Apr 30 2014
Ben LeGrow

WEST VALLEY CITY, UT - A stroke is a brain attack. It happens when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted and the brain doesn't get the oxygen it needs. Because the brain controls everything we do, feel, think and remember, damage to the brain affects these abilities. 

On April 16th at 4am, Esther was awakened by the fact that she couldn’t move the right side of her body. When she attempted to call for help, nothing would happen. Realizing that something was wrong, she pressed her button. Alertcare America team member Mackenzie G. responded to the call "Do you need help?” Esther attempted to respond but could only speak gibberish to Mackenzie. She was able to finally convey to Mackenzie that she was having a stroke. Immediately Mackenzie dispatched the paramedics. 

With the information that Mackenzie gave EMS, they rushed Esther to the hospital and began treatment for her stroke. 

Esther’s son commented: "We hadn’t even woken up by the time the ambulance was knocking on our door. It was very comforting to know that help was sent even while we were sleeping. Who knows how long my mother would’ve had to wait before we knew something had happened!”

Only 2 days prior to her stroke, Esther and her family had made the decision to get a PERS unit. 

Alertcare America was later told that Esther was in the hospital for a few days and is now home feeling much better and getting the therapy she needs.

Eye Health Tips
Simple Tips for Healthy EyesYour eyes are an important part of your health. There are many things you can do to keep them healthy and make sure you are seeing your best. Follow these simple steps for maintaining healthy eyes well into your golden years.

Have a comprehensive dilated eye exam. You might think your vision is fine or that your eyes are healthy, but visiting your eye care professional for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure. When it comes to common vision problems, some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses. In addition, many common eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and age-related macular degeneration often have no warning signs. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect these diseases in their early stages.

During a comprehensive dilated eye exam, your eye care professional places drops in your eyes to dilate, or widen, the pupil to allow more light to enter the eye the same way an open door lets more light into a dark room. This enables your eye care professional to get a good look at the back of the eyes and examine them for any signs of damage or disease. Your eye care professional is the only one who can determine if your eyes are healthy and if you’re seeing your best.

Know your family’s eye health history. Talk to your family members about their eye health history. It’s important to know if anyone has been diagnosed with a disease or condition since many are hereditary. This will help to determine if you are at higher risk for developing an eye disease or condition.

Eat right to protect your sight. You’ve heard carrots are good for your eyes. But eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, particularly dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, or collard greens is important for keeping your eyes healthy, too.iResearch has also shown there are eye health benefits from eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to vision loss, such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma. If you are having trouble maintaining a healthy weight, talk to your doctor.

Wear protective eyewear. Wear protective eyewear when playing sports or doing activities around the home. Protective eyewear includes safety glasses and goggles, safety shields, and eye guards specially designed to provide the correct protection for a certain activity. Most protective eyewear lenses are made of polycarbonate, which is 10 times stronger than other plastics. Many eye care providers sell protective eyewear, as do some sporting goods stores.

Quit smoking or never start. Smoking is as bad for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. Research has linked smoking to an increased risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.iiiii

Be cool and wear your shades. Sunglasses are a great fashion accessory, but their most important job is to protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. When purchasing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.

Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time at the computer or focusing on any one thing, you sometimes forget to blink and your eyes can get fatigued. Try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain.

Clean your hands and your contact lenses—properly. To avoid the risk of infection, always wash your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out your contact lenses. Make sure to disinfect contact lenses as instructed and replace them as appropriate.

Practice workplace eye safety. Employers are required to provide a safe work environment. When protective eyewear is required as a part of your job, make a habit of wearing the appropriate type at all times and encourage your coworkers to do the same.

i Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. The relationship of dietary carotenoid with vitamin A, E, and C intake with age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study. Archives of Ophthalmology; 2007; 125(9): 1225–1232.

iiAge-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Risk factors associated with age-related nuclear and cortical cataract. Ophthalmology; 2001; 108(8): 1400–1408.

iii U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Surgeon General. The Health Consequences of Smoking: A Report of the Surgeon General (Washington, D.C., 2004).

By Heather Hatfield
WebMD Magazine - Feature Reviewed by Eric Yabu, DDSDavid Leader, DMD, an assistant clinical professor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine in Boston, outlines eight oral care musts for a healthy mouth.

