Monday, December 3, 2018

"Home for the Holidays"

"Home for the holidays"...for some just the thought is enough to make your stomach knot up like a pretzel and your head pound like someone dropped the Salvation Army kettle on it. Yes…a real Akla Seltzer moment. You ponder on the idea.... "there must be some way that I could fall asleep on Christmas Eve and wake up when the whole holiday thing is over". Unfortunately, there is no such luck for that one. So before you start trying to make up a story about being abducted and beamed up to outer space on the Mother Ship…let me share some useful tips that could help make going home for the holidays a little less stressful.

1.  Have a meeting to prioritize and plan activities for the week (put them on a calendar and give a copy to each head of household for every family that will be in attendance). Be sure to give everyone a voice…this includes the little people…they count too.

2. Designate and share responsibilities: who will do the major cooking, who will to do the kitchen cleanup, who will keep the shared living areas clean, etc. Write this out also giving the head of each household a copy.

3.  Do not expect anyone's personality to have changed since the last time you were together...just know they are who they are. Those you have issues with will most likely be the same. One of the easiest ways to set yourself up for disaster is to have false expectations.

4.  Accept and respect long standing family traditions. Remember one day, if you are so blessed with longevity, you will be the senior member of the family.

5.  Do not take the holiday gathering as an opportunity to address unresolved family disputes. If it was not resolved in the 365 days since your last gathering, there is no reason to believe it will get settled during the week.

6.  Set precise house rules for the children. Make them precise and clear and posted so they can be seen. All adults should be authorized to enforce set rules. No bay-bay kids allowed.

7.  Make it clear adults are expected to clean areas one usually cleans behind themselves (i.e. no one should yank back the shower curtain to find the previous user soap scum). Remember the maid has week off so she could go home for the holiday too.

8.  Pets…so you plan to bring along your favorite furry friend…”news flash” – everyone, contrary to popular belief, is not a pet lover and there may be relatives with severe pet allergies. Definitely discuss this before you show up at the door with Fife, Fido and/or Fluffy. If it is agreed pets are welcomed, there must be clear boundaries; determine where they will be allowed to roam during the week. Talk about ruining Christmas dinner - Cujo finds his way to the kitchen to grab a little sample of the glazed ham but it was so good that he got carried away…not even the bone remained - “has anyone seen the glazed ham”?

9.  Set and post the noise level rules for early morning and late night hours in a common area. There are bound to be early morning roosters and the late night insomniacs.

10.  Solitude…yes…although we have gathered for bonding time…people still need “ME” time during the week. It is OK to take time alone to do your routine meditation, reflection, exercise, etc. Do not feel obligated to miss this important part of you taking care of you. For some this might be the only way of maintaining sanity for the week…a legitimate way to escape!

Although this doesn’t beat being able to play Rip Van Wrinkle for the week or getting your family to
believe the alien abduction kidnapping snapshot, I hope these few suggestions help make your trip home for the holidays an experience you will look forward to…OK…that might be stretching it a bit much…but at least one where you can build good memories.

I have shared a few helpful tips with you…now I have a question for you– What do you do with that re-gifted fruitcake?

Friday, November 30, 2018

A Hospital Room Doesn't Always Mean Inpatient

When you go to a hospital, except for same day or emergency services, once you are moved into a room in the hospital and provided services (intravenous hydration, oxygen, medications, nursing care, etc.) you generally deduct you have been officially admitted and considered an inpatient. But wait...not so fast...did you know you can be receiving services which appears as though you are an inpatient but in fact you are not. Thus comes the status known as "hospital observation" which is a type of outpatient status. Previously there were times when a physician wanted to "observe" an individual for a short period of time to decide if in fact he/she needed more skilled inpatient care for their health problem. Today, someone can be placed on observation status for days and often without their knowledge or what the implication of this can be.
So you may be asking yourself, why should it matter to the healthcare consumer if their status is inpatient or observation. The two main reasons why it matters are the patient's out of pocket expenses and the ability to receive skilled care at discharge is greatly impacted.
With so many changes in healthcare coverage, a well informed healthcare consumer should learn as much as possible about this subject. To gain a better understanding, take time and read What is Hospital Observation Status and Why You Pay More If You Are Hospitalized for Observation.
If you find it difficult for you or your loved ones to effectively navigate the healthcare  system maze, the service of a patient advocate can be helpful. Just remember if you use the advocate in the facility although they do seek to assist patients and their family solve problems, ultimately they work for the facility and there may be limitation as to what they ultimately can do. The other alternative is to hire a private patient advocate. When hiring an advocate you want to be certain they have the skills and experience you need for your specific situation. Learn more on how to screen and hire a patient advocate. Be sure you make it clear what you need their service for and what your expectations are up front. Good communications is key and it is always better when things are in writing. 

