We are ALL the Face of Arthritis

Autoimmune diseases bring a whole different set of problems. There's no reason to try and deal alone. Why not be in it together?
We would LOVE to feature your stories and opinions- email us at contribute@thefaceofarthritis.com !

Monday, April 27, 2015

Excuse the flaky timing...

Life under construction

... we're currently in the process of moving from one apartment to another (and not in New Jersey as previously expected, le sigh) and things have become a bit of a scramble around here.
But don't worry,  I'm writing in my journal whenever I have a blog idea, I'll have plenty to write about whenever I have the chance to sit down at the computer.
So bear with me for a bit.  And keep giving me ideas for what you want to hear about!

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Continuing to make your phone smarter


Price: Free or $$$ (Paid Subscription)
So this one can either be free, or be a paid subscription. It is a combination "get fit" program, which combines food tracking with exercise management, it even has a pedometer built in. With the paid subscription you get a "coach" program out of it which looks at what your hopes are (lose weight, eat better, etc) and gives advise and goals for each day to help you get there. There is also a "groups" feature included where you can join a "support group" of people with similar goals and lifestyles as you, and share your progress and chat.
You can tell that I'm not allowed to carry my phone at work.
 And that I was bad with choices in foods today.
No judge?
My number one favorite thing about this app is that while it does ask that you watch your caloric intake, it does not focus on that number. Instead, there is a pie chart of green, yellow, and red foods. Each food you eat (many store bought or restaurant options are already in the database with their information logged) is assigned one of these colors, and I bet you can guess what they mean: green foods are an all you can eat option; yellows are OK in moderation, but have something about them that needs to be monitored, such as sodium or fat content; red is obviously a food you really shouldn't eat much of at all. So although you have a calorie goal for the day (which it adjusts if you track exercise for the day, giving you more calories) it stresses the need for those calories to be spaced over the color groups in a certain percentage. The calorie goal itself is based off of how much weight you want to lose, how quickly, how much you weigh currently, how tall you are, and all of that awesome index stuff.
So theoretically, I am going to walk on Wednesday,
and do Yoga on Thursday.
You can create a schedule for your exercise in the app as well. So you can tell it Monday is a Yoga day, and you want to work out at 6:00. An alarm will go off at 6:00 (or earlier if you want advance notice) reminding you that it's time for yoga. If you don't log the workout, you get a mark and it will show you on your calendar that you missed it. You can also log a workout later if you forgot to tell it you were working out, or if you didn't want to hold your phone while you lifted weights or something. You literally get bonus points for unscheduled workouts.
Everything in this app that deals with calories stresses that approximation is key. They are really trying to make you focus more on that pie chart (omg pie, yum) and less on the numbers on a scale or in a food index. I love this because, if you're eating healthy and the way you're supposed to, then the majority of people will end up at their ideal weight. And by ideal I of course mean "naturally ideal" not, "I want the scale to say 120 pounds before I get married or I'll die." This app is all about helping you fix your health, not your scale.

Sleep As AnDroid

Price: $
So this one is only free for 14 days, but I think its worth the little bit of money. It tracks your sleep patterns by monitoring the movement on your mattress (omg cue the corny sex joke, please.) You can also set it to record on the microphone all night, tracking when you snore or talk. The software is able to distinguish the difference and marks places for you on a graph showing how often you did either, then you can listen to see what was going on. This is especially awesome if you have sleep apnea because you will be able to see how often you stopped breathing. It lets you see the sound graph next to the graph of what level of sleep you were in, so you can see when you're snoring more.

Obviously it isn't 100% accurate. For instance, it doesn't register me as "awake" at any point during the night, only "light sleep". I even tried picking up the  phone and carrying it with me to the bathroom, but it still only said "light sleep". I don't mind it because I can estimate which places I was awake for.


AccuWeather's Surface and Jet Stream Map
Hell, I hate proving my meteorology professor right.
Price: Free
So this isn't an app, but it is still an integral part of my smart phone life. It shows where the pressure systems are and how they are projected to move over a 72 hourish period. I know that not everyone is sensitive to barometric changes, but if you are, this  is a lifesaver. I can tell you 95% of the time whether there is a low pressure system near by. The other 5% I don't bother looking it up to confirm.
The reigning theory on Arthritis-Patient-As-Barometer is that when the surface pressure is low there is less external force holding joint tissue in place, which means you may swell more or feel more discomfort because your joints are like teenagers who just got a driver's license. Along the same vein, a dramatic change in pressure can cause discomfort because the joint tissues can't acclimate quickly enough. So even if a high pressure system is moving in and you should feel better, if its moving quickly you might feel it until the front has passed.
Obviously this website won't fix anything for you, but you can at least be prepared. Also, predicting the weather and then proving to people you were right is a neat party trick.