Recommended Related to Oral Health Posttransplantation Dental Treatment

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  1. Pay a visit. If you're prone to ditching the dentist, you're among the roughly 50% of adults in the United States who don't see a dentist yearly because of dental phobia, finances, or just plain neglect. But spend some quality time with your dentist (twice a year, the American Dental Association advises), and you'll catch problems such as decay, gum disease, trauma, or cancer at an early stage when they're treatable, not to mention more affordable to take care of.
  2. Count the years. Toddlers and older adults tend to fly under the dental health radar, but they need mouth maintenance just like the rest of us. Children should see a dentist by the time they're 1, and until they are coordinated enough to tie their own shoes they'll need help cleaning their teeth. Older folks have their own oral issues. Arthritis can make brushing and flossing challenging, and as people age, the amount of saliva they produce decreases, which means more tooth decay and also discomfort for those who wear dentures.
  3. Can the soda. Fizzy is fun but also part of the reason soda is so bad for your teeth. Two ingredients -- phosphoric acid and citric acid -- give soda its "bite" but also eat away at the surface of your teeth. Although the occasional soda won't hurt, a can or more a day makes your tooth enamel softer and more susceptible to cavities. Switch to water instead, adding flavor with sliced citrus or crushed berries or mint leaves.
  4. Don't sugarcoat it. Sugar is a major culprit in tooth decay. It fuels bacteria and acidity in your mouth, causing plaque to form and eat away at your enamel and gums. Your pearly whites are hit with up to 20 minutes of acid production for every sugar fest you indulge in, from sweetened coffee in the morning to ice cream at night. To avoid being among the 20% of people in the United States who face tooth decay every time they look in the mirror, try to cut down on sugary treats, and aim to brush and floss after every meal or snack.
  5. Pack it in. You've heard it before: Quit smoking. But this time, it's your dentist talking. The nicotine and tar in cigarettes not only turn your teeth an unsightly shade of yellow, they eat away at your gums. Smoking creates a ripe environment for bacteria and plaque on your teeth and along the gum line. That harms tissue, degrades the bone that supports teeth, and, eventually, increases your risk of tooth loss. Even worse, tobacco chemicals can lead to oral cancer.
  6. Use the right toothbrush. You want a brush with soft bristles. With the right technique, it should last two to three months. It's ready to be replaced when you notice bent bristles, but don't wait that long. Even a straight bristle tip can become blunted instead of rounded and cause injury to the teeth and gums.
  7. Practice proper technique. Although you probably know you should brush your teeth at least twice a day, if you're like most people, you don't give much thought to how to do it. Hold the toothbrush at a 45-degree angle, pointed toward the gum line, and use gentle, short, circular motions. Brush each tooth 10 to 15 times, but don't overdo it. Overly aggressive brushing can damage teeth and erode your gum line.
  8. Finesse flossing. It's simple: Flossing fosters healthier teeth and gums. But like brushing, there's a right and wrong way because flaws in your flossing can cause friction and damage the gum line. Wrap about a foot of floss around your index fingers, keeping about two inches between your fingers to work with. Unroll a fresh section of floss for each tooth, and keep the floss tight against the tooth to break up plaque while leaving your gums in good shape.
Find more articles, browse back issues, and read the current issue of WebMD the Magazine.
By Kim Morrow

Hydration is key to staying and feeling healthy. Your body has an intricate system of keeping fluids and electrolytes balanced, and proper hydration is a main component of this process. If this system is not functioning properly, you may suffer the dangerous consequences of dehydration. In the elderly, this regulation system may no longer function properly on its own, making dehydration more common -- making adequate hydration even more important.

The Importance of Hydration Dehydration is a risk factor for increased morbidity and mortality, especially in the elderly. This condition can lead to hospitalization, infection, loss of cognitive function, and even death if not treated immediately. Due to changes in the body during aging, such as a decrease in total body water as well as a decrease in being able to sense thirst, dehydration can happen quickly in the elderly. Staying hydrated every day is the best way to prevent this.

Symptoms of Dehydration Symptoms of dehydration include dry mouth, no urine or very concentrated urine, sunken eyes, lethargy, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate and dry skin. Symptoms of dehydration should not be overlooked. If you suspect that you are dehydrated, try drinking small, frequent amounts of fluids such as water. If your symptoms do not improve, call your doctor or go to the hospital, as severe dehydration may requires medical attention.

