What is Mindfulness?

Admin 01 Sep , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.
Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team

What is Mindfulness?

Wheel of Awareness (Dr. Dan Siegel):



– Mindfulness began as a Buddhist tradition. Mindfulness is the state of being conscious by focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations without judging them or believing that there is a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment.

– The mental benefits of mindfulness include the following: helps to regulate emotions, fights depression and anxiety, assists with memory, fights PTSD, and improves academic performance.

– The physical benefits of mindfulness include the following: reduces inflammation, fights chronic pain, reduces arthritis, and heart disease risk factors, helps with irritable bowel disease, assists with weight loss, improves sleep and the immune system.


Websites for additional information:



Medication Safety, Storage and Disposal

Admin 04 Aug , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by S. Bruni Registered
Pharmacist, Portage Medical Family Health Team


Medication Safety, Storage and Disposal

  • Medication safety is an on-going process from start to finish!
  • Importance of open communication at each stage between you and your prescriber and pharmacist.
  • Don’t hesitate to call with concerns about your medications.
  • Be sure to carry an up-to-date medication list with you. The option to also put a copy on your fridge if you live alone.
  • This can be obtained from your local pharmacy. They may advise you complete a MedsCheck visit to ensure your list is complete.
  • Medic-Alert bracelets for allergies, medical conditions and medications (e.g. blood thinners).

 What should I do with my unused medications?

  • Often expired/unused prescription and over-the-counter medications are left in medicine cabinets/cupboards.
  • This can lead to potential misuse if an individual mistakenly takes an expired or unused prescription medication that may no longer be effective.
  • Medications (prescribed/over-the-counter) that have been prescribed to treat a medical condition for one person, may not be safe for everyone (may interact negatively with other medications or their medical conditions).
  • Please safely dispose of expired/unused medications to ensure they are not taken by someone else in error!

When and how should I return expired medications/needles (sharps)?

Often your pharmacy will accept expired medications. If you’re unsure about returning expired medications at your pharmacy, check with your pharmacy first!

Prescription/Over-the-Counter Drug Disposal (Free of Charge)

Take medications to a household hazardous waste depot or a local pharmacy for proper disposal (free of charge).
Please do not put in the garbage, recycling boxes or pour them down the drain, as this can be harmful to people, animals and the environment!

Disposing of Needles/ Sharps

Place all syringes/sharps in a sealed container (eg. plastic coffee container) or a sharps container.

Contact your local pharmacy to see if they offer free sharps containers for disposal eg. Stericycle. Often the pharmacy requires any needles/sharps to be returned in a proper SHARPS disposal container.

Other options: bring the container to a Household Hazardous Waste Depot (see below for the Niagara Area).

 Waste Info Line: 905-356-4141

Humberstone Landfill
700 Humberstone Rd. Welland, ON
Bridge St. Drop-Off Depot 1300 Bridge St. Fort Erie, ON
Thorold Yard Household Hazardous Waste Drop-off Depot 3557 Thorold Townline Rd. Thorold, ON

What should I know about sun protection?

Admin 30 Jun , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by S. Bruni
Registered Pharmacist, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Come on Sunshine!

What should I know about sun protection?

  • Sunscreen can help prevent skin cancer that is caused by exposure to UV light and prevent premature skin aging.
  • UVB rays mostly cause sunburn. UVA rays can cause early skin aging and skin cancer. We recommend a sunscreen labelled “broad spectrum” to protect against both UVA and UVB rays and with an SPF of 30 or higher (some individuals require stronger SPF.
    • FUN FACT! SPF (sun protection factor): SPF describes the amount of UVB protection (i.e., protection against sunburn) that a sunscreen provides and is not related to the amount of time it provides protection.
  • Limit your time in the sun (especially between 10 AM and 2 PM when the sun’s rays are the strongest).
  • Don’t forget your sunglasses (ones that block UV rays) and that you can still get a burn even if it is cloudy outside!
  • Tightly woven dry clothes → reflect almost all UV rays.
  • If light passes through clothing held up to the sun → UV rays will pass through to skin.
  • Wet clothes → half of UV rays to pass through to skin.
  • Protect the skin → wear long-sleeved shirts, pants and wide brimmed hats.

Remember the importance of applying sunscreen properly!

  • Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before sun exposure for the best effectiveness.
  • Apply sunscreen every morning to face (don’t forget your ears and lips!), neck and hands.
  • To protect your lips, choose a lip balm with SPF 30 or higher.
  • Apply sunscreen generously to all exposed skin (most people apply only 1/4 to 1/2 of the recommended amount, putting their skin at risk!)
  • The average sized adult should apply a total of 1 to 3 tablespoons (about a handful) of sunscreen per full-body application.
  • This works out to about 1 teaspoon (per body part) to face/scalp and each arm, and 2 teaspoons (per body part) to torso and each leg.
  • REMINDER!! Reapply sunscreen at least every 2 hours.
  • Reapply even sooner if you are sweating or swimming.
  • Product labelling will read “water resistant,” and must indicate whether the sunscreen remains effective for 40 minutes or 80 minutes while a person is swimming or sweating.

Chemical Sunscreens
-Usually include combinations of ingredients avobenzone, homosalate, octinoxate, oxybenzone, mexoryl SX etc.
-Most common products
-Easier to apply

Physical Sunscreens
-Zinc oxide or titanium dioxide
-Can be thick and harder to apply but there are  formulations that may make application easier

Both chemical and physical sunscreens are effective.
Find a product that you like and be sure to apply it properly!

Medications: Some may make your skin more sensitive to the sun and cause reactions such as an itchy, red rash or exaggerated sunburns. You should be advised by your pharmacist to minimize sun exposure and to use broad-spectrum sunscreens when sun exposure cannot be avoided.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding sun protection or require individual recommendations, please contact the Portage Medical Family Health Team for an individual appointment with the team Pharmacist.







Seniors and Keeping Hydrated

Admin 11 Jun , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by A. DiLibero, Registered Dietitian, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Seniors and Keeping Hydrated

Hydration is important year round however during warmer weather staying well hydrated is essential.  Seniors are at increased risk for dehydration for many reasons including:

  • Decreased thirst sensation
  • Medications
  • Incontinence
  • Changes in functional ability
  • Cognitive impairment

Dehydration is a common cause of hospitalization among the elderly and symptoms of dehydration often go unrecognized.  Below are some of the signs of dehydration:

  • Dizziness, weakness and confusion
  • Dark strong smelling urine
  • Increase risk of falls
  • Constipation
  • Low blood pressure

Many follow the general rule of drinking 8 to 10 glasses of water daily however some people can tolerate less and some will need more, like in the summer months if you are sweating.  Also, some medical conditions like heart failure require more specific fluid needs.  When choosing beverages check for ingredients like sodium and sugar which can affect health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes.

Facts on Fluids – How to Stay Hydrated – UnlockFood.ca

Tips for Increasing Water Intake

  • Keep a variety of sources on hand – you don’t have to just drink water to stay hydrated. Coffee, tea, milk, sparkling water and foods like yogurt, custard, fruit and vegetables help keep us hydrated.
  • Keep a drink close by at all times. Sip something throughout the day. If you wait until you are thirsty to drink you are likely already dehydrated.  Keep a drink in a place where you can see it often like on the kitchen table or beside your favourite chair.  Use an insulated cup that regulates the temperature and is easy to take with you on the go.
  • Experiment with different temperatures and flavours. Try adding cucumbers, mint, berries or orange slices to make drinks more appealing.
  • Include smoothies and meal supplements for meals and snacks.

Making Smoothies with More Calories and Protein – Alberta …



Sleep Hygiene

Admin 13 May , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by H. Wiens MSc., RP.Registered Psychotherapist Portage Medical Family Health Team


A good night’s sleep that is 7-9 hours in duration has broad health benefits, such as improving the immune system, diminishing our risks for dementia, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and even obesity. Sleep also has a profound effect upon our degree of concentration and ability to encode memory. Sleep increases the degree of serotonin and dopamine within the brain that has a direct impact upon mood, energy level and overall degree of happiness.

In these challenging times, we need restorative and restful sleep more than ever.  Here are some tips to consider.

