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.

Geriatric 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 Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) is a specialist who helps families care for older relatives.

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

  • Act as a “case manager,” coordinating and overseeing the team of home care professionals who provide care to your loved one. A GCM 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 GCM help you and your loved one?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, a GCM 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 GCM 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 Geriatric Care Manager can help you, call Partners in Care at 1-888-735-8913.

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!”

How to Talk to Doctors to Get the Care You Need

A 2012 AARP/United Hospital Fund report found that 23 percent of caregivers said that “talking to professionals and suppliers” added to their stress as caregivers. Other studies and focus groups have shown that a substantial number of patients, no matter how well educated, share this anxiety. Some people are just naturally timid, but plenty of otherwise assertive folks falter in the presence of a lab coat, so if talking to your loved one’s doctor makes you nervous, know that you’re not alone.

But getting the right information is critical to making informed decisions about your loved one’s care. To lessen your discomfort and to make yourself more effective at the next appointment, consider taking these steps:

Prepare yourself: Gather everything for your visit ahead of time. You’ll want such things as a medical history, records, and a list of medications. Write down the reason(s) for your visit and any questions you have, so you don’t forget anything. Being organized will help keep you calm and focused. It will also be useful to the doctor.

Set the tone: Greet the doctor and shake hands. If it’s your first meeting, introduce yourself and explain your role as caregiver. You might find that a casual remark about the traffic or the pleasant receptionist helps break the ice. Remember to be sure that your loved one is included in the conversation and addressed respectfully.

Ask questions and clarify answers: A big reason many people defer to doctors is to avoid seeming “difficult.” But it’s crucial to be clear about what the physician says. Speak up if you don’t understand something, and make a point of asking your family member if he or she has questions. Take notes, record the session, ask for further explanation or materials—whatever you need to understand. It might even help to repeat answers back to be certain you got the concept.

Ask more questions: If you’ve done research before the appointment that suggests an alternative treatment the doctor hasn’t mentioned, feel free to bring it up. Try an approach such as “What do you think about this?”

Stay in control: Remember, the doctor may be the medical expert, but you and your loved one are the experts on your situation. You are, in effect, the boss. If you’re not satisfied with the level of care, or if the fit just isn’t right, find another doctor.

Finally, remember that a doctor’s job is to care for people. You might be reluctant to “bother” your doctor, but a good physician knows that providing vital information to patients and caregivers is a huge part of that care and won’t feel bothered.



Joseph’s Caring Communication

Why Partners in Care: “The hospital set it all up for my mother.”

What I’ve Learned: “Caregiving isn’t an easy job!”

Cesira turned 92 last June. Her son Joseph says of his mother, “She has been in Queens since 1966 and has always had family and neighbors who can help out in a pinch.” She lives just down the block from family and has known some of her neighbors for 40 years.

This extended network was incredibly important after Cesira fell in June of 2012. She ended up spending 10 days in the hospital and then going for rehab. Since then, she’s been receiving care round-the-clock from Partners in Care.

During Hurricane Sandy, Cesira’s home flooded with three feet of water. She stayed with her son Louis and his family at their home in Brooklyn until mid-November, but then moved in with Joseph and his family in Hicksville, Long Island, until the end of February. “It wasn’t easy,” said Joseph. “We had my mother-in-law, too. But we did what we had to do!” One of the challenges Joseph faced was helping his mother get used to new doctors, but Cesira had a wonderful relationship with her favorite aide from Partners in Care. “Din-Din watched TV with my mom and kept her active, got her to eat, and was very communicative.”

As a caregiver, Joseph has learned that communication is an important skill. “You have to listen to what your parent is saying. Coax them to do things, be patient, but stay on top of things. Sometimes pain has other causes besides age and getting older.

“My mother is back home in Queens now, and she is still receiving 24/7 care from Partners in Care.”

Air Travel and Dementia


I’d like to get away this winter to visit family, but my husband is in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s and I’m not sure how to manage the logistics. What can I do to make it less stressful for both of us?