You Might Also Like Hydration and Nutrition… Dehydration and Water… Dangerous Temperatures… The Importance of… Nursing and the… How to Drink Salt Water… Dehydration in Sports… Electrolytes, Cramping… How to Calculate… How Much Water Should… What Are the Benefits of… Does Dehydration Slow… How to Hydrate When… Why Is it Important to… What to Feed a Child… Electrolyte Imbalance &… Daily Hydration Requirements Water needs vary from day to day and from person to person. However, the general recommendation for fluids is at least 6 to 8 cups, or 48 to 64 fluid ounces daily. Your fluid needs may be increased if you are losing excess water through sweat or urine. As a rule of thumb, you should drink 4 ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during periods of excess loss.

Hydration Tips Because the thirst mechanism in the elderly may be dysfunctional, focus on drinking small, frequent amounts of fluid throughout the day rather than waiting to feel thirsty. Water is the best option for hydration, but any fluids count toward the daily requirement. If you are drinking juice or soda, try mixing it with half a glass of water to cut down on the sugar and calorie content. Additionally, you can get fluids through foods such as soups, fresh fruits and vegetables, and ice pops.

The information in this topic was provided by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases

Fractures -- A Possible Warning Sign

Osteoporosis does not have any symptoms until a fracture occurs. Women and men with osteoporosis most often break bones in the hip, spine, and wrist. But any fracture in an older person could be a warning sign that the bone is weaker than optimal.

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Some people may be unaware that they have already experienced one or more spine fractures. Height loss of one inch or more may be the first sign that someone has experienced spine fractures due to osteoporosis. Multiple spine fractures can cause a curved spine, stooped posture, back pain, and back fatigue.

Women and men who have had a fracture are at high risk of experiencing another one. A fracture over the age of 50 or several fractures before that age may be a warning sign that a person has already developed osteoporosis. People over the age of 50 who have experienced a fracture should talk to their doctor about getting evaluated for osteoporosis.

During a stroke, every minute counts! Fast treatment can reduce the brain damage that stroke can cause.

By knowing the signs and symptoms of stroke, you can be prepared to take quick action and perhaps save a life—maybe even your own. Watch a video about stroke signs and symptoms from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

Signs of Stroke in Men and Women
  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.
Call 9-1-1 immediately if you or someone else has any of these symptoms.

Acting F.A.S.T. Is Key for StrokeActing F.A.S.T. can help stroke patients get the treatments they desperately need. The most effective stroke treatments are only available if the stroke is recognized and diagnosed within 3 hours of the first symptoms. Stroke patients may not be eligible for the most effective treatments if they don’t arrive at the hospital in time.

If you think someone may be having a stroke, act F.A.S.T.1 and do the following simple test:

F—Face: Ask the person to smile. Does one side of the face droop?
A—Arms: Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
S—Speech: Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase. Is their speech slurred or strange?
T—Time: If you observe any of these signs, call 9-1-1 immediately.

Note the time when any symptoms first appear. Some treatments for stroke only work if given in the first 3 hours after symptoms appear. Do not drive to the hospital or let someone else drive you. Call an ambulance so that medical personnel can begin life-saving treatment on the way to the emergency room.

Treating a Transient Ischemic AttackIf your symptoms go away after a few minutes, you may have had a transient ischemic attack (TIA). Although brief, a TIA is a sign of a serious condition that will not go away without medical help. Tell your health care team about your symptoms right away.

Unfortunately, because TIAs clear up, many people ignore them. Don’t be one of those people. Paying attention to a TIA can save your life.

  1. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Brain Basics: Preventing Stroke Accessed December 4, 2013.
March 11, 2011
Rebecca's Garden star and Home Instead Senior Care make gardening fun for older adults

Rebecca Kolls, host of the nationally syndicated television show Rebecca's Garden, and the Home Instead Senior Care® network have worked together to help seniors continue to enjoy gardening.

This dual-effort public-education program has sought to bring back gardening joys to seniors who have difficulty maintaining gardens, or who have given up gardening altogether due to health or age concerns.

Kolls, whose grandparents originally inspired her interest in gardening, credits gardens with supplying not only food and beauty, but also improved mental and physical well-being.

"There's a nurturing aspect in gardening where you take a seed and coddle it," said Kolls, who has launched a national magazine Seasons by Rebecca, and is a gardening and lifestyles contributor to Good Morning America. "Seniors have given up child rearing, so gardening gives them baby plants and seedlings again. It's a new way of caring for something."

Home Instead Senior Care's CAREGiversSM – who go to the homes of older individuals and assist them with day-to-day, non-medical activities of daily living such as errands, shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and hobbies – can see first-hand how valuable gardening is for their clients.

