To Our Patients

As you know, the past eighteen months have brought unprecedented challenges – for all of us.

We recognize your frustration. We are frustrated too. But now more than ever we need to work together, to be kind to one another, and to remember that we are all in this together.

Like so many healthcare organizations throughout our state, we are experiencing extreme staffing shortages. It’s then coupled with an ongoing, and still raging, pandemic that requires additional time for patient screening, immense provider resources, and staff isolation after exposures. As you can imagine, COVID-19 makes a staffing shortage worse at a time when patient volume is increasing exponentially.

It’s why you may be placed on hold when you call or wait a day for us to get back to you. It’s why we recommend calling a few days earlier for a prescription refill or suggest that you call in the mid-afternoon when our phone lines are less busy. It’s why you may have to wait a little longer for certain preventative services or to schedule a routine follow up with your provider. It’s why your appointment might be cancelled if your provider becomes ill or has to quarantine due to COVID exposure.

It’s why we’re writing to you today – to ask for your patience and understanding.

On top of all this, our phone system is a problem. We’ve heard you, and we are working on it. Engineers from our phone carrier and IT department are working on improvements to system performance and our call-tree structure to help reduce delays in calls getting through.

We know how frustrating this is but ultimately, it is not our staff’s fault. They are working tirelessly, and we would like to humbly ask that you keep this in mind and approach our people with kindness and understanding. A friendly smile or a kind word would go a long way.

Most importantly, we want you to know that we are working very hard every day to take care of all of your medical needs. It is not only our mission but our greatest honor and privilege to serve each one of you.

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we continue to navigate this unprecedentedly difficult time.

– DFD Russell Medical Center Leadership Team

Managing Diabetes During the Holidays

November is Diabetes Awareness month and an important time to talk about healthier food choices. During this holiday season, you can manage your diabetes while enjoying your family, friends and festivities.

What is Diabetes?

At its very basic, diabetes is a chronic disease where your body’s blood glucose is too high. When blood sugar increases, your pancreas releases insulin to manage the excess sugar. For those living with diabetes, their body either doesn’t produce enough insulin or can’t use the insulin as well as it should. For more information on the types of diabetes, check out our blog here.

How can I manage my diabetes during the holidays?

We all celebrate the holiday season in different ways, but it is likely that we all celebrate with food! To enjoy this time without overextending yourself, try to follow some of these tips:

  • Avoid or limit alcohol. If you have a drink, enjoy it with food to help balance blood sugar levels.
  • Consider carbs. If you want to have dessert, be careful with how many carbs you eat before the sweets such as bread, stuffing, and potatoes.
  • Don’t skip meals. Also, try to eat at the same times every day.
  • And don’t skip your favorites! ’Tis the season for family recipes and seasonal favorites. Have a slice of pumpkin pie or glass of eggnog and savor it! As long as you are mindful about the other food choices you’ve made throughout the day.
  • Keep exercising.Walks, stretching, and simple workouts approved by your doctor can help manage stress as well as your mood.
  • Prioritize sleep. The holidays can be both enjoyable and exhausting. When the body doesn’t rest properly, it has a harder time managing blood sugar.

Simple Swaps to Manage Blood Sugar

Just because you’re living with diabetes, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy delicious, rich foods! However, you do need to be deliberate with your food choices. For those moments where you may want a healthier option, try one of the healthier swaps below.

Swap:

Chips and Dip for Veggies and Hummus

You’ll get at least one serving of vegetables and some protein from the hummus. Protein aids in regulating your blood sugar.

Mashed Potatoes for Mashed Cauliflower

You’ll get another serving of low-carb vegetables—just be sure to watch added butter or cream.

Marshmallow Sweet Potatoes for Roasted Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes are loaded with vitamins and beta-carotene and are sweet enough without added sugar.

Green Bean Casserole for Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Rich in fiber, Brussels sprouts are a better option than the creamy, salty, deep-fried onion casserole.

Fried Turkey for Roasted Turkey

Deep-fried turkeys are trending, but they’re very heavy in fat. Keep your proteins as lean and clean as possible and opt for lean poultry or healthy fat filled fish such as salmon.

Pecan Pie for Pumpkin Pie

Still sweet and filled with festive spices, pumpkin pie has less sugar, less fat and more vitamins from the pumpkin puree.

One in three Americans do not know that they have diabetes.

Diabetes is a chronic disease that may have been present at birth, developed during adulthood or during pregnancy. It should be carefully monitored and managed as it could lead to injury or further illness if mismanaged.
If you think you may have diabetes or need help in managing your diabetes diagnosis, DFD is here to help. Reach out to your primary healthcare provider to discuss your options.

