Laurel’s Winning Care

What I love about my work: I see such a variety of people. And Partners in Care is a great agency—the supervisors are very supportive and the whole staff is wonderful.

What I’ve learned: Love your case and love your client: Be patient, be kind, and get to know each person you’re caring for.

I started with Partners in Care in 2001, when I moved here from Jamaica. I’m now an “on-call” home health aide, which means I get called to fill in when another aide is out sick. So I work with each client for just a day or two, though I’ve had many repeat clients over the years.

I love seeing a different client each day—I see such a variety of people. When I come into a client’s home for the first time, I carefully observe them and ask questions of them or a family member to find out exactly what their condition is and what I need to do.

For example, there’s one client who I carry in my mind always. He was bedbound, unable to see, hear, talk or move. Because he couldn’t chew food, he wasn’t eating, and so I showed his daughter how to put his food in the blender, which I’d learned from working with another patient. Then I put my hand gently on his head and spoon-fed the food to him, and he finally began eating—all in just that one day.

If I could give any advice to other home health aides, it would be this: Love your case and love your client. Be patient, be kind, and get to know each person you’re caring for.

Four Easy Ways to Add Exercise to Your Day

As every caregiver knows, finding a block of free time for exercise is almost impossible. And let’s face it: Even a 20-minute workout takes at least a half hour by the time you change clothing, set up the DVD player, and get out (and then put away) the yoga mat and weights. Yet the physical and psychological benefits of exercise are undeniable. Is it possible to reap those benefits without a major time commitment?

The answer is yes. Here are four ways to build strength and endurance as you go about your daily routine:

1. Stand up. If you’ve seen news reports lately about the benefits of standing desks, you may have also read about the health risks of sitting too much. Consider this: Your body has to burn an additional 1.36 calories for every minute you stand, which is 81.6 calories an hour. So consider standing on the subway or bus. If your commute is 45 minutes each way, you’ll burn about a pound (3,500 calories) in one month!

2. When you do sit, head for the least comfortable seat. When you sink into an easy chair of sofa, you’re less likely to rearrange yourself or move while you’re sitting, and you aren’t engaging your core (stomach and back) muscles. Sitting erect (that is, so your back is straight and isn’t touching the back of the chair) engages these muscles, so head for a dining chair or stool. Sitting on the floor is even better.

3. Walk at every opportunity. Yes, putting on proper footwear and heading out for a 45-minute power walk might be ideal, but every little bit of movement counts. If it’s a beautiful day and you’ve been inside for most of it, head outside for a 15-minute walk on your lunch break, or walk to the next subway or bus stop (10 minutes each way). Leave the really close parking spots for someone else (2 minutes). If you have the choice between the escalator or stairs, take the stairs (3 minutes). Walk the dog a block further than usual (5 minutes). See how it all adds up?

4. Take advantage of stolen seconds. Kitchens, believe it or not, are great places for quick exercises. While you’re waiting for the coffee to brew or your toast to pop up, start your morning with 8 to 12 push-ups, leaning your hands on the counter instead of dropping to the floor. (Tip: The farther your feet are from the counter and the more you have to lean, the harder you’ll have to work.) Then turn around and do some triceps dips. Add another set or two at lunch time while you heat up your food, or in the evening while you’re cooking dinner or cleaning up the kitchen. Other places to sneak in movement: Waiting on line or for the subway, or even in an elevator. Lift your heels an inch or two off the ground 10 to 20 times, then stand on alternate legs (work up to 30 seconds), to build calf strength and improve balance.

Care Management: A Lifesaver for Caregivers

Do you need a trusted advisor who can help ensure that your loved one is getting the help that he or she needs? A Care Manager is a specialist who helps families care for older relatives.

A Care Manager can be an invaluable member of your loved one’s care team. The Care Manager may:

  • Act as a “case manager,” coordinating and overseeing the team of home care professionals who provide care to your loved one. A Care Manager can put together a team from Partners in Care or work with one that you have arranged yourself. The team may include a nurse, social worker, home health aide(s), rehabilitation specialists, a dietitian, and an elder care attorney.
  • Assess your parent’s need for care, both initially and on an ongoing basis.
  • Evaluate the Plan of Care, adapting it as your loved one’s needs change.
  • Arrange for and monitor medical and personal care.
  • Assist with legal, financial, and medical issues, and help your family find the resources and referrals your loved one needs.
  • Act as a liaison with long-distance family members.