"We often hear our CAREGivers speak of their clients who love to care for plants and flowers, and how they see it enriching those clients' lives," said Jeff Huber, president and Chief Operating Officer of the Home Instead Senior Care network. "Many of our CAREGivers enjoy gardening as well, and are thrilled to help seniors enjoy gardening and plant projects."

Home Instead Senior Care strives to match its CAREGivers with clients of similar interests. This allows them to build relationships through doing the things their clients enjoy most. And the company's Activity Training Guide for CAREGivers helps them generate other creative ideas to keep seniors engaged and enjoying life.

"Our CAREGivers not only garden, but participate in other activities their clients enjoy, such as cooking, scrapbooking, arts and crafts, and attending performances and other cultural events," Huber said. "We like to involve our clients as much as we can in the interests they've always enjoyed."

Another great thing about gardening as a senior activity is that it is timeless. "The beauty of the garden, if done well, will provide four seasons of color. While seniors in warmer climates can garden year-round, those in cold-weather climates should not despair," Kolls said. "In the winter, snow catches in seed heads, and birds find refuge in shrubbery and feed off seeds from the cone flowers. So no matter where you live, there's always something growing in the garden."

One Container; Many Opportunities

A little creative thinking and some assistance from families or caregivers help ensure that seniors can continue to enjoy the types of gardening they love. "Imagine growing almost everything for a recipe in one container," Kolls said. "What a great gift idea!"

She suggests the following projects to get you started:

  • Try a pizza garden! (If your senior isn't a pizza fan, he or she might enjoy growing one for grandchildren.) Whiskey barrels work well for growing tomatoes, but can be expensive. A plastic laundry basket with holes cut in the bottom for drainage will work just as well. Plant a Roma tomato in the center, onions along the sides of the tomato and basil around the edge of the container.
  • A twist on the pizza garden concept: a fresh salsa garden! It's similar to a pizza garden, only with tomatoes, onions, hot peppers and cilantro.
  • one-pot vegetable garden is always a hit! Take three bamboo poles and make a teepee in the center of the pot. Plant beans at the base of each bamboo pole, and fill the horizontal space around the pot with carrots, beets or other favorite root vegetables (make sure your pot is at least 10 to 12 inches deep.)
Rebecca's Senior Gardening TipsCheck out these handy tidbits on how to help the seniors achieve gardening success:

  • Herbs grow anywhere and are great for seasoning. Kitchen herb gardens are wonderful for seniors. The more you pinch and pick the herbs, such as basil, parsley and chives, the more vigorous they grow.
  • Think height, filler and spiller. When you're creating flowerpots, consider height, filler and spiller. Plant a variety that will grow at least twice as tall as the container; fill in with plants that will grow to no more than half of the height of the taller plants, and then plant a variety that will cascade over the pot.
  • When it comes to annuals, pack them in. When you create flowerpots, pack your annuals in because they will become root-bound and grow up and over the pots. You'll get drama and a beautiful arrangement, according to Kolls.
  • Look for equipment that can make the job easier. There are many wonderful tools available that can make gardening easier for anyone including seniors. According to Kolls, Bud-Eze tools, which can be found on the Internet, are a good option, as are bionic gloves. In addition, the Arthritis Foundation has a product and services directory for senior gardeners and others with mobility problems: log on to www.arthritis.org.
  • Garden right outside your front door or back door. Container gardening allows seniors access to flowers or vegetables in one pot and also gives them the height that helps make gardening easier for them.
  • Team with others to garden. If a senior can't garden anymore, enlist the help of others who might enjoy sharing the work and the produce or flowers from the garden. Or, call Home Instead Senior Care to find a CAREGiver who would enjoy gardening with that person. Log on to www.homeinstead.com to find the closest office to you or your senior loved one.
NOTE: Go to www.garden.org for zone maps and other helpful advice.

BY: Marcela De Vivo   
July 31st, 2013

As we grow older, our bodies become more sensitive to environmental changes because our defenses are not as strong as they used to be when we were young. During the summertime especially, it is even easier for the heat and long days to take a toll on our physical and emotional health.

To stay healthy and safe in the midst of summer time fun, keep these tips in mind:

Hydration and ExerciseDrink lots of water to stay hydrated – water makes up as much as 75% of your body, meaning that when you are dehydrated, your vital organs will suffer.

