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. 








Monday, November 5, 2018

A Much Needed Ally...Technology

Caregiving is often complicated by life responsibilities of caregiver or the distance between the caregiver and the individual in need of care. According to Senior Living, up to 15% of caregivers travel at least an hour or more to provide care for a family member. Such demands can impair communication and coordination between those tasked with ensuring the needs of the individual are being met.
Back in the day we all marveled  at the "Clapper". That smart device that when you clapped your hands the lights would come on...clap on...clap off. Today technology has advanced way beyond just being able to control a light bulb. From the GPS tracker to a completely Smart Home, there is no denying that technology can provide not only safety but even more, great peace of mind to the aging and their caregivers. The following are some of the technology recommended by AARP.

GPS Technology- for someone with impaired cognition this is an excellent device for a caregiver to use.  This device can always let the caregiver know the exact location of their loved one. Some devices can even send an alert via email or text if the individual goes outside of a preset geographical area.

Personal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) - most folks are familiar with a Medical Alert device. The individual can push a button to contact a central call center during an emergency. Today there are many different PERS available and the caregiver should explore which one will meet their loved ones individual need. To assist in your choice read the Buyers Guide choice of the 2018 Best Medical Alert Systems

Medication Reminder Systems - one of the biggest concerns caregivers can have is making sure their loved one takes their medication consistently and as prescribed. As people age the number of medications they take often increase making it difficult for some seniors to manage this task efficiently.  Again there are many different medication reminders to choose from. Senior Safety Reviews has chosen the Best Reminders for 2018.

Health Tracking Tools - keeping up with appointments and health records can be almost impossible without help. Online platforms such as Health Vault and Mayo Health Manager allows for a space to store and share vital information.

Wireless Home Monitoring (Smart Home) - for the distant caregiver this can be a dream come true. It allows the caregiver to have control over many functions and visualization of the home to help their loved one stay safe. Explore the various Smart Home Technology which will support independent living and greatly reduce the caregivers stress.

Technology seems to be ever growing and should be a welcomed ally of all caregivers.



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Thursday, October 25, 2018

"It Takes A Villiage"

The phrase "it takes a village" is often heard in reference to raising children but another role where a village community is helpful is that of caregiving. Caregiving requires not only finances, physical, mental and emotional energy but it is often a task many individuals attempt to do alone. Most have no idea what is required until they are often abruptly thrust into the role. As people are living longer due to the wonders of modern technology it becomes vital to plan and look ahead as to how one can be prepared to navigate this role.
We all know the saying "when you fail to plan, you plan for failure" and when it comes to caregiving, not only the individual who needs care suffers but the one tasked to provide care often suffers more.
Caregiving often robs caregivers time to care for themselves causing an array of physical, emotional and mental problems. Those in need of care can often fall victim to abuse and/or neglect.
Remember, you cannot care effectively for someone else, unless you first take care of yourself.  Spend some time gaining an understanding of caregivers stress and ways to take control of your life as a caregiver. 
The big key to caregiving is resources...resources...resources. What things are available to you that will allow you to make aging and the role of caregiving a bit easier. Finding those resources often is not easy but they are out there. A very interesting concept I've recently learned about is called "village movements". This is where a group of individuals usually 50+ form a non-profit with the goal of providing services for themselves which will allow members to remain in their homes as long as possible. Many of the services provided are at reduced rate or provided by a network of volunteers. Villages are continuously expanding across the country. To learn more if there is one near you check the helpful village map.
I do not know about you but with the grace of God and the help of family and friends. I hope to live a long, full and vibrant life. Spend time thinking about what your caregiving needs may be and who will be involved. Caregiving is a full time job but definitely does not have to do alone. Check back next week where I will have more on how technology can be a useful tool for caregiving.