Take Control of Your Breast Health

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month and a prime time to take your health into your own hands! No matter what your age is, you can take steps to lower your breast cancer risk and improve your overall health.

Healthy Habits at Every Age

The following recommendations should be considered no matter your age or gender.

  • Limit alcohol to one drink per day.
  • Prioritize proper rest and stress management.
  • Quit smoking for good.
  • Aim for 160 minutes per week of moderate-high intensity exercise. Consult your physician before starting a new workout program or routine.
  • Move and stretch your body daily. This includes walking, stretching and yoga.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of vegetables and fruits.

A woman’s risk of breast cancer doubles if she has a mother, sister or daughter who has been diagnosed.

What Are the Risk Factors for Breast Cancer?

Preventative measures, such as following a healthy lifestyle and getting regular screenings, can dramatically decrease your odds of breast cancer and other illnesses. Awareness and education are essential. Consider the following risk factors:

  • Smoking or using drugs
  • Drinking alcohol to excess
  • Taking birth control pills
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Women who don’t have children or have them after age 30
  • Women who have their first period before age 12
  • Women who start menopause later in life or who take hormonal drugs during menopause for longer than five years.


If you need help managing any of the risk factors above, contact your primary care provider to discuss your options.

Nearly 85% of breast cancer cases occur in women with no family history of breast cancer.

How often should I get screenings?

Screenings and other diagnostic tests will vary depending on your age, health condition and family history. However, you should absolutely visit your doctor annually for a physical exam and ask them what actions you can do for your breast health.

Additionally, it’s recommended that every woman perform a self-breast exam each month. Your breasts go through numerous changes throughout the month depending on hormones, stress, lifestyle and pregnancy. Get familiar with your breasts by performing a self exam the same time each month.

Check for texture and size changes on both breasts by:

  • Standing in front of a mirror, arms down and then arms raised.
  • Standing with arms raised, applying pressure with three fingers to breast and armpit area, side to side, top to bottom, and in a circular motion. Be sure to repeat on the other side.
  • Lying down on your back, one arm raised. Repeat the same motions mentioned above, feeling for any changes. Repeat on the other side.

If you notice any changes in contour, swelling, dimpling, puckering, or changes in nipples, contact your healthcare provider right away.


Takeaway:

Breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer among women in the United States and globally. Thankfully, actions such as preventative care, screenings, and lifestyle changes help to lower risk and detect any changes early on.

If you have not had a mammogram and are over age 40, contact your healthcare provider to schedule an exam. Your provider can also help you decide what changes you can make to your lifestyle that may decrease your risk of illness, including breast cancer.

How to Prevent and Identify Head Lice

Hooray, it’s back to school season! Your children may have attended in-person classes the past year or this may be their first time returning to the classroom at all. Either way, back together in school unfortunately means one unwelcome nuisance has the potential to show up too—head lice. Know the causes, signs, and how to treat an infestation so your child won’t miss out on any more in-person learning.

What are lice?

Lice are small parasites spread by close human to human contact. They are brown in color and are the approximate size of a sesame seed. Lice are highly contagious nuisance and can cause severe discomfort among children and adults.

The most reported symptoms are:

  • Relentless itching
  • A tickling or crawling feeling on your head, hair or body
  • Red bumps and/or sores that develop from scratching
  • Irritability and/or difficulty sleeping

 

Where can I contract lice?

Lice can be found in your hair or on your body. All lice are spread from being in close contact with another person who is infected. Be cautious in these situations:

  • At schools, daycares, playdates
  • During sports practices/games, other activities with close contact
  • Sharing clothing such as hats and jackets
  • Sharing hairbrushes, hair clips/ties, headbands, etc.

How do I know if I (or my children) have lice?

If you’re suffering from uncomfortable itchiness, it could be caused by skin conditions such as dandruff, eczema, allergies, or reactions to certain skin products. However, it may be best to check for lice as they are highly contagious especially if you have school-aged children.

Follow these steps to check for lice:

  1. Wet your hair/your child’s hair. This slows down lice so they’re easier to spot.
  2. Using a fine-tooth comb, part the hair. Lice combs can be found online and in pharmacies but are not necessary.
  3. Shine a bright light onto scalp. If you see tiny, brown insects moving or nits (eggs) fixed onto individual hair strands, you should seek a lice treatment immediately.
  4. If unsure, see a healthcare professional as soon as possible.

 

How do I treat a lice infestation?