Monday, November 26, 2018

How to Fight Insomnia -Submission of guest writer Sarah Johnson

What is Insomnia

Insomnia is defined as a “dissatisfaction with sleep quantity or quality” and is “associated with difficulty initiating or maintaining sleep [or] early-morning waking with the inability to return to sleep” according to the Clinical Guidelines Committee of the American College of Physicians. Between 6-10% of US adults suffer from diagnosed insomnia and experience side effects such as chronic fatigue, poor cognitive function, mood disturbance, and/or general distress.

Adults require between 7-9 hours of sleep each night, which can be extremely hard to get for any busy person, but even more so for someone with insomnia. There are a variety of things that can contribute to insomnia such as stress, depression, trauma, environmental factors, or even your daily routine. Fortunately, there are also a number of simple changes you can make to help fight the sleepless nights.

How To Fight It

While it’s not advised to use a screen prior to bed, if you are having difficulty falling asleep there are a number of meditation apps you can download to your phone or tablet (just keep the screen on ‘night mode’ to help lessen the harsh light). These apps have a library full of guided meditations, many of which are aimed specifically at helping you fall asleep naturally.

Another option is to invest in your bedroom to create a space that promotes sleep. Hang blackout curtains to block light, use a diffuser for essential oils, or get a white noise machine to help down out external sounds.

If you have no problem falling asleep, but find that you wake up throughout the night, there are additional steps you can take to help you fall back asleep. If you find that you are tense when you sleep, try to flex and release your muscles a few times to help your body relax. Also, consider investing in a good mouthguard to keep you from grinding or clenching your teeth overnight, as it can cause headaches and jaw aches that may wake you up earlier than you’d like.

Keep a notepad on your nightstand if you often wake up in a panic over your to-do list. You can write down all of your thoughts on the notepad, to ensure yourself you won’t forget anything on the list by the time you wake up. Additionally, you can use this as a sort of diary to just write down any obsessive thoughts you may be having, which will help you release them and allow you to go back to sleep.

Finally, if you find that you wake up early in the morning, and can’t go back to sleep for that extra few hours, keep a book on your nightstand that will lull you back to sleep. It’s important to pick something that is interesting, but not necessarily a cliffhanger that will you keep you glued to the book - making it even more difficult to fall back asleep.

For those adults who are not one of the 6-10% diagnosed with insomnia, there are a number of small changes that can be done to help fight the sleepless nights, without the use of medication. However, if you’ve tried everything you can think of and you still feel like a zombie, it may be time to see the doctor. There are a variety of physical factors that can impact a person’s quantity and/or quality of sleep, and it’s better to address them than to ignore them.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Safety On The New Senior Playground...The WWW

For those who grew up with the WWW, online safety is somewhat part of their being. They have a working understanding of viruses, hackers and the likes which are used to manipulate and steal personal information. For the senior population however, these things are not so clear. The seniors did not grow up exposed to computers from infancy. Their introduction to the world of technology is often at the suggestion of someone with a much better understanding of the dangers it can present. The idea that someone could/would use their information in a negative manner is almost foreign to them.
Despite seniors inexperience, they are expected to assimilate, often blindly, into that world. Just think of it, many services they use and need are processed online. Even when you call for customer service help you are directed to refer to the website. So how can we help keep seniors safe as they venture into the WWW.

PC protection.
As the computer is the easiest target for theft of sensitive information, choosing a robust virus protection is key. Make sure that the software installed has automatics updates so that will not be another step for them to be concerned with. You may also want to periodically do a manual check to be sure everything is up-to-date.

Surfing safety
The ability to spot bogus website and choosing secure passwords will assist seniors to surf the web safely. Family members can help educate seniors with a few training session. They should learn how to identify safe and unsafe sites and certain cues that may alert them to use caution or avoid the site altogether. Explain and help them create secure passwords for websites that require login.

Email safety
 Email is the yellow brick road hackers use to trick people out of vital information using the technique called phishing. Unknowingly many people are fooled by this cyber scamming method and inexperience users fall prey before they even realize it. Seniors also need to be aware to never open emails, attachments or links from an unfamiliar source. If they have any doubt, they should scan the email to be sure it contains no malware.

Scams...scams and more scams
Sad to say, the elderly are a primary target for scammers. Many seniors are aware of telephone and snail mail scams, but the internet is another avenue predators use. Help them learn how to spot the more frequent ones such as getting an alert that there is a virus on their computer and they should download this virus protection to protect their computer.

Staying safe online is an ongoing learning process. Online Safety Tips for Seniors is a good starting point to assist your senior family members as they venture out onto the new playground...the WWW.