Saturday, October 13, 2018

All About Having a Clear Understanding

As a community patient advocate I spend many hours with friends, family and community members in healthcare environments. One thing I've noticed, over the past 10 years strides have been taken to help ensure individuals who speak a different language have an interpreter and/or printed material in their primary language. In addition, some facilities usage of graphics have aided greatly to convey vital health information and navigation throughout facilities.
One area I often see that still has a way to go is to ensure what is said by the provider is completely understood by the patient. Just recently a triage nurse said to my cousin,"so you have CHF" and to her that had absolutely no meaning. Before I told her the meaning, Congestive Heart Failure, her  response was "if  you say so, I guess that is what I have". Imagine if she had very little concept of the definition of CHF chances are she had even less understanding of the consequences of her diagnosis.
The use of medical abbreviations and acronyms can be confusing and often intimidating to someone without a medical background or low health literacy. Health literacy is not only important when an individual utilizes the healthcare system but it  plays a vital part in prevention and wellness.
The first step an individual can take is to be advocates for themselves in the healthcare system. Providers only know you do not understand something unless you inform them of that. Your overall course of adequate and quality care depends on good communication. Take steps to do your part in this two way system called communication by learning "Questions to ask your doctor". Never feel you do not deserve answers and if you have a doctor unwilling to take time for your questions...perhaps it is time for a new one.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Benefits of Yoga for Seniors & Caregivers


Guest Author: Harry Cline

Getting older can come with its fair share of pains and struggles. Little things such as mood swings, hot flashes and achy muscles can become more frequent. Yoga and meditation can provide benefits to both seniors and caregivers as they get older.

Yoga and meditation can provide benefits that other exercises can’t provide. It will ease the burdens of life that seniors and caregivers face on a daily basis. Caregivers especially need some TLC since they are typically working around the clock caring for you.

Helps facilitate addiction recovery

Yoga and meditation can provide healing to people going through addiction recovery. For many people in recovery, having a good relationship with the physical self is just as important as the spiritual one. In fact, many addiction specialists are turning to yoga and similar types of therapies to supplement traditional 12-step programs. That’s because meditation focuses on mindfulness, which can allow the addict to experience feelings of peace and comfort. Yoga is also about community, because everyone in the class is breathing together, which can allow addicts to realize that they’re not alone in their recovery.

Improves blood circulation

For seniors or caregivers who are struggling to find low-impact exercises that don’t strain their joints and muscles, yoga and meditation can be great alternatives. It can surprisingly get your blood flowing without tiring you out. Yoga is a community activity because all attendees are there to breathe together and practice mindfulness. That means everyone supports each other, and they won’t judge you if you need to sit down during a class. It’s important to keep your blood flowing because it will give you the energy you need to get through the day.

Allows for relaxation

Practicing regular physical activity (yes, that includes yoga), can not only improve your body, but also it can improve your mental health. As you age, this becomes increasingly important. It will also benefit your caregiver because when you’re at peak mental health, it will be easier on them to take care of you. Because yoga allows you and your caregiver to practice mindfulness, you will also be able to relax. A lot of worrying may come into your life as you get older, and yoga and meditation are great ways to push those worries aside and enjoy the little things.

Provides community interaction

If you don’t spend a lot of time with others, yoga can be a great way to meet people in your community. Look and see if they have yoga classes in your area that are targeted toward seniors. Sign up for a class and get there a little early to try and meet a few people before it starts. Yoga provides an easy conversation starter and you can chat about how you enjoyed the class. It’s a great social activity, and working out with friends will keep you motivated to stay fit.

Ability to practice anywhere

If it’s not in your budget to sign up for daily or weekly yoga classes, you can easily practice it at home. That’s one of the biggest benefits of yoga and meditation — you don’t have to be in a professional yoga studio to practice. In fact, you can do it at home. Figure out an area of your home that you want to use as a meditation and yoga room. It should be an uncluttered space with some room on the floor for your mat. Make sure it’s quiet; you can even try lighting some candles to set the mood. Sit down on your mat and try to get rid of all the thoughts in your head and focus on the moment. Once you practice a couple of times at home, you’ll realize you don’t need to listen to a yoga teacher to meditate. Yoga is a great activity that you and your caregiver can do together at home.