If you’re certain that you or your child has lice, it’s best to act right away. There are over the counter (OTC) shampoos and treatment kits to help with eradicating lice. There are also medicated lotions and shampoos that are prescribed by a doctor.

In addition to treating lice at the source, it’s also important to do the following:

  • Launder bedding and clothes worn in the two days before treatment
    • Wash with hot water and use a high-heat dry cycle
  • Wash backpacks, hats, jackets—anything that may have had contact with lice
  • Place sofa cushions or car seats into a plastic bag. Don’t touch for two weeks.
    • Lice will die within 1-2 days without human contact
  • Sanitize brushes and combs
    • submerge in a pot of hot water for up to ten minutes
  • Vacuum the floors in your home
    • Lice cannot survive without human contact or in a cooler temperature

 

Facts about lice:

It’s no surprise that there is a stigma associated with lice. However, it’s important to be armed with the facts.

  • Lice are not a sign of poor hygiene
  • Head lice do not carry viral or bacterial diseases
  • Lice do not go away on their own
  • Lice cannot “jump” from one person to another (they only crawl)
  • Treatments such as smearing mayonnaise, butter, olive oil or margarine into hair and scalp will NOT eradicate head lice
  • You do not need to fumigate or use harmful chemicals to clean your home.

To prevent a possible lice infestation, tell your children not to share clothing or personal items, be aware of any symptoms, and have a plan to quickly act if someone in your household accidentally contracts lice. Although it may be a headache to treat and clean, contracting lice is quite common and highly treatable.

 

How to Be Fire Safe This Summer

The summer season is in full swing and with it comes grilling, campfires and fireworks. Whether you’re in your backyard, at a friend’s house, or at a campsite, be sure to follow your local fire safety guidelines.

Cooking and Grilling

If you’re cooking inside your kitchen or outside on your grill, it’s important to be vigilant and to always cook safely.

  • Never leave anything that is cooking unattended. If you need to leave for any reason, always turn off the heat.
  • Use appropriate heating source. Use propane for a gas grill, charcoal briquettes for a charcoal grill, and wood logs for cooking over a firepit. Do not use fire starter logs or mix and match heat sources.
  • Be alert. Never cook or grill when exhausted, intoxicated or distracted.


Campfires

A cozy campfire is iconic to summer adventures. Maintain fun by keeping flames contained to prevent them from spreading.

  • Check conditions. Always check weather, wind, and fire conditions before lighting any fire. Note: Local ordinances may also require a permit.
  • Supervise children and pets. Do not leave them unattended near a campfire for any reason—ever.
  • Properly extinguish a campfire.Never leave the fire site without extinguishing flames first. Have a fire extinguisher, shovel with sand/dirt, and plenty of water nearby.
    • Drown your flames with water and stir with a shovel to make sure all materials and embers are wet.
    • Add more water if needed and stir again.
    • Repeat until everything in fire pit is wet and cold to the touch.
    • Pour sand/dirt over fire if flames get out of control.

 

Fireworks and Sparklers

Fireworks and sparklers are quintessential summer fun, but they are hazardous. When not properly managed, fireworks and their debris can cause sparks which can result in an unwanted fire or injury.

When it comes to fireworks:

  • Be cautious: they can cause burns, injuries and/or fires
  • Do not attempt to make your own
  • Leave them to the professionals

To keep things festive, watch a fireworks display from a distance and consider alternatives like glow sticks, ribbon dancers, confetti poppers or colorful streamers.


Be alert and responsible every time you cook in your kitchen, grill over an open flame, or build a campfire. Share this information with your children and always lead by example. In doing so, you’re giving them the tools to be responsible around fires in the future.

How to Protect Your Skin During Sunny Summer Months

Each year two million Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer—the most common form of cancer. This summer we may find ourselves outside more often in order to safely socially distance, breathe fresh air, and exercise daily. It’s important to remember that even though it may be cloudy or shady, protecting your skin remains a priority. Here are some tips to keep in mind while enjoying the outdoors:

 

Apply SPF: UV rays can damage or burn your skin any time of the year, not just in the sunny summer months. Even when it’s cloudy or cooler outside, apply an SPF 30 or facial moisturizer with SPF before heading out. Reapply every two hours and be sure to cover all exposed areas, including your face, hands, ears and neck.

 

Use lip balm: Your lips can be sensitive to drying out and cracking going from hot humid air to frigid air conditioning. If you already use lip balm, try swapping it out for a brand with SPF in it.

