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November is Fall Prevention Month!

 

In 2014, a number of organizations across Canada came together to promote a campaign called Fall Prevention Month. During the month of November, this campaign encourages organizations and individuals to come together to coordinate fall prevention efforts for a larger impact. The goal is to collectively raise awareness about fall prevention strategies and to help everyone see their role in keeping older adults safe, active, independent and healthy.

 

older man walking in the autumn weather

 

How do falls impact seniors?

 

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury for Ontarians aged 65 and over. About 20 to 30% of seniors experience 1 or more falls each year. 

 

Falls cause:

  • 85 % of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations
  • 95 % of all hip fractures 
  • 50% of all falls causing hospitalization happens at home

  • Over 1/3 of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall

  • The average Canadian seniors stay in the hospital 10 days longer for falls than any other cause
  • Falls result in chronic pain, reduced mobility, loss of independence and even death 

Recovering from a fall can be very difficult and with an increasing number of falls, it is important we take measures to prevent them.

 

How can you prevent falls?

 

The good news is that falls are preventable injuries! There are five key factors that caregivers and seniors should consider in order to prevent falls.

 

Eyesight – Vision is an important part of balance and good vision helps to prevent falls. Your elderly loved one could be experiencing vision loss or a condition, such as macular degeneration which is not a part of normal ageing. Everyone who is over the age of 65 should have their vision checked every year. 

 

Your home – If you have clutter on your floors or stairs, it increases the chance of tripping and/or slipping. Make sure cords, scattered rugs, pet toys, books, etc. are in their proper place. Also, if your home is dark it increases the chance of falling, especially on stairs. Make sure to create a space that is well-lit! 

 

someone wearing orange running shoes and walking upstairs

 

Exercise - the most important thing you can do to prevent falls is to stay and remain strong! Walking, fishing, gardening, tai chi. Light yoga – whatever you enjoy! – do it to increase activity levels. At Warm Embrace elder care, our caregivers can help encourage and motivate your elderly loved one to stay active through our program called Tiered Exercise Program.

 

Medication – Some medications cause dizziness on their own, or when mixed with others. It’s important to properly manage your health! Always take medication as directed and ask your pharmacist to review them if you are taking more than 2 medications.

 

Eating a healthy diet Vitamin D and calcium help to keep strong bones. A diet to include more greens, lean protein, and less sugar will help you in remaining strong. You may want to talk to your doctor about supplements or other alternatives. 

 

Most of all, don’t do it alone!

 

It takes a community to prevent a fall and we all have a role to play. Here at Warm Embrace, we have a wonderful team of caregivers who can help you and your loved one to remain safe at home.

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Change is scary but it doesn’t have to be

 

You’re worried about your parents and you think they could use more help.  You suggested home care, but they wouldn’t hear of it.  They told you: “we’ve managed just fine on our own this long, we don’t need any help.” What they're really saying is that they don't want to face change. That's because change is scary.

 

Change is scary for all of us, at some level. Each person has a different tolerance for change, and it might take a lot more change to scare some people than others. But if you introduce a drastic enough change, eventually, any of us would feel trepidation about that change.

 

It’s little wonder then, that for seniors in their 80’s or 90’s, the thought of even a small change can be quite scary. After eight or nine decades, they are likely pretty set in their ways. They want things done a certain way; they want to keep their environment the same. As long as everything remains the same, it feels more manageable. It might help your parents to understand that home care is all about reducing the amount of change that your parents will experience. 

 

Warm Embrace caregivers are trained to match each client's specific preferences. 

 

an elderly person's hands

 

Caregivers DO NOT barge into a client’s home and just take over. Caregivers DO wait to be invited in, and they ASK permission to proceed. They ask how that particular client prefers the laundry or housekeeping to be done. They cook from the client’s recipes or directions to match their particular tastes.   They help to keep clients’ lives consistent.

 

Homecare is one of the best prevention strategies for one of the biggest possible life changes: admission to a long-term care home.  Moving to long term care is a HUGE change—absolutely every single element of someone’s routine is changed. From the time they get out of bed, to when they eat, and whether they wear pyjamas to breakfast—everything is adjusted to match the schedule of the long-term care home.