Monday, August 20, 2018

How Seniors Can Get the Sleep They Need


Guess author: Karen Weeks
A good night’s sleep is a key component of overall well-being and health. We all know this, as our parents taught us the importance of bedtime and not oversleeping in the morning. We know that children need a great deal of sleep, but as adults, we seem to try to get by with fewer hours as our schedules get progressively more hectic.

Seniors tend to experience less-than-ideal sleep for a variety of reasons. They are often much less busy than they were even just a few years ago, as retirement can create a shock to their routines, but older adults often have trouble sticking to a regular schedule. Some may feel tired earlier in the day and take extended naps, which may end up delaying their evening bedtime. Then, when they finally sleep later at night, they may end up feeling tired in the morning.

In order to maintain optimal health, seniors should focus on having uninterrupted sleep for at least eight hours. Naps can be restorative and helpful, but only when they don’t detract from nightly sleep. Of course, not everyone can sleep soundly through the night. For these older adults, there are several ways to ease back into more regular sleep habits.

Encourage Sleep Through Healthy Living

The ability to sleep is affected by one’s level of exercise and type of diet. Those who work out -- even with mild amounts of low-impact exercise -- experience more even sleep periods. This is because the body is simply tired from the activity. Physical activity drains the body and requires rest for building muscle and improving performance. An overwhelming amount of exercise can create major physical damage, so there needs to be a delicate balance.

Low-impact, sustainable exercise, such as walking, cycling, and swimming, are the best types of workouts to ensure ideal sleep for seniors. These types of exercise are ideal for seniors in general since they help maintain physical health without risking injury.

Diet can also influence sleep. Seniors often eat less regular meals than others, because of isolation or lack of appetite. They may skip meals, opting instead for small, unhealthy snacks. When they do sit down for a meal, they may eat heavily processed convenience foods. Because of these irregular eating patterns, digestion may interfere with sleep.

The types of food and beverages consumed also impact sleep. Caffeine later in the day can keep seniors from falling asleep, but so can sugary drinks. Spicy foods, or snacks eaten later at night, can send digestive systems into overdrive when your body should be slowing down.

It’s also important that your bedroom promotes an atmosphere for healthy sleep. If needed, add some soft lighting, turn off your television before bed, and remove any technology that might distract you from getting sleep. Also, a decluttered and well-organized bedroom (also known as bedroom feng shui) can reduce stress and help you fall asleep easier.

Sleep Follows Mindfulness

Another way to ensure better sleep is to get to know yourself better. Mindfulness through meditation or simple moments of silence can help provide focus. Mediation can be highly structured or simple. However, it’s important to take time to reflect on yourself, your day, and your needs. Sometimes, the mind is racing, and Meditation can help you slow things down.

Meditation is easy. One way to slowly incorporate mindfulness is to take 10 minutes at the end of the day to relax without distraction. Find a quiet area of the house -- a spare room or other simple and decluttered space. Dim the lights, close your eyes, and go through some breathing exercises. Relax, refocus, and prepare for the next day.

Mindfulness benefits seniors in more areas than sleep, helping to encourage an overall healthy lifestyle. When a senior sleeps more regularly, they are more likely to enjoy activities. These, in turn, help a senior tap more deeply into self-knowledge. In a healthy circle, sleep, exercise, diet, and mindfulness result in better senior living.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Choosing and Caring For Your First Mental Health Companion Animal


Guest author: Brandon Butler

If you’re struggling with a mental health condition, you may want to consider adopting a companion animal. Many people struggling with mental health conditions have found that a companion animal helps keep them steady and secure, even on their worst days. While all pet owners find comfort and companionship in their pets, this is especially true for those with mental health illnesses.

How Pets Help Those with Mental Health Conditions

Interactions with pets can lessen anxiety, lower blood pressure and heart rate, and offset feelings of depression. From songbirds lowering depression in men at a veteran’s hospital to dogs improving depression in college students, studies have shown a variety of companion animals can help numerous mental health conditions, including depression, bipolar disorder, addiction, and more.