Remember to send any suggestions to contribute@thefaceofarthritis.com to be featured in upcoming articles!

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Make your smartphone your smartest asset.

I say all the time that I see a lot of geriatric patients. And so many of them don't have smart phones- they say they don't need all that extra stuff and they won't succumb to it.  I totally understand that it can be kind of overwhelming and may seem like a bunch of stuff you don't need, but that isn't because of your age.  There's a ton of stuff on mine that I don't need, and there's exponentially more available in the app store that I wouldn't know what to do with if I even knew it existed. So you can't really tell me that its "too much" for you.  The beauty of it is that you can make it exactly how much you need.
And so, since my mother always taught me to share, I'm sharing with you the best apps I've found for dealing with the day to day of our complicated lives. 

Life organization
Sometimes it's hard to keep up with all of the pieces of  life. Even without chronic pain, or lack of sleep,  or wicked strong poisonous medications a person can end up seriously overwhelmed. For that, I use a couple of things.

Price: Free or $$ (premium subscription)

I've been using Evernote since I got my first smart phone.  The app  is just plain amazing.  You can create lists, or text documents. You can take photos and store them in a document. What is truly awesome is that you can create tags for your stuff, so you can tag a photo of a drug bottle as "meds" and then when you're at a doctor's office, just pull up all of your documents tagged "meds" and there they are.
Or, you can create notebooks. So I have notebooks for everything from work, to medical information, to blog notes. What I love is that it creates an easy to interface environment- all of my allergies, past surgeries, current meds, etc are listed with easy access so if something happened to me all my husband has to do at the hospital is pull up the notebook for my health information.

Google Keep
Price: Free
Oh. My. God. This is the mecca of organization tools. At its heart it is a classic digital post it style app. However- Google has taken everything to the next level.  There is your standard color coding option, to make it visually easy to see what your to do list looks like. But they have added the ability to add tags as well, which once again means it is easy to find all notes pertaining to what you are looking for. 
Notice the tags at the bottom right corner of
each, as well as the icon that indicates the
note is shared on the "DO TAXES" note.
The red icon of a red blobby thing (I don't
have my glasses right now) is his icon
and means that he has the ability to edit
this note.
My favorite feature, however, is the reminders. Many digital post it apps have started allowing remi
nders to be set like  alarms to go off at a certain date or time. But with this app Google has integrated your GPS, meaning you can set reminders FOR A SPECIFIC PLACE. So if I keep forgetting make up remover when I go to Target, I can make myself a note when I remember (usually right when I get home) then set it to go off the next time I'm at Target. And lo and behold, the next time I walk into Target, my phone beeps at me with a message saying "Go get your make up remover, stupid!" (I'm not very nice to myself in these notes.) So if you're like me and seem to forget that you had a list for the grocery  store, you can set a reminder and when you walk in- BAM, you won't forget any more. (Also handy is making a note for the time I get off work, so I'll remember to actually go to the store, bank, whatever.)

Health Organization
Price: Free or $ (Paid)
I wish I had had this app in college. (I wish smart phones had existed then too but, whatever, time travel.) It is exactly what it sounds like: you put in your medication with as much or as little information as you want. You can set a

reminder to go off when you're supposed to take it, and you check off whether you took it or skipped it. Which is amazing if you sometimes can't remember if you already took your Lyrica or whatever. And it can be a lifesaver for those weekly meds that I often forget about until days later.
Note the tabs for "Schedule", "Inventory", and "Contact".
When I say you can put as much or as little information in there, I mean that. You can put in your dosage, how often you take it, who the prescribing doctor is, what your preferred pharmacy is, even what the refill number is. You can put in what quantity you get at a time (like 30 pills for a daily med), and it will remind you when you are getting low. You can put how many refills it came with, and if you mark it each time you refill it, it will update your supply, and warn you when you are out of refills. This feature is awesome for PRN meds like tramadol, opiates, xanax, etc
I can't even imagine how much better I would have been about taking my birth control in college with this thing.

Next time we'll look at some more health organization choices, as well as a couple of other random treats!  In the mean time, do you have any suggestions for fellow readers? Submit them at contribute@thefaceofarthritis.com and I may feature them in the next post!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


So it turns out my car's battery was only running at 1/3 its capacity. And that meant I got to drop some serious cash for a new one: now its back at full capacity.

Where can I go to get one of those for myself?