There are steps you can take while you’re planning your trip as well as while you’re traveling. As you consider your choices, the two most important factors to keep in mind are your husband’s level of functioning and whether your choice will reduce your stress.

Before you go:
• Choose options most likely to provide comfort and least likely to cause distress. If your husband wanders, you may want to choose to travel from a less-convenient airport that offers a nonstop flight. If crowds or a lot of rushing make him agitated, you may opt to travel from a smaller airport, even though that means changing planes.

• If appropriate, alert airline and Transportation Security Administration (TSA) staff ahead of time. People with disabilities, including cognitive impairment, are not exempt from screenings, but TSA offers accommodations to make the process less stressful. TSA also maintains a help line that assists travelers with disabilities and medical conditions. If you have questions about screening policies, procedures and what to expect at the security checkpoint, call TSA Cares toll-free at 1-855-787-2227, Monday through Friday 8 a.m. – 11 p.m. EST, and weekends and holidays 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. EST. Make a note to call about three days before you travel to allow time to coordinate any services or support with a TSA Customer Service Manager at the airport.

• Create a detailed itinerary that includes addresses and phone numbers of where you’ll be staying, as well as the dates you’ll be at each location. Keep a copy and give one to your husband to keep in his wallet. Create a second document with information about medications (including names and dosage instructions). Give copies of both to emergency contacts at home and at your destination.

• Be sure to update your phone contacts to include current medical personnel.

• As you pack in your carry-on, expand your definition of “essentials.” In addition to medication, pack a change of clothing appropriate to your destination, as well as snacks and activities. Bring extras of everything.

While traveling:
• Arrange for car service to the airport so you can avoid the shuttle from the parking garage to the terminal. Check your bags curbside, too.

• Allow extra time. Get to the airport early, and if you change planes (especially at a large or busy airport, or during holidays), schedule flights with at least a one-hour layover. If nothing else, you may need the time to convince your husband that the gate is down this hallway, not that one.

• Even if your husband is able to walk, consider requesting a wheelchair. Airport or airline staff will escort you from gate to gate, and it reduces the likelihood of wandering.

• Plan for respite. If you’re on vacation, be sure you get a break. Designate family members to help with certain tasks or to relieve you for an hour or so every day, or even to sit next to your husband at meals so you can catch up with relatives.

Which Screening Tests Does My Loved One Need?

You may know when you should have your first, or baseline, colonoscopy or other screening test, but is there an age when routine screening is no longer necessary—or even advisable?

Well, it depends.

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) is an independent panel of experts that has established recommended guidelines for a variety of screening tests, including mammograms, Pap smears, colonoscopies and prostate-specific antigen (PSA) tests, as well as immunizations and preventive medications.

Here are some examples and their recommendations:

  • Mammogram (breast cancer): Not recommended after age 74. The test isn’t invasive or particularly risky. But what level of treatment (radiation, surgery, etc.) would be considered if disease is discovered?
  • Pap smear (cervical cancer): Not recommended for women over age 65, providing normal recent screenings and no other high risk factors.
  • Colonoscopy (colorectal cancer): Not recommended after age 75, unless medical or family history suggests otherwise. Risks, such as intestinal perforation and heart attack, of the procedure itself rise a great deal after age 80. Also, keep in mind that colon polyps typically take 10 to 20 years to become problematic (that is, cancerous).
  • PSA testing (prostate cancer): USPSTF caused a stir in 2012 by advising against this blood test for men with no symptoms and at average risk, although the recommendation remains controversial. Aggressive treatment can cause serious problems, including impotence and incontinence, while the disease is often very slow growing.

You should remember, however, that these are just “guidelines” that may or may not apply to your loved one’s situation. As with any medical procedure, one needs to weigh the potential dangers against the benefits. Your aging loved one is unique, so it’s important to consider his or her current health, medical and family history, risk factors, and state of mind. Age is just one factor in the equation, and it can be a complicating factor in weighing the risks and benefits. Never ignore your older loved one’s wishes or concerns, and include him or her in any conversations with the doctor. Arm yourselves with the pros and cons of testing and treatments. And always recall—unless your loved one can no longer make decisions and has given you legal power—these are not your decisions to make.