10 Strategies to improve sleep:

  1. Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. This allows the pineal gland to produce enough melatonin so that you begin to feel sleepy and fall asleep much sooner, to acquire deeper quality sleep for a longer duration.
  2.  Set an alarm for bedtime. A regular night-time routine will signal to the body and brain that it is time to wind down.
  3. Engage in non-stimulating activities. Listen to relaxing music, nature sounds or podcasts such as Sleep with Me. Adult coloring books have the same effect as meditation to calm brain activity. Reading a magazine or calming book may also be soothing. Take some time to engage in relaxation strategies, such as deep belly breathing while saying a mantra and imagining a calming scene. Be sure to complete stimulating activities such as eating or doing chores at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. Limiting liquids will also minimize trips to the bathroom during the night.
  4. Shut off all electronics. A tablet, phone, PC or TV’s backlight reduces the amount of melatonin available for falling asleep in a timely manner to acquire deep and restful sleep.
  5. Cool off. Keep the bedroom at 18-20 Celsius, which allows the body to acquire restful REM sleep, which is restorative to cells and brain chemistry.
  6. Darken room and get morning light. Research indicates keeping the room dark or wearing a sleep mask results in deeper quality sleep. While getting sunlight during the day helps to set our circadian rhythm.
  7. Exercise. This allows the body to release body tensions and lactic acid that accumulates within muscle tissue. Be sure to complete your workout at least 3 hours prior to bedtime. Engaging with progressive muscle relaxation will also alleviate tension.
  8. Limit caffeine intake. Assess how many cups of coffee, pop, energy drinks and chocolate is ingested daily and try cutting back to improve your quality of sleep. Avoid caffeine 4-6 hours prior to bedtime.
  9. Deal with ruminations. Write a worry list, at least 2 hours prior to bedtime. Create a gratitude journal, in which you write three things that you are grateful for today. Engage in thought stopping by telling yourself that you will deal with the issue tomorrow and instead turn your attention to your relaxation strategies. You may also challenge your negative thought by replacing that thought with counter evidence.
  10.  Re-think your nap. Naps that are longer than 30 minutes in duration may disrupt the amount of melatonin required for a good night sleep.

Additional resources:

Health Benefits of Gardening

Admin 21 Apr , 2020

10 Tasks to Prepare Your Spring Garden

Adapted from gardentherapy.ca

Inspect Raised Garden Beds
Check garden beds for any damage. Repair any bowed or split wood on the frames.

Check Your Garden Tools
Get your garden tools in tip-top shape before the planting season gets in full swing. Give them a good wipe down and inspect for rust on the tool heads.

Turn Your Compost
It’s time to turn your compost pile and check for any that is ready to use. Add compost to improve soil by scratching in finished compost into the top one inch of soil.

Top Dress Garden Beds
If you run short of home-grown compost, use well-seasoned manure to top-dress your garden beds in preparation for planting.

Divide Perennials
Spring is a great time to transplant divisions or move plants around. Share or trade some of your plants with neighbors and gardener friends, but be mindful of sharing pests, disease, and weeds.

Weed and Mulch
Eradicate those early spring weeds before they get too comfortable in your garden. Remove any young, sprouting weeds first and then put down a layer of cardboard or landscape fabric onto the bare ground before you add mulch

Seed Starting
Sow warm-weather vegetables and annuals indoors before the last frost date. To aid in germination, pre-soak larger seeds and seeds with thick coats such as beets and nasturtium the night before you sow them in starter pots.

Early Spring Vegetables
Direct sow any early spring vegetables once the soil is workable. Cool weather veggies like lettuce, cabbage, radishes and scallions will germinate in cooler soil.

Remove any dead branches from shrubs, trees and perennial foliage after new growth has begun. Prune the spring bloomers, like forsythia and rhododendrons, as needed soon after flowering is complete. Thin and shape hedges after the first flush of new spring growth.

Plan to Protect Seedlings
A late season frost or freeze can happen anytime in the spring. Make sure you have enough cloth and plastic to protect tender plants.


“Researchers have found daily gardening to represent the single biggest risk reduction for dementia, reducing incidence by 36%”

Gardening involves so many of our critical functions, including strength, endurance, dexterity, learning, problem solving and sensory awareness



Beating the Winter Blues

djadmin 06 Feb , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by W. Bulthuis MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker Portage Medical Family Health Team


  Beat the Winter Blues!