Would a Care Manager help you and your loved one?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, a Care Manager can provide important and beneficial assistance.

  • Does your loved one have limited support or live far away from family who can help?
  • Have you been suddenly plunged into a caregiving role due to illness or medical crisis and need help getting up to speed?
  • Does your loved one have multiple, or increasing, medical issues or conditions (including behavioral health needs)?
  • Is your parent no longer able to live alone safely but is resistant to change or losing independence?
  • Are you burned out?
  • Do family members have different opinions about the best way to care for your loved one, and/or are discussions about care tense?
  • Do you need help untangling your family member’s financial or legal affairs?
  • Do you need help navigating the system and finding the resources your loved one is entitled to?

The Care Manager can:

  • Help prevent the need for hospital visits.
  • Make sure medications are taken properly.
  • Identify potential safety issues in the home and make recommendations to correct them.
  • Support and “coach” caregivers and family members.
  • Mediate within families to find resolution to care needs.
  • Advocate for patients and their caregivers.

For information about how a Care Manager can help you, call Partners in Care at 1-888-735-8913.

3 Facts about the Flu Vaccine

Older adults run a much greater risk of serious complications from the flu (influenza) than healthy, younger adults. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 90 percent of flu-related deaths and 60 percent of hospitalizations happen to people age 65 and older. This is largely because immune systems weaken with age and many older adults have underlying conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, that increase their vulnerability.

Caregivers must also be vigilant against the flu. You don’t want to risk infecting anyone, especially an ailing loved one, and you also need to stay healthy in order to provide care. Keep in mind that the chronic stress that often accompanies caregiving responsibilities may lower your resistance and make you more susceptible to illness.

Good health habits, such as proper diet, frequent hand washing, and plenty of rest, are important steps to protect against the virus, but they only go so far. The best line of defense is an annual flu shot.

The influenza vaccine is:

Safe
For most folks, the flu is much more potentially dangerous than the shot. Unless you are allergic to eggs, side effects are fairly uncommon and usually mild (soreness, low-grade fever, headache). And, no, the flu shot cannot give you the flu!

Effective
While the shot does not guarantee you won’t get the flu, it’s still the best deterrent available. And even if you do come down with the flu after getting a shot, there’s a reasonable chance it will be a milder case.

Convenient
Annual flu shots are covered by Medicare and many private insurance plans. They are often available at a variety of places, from your doctor’s office to your local drug store.

Make sure that everyone in your and your senior’s household gets vaccinated as early in the flu season as possible (ideally in October or early November), and remember that it takes about two weeks to develop immunity. A higher dose vaccine is available to those over 65, but the CDC has not yet endorsed it as providing more protection. Ask your doctor what’s best for you. An ounce of prevention, as they say, is worth a pound of cure!

 

 

 

 

Great Gifts for Caregivers

Too little time and too much stress are two constants in a caregiver’s life, and gifts that make their hectic days a little easier are always welcome. So whether there is a caregiver on your list, or you’re looking for some hints to drop to Santa, here are some of our favorites:

Who doesn’t love gift certificates?

Around the holidays, there are dozens of gift card options. How about narrowing it down to much needed services, like house cleaning, groceries, landscaping or snow removal, laundry, transportation, or even meal prep and delivery. Hint: If you live nearby, home-made coupons are a great option—and be sure to offer reminders if they go unused.

A night out

Tickets to a movie, play, or concert can provide a nice jolt of energy, and why not throw in dinner? Don’t forget to arrange for respite services, too.

For the entertainment minded

A subscription to Netflix or Hulu, or DVR service such as TiVo lets your caregiver watch favorite shows or movies when convenient. Did you see a movie that made you laugh out loud this year? Buy the DVD for a favorite caregiver—a couple of hours of good fun at the end of the day is priceless.