For more information about these issues, visit Kaiser Health News and Harvard Health Publications.


Emergency Preparedness for Seniors

As hurricane season kicks into high gear in New York, it’s important to be sure your emergency plan is in place. This is even more crucial for senior citizens and those who care for them. Here are some tips to give you the peace of mind that being prepared can offer.

1. Establish a Personal Network: This is a group of people who agree to help one another during emergencies, and should include at least one out-of-town contact. Network members exchange keys, copies of important documents, and medical information so that they can effectively monitor and assist each other when problems arise. It’s a good idea for seniors to have such a network even in the best of times.

2. Make a Plan: The plan should include knowing your hurricane evacuation zone and nearby shelter centers, deciding where to meet network members and how to get there, and how you will communicate if normal methods become unavailable. It should also address prescription refills, maintaining any special medical equipment (wheelchair, etc.) or treatment (dialysis, etc.), and the well-being of pets or service animals. If your loved one lives in a care facility, discuss emergency plans and means of contact with staff.

3. Pack and Supply: Be prepared to either evacuate or stay at home by packing an emergency travel bag and putting together an emergency supply kit. The packed bag should include copies of important documents, back-up medical supplies, and cash. The emergency supply kit should have sufficient food, water, and medical necessities to enable your loved one to survive at least three days at home on his/her own. Keep in mind that some medicines, such as insulin, may need refrigeration. And don’t forget pets!

All of this preparation can seem overwhelming, but there are lots of resources to help you out. For more information, including complete lists of suggested supplies and a customizable emergency plan, check out New York City’s Office of Emergency Management, the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The better informed and prepared you are, the safer your loved one will be.


Recommended Reading: Life with Pop

“Several weeks ago, in a fit of self-indulgence, I invited two out-of-town college roommates for lunch today.”

In Life with Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent, Dr. Janis Abrahms Spring brings her caregiving story to life with intimacy and honesty. The lunch with long-time friends is, of course, an exhausting reminder that her life no longer feels like her own. While her friends laugh easily and linger over their meals, Spring tries (and fails) to get through a whole hour without worrying about her father. “This pummeling, day after day, this constant state of high alert, feels not simply burdensome but punishing. Like an affliction. A curse I can’t shake off. And Dad doesn’t even live with me. And he isn’t even demanding.”

Spring is both a clinical psychologist and anxious caregiver, and her account marries professional expertise with personal vulnerability. Each story is described with a careful eye, but the real success of this book is in its refreshing candor. Spring approaches every challenge with as much enthusiasm as she can muster, but she isn’t charging ahead with a thorough plan of action and an intimidating can-do attitude. She’s an overwhelmed wife and mother and daughter, running on a tangled mixture of worry and love and guilt.

When her father asks if he can move in with her, Spring is as surprised as everyone else that she can’t bring herself to say yes. “Am I that selfish, craving my own personal space, believing the quality of my life matters, too? Am I that bad?” And when her father renews his driver’s license, Spring chides herself for staying quiet despite knowing that his reactions are slow and his eyesight is failing. “Call me reckless, irresponsible, or cowardly, I join a long line of children who don’t have the heart to take away a parent’s keys.”

Yet amid the self-doubt and apprehension, Spring often finds herself awed when she’s with her father; even as he’s dying, he’s teaching her. “Dad uses [language] like a feather, tickling [strangers] with humor, making them laugh and relax. I’m learning how important this asset is when you’re old and alone. It’s then that your achievements no longer give you a leg up in the world, and who you’re related to matters less than how you relate.”

The term “caregiver” makes it sound like a profession—a set of skills you can learn and apply with certainty, but every caregiver knows that isn’t how it works. There is very little about caregiving that’s simple and even less that’s easy, but sometimes, reading how someone else navigated the journey can provide a bit of grace.

Life with Pop: Lessons on Caring for an Aging Parent
by Janis Abrahms Spring, PhD, with Michael Spring
Avery Trade, 240 pp.

Have questions about home care? Partners in Care has answers. Give us a call at 1-888-735-8913 and get started today.