 

Homecare ensures that individual clients maintain their own personal routine, they maintain their home, they maintain familiar comforts.  Caregivers match clients, rather than clients matching caregivers.  It reduces the amount of change they must experience.

 

Since home care is completely client-focused, each client calls the shots. The client decides what they’re doing each day and how they want things done and in which order.  It is very empowering for seniors to get to make all the decisions that impact their own day-to-day living.  Homecare grants this level of autonomy and independence.

 

Help your parents see that home care will ensure the least amount of change and help to maintain the lifestyle that they know and love. 

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Exercise is Key to Health Living!


When asked “how much do you exercise?” the answer is invariably “not enough!”  We know that we should exercise more, but do we know what the consequences are if we fail to exercise regularly?

 

Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke (as well as other many other illnesses such as diabetes and even dementia).  It is a risk factor that we have control over, so we should reduce our risk!

 

How much exercise do we really need?


The official guidelines from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity. That’s it!  That’s an attainable goal—within reach, even for people who aren’t accustomed to exercise. Even 10-minute increments of activity count toward the total of 150 minutes.


Asian couple smiling as they hike on a boardwalk with backpacks.


Of course, 150 minutes doesn’t need to be a limit.  More activity is even better.  The guideline is a base limit for how much activity adults (middle age, baby boomers, seniors, and even the frail elderly) require each week.

Which activities count toward your 150 minutes? 

The good news is that going to the gym is not your only option! Walking is a simple and easy heart-healthy activity and counts toward your minutes.  Even household activities can count—vigorous cleaning, gardening and yard work all elevate your heart rate and get your blood pumping, and that’s the goal of physical activity!

 

Read our blog on how you can disguise exercise for your elderly loved one.

 

older woman wearing a sun hat as she prunes pink flowers

 

I find it encouraging to measure exercise in terms of 150 minutes weekly because it allows for flexibility.  In contrast, if you measure exercise as ’30 minutes most days of the week’, the focus is on 30-minute intervals, and missing a few days in a week can feel like an overall failure.


For the frail seniors who are utilizing our Triple Vitality program, they appreciate the flexibility in measuring total minutes over the course of a week.  Ten-minute increments feel very accessible.  Frail seniors can manage 10 minutes of light exercise!  Thirty minutes may be out of reach when we first start, but 10-minute activity sessions throughout the day add up quickly!


Our clients are so encouraged by the progress that they experience.  You can feel the benefits of exercise very quickly.  Increased energy and stamina, renewed interest in activities, reduced stress, better sleeping and digestion, are all immediate benefits to exercise.  Knowing that you are contributing to improved overall health and reducing your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses only increases the incentive to continue being active!


older woman in a navy shirt and a older man in a light blue shirt doing bicep curls with dumbbells


Be sure to track your minutes of activity this week and see how close you are to the recommended minimum of 150 minutes.  Remember that 10 minutes of activity at a time can count toward your total!

If you know someone who is elderly and they are unsure about how to become active, be sure to contact Warm Embrace.  Our Triple Vitality program is specifically designed for the frail elderly who need assistance to become active.  We love to make a healthy, proactive difference in people’s lives, regardless of age!

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8 Tips to Stay Cool this Summer!

 

We are all relieved when the snow finally melts, and the mucky spring weather turns into the balmy days of summer. But do you know how to stay cool and healthy in the summer heat?

 

Many people are aware of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which can cause sunburns. Wearing sunscreen is always advised! But there are other concerns about heat, even if you avoid direct sunshine.

 

 

Heat exhaustion can occur from prolonged exposure to high temperatures and insufficient fluid intake. It can range from heat cramps to a severe form of heat stroke. Symptoms may include excessive sweating, cool, pale, and clammy skin, weakness, nausea, headache, dizziness, and elevated body temperature. If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, they need to be moved to a cooler place, have their clothing loosened or removed, and they need to drink plenty of cool liquids.