A Very Common Experience!
Research in Ontario suggests that 15 percent of the general population experience winter blues, which can include changes in appetite and lethargy. The winter blues differs from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, which affects about two percent of the population and is a serious form of depression.(Jan 15, 2018 CMHA)

Recognize the signs

Winter Blues:
•Difficulty sleeping
•Feeling less social than usual
•Difficulty taking initiative

Seasonal Affective Disorder:
•Mood that is down or depressed most of the day, nearly every day
•Loss of interest in activities you typically enjoy
•Withdrawing and isolating yourself from friends and family
•Struggling to focus and perform at work or home
•Feeling constantly fatigued and lethargic
•Feeling hopeless about the future
•Having suicidal thoughts

…………….Talk to your doctor!
(from:  More than Just the Winter Blues – Rush University Medical Centre (www.rush.edu)          

Treatments that work:
•Sunlight – Get outside whenever the sun is out during the darker days
•Light Therapy – See further explanation below
•Exercise – Moderate exercise of at least 30 minutes most days of the week may provide the biggest mood boost
•Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – what is this? (Self-Help:  Mind over Mood by Dennis Greenberger and Christine Padesky)
•Medication – Talk to your doctor

A Healthy Lifestyle:
•Sleep and wake time the same daily to regulate your circadian rhythms
•Structure eating – 3 meals a day around the same time every day
•Avoid the urge to overdo simple carbohydrates like starchy or sweet foods Eat a balanced diet of proteins, fruits, vegetables and whole grains
•Make and keep plans with friends and family to help you stay connected
•Take time for yourself and engage in activities you enjoy
(from:  More than Just the Winter Blues – Rush University Medical Centre (www.rush.edu)

Light Box:  The science of circadian rhythms shows how light activates a certain portion of our retina.  When blue light falls on receptors on the lower part of the retina, messages are transmitted to the suprachiasmatic nucleus in the hypothalamus.  This process, which is separate from vision, energizes us.


*Online survey to determine your Circadian Rhythm Type – to identify what time of day light therapy is effective for you:  https://cet.org/assessment/confidential-self-assessments/

(from:  How Seasonal Affective Disorder Can Endanger your Health, Dr. Elizabeth Saenger)
Image from:  James Madison University News (Online:  Jan 25, 2017 )

Setting SMART goals in 2020

Admin 06 Jan , 2020

Information gathered and prepared by A. Balind MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker, Portage Medical Family Health Team

Why should we take the time to set goals? This is a skill that we are taught from a young age, but is something we rarely use outside of school or work.  Goal setting is important for many reasons.  Here are a few:

  • Gives you motivation for the future; short- and long-term
  • It helps to improve self-confidence and self-esteem
  • It assists you in picturing your life for the future
  • It allows you to organize your time and resources to make the most of your life
  • Holds you accountable

Research suggests that when we set goals we are more likely to accomplish the things that we want in our lives.  As we age, setting goals can become more difficult.  It is a skill, just like riding a bike, so practice makes it easier with time.  Here is a way to help make goal setting easier.


If you would like more information or assistance with goal setting, please contact the Portage Medical Family Health Team! We would be happy to assist you in reaching your goals!

Healthy Mind Platter

Admin 19 Dec , 2019

Information gathered and prepared by W. Bulthuis MSW, RSW
Clinical Social Worker Portage Medical Family Health Team

The Healthy Mind Platter Through the Holidays

Focus Time: 
•Make a list of things you have to do and then prioritize 2 or 3 things.  Give yourself permission to let go of some of the others.
•Create a budget and stick to it!

Play Time:
•Take time every day to enjoy one thing – savour one cookie, do a puzzle, sing in the shower.
•Take a moment to enjoy the lights or decorations.

Time In:  
•Take 5 minutes to sit, breathe and focus.
•Try identifying 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you touch, 2 things you smell, 1 thing you touch.
•Find one (small) thing to be grateful for each day or keep a gratitude journal

Connecting Time:
•Do a random act of kindness – give up your parking spot, compliment the clerk, be generous.
•Reach out – connect with friends, attend your house of worship or volunteer.
•Holidays can include getting together with challenging people!  Accept that people are who they are and find ways to minimize their impact on your life.

Physical Time: 
•Prioritize time for exercise every day.  Keep walking!

Sleep Time: 
•Adults need between 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night to allow the brain to recover.
•Having trouble winding down?  Try a “relaxation for sleep” recording.  (You can find free meditations at:  www.uclahealth.org/marc/mindful-meditations)

Down Time:
•Slow down while you do a mundane task.  Let your mind wander
while you water the plants, walk the dog or do the dishes.

* If you need help the Distress Line in Niagara is:  905-688-3711