For someone a little more bookish, consider a tablet with a book app or an e-reader like a Nook or Kindle loaded with a few books on his or her reading list. A high-contrast tablet limits eye strain under light or dark conditions, perfect for someone who spends many hours sitting bedside.

A caregiving primer

New caregivers are often overwhelmed by what they don’t know. A book about caregiving or about their loved one’s condition can provide information and reassurance. Three suggestions:

When Someone You Love Has a Chronic Illness

The 36-Hour Day: A Family Guide to Caring for People Who Have Alzheimer’s Disease, Related Dementias, and Memory Loss

Passages in Caregiving: Turning Chaos into Confidence

Rejuvenation

Find a licensed massage therapist who can come to the home. Rather than one 60- or 90-minute massage, ask the therapist if shorter treatments are available—this might inspire the caregiver to make it part of his or her routine.

A New Year’s jump start

Exercise is a great way to relieve stress. How about a few sessions with a personal trainer or a fitness club membership? Remember that trial memberships often run for a period of time which may not work with a caregiver’s schedule, so ask about one based on number of visits. For those who prefer to work out at home, the Wii Fit with Meter takes advantage of Nintendo’s popular game system. Fitbit can help to stay on track and monitor goals and progress, and HoldTight keeps phone and necessities—ID, credit card, cash, even headphones—together for runners (or anyone who doesn’t want to carry a wallet or purse), plus it’s customizable.

Small luxuries

Caregiving often comes with financial stress. Gifts related to a passion or hobby—a set of spices or beautiful utensils for a cook, a skein of cashmere for a knitter or crocheter, sterling silver fittings for someone who makes jewelry—are always welcome. Other ideas:

• A personalized wristwatch—simply upload a photo, then match it to a band for a one-of-a-kind gift

Touchscreen gloves, to check email and Facebook without risking frostbitten fingers

Treats that feel good

Send a batch of cookies from Cookies for Kids’ Cancer, which funds pediatric cancer research, or put together a soothing sampling of de-stressing teas. Gift sets of hand cream and hand soap from Caldrea, or a trio of scented hand creams from Neal’s Yard Remedies, can keep oft-washed hands from becoming dry.

 

Simple Tips to Increase Appetite

Loss of appetite, whether due to disease, medical treatment, or simply aging, is common among older patients. As a caregiver, you want your loved one to get the nutrition he or she needs to maintain strength and to recuperate, so when food is unappealing you may become frustrated and worried.

Consider why your loved one isn’t eating at all or isn’t eating the “right” foods. If your father is balking at his new low-fat diet after a heart attack, it may be due as much to worry about his health or his future as it is to how “horrible” the new foods taste. Or perhaps your mother’s appetite is fine, but dementia makes it difficult for her to focus on the task of eating or she craves sweets to the exclusion of more nutrient-rich foods.

You can allay your fears, and try to increase your loved one’s appetite, with a few simple strategies:

  • Minimize mealtime distractions. Turn off the TV and radio. If you go out to eat, choose a seat for your loved one that isn’t facing the center of a busy restaurant.
  • Eat together. Create a relaxed, leisurely atmosphere and linger at the table. Waiting to clear plates may encourage your loved one to take those few last bites.
  • Heavy meals can lead to queasiness and discomfort, especially when combined with medications that list nausea or poor appetite as a possible side effect. Aim for six to eight smaller meals a day.
  • If appetite loss is due to medication, change things up depending on the side effects. For example, if your loved one complains of the strong smell or taste of food you can try blander dishes. On the other hand, some medications can diminish the sense of taste. If that’s the case, you can add a lot of flavor with little additions of herbs, spices, or a spritz of lemon juice.

Cookbooks and websites are full of ways to sneak vegetables or protein into cookies or snacks, but if you think trickery might backfire, look to familiar recipes for favorite dishes. Make minor tweaks to boost nutrition or to meet the parameters of a new diet: If you typically simmer rice in water and then add butter and salt, simmer it in low-sodium broth or fruit juice; roast vegetables, which caramelizes their natural sugars and imparts a richer flavor than steaming does; spice blends and meat rubs can boost flavor, too, but read labels and if necessary pass on those with sugar or salt.