 

Wear sunglasses: Whether it’s cloudy or sunny, UV rays can reflect off bright surfaces and cause damage. Protect your eyes by wearing sunglasses that block 99% of UV rays whenever you’re driving, biking, or gardening in the backyard.

 

Know your environment: In higher altitudes, you’re at a higher risk for skin damage from the sun. This is because the atmosphere is thinner as you travel higher above sea level. If you’re planning to go hiking, rock climbing, or any other activity in the mountains, be extra vigilant about wearing SPF, protecting your skin from the elements and wearing appropriate eye protection.

 

 

Sources: mdanderson.org, skincancer.org

 

 

DFD’s Guide to Ticks

Tick counts have been on the rise in Maine and along with them tick-borne disease and illnesses. To keep yourself, your family and your pets protected refer to our tick guide regularly.

Identification

There are over 15 different types of ticks present in Maine. The most common are dog and deer ticks.

  • Deer Tick also called black-legged tick. The size of a deer tick will vary depending on the stage of its life cycle. An adult female has a reddish-brown body, while a male is dark brown. Deer ticks are known to cause Lyme disease, anaplasmosis, babesiosis and Powassan. These infections and diseases have potentially serious consequences if not treated immediately.
  • Dog Tick also called a wood tick. Adult female and males are a dark brown color with males sometimes having spots on its back. Dog ticks are not known to transmit Lyme disease.

NOTE: Dog ticks are NOT active in October and November. Almost all ticks found at this time are deer ticks.

Prevention

There are many things you can do to help prevent ticks from attaching themselves to you, your family or your pets.

Property

  • Clear leaf litter away from your house.
  • Move picnic tables, swing sets or play areas away from wooded areas
  • Stack firewood in neat piles off the ground
  • Create a 3′ barrier between yard and wooded areas using wood chips
  • Keep grass cut short; don’t let long grasses or weeds grow in your yard
  • Discourage wildlife (rodents, deer) from entering your property by cleaning up trash or food sources

Pets

  • Keep pets away from tall grasses, wooded areas or habitats where it’s likely ticks are abundant
  • Spray pets with a safe tick spray or bug repellant
  • Give your pets a vaccine or tick/flea preventative medication
  • Check your pets daily for signs of tick bites, attached ticks, or ticks hiding in fur. Be sure to look in/around ears, between toes and paw pads, belly and base of tail.

NOTE: If your pet has signs of fatigue, lameness, fever or lack of appetite, call your veterinarian right away.

Family

  • Use insect repellant whenever spending time outdoors
  • Wear light-colored, long-sleeved clothing to better see ticks
  • Tuck your pant legs into your socks if walking in tall grass or wooded areas
  • After being outdoors, place clothes in dryer on high heat for at least 10 mins
  • A shower will rinse off any unattached ticks
  • Avoid areas known to inhabit ticks

Tick Checks

Checking yourself, your family and your pets for ticks should be done consistently, carefully and immediately after spending time outdoors, especially in areas and during times when ticks are most active.

  1. Run fingers through your hair, hairline and through your scalp, feeling for any bumps. Use a comb to brush through hair, looking for unattached ticks.
  2. Check in and around your ears and neck.
  3. Carefully look between fingers and toes.
  4. Check behind knees and underarms—these are favorites for ticks as they’re warm and secure places to hide.
  5. Look around belly button, between legs and on your back. Use a mirror or have someone help you.
  6. Scan your entire body carefully, looking for anything unusual. Ticks can often resemble freckles or moles.

Removal

If you find a tick on yourself or your pet, it’s important to remove it immediately. Tick-borne disease and infections including Lyme, are usually transmitted within 36 hours of the initial tick bite. Act fast to prevent illness.

  • Using tweezers: Grab the tick as close to your skin as possible. Pull up with even and steady pressure. Try not to twist or jerk while removing a tick as this could cause material to get stuck in your skin which may increase inflammation or discomfort.
  • Using a tick spoon/remover: Place the notch of the spoon tightly against skin close to the tick. Applying downward pressure, slide spoon toward tick so that it gets caught in the notch. Continue sliding the spoon against skin until tick detaches. Do not lift up spoon or try to pry away from skin.

Once tick is removed, examine the bite wound for any potential tick material left in the skin. Thoroughly cleanse skin with warm soap and water. Dispose of the tick by placing it in alcohol or flushing it down the toilet.

NOTE: If you experience a rash, headaches, fever or flu-like symptoms after a recent tick bite, call your healthcare provider right away.

Lyme disease

Lyme disease is the most reported infectious tick-borne disease in Maine. If not treated right away, there could be dangerous consequences to your health. Remember, your pets can also contract Lyme diseases and other serious infections.

Symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • General unease
  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Headache
  • Chills, fever

If left untreated or undetected, other more serious symptoms may develop. These may include:

  • Hot, swollen joints
  • Shooting pain
  • Paralysis on one side of face
  • Dizziness

NOTE: Most cases of Lyme disease respond very well to antibiotics especially if treated early.

Tick Risk

It’s important to know the risk levels associated with ticks and potential tick bites. The following information can also be found on Maine Medical Center’s Research Institute webpage.

Location

Low risk: Northern and northwestern Maine. Few ticks live in this region of the state.
Medium risk: Central and Downeast Maine. This climate is ideal for deer ticks to live.
High risk: Southern and coastal Maine. Deer ticks are established, reproducing and moving north.

Seasons

Low risk: Winter from December to March ticks are less active.
Medium risk: Late summer/early fall particularly August and September.
High risk: Spring, summer and mid-fall months are when deer ticks are highly active.

Property

Low risk: Urban areas and cities where there is little wildlife and trees.
Medium risk: Areas where there are some shrubs, leaf litter and bordering trees.
High risk: Wooded areas with active wildlife and lots of leaf litter.

Activity

Low risk: If you rarely spend time outdoors or if you only do during winter.
Medium risk: If you occasionally spend time outdoors, working or playing.
High risk: If you work and play outdoors often, especially in ticks established areas.

Are You Tick Smart?

Ticks thrive in Maine’s wooded and unmaintained areas, such as high grass and leaf debris. They are particularly established in southern and coastal parts of the state. This year is an especially high-risk season but there’s no need to be afraid as long as you’re being tick smart.

Prevent ticks from reaching your backyard:

  • Maintain your yard by mowing grass regularly and attending to leaves, shrubs, etc.
  • Wear long-sleeved and light-colored clothing
  • Use insect repellant with at least 20% Deet
  • Have your pets vaccinated or medicated against ticks
  • Have a professional spray a perimeter pesticide

 

MYTH: Ticks die every winter.

Check yourself every day for ticks that may have hitched a ride:

  • Have a partner/parent help to check areas you can’t easily see
  • Check between toes, hands, underarms, behind the knees, around and in ears and hair
  • Shower after being outside—this helps wash off any ticks
  • Don’t re-wear outdoor clothes; tumble dry on high to kill ticks trapped in clothing

 

MYTH: Every type of tick carries disease.

If you see a tick attached to your skin, remove it immediately. It takes 36 hours for bacteria to leave the tick and be injected into your body.

  • With tweezers: pull upward with steady, even pressure. Don’t jerk or twist—this may cause tick material to stay in your skin.
  • With a tick spoon: apply slight downward pressure to skin and push forward under the tick’s body.
  • Do not crush the tick with your fingers! Put in alcohol or flush it down the toilet.
  • Wash your hands immediately and soak tweezers in alcohol, if needed.

 

MYTH: You’ll know if you get a tick bite.

If you were recently bitten by a tick and removal was successful, it’s still important to check your skin. If you have a rash, headaches, fever and flu-like symptoms after a tick bite, call your primary care provider right away.

March is National Nutrition Month

Join DFD all month long in celebrating National Nutrition Month! A foundation of good nutrition habits is key in preventing disease, staying healthy, and living a longer life.

Did you know?

  • 65% of Mainers are obese or overweight
  • By 2030, half of all Americans will be obese
  • 80% of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes cases could be prevented by diet and lifestyle changes

Take your health into your own hands! A great place to start is to begin to introduce new foods, rather than restricting foods as “off limits.” Add in more berries at breakfast, nuts and seeds for snacking, and more vegetables on your dinner plate. Nutritious eating leads to more energy, which leads to more physical activity – both leading to a higher quality of life.

DFD Celebrates Go Red for Women

Join DFD on February 1 as we wear red to raise awareness of the #1 killer of women: heart disease. Let’s fight together for our mothers, sisters, aunts and loved ones against this growing epidemic.

Did You Know?

  • Only 54% of women know heart disease is their #1 killer.
  • Heart disease is responsible for 1 in 4 female deaths every year.
  • 200,000 heart disease deaths could be prevented each year.

At DFD we’re committed to preventative health. Changing your lifestyle can prevent heart disease:

  • Get Active. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity every day.
  • Eat Healthy. Choose fruits, veggies and lean meats. Limit salt and sugars.
  • Quit Smoking. Quitting is the best thing you can do for your health. Ask us about our smoking cessation program to help you kick the habit for good.