 

8 Tips to keep seniors (or anyone else!) safe in the summer heat:

 

1. Keep well hydrated! Drink eight or more glasses of water daily. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink! Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and sugary beverages, as they may dehydrate rather than hydrate.

 

 

2. Dress Appropriately! Wear loose-fitting and light-weight clothing.

 

3. Air Conditioning is your best friend! Remain indoors in the extreme heat and utilize air conditioning. If you do not have air conditioning in your home, go to a public place such as a library or shopping mall. Even a few hours of relief from the heat can prevent heat stroke.

 

4. Electric fans aren’t always the best. Keep the house as cool as possible by keeping shades closed during the hottest part of the day. An electric fan may feel comfortable, but it does not prevent heat-related illness if temperatures soar into the mid-30’s Celsius.

 

5. Cool down! Take a cool bath, shower, or sponge bath to lower your body temperature. Don’t have the time? Then wet washcloths or towels with cool water and put them on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck.

 

6. Enjoy outdoor activities in the early morning or the evening when the heat is not as severe. Don’t forget to use the broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and if it’s sunny wear a hat and a pair of sunglasses.

 

 

7. Stayed Shaded when you are outside. Even in the early mornings and evenings, stick to the shade so you aren’t as exposed to the sun’s rays.

 

8.Know the signs of heat exhaustion so that you can get immediate assistance. Some symptoms to watch for are throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, hot dry skin with no sweat, muscles weakness, cramps and trouble breathing,

 

Enjoy a safe and healthy summer!
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Let's Celebrate Our Nurses

 

Nurses Week is celebrated every year in May. This year let's go above and beyond to show our appreciation to our local nurses. During this time, our nurses are our frontline heroes. They are putting in long hours at hospitals, clinics, retirement homes, long term care homes, etc. They are working to keep you and me safe during these times, and that's why we – as the community – should express our appreciation. 

 

thank you sign on the side of the road

 

Let's work together to celebrate our nurses! Here are 6 ways you can celebrate Nurses Week!

 

1. Write a heartfelt card

  • You can write encouraging thank you cards to nurses at your local hospital and long term care homes. 

2. Mail a grocery store gift card

  • Why not leave a little present inside the card? You can pre-order grocery store gift cards online or the next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a couple of gift cards.

3. Bake or cook a homemade meal

  • If you know a nurse personally, make him/her a warm home-cooked meal or some delicious baked goods. It'll be one less task they'll do once they're home from a long workday.

4. Donate Personal Protective Equipment

  • If you're crafty, sew masks for nurses and if you're not, you can always donate to an organization that's distributing PPE. Keep it local and donate to local organizations and businesses.  

5. Join a community celebration

  • You can join an organized parade to celebrate nurses at the local hospital. 
  • If you live on a busy street, start a poster campaign with your neighbours! Create large posters that say "Thank you!" and display them on your porch, lawn or bay window. As frontline workers drive-by they can read your poster. 

6. Praise their hard work on social media

  • Post an appreciation post on your personal social media account! If you are looking for social media content like and share our material from our Facebook page.

Let's work together to show our frontline heroes how much we appreciate their hard work. Let's go beyond words of appreciation, let's take action. Comment and share on how you are going to celebrate Nurses Week!

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Grieving the Loss of Your Health

 

When a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness or a degenerative disease, the diagnosis affects the whole family.  It is easy to overlook the ways in which other family members are also impacted by chronic illness because the focus is upon the person who is unwell. 


In the flurried rush of attempting to care for the person with the new diagnosis, families are often unaware that the emotional response they are experiencing is grief.  People sometimes assume that grief only applies if there has been a death in the family, but people experience grief from many types of losses.


Grief is our human response to a loss.  It is primarily an emotional response, but it can also have other dimensions too (physical, cognitive, social, spiritual, etc.).  When a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, family members may grieve.  For many family members, the grief is complicated by the fact that they are still in the throes of family caregiving, and they may be expected to remain “the strong one” for the sake of the family.