Along with keeping hydrated, use a cooling vaporizer to help with the summer heat – it can help with your body’s temperature control by absorbing water via the skin and lungs to properly moisturize the skin and allow the respiratory system to function efficiently. It can also improve the quality of air in your home.

While is it important to go outdoors to get some fresh air, avoid going out during the hottest times of the day – if possible, be outdoors before 10am and after 5pm, when the sun is not at its highest.

Take care of your skin when you go outdoors. Use SPF to protect all exposed areas of your skin, especially areas that can sometimes be forgotten, including the ears, back of the neck, feet and lips. Wear breathable, but long-sleeved protective clothing. Moreover, wear a hat or use a parasol to protect your face from the sun’s harmful rays.

Stay Mentally ActiveAlong with exercising your body, you should also exercise your mind by reading, writing or playing stimulating games. To keep your mind active, it is important to play games that will  stimulate your critical thinking and comprehension skills, such as Sudoku, chess, solitaire, etc.

Always be open to meeting people and learning new things. It is never too late to learn a hobby or make a new friend.

Stay Up to Date with Your HealthBeing healthy also involves getting a regular checkup with your healthcare provider, who will examine the health of your eyes, ears, teeth and mental well-being. You will also want to get any necessary vaccines to make sure your immune system is in tip-top shape.

It is important that your physical and mental senses are in order for your safety. If you are feeling something irregular or uncomfortable with your body, talk to a healthcare provider about your concerns. It is better safe than sorry.

If needed, it is okay and encouraged to seek the help of a professional counselor, someone you can talk to to let your feelings and thoughts out.

Stay SharpWhat’s more, it is inevitable that, as one ages, one’s reflexes are not as quick as when s/he was younger, especially when it comes to your safety while driving. If you notice that your reaction time and alertness is less keen than before, you might want to reconsider your transportation options.

Summertime is all about the beach, and if you have an opportunity to go, take advantage of the health benefits of walking on sand – the uneven ground can make for a great, yet soft-cushioned workout. What’s more, the scenic view of the ocean can easily liven your spirits.

If you are a fan of dancing or have always wanted to learn, ballroom dancing or dancing in general is another great summertime activity for senior citizens. You can reminisce with songs that are classic favorites, socialize with groovy-minded folks, keep your mind active by learning the dance steps and keep your body active too!

In general, on days when it is too hot to go outdoors, dancing and listening to music are both great ways to keep your energy levels up and your mind in a positive state.

Overall, it is important to look out for your physical and emotional wellbeing. Surround yourself with a supportive system made up of family, friends, prayer and/or positive thoughts. Last but not least, enjoy your life as much as possible. Laugh and smile often to stay healthy!

About the Author: 

Marcela De Vivo is a health writer for Presidio Home Care, a mother of three and yoga enthusiast. She keeps her mind and body healthy with regular Flow yoga, meditation and a healthy diet. Follow her on Twitter today!

This entry was posted in Guest BlogHealthy Living Tips and tagged agingexercisehealth tipshydrationmental healthsenior carestay sharp
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FEB 10 2012, 10:02 AM ET

When it comes to their well-being, older adults shouldn't act like victims to aging. They should be active—physically, socially, and spiritually.

To slow down the physical and mental decline that comes with age, drugs and exercise aren't enough. According to a study out of the University of Southern California, a lifestyle makeover is necessary.

This week on Professional Help, professor and occupational therapist Florence Clark shares five tips for seniors on sustainable, successful aging from herJournal of Epidemiology and Community Health paper (PDF). Thankfully, her method, while backed by rigorous research, is also surprisingly simple: walk outside, meet up with friends, go to church, and just be as active as possible.

It's never too late to go healthy. Anybody, young or old, can successfully redesign the way they live to be healthier. While we don't have a say in our own genetic makeup, greater than 50 percent of our mental and physical health status is related to lifestyle. You can even start small: ride public transportation, reconnect with a long-lost friend, join a ballroom dance class, or follow guidelines on how to safely move around the community. The point is, try something new and be willing to learn.

Take control of your health. Appreciate the relationship between what you do, how you feel, and their impact on your well-being. Our research suggests that social and productive activities are as important as physical ones for staying healthy. As we age, even deceptively simple or downright mundane pursuits like reading the newspaper, cooking a potluck dish, walking the dog, or going to church have a powerful influence on our physical and mental health.

Know thyself. The guiding principle of Socrates rings just as true today as it did in ancient Athens. Lifestyle changes are most sustainable when they fit into the fabric of your everyday life -- your interests, schedule, and self-concept. Identify supports on your journey that are strong enough to counterbalance the obstacles you face. Set goals that are challenging but still realistic enough to be achieved.