People benefit from their companion animal’s presence in several ways. Some people feel a deep emotional connection with their pet that they don’t feel from friends and family. People also report that companion animals distract them from their illness and keep them from feeling socially withdrawn. For starters, you’ll never feel alone with a pet around your apartment or house. Also, dogs in particular serve as great icebreakers. When people see a dog in public, they tend to approach the dog to pet him or her to say hello.

Exercise along with creating and keeping routines are helpful for many people struggling with mental health issues. All animals need to be tended to and cared for, so they give you meaning and keep you engaged while you maintain a routine. Because they need to be walked two to three times a day, dogs in particular force you to remain active and stay on schedule even when you don’t feel like it.

Finding Therapy Animals

If you need your dog to be specially trained in assisting you with your specific mental health condition, groups like the American Humane Association offer animal-assisted therapy programs for people with depression and other mood disorders. You may also be able to find a local group in your area that offers training. The AKC offers a list of certified therapy dog training groups.

In order for your pet to be covered by the Disability Act and thus be able to go everywhere with you, it must be trained as a psychiatric service dog, which is different than training for a therapy dog or an emotional support animal (ESA). While the latter do have certain legal rights in housing situations and when flying, psychiatric service dogs have the same abilities and protection by laws as other service dogs, such as those for vision impairment.

Choosing and Caring for a Pet

When choosing a companion animal, there are some questions to help you determine which type of animal is best for you. Be aware of the space requirements for different animals and breeds, and consider the space in your home and yard. Also, consider the cons of different pets. For example, can you live with pet hair or do you mind changing a litter box every day? Different animals and breeds require different levels of care, so ensure that you have the time necessary to devote to a pet. They also have different activity levels, and those should align with your own. One of the most important concerns is the financial consideration.

Caring for your pet requires a lot of responsibility, but the five most important things to provide are exercise, food, grooming, veterinarian check-ups, and a schedule. Exercise burns off stored energy, keeps them healthy, and provides a bonding opportunity. Food and treats should be the right quality and amount. Grooming and regular veterinarian visits keep your pet comfortable and healthy. A regular schedule helps your pet’s temperament and helps you create a great relationship with your pet.

Adopting a companion animal may provide great benefits to you if you’re struggling with a mental health condition. Whether you’re suffering from bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, PTSD, or addiction, a pet can provide comfort, security, and companionship. When you and your pet become bonded, he or she will be by your side always without ever judging you or asking questions about your struggles. It’s an unconditional love that’s sure to benefit you both.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Beyond the Pill Box

When a medication is prescribed,  its effectiveness in treating or improving the condition for which it was given can only be measured if taken consistently and as prescribed. For many, medication compliance is a challenge.This is especially true for those who take multiple medications, senior citizens, individuals with mental illness and those who are visually impaired.
Over the years several medication adherence aides have had some positive impact on compliance. However, even with the various devices available, non-compliance continues to have a negative impact in healthcare, inhibiting practitioners ability to improve a patients' health and their quality of life. This behavior ultimately leads to frequent hospitalizations and for some premature death.
Data suggest that 60 percent of individuals with depression, one half asthmatics and two thirds of individuals with HIV fail to take medications as prescribed.The cost of non-compliance in the United States is skyrocketing estimated  to be between $100 - $300 billion annually in the US alone. It is apparent a solution to this problem is needed.
In November 2017, the FDA approved the use of digital pills. This new technology will allow the tracking of a medication when taken. The patient receives a motivational message when a medication is taken or an alert if it is missed. The physician and designated family members also gets a readout on the patients' medication activity. The digital pill has several hurdles to overcome, especially those related to privacy but early data suggest a 99% compliance rate in a study of a small group of individuals being treated for Hepatitis C leading to a 100% cure rate. It is believed that with time the digital pill will be widely accepted not only by the medical community but also by the consumers of health. Learn more "What is a digital pill"?