 


Grief is not a linear process that moves predictably through various stages.  While there may be stages to grief, those stages are not sequential; there is no graduation from one step to the next.  Each individual may experience various elements of grief at different times and remain with one stage for a long time, or they may move through various stages rapidly all within one day. There is no correct way to grieve, and there is no such thing as “failing at grief”.  It is an individual journey and process for each person.


There can be triggers for grief, and those triggers are as individual as the grief process.  A trigger could be something like hearing a favourite song that you once danced to with your spouse, and grieving that your spouse can no longer dance.  A trigger might also be a daily routine that has suddenly become difficult, and grieving the loss of ability or independence that changes gradually. 

 

For many families, there is grief over the loss of a role within the family.  It might be the role of primary provider if employment is reduced; it might be the role of fix-it-man around the house and no longer being able to operate tools; it might be the role of coordinating family events and family members feel scattered and disconnected. The change of roles and responsibilities can be a difficult transition and grieving those changes is a normal—even healthy and expected—response.

 

 

Grieving is an action.  It requires effort and work.  The goal of grief is not “to get over it”.  Unfortunately, many families feel that the message from friends and sometimes even health care professionals is that they should “get over it” or “get back to normal.”  When a family member is coping with a chronic illness, returning to “normal” is no longer an option. 

 

The previous version of normal doesn’t exist.  Illness has redefined what normal will be like.  The goal is to adjust to a new normal—adjusting to the illness as a new reality of life, and recognizing that this will alter many aspects of life.  Once families have begun to adjust to their new normal, they can begin to see hope for a newly defined future.


Instead of looking for a reason that the illness is present within the family, seeking meaning can be a lot more helpful.  Seeking meaning is looking for a silver lining—acknowledging that a difficult situation is the reality, but perhaps there can be some wonderful moments that are significant. 

 

 

While this may seem like a subtle shift in mentality, it can result in vastly different feelings.  Looking for reasons suggests that someone had to experience the illness in order to learn a certain lesson; looking for meaning is acknowledging that the illness has happened, and finding glimmers of hope will make the journey more meaningful.


How can you best support someone who may be grieving because of an unwell family member? 

 

The most important thing you can do is to remain connected.  Family caregivers constantly report that their closest friends and even other family members distance themselves because they don't know how to help, or they don’t want to impose. 

 

One gentleman laments that while his wife was palliative, she had so few visitors.  She felt the greatest relief from pain while a visitor was present, and her husband expressed this to friends and family, but few visitors came to the house because they did not want to impose.  Visitors weren’t seen as an imposition, but as a welcome relief. 


The greatest thing you can do is to ask how you can best be supportive, and then LISTEN!  Truly listen.

 


Allow family members to tell you what they need and what they want.  Most of all, they will appreciate a listening ear who acknowledges their challenges and validates their feelings and experiences.  Pre-judging or assuming what someone is thinking/feeling is not helpful. 

 

A woman remarked that the comment “but you look so well!” (or that her husband, for whom she cares, “looks so well”) to not be helpful.  While it is intended as a compliment, it shuts down any conversation about how she is truly feeling.  She would prefer that someone just ask her how she is feeling, and be open to a conversation.

 

To best support someone else, be a listening ear and don’t distance yourself.  Remember that the person with the illness as well as the whole family is adjusting to a new sense of normal. 

 

Be wary of judgmental statements such as “things happen for a reason”, and instead help others to see some of the meaningful moments that have touched you and might also touch them.

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Why Bed rest isn't always a good thing

 

Avoid bed rest at all costs!

 

No one gets excited at the idea of being on bed rest. We can all agree it’s not something we would necessarily want to experience. What we may not realize is just how risky bedrest can be, especially for the elderly.

 

Bed rest most commonly occurs within the hospital, but can definitely happen at home as well.  When an elderly person is admitted to the hospital, they typically remain in bed. While they may not have been “put on bedrest” by doctor’s orders, the outcome is that they tend to remain in bed. Our hospital system is set up in such a way that those who are admitted to the hospital largely remain in bed all day long.