Anticipate how chronic conditions may affect your plan. Over 70 percent of seniors age 65 and older have a chronic condition, such as hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, COPD, or cataracts. Don't let these impede your progress. Before a big game, elite athletes visualize their performance in their minds' eye. So too should you be prepared for the potential ways you might have to adapt or improvise. And, of course, consult your physician in advance about any new activities.

Living longer can also mean living better. Our research demonstrates that maintaining a mix of productive, social, physical, and spiritual activities as you age can lead to increased vitality, social function, mental health, and life satisfaction, along with decreased symptoms of depression and self-reported bodily pain. Even better, activity-centric lifestyle interventions to ward off illness and disability may also be more cost-effective and have fewer negative side effects than prescription drugs.

By Laura FraserJanuary/February 2007

Author Laura Fraser shares her essay on heartbreak and recovery and the meal that helped
  • Winner of the International Association of Culinary Professionals' Bert Greene Award in the Essay division.

At home, I keep a framed photo of myself clinking wineglasses with a friend at dinner. It’s not flattering: I look wan and worn out, with red-rimmed eyes, cheeks flushed. But the expression the camera caught is one of pure contentment.

The photo was taken at Chez Panisse, in Berkeley, on May 8, 1997. I remember the date because on May 7, my husband left me. Up until dinner, May 8 was perhaps the worst day of my life. I spent most of it in bed, trying to grasp my new reality, that the man I loved and married and planned to have children with had left me, abruptly, for someone else. I’d been lied to, cheated on, abandoned—and I had a dinner reservation that evening at the restaurant that made Alice Waters famous for her fresh-from-the-farm approach to cooking.

Ironically, the dinner with my longtime friend Larry was payment for a bet I lost about which of us would get married first. We’d made the wager years before, when I thought I was too free-spirited to settle down, before I met the man who changed my mind. After I wed, Larry got married, too, and each of our lives got busier. Finally, our schedules coincided with a day we could get a reservation. That it turned out to be the day after my husband left me made me laugh at the universe in spite of my sadness.

When I told Larry the news, he asked if I wanted to cancel dinner. But I needed a reason to get out of bed, and that day, dinner at my favorite restaurant was the only one that would work. I might cry through every course, but I was going.

I met Larry at the entryway to the dark-wood Arts & Crafts building, greeted by a spray of wildflowers and a large bowl of seasonal fruit. We were seated in a cozy corner, with a view of the kitchen and its copper pots. We started with a glass of champagne and a plate of Hog Island oysters on the half shell with little sausages. The oysters were so fresh they tasted like my tears. I closed my eyes to feel the sensation of the sea.

Larry chatted about wine with the server, chose something French, and started telling me about novels he’d enjoyed recently. He knew better than to ask how I was feeling.

After the oysters came a fish and shellfish soup, with a delicate broth of fennel and leeks. The flavors were so subtle and perfectly balanced that my mind had to close off everything else and rest on my taste buds. There was no room in my consciousness for heartbreak, divorce and having to move out of my house, only space for a soup whose flavors shimmered like gold.

The server poured a dark-hued Bandol wine, ripe and inviting. The flavors spread across my mouth into a smile. The main course arrived, an earthy grilled duck breast with rhubarb sauce and roasted turnips. The rhubarb brought me back to my childhood, when I would pick the bitter stalks from my grandmother’s garden and we would make my favorite pink stew. My grandmother is gone, but rhubarb is as permanent as my memories of her. The rhubarb duck comforted me with its familiarity; no matter what happens, in spring there is always rhubarb.

When dessert came, a berry feuilleté, perfect little fresh spring berries in the lightest and flakiest of pastry, Larry uttered a French expression of delight. He said the meal made up for the time, years before, when we’d gone bicycling on Thanksgiving when everything was closed and all we could find for dinner was mango juice and pretzels. At that moment, the Chez Panisse meal was making up for so much more. The server snapped our photo as we finished our wine.

I would go back to my tears the next day, and it would be months before such a look of contentment would cross my face again. But at that moment, sharing a wonderful meal with a friend, the last pastry flake melting on my tongue like snow, I was happy. And every time I looked at that photo during the dark times that followed, I knew I would be happy again.

—Laura Fraser is the author of the bestselling travel memoir The Italian Affair and Losing It, an exposé of the diet industry