Yourself:

  • Get your Flu shot
  • Wash your hands regularly
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  • Keep away from people who are sick
  • Get medical attention if you have flu symptoms.
  • Discuss the need for other vaccinations with your health care provider.