 

 

The problem is that remaining in bed all day long is one of the worst ways to recover from almost anything!

 

Bed rest limits someone’s physical activity to little more than a few steps to and from the washroom, a few times daily. That is not enough physical activity to maintain muscle mass.

 

The data proves that with an alarming statistic:

 

For every day of bed rest, the frail elderly lose 5% of their mobility.

 

Consider how long an elderly person tends to be in a hospital. Once admitted, most elderly patients are hospitalized for at least a number of days, but upwards of a week or ten days wouldn’t be uncommon. After a week of bed rest, 35% of mobility is lost! If someone is unfortunate enough to be in the hospital for two weeks—which is all too common—on average they would lose 70% of their mobility. 

 

That's a very high risk!

 

 

That could mean that prior to hospitalization, someone was living independently and walking without any aides. After two weeks in the hospital, that same person now requires a walker and struggles to get out of bed or out of a chair.  That’s a drastic change in their ability level and independence. It will significantly impact the quality of daily life.

 

With such a high risk of losing mobility on each day of bed rest, you can see why it is critical to keep people up and moving as much as possible (unless expressly prohibited by doctor’s orders).  Seniors should be encouraged to sit up and get out of bed and into a chair, stand up and sit down numerous times to keep leg muscles strong and do exercises either seated in a chair or passive exercises in the bed.

 

Even just sitting up straight in a chair is beneficial since it is typically easier for people to breathe deeply or cough and expel when they’re upright versus lying down.  Many elderly patients are at high risk of developing pneumonia while in hospital, and failing to sit up, breathe deeply, cough and expel can increase that risk. Developing pneumonia will lengthen a hospital stay, which increases the likely number of days on bedrest—meaning more days of losing 5% mobility each day!

 

 

Unless a medical condition or injury specifically requires immobilized bed rest, remaining active in any possible way is absolutely essential to recovery and long-term maintenance of mobility and muscle mass.

 

Next time you’re visiting a senior in the hospital, have them sit up or get out of bed and into the chair.

 

You just might be helping to save their mobility and prevent the 5% daily loss!

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Healing versus Curing

 

What is the difference between curing and healing? When we seek medical attention, are we hoping to be cured or hoping to be healed?

 


Dr. Mark Greenberg grapples with the issue of being cured versus being healed on a daily basis.  Dr. Greenberg is a pediatric oncologist at The Hospital for Sick Children and has received the Order of Canada (2011) for his work.


In his TEDx address, Dr. Greenberg outlined the difference between being cured and being healed.  When we seek medical intervention, we are looking to be cured of whatever ailment sent us to the doctor in the first place.  We believe that we (or at least the doctors) have some semblance of control over the health care being provided.  If we follow doctors’ orders, we expect to be cured.


Healing, however, is an entirely different issue.  When someone suffers from a life-threatening illness, being physically cured is only the beginning.  Life-threatening illness requires healing.  Healing is more than just a physical process; it is also a psychological, social, and societal issue.  It includes the patient directly, as well as the patient’s family, social network, and support system.  Healing involves adapting to the new physical state of the patient and may include coping with emotional scarring.

 


Dr. Greenberg explains that coping with a life-threatening illness is the ultimate loss of control.  It defies our Western mythology that if we work hard enough and are good people, then all will be fine.  Grappling with this loss of control in the face of life-threatening illness plays out in family interactions and in dealing with doctors.  Far too often, patients are physically cured, but they never fully heal.  Dr. Greenberg asserts that compassion for the individual, rather than a focus on control of outcomes, leads to more comprehensive healing.


Healing is a psychological, social, and societal issue with implications beyond the individual, reaching to the health care system as a whole. Therefore, your family physician alone cannot help your loved one through the healing process; what your loved one needs is a team of people. 

 

 

Adapting to a new physical state can be difficult that is why your loved one needs a team comprising of you, their doctor(s), nurses and caregivers. Wherever your loved one might be living, the help of a professional caregiver can provide them with social and physical support.