Having trouble managing your loved one’s diet restrictions? Partners in Care can help. Give us a call at 1-888-735-8913 and get started today.

Anthony’s Contagious Optimism

What I love about my work: “Seeing the joy on my client’s face.”

What I’ve learned: “Attitude reflects leadership.”

Every day that he is on the job, Partners in Care home health aide Anthony W. greets his client in the same way: “Good morning! My name is Anthony. I’m with Partners in Care, and I’m here to help you today!” Anthony and his client, an 88-year-old man who suffers from multiple conditions, have been together for three years, but Anthony finds that his bright morning salutation always gets things moving and motivates his client to start the day with gusto.

“I tell him, ‘Here’s our itinerary for the day! We’re going to wake up, have our coffee, check our blood pressure and weight, eat a nice breakfast and have a shower, go out and exercise or play bingo!’ He wants to be a part of it. He doesn’t have time to have a pity party. He tells me every day, ‘you keep me living.’ And that is why I put my heart into it. I do it because it is from my heart.”

Equal parts caring professional, companion, chef, and life coach, Anthony ensures not only that his client’s needs are tended to, but that he is truly getting the most out of life. “My mother passed away from cancer when I was 14, and the nurse that came to our house was amazing. I decided that I wanted to spend my life taking care of people, and if I am taking care of an older person, I want to help them to have golden years that are just as great as their younger years.”

Under his watch, Anthony has seen his client blossom from an ailing, sedentary man, lonely for his deceased wife, to someone who is back out in the world enjoying himself. “These are his golden years! I make sure he is dressed and get him to church. In the summertime, we get out and I like to barbecue, so we have a barbecue.” Anthony loves to cook, and he prepares 21 or more meals for his client each week. “I’m a great cook. The first thing I did for him was to write up a menu plan for him that I cook myself. He was eating a lot of salt, so told him, ‘we are going to switch to onion powder, garlic powder to make it better.’”

Seeing his client and friend sitting down to a home-cooked meal and savoring every bite is one of the things Anthony loves most about his work. That and seeing the joy on his client’s face when Anthony walks in the door each day and says, “Good morning!”

4 Myths About Hospice Care

Are these misconceptions keeping you from getting the care you need?

Thinking about and planning for end-of-life care isn’t something most of us want to do. We want to hope that our loved ones will get better, that the surgery or treatment will work and everything will be fine. It’s hard to admit that this might not happen. So when someone suggests hospice care, it’s easy to come up with reasons to say no. Often, however, our reasons are based in misunderstanding. Here are four common misconceptions about hospice care:

MYTH: Hospice is only for the last few days of life.
REALITY: Hospice addresses the medical, physical, social, emotional and spiritual needs of the patient. It helps patients enjoy the comforts of home and family, draw on social and emotional support, and manage symptoms such as pain, shortness of breath, nausea, extreme fatigue, loss of appetite and inability to sleep. Many patients and their families find that the emotional support and the pain management expertise hospice offers can make a huge difference even months earlier.

MYTH: Hospice is only for people with cancer.
REALITY: Hospice is available for patients with any condition that their physician believes will claim life within six months. People with advanced life-limiting conditions of any type, including end-stage dementia, AIDS, heart disease or emphysema—as well as cancer—can benefit from hospice and palliative care.

MYTH: Signing up for hospice means you’re giving up.
REALITY: Nothing could be further from the truth. The care that hospice provides is palliative, which means that it focuses on relieving pain and other symptoms of a disease but does not seek to cure it. Palliative care not only enhances quality of life, but it can also help patients live longer. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine reported that among 151 patients newly diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, those who at the start of the trial received palliative care in addition to standard cancer treatment lived nearly three months longer than those who received only cancer treatment. The palliative-care group also reported less depression and a better quality of life, and they were less likely to choose aggressive (often painful and uncomfortable) end-of-life care.

MYTH: If I choose hospice, I’ll have to give up my own doctor(s).
REALITY: One of the foundations of hospice care is that one’s final months are still a part of life’s journey. Your doctor has been an important part of that journey, and patients in hospice care remain under the care of their own physicians, who work with the patient, family and the hospice team to enhance quality of life and ensure that the patient is as comfortable as possible.