 
You don't have to go through the curing or healing process alone. 
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My Loved One has Fallen! What's Next?

 

A resident named, Delores, fell three times in two weeks. Her third fall landed her in the hospital where she remained for 10 days.  She was at risk of falling previously, but now, after 10 days of deconditioning in the hospital, her risk is even higher.

 

Delores has long been on the waitlist for long term care, but now that her needs have escalated, her care is beyond what can be safely managed within a retirement setting.

 

To escalate her placement on the LTC waitlist, Delores had to be discharged from the hospital under the Home First LHIN strategy.  She went back to her residence after her 10-day hospital stay.

 

Now that Delores is in the community, she can be reassessed for long term care and be considered a crisis level. Even if someone is on the crisis list though, it doesn’t mean that a bed is immediately available.

 

Delores may still be waiting for weeks—or longer—for a suitable LTC placement to become available.

 

In the meantime, Delores is in your care, and she’s at an extremely high risk of falling. You are now worried that she cannot be left alone since she forgets that she is at risk of falling and she is inclined to get up and try to walk without her walker. Since her previous three falls were all attempts to make it to the washroom, you are very well aware that she may attempt to rush to the washroom and fall yet again.

 

Warm Embrace can help to meet this need! 

 

If Delores is on the crisis waitlist for LTC and she needs 24/7 attendant care, the LHIN may provide some PSW support for various shifts. Warm Embrace can provide the rest. We can cover up to 24/7 care to ensure that Delores is never left alone.  We can help to bridge the gap before Delores receives a suitable placement in long term care. This way, Delores is safe and has the one-on-one attendant care that she needs. 

 

 

Just think how relieved you will feel, knowing that you can utilize the support of Warm Embrace when someone you know is awaiting crisis LTC placement.

 

 

 

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What happens after a hospital discharge?

 

One of your long-standing residents, Jean, has just been discharged after a ten-day stay in hospital.  She has been discharged back to your residence, but she has declined considerably in the past 10 days.

 

She lost quite a bit of her strength from being in bed all day at the hospital, and since she was catheterized, she’s struggling with incontinence now as well. Previously she was independent with personal care and was able to get to the dining room on her own.  Now, she’s needing help with toileting and sometimes she’s not even a one-person transfer.

 

Your care team were already stretched thin across residents with high needs.  There are key times of day when you simply don’t have enough staff available all at the same time.

 

That’s where Warm Embrace comes in

 

Jean needs a dedicated caregiver who can attend to her increased needs as she recovers from her hospital stay.  If she requires a two-person transfer assist, our caregiver can be one of the two required people.  Jean’s caregiver can attend to her toileting needs and assist her in getting to and from the dining room at a time when your staff have many other residents who need help getting to meals. 

 

 

Jean’s caregiver can work together with her on some strengthening exercises to help her return to a greater state of independence.  Of course, the goal is to help Jean remain independent enough to remain in your residence much longer.

 

If, however, Jean’s medical condition deteriorated while in the hospital to the point that she now qualifies for long term care placement, Jean’s caregiver will provide the assistance she needs while she remains in your residence awaiting placement.  With her increased needs, Jean may require more than your staff have the capacity to provide, especially when other residents also have many complex needs. 

 

If you have a resident like Jean who is returning from hospital, you can recommend that they implement a dedicated caregiver from Warm Embrace to help them as they recover.  We recognize that our role might vary depending on the goals of the resident and their health. Any combination of the following are possible:

 

 

  • Temporary assistance as your resident recovers from hospitalization/surgery/recent illness until they regain their strength and abilities and no longer need our help
  • Ongoing support to match your resident’s new ability level and needs, allowing them to remain living in your residence even though their needs have increased.
  • Crises support if your resident is awaiting long term care placement and their needs have drastically increased.

Our support ensures the resident has all the care they need after returning from the hospital, while also reducing strain on your staff. 

 

The next time you have a resident with a pending hospital discharge, remember to make Warm Embrace part of the planning process and have care in place for a smooth return to your residence.

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