Easy Pumpkin Bisque

If you’re looking to eat less, start your meals with soup. One study found that people who have a low-calorie, broth-based soup as a first course consume 20 percent fewer calories than those who don’t.

Despite its name (bisque is a type of soup that’s usually cream-based and extremely rich), this silky-smooth, speedy soup weighs in at about 65 calories per serving. Applesauce imparts a hint of sweetness, and it’s so flavorful that no one will suspect it takes 15 minutes—tops—to prepare. Even better: it’s also sky-high in vitamin A, delivers respectable amounts of fiber and vitamin C, and is very low in fat (evaporated milk provides the richness of heavy cream at a fraction of the calories). If you don’t have pumpkin pie spice on hand, use about 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon and a generous pinch or two each of ground ginger and ground nutmeg.

1 cup chicken or vegetable broth

1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin puree

1 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 cup evaporated skimmed milk

1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Salt and pepper, to taste

Combine the broth, pumpkin, and applesauce in a medium saucepan. Heat until the mixture just begins to boil, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the milk and spice and bring to serving temperature.

Makes 4 servings

 

 

Secrets of Successful Caregivers

According to a survey by AARP and the National Alliance for Caregiving, each year approximately 67 million Americans will serve as unpaid family caregivers, often while continuing to work or go to school. The survey estimates that these caregivers spend anywhere from 20 to 60 hours per week performing their caregiving duties—which can include anything from watching over the finances, to seeing to it that pills are taken, to cooking, bathing, and cleaning.

All of these caregivers will feel the inescapable stress of the job. Some end up feeling defeated or trapped, and may even develop their own health problems. Others will find that caring for another provides them with a deep sense of enrichment and a feeling of accomplishment, that they are meeting challenges and having a positive impact on the health and well-being of their family member. Is there something to be learned from the way these people approach their caregiving work? What are the secrets of these successful caregivers?

Attitude Is Everything

The simple act of staying positive can have a major impact on emotional and physical health—even in the face of the constant obligations and uncertainties of a caregiving situation—keeping stress and the havoc it wreaks at bay. Successful caregivers manage to look on the bright side of their daily challenges, often by finding humor in their work, showing compassion, taking pride in what they are doing, and incorporating healthy strategies into their day.

Staying Organized

Caregivers have a lot to keep track of—medications, doctors’ appointments, bills, schedules, etc. Successful caregivers know that getting organized and having a system in place to respond to daily priorities, as well as the unexpected, can lessen the stress of caregiving and free up time for things they enjoy. These caregivers stay on the ball with master folders and emergency contacts lists to keep vital information at their fingertips; they use family calendars so as not to miss appointments and to keep everyone in the loop of their respective caregiving duties; they find ways to ensure medications are taken, whether by requesting blister packs from the pharmacy or setting up alerts on their phones; and they take time to plan and set realistic goals for what they can and must (and simply cannot) accomplish.

Being a Member of the Health Care Team

Successful caregivers often see themselves for what they are—an indispensable member of the health care team. They have taken the time to learn about the medical condition their family member is contending with, either by visiting medical information websites or making the most of medical appointments by asking the right questions. These caregivers often grow into the role of patient advocate: making sure their family member is getting regular check-ups and seeing specialists when necessary; checking for possible side effects from medications; and alerting health care workers of any changes they are perceiving at home.

Taking Care of You

Caregivers often forget to take care of themselves, which can make them vulnerable to a number of health ills. Successful caregivers understand that caring for themselves is another part of the job. They manage to carve out time for doing something they enjoy, whether it’s a night out with friends or a night in with a good book. They take the time to talk to their boss about adopting a more flexible work schedule or to see what benefits might be available to lessen their load. They combat stress and anxiety from the start with relaxation techniques like meditation, exercise, and healthy eating, and they get regular check-ups to ensure their health is on track. And, perhaps most importantly, they reach out when they need to—enlisting the help of family, friends, care professionals and support services. All of these things can provide caregivers with a sense of accomplishment and allow them to experience the emotional rewards and lasting benefits of caring for another.