Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 6/15/2020 4:31:34 PM

Caring for a Patient with Hearing Loss

Working as a caregiver you will care for patients with different conditions, among which may be hearing loss. Just how common is hearing impairment in the United States? Here are some interesting figures to enlighten you:

1. Around 15% of people (37.5 million) in the United States aged 18 and above, have some hearing impairment.

2. The strongest predictor of hearing loss is age, with the most number of those affected belonging to the 60-69-year-old age group.

3. Among 20 to 69-year-old adults, men are twice as likely to have hearing loss as women.

4. One in every four older people aged 65 to 74 and one in every two of those 75 years old and above, has severe hearing impairment.

5. Only 30% of those aged 70 years old and above who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them.

6. Only around 16% of those aged 20 to 69-years-old who could benefit from hearing aids has ever used them.

These numbers tell you that as a caregiver, there is a good chance that you will encounter a patient with hearing impairment in the span of your career. These helpful Q&A tips will save your day:

1. WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO GET THE ATTENTION OF A PERSON WITH HEARING LOSS? Face the patient and make eye contact. You may need to gently touch their arm or shoulder to make sure that they are ready to understand you. Without getting their attention first, they may not recognize that you are speaking to them even if you are standing very close.

2. WHY IS THERE A NEED FOR GOOD LIGHTING WHEN SPEAKING WITH PATIENTS WHO ARE HEARING IMPAIRED? Patients with hearing loss will need a bright environment to read lips and to see facial expressions and body language of the person they are speaking to.

3. SHOULD I SPEAK LOUDER THAN USUAL? No. Speak with a normal tone, volume, and speed. Do not over-emphasize words with your lips.

4. DO I NEED TO AVOID CERTAIN GESTURES WHEN SPEAKING WITH A PERSON WITH HEARING DIFFICULTY? Yes, avoid putting your hands on or in front of your face.

5. I AM A MAN WITH A MUSTACHE AND A BEARD. WOULD THAT AFFECT THE WAY I COMMUNICATE? Yes. Facial hair makes it difficult to read lips and see facial expressions.

6. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF THE PATIENT STILL CANNOT UNDERSTAND MY QUESTION? Try to rephrase your question. If this technique fails, have a communication board such as a whiteboard with markers or paper and pen on hand.

7. WHAT ARE MY RESPONSIBILITIES IF MY PATIENT WEARS A HEARING AID? Check with the care plan. You may need to help the patient clean their hearing aids and change the filters regularly. You may assist them in putting the hearing aids on and removing and storing them before bedtime. Make sure the hearing aid batteries are still working.

Caregivers must understand that hearing loss for most people does not happen overnight. It is a very slow progressive problem that develops over time. Hearing impairment may well be advanced even before patients notice they have difficulty hearing.

When caregivers see signs of undiagnosed hearing difficulty in a patient, they must report the problem to the supervisor and document their findings in the patient’s health record. This is an important part of the caregiver’s responsibilities because with poor hearing, patients do not get enough brain stimulation and they easily develop dementia, depression, decreased mental alertness, stress, and fatigue.

Most importantly, when caring for people who have a hearing impairment, caregivers must exercise patience because there might be a need to say things repeatedly and also to look for different ways to be understood.


Posted: 5/29/2020 5:24:03 PM

A Caregiver’s Guide to Recognizing Wandering and Sundowning in a Dementia Patient

Caregivers may find themselves caring for a patient with dementia or Alzheimer's disease in the length of their career, and it is important to understand certain information about signs of a worsening condition such as wandering and sundowning.

Wandering is a behavior seen in advancing dementia where the patient’s confusion and disorientation causes them to walk aimlessly from place to place. Wandering patients cannot recall their names, and they may not remember where they have been or where they are going
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Did you know that 6 out of 10 people with dementia will wander? This is the reason why caregivers must recognize the signs of wandering to keep their patients safe. Here are some warning signs to watch out for:

- their walk or drive takes longer than usual

- they ask how to get to a familiar place

- they talk about going to a place where they usually go to when they were younger

- they say they want to ‘go home’ even if they are home

- they have trouble looking for the bedroom or the bathroom

- they ask where a relative or a friend lives

- they show signs of restlessness such as pacing

- they could not finish a familiar task such as putting away the dishes

- they are looking lost when they are in crowded places such as malls or shops

Caregivers must observe these signs and closely supervise the patient at all times to prevent the patient from being harmed if they wander.

Another challenge that a caregiver may face in caring for a patient with advancing dementia is sundowning. People usually love sunsets. But for caregivers of patients with advancing dementia, it is a time they fear because as the sun disappears on the horizon, their patient’s behavior changes for the worse.

Just as the name suggests, sundowning is a term used to describe a patient’s worsening dementia signs and symptoms. The changes begin at dusk and last throughout the night. At the start of the evening, the patient will appear more confused, disoriented, and forgetful. They might even be having hallucinations, verbal outbursts, and mood changes. As if these challenges are not yet enough, the patient will also have trouble sleeping at night. One in every five patients with dementia will experience it, so caregivers must be aware that this can likely happen to their patient if they have Alzheimer’s disease.

Here are some triggers of sundowning to watch out for:

- the patient is tired from either a physical or mental exertion, especially toward the end of the day

- the patient’s normal 24-hour body rhythm (Circadian rhythm) is disrupted causing their body to react with confusion as they mix up night and day

- the environment is dark, which creates shadows that sundowning patients usually misinterpret

- the patient sees that their caregiver is frustrated or irritable while caring for them

- a change of workers at the end of the shift if the patient is in a facility or a hospital

- winter, a time when daytime is shorter

Caregivers who provide assistance to people with dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease are faced with many challenges. Wandering and sundowning are just two of the many aspects of providing care to these patients. Knowing what to expect will make you understand that these signs are just a part of the patient’s illness and that you need to prepare yourself and act in the patient’s best interest when dealing with such situations. More importantly, being aware will help you keep your cool during these challenging times.


Posted: 5/7/2020 4:48:19 PM

Top Caregiver Issues and Concerns

Caregivers play a significant role in healthcare. The way they care for others as well as themselves influences how health services are fulfilled. Currently, caregivers are plagued with challenges and issues that need to be addressed.

At present, there are 65.7 million informal and family caregivers in the United States who are caring for someone who is sick, disabled, or aged. Also, there are more than four million direct care workers who are most likely involved in caregiving, too. Seventy million caregivers mean 70 million voices. This is a call-out we could not ignore.

Looking ahead to the year 2050, people needing long-term care (and caregivers, too) will have doubled to 27 million, and the demand for people who will tend to their needs will also increase drastically.

If you are a caregiver, you might share some top caregiver issues and concerns below:

PERSONAL HEALTH

In a survey, 84% of caregivers expressed concerns about their personal health. In fact, a fifth of those who have been doing caregiving for more than five years report that their health is fair or poor. Caregiving is a demanding job. Sleep deprivation is fairly common, due to several reasons: the physical demands of the job are too much, the need to wake up during the wee hours of the night is a part of the responsibility, and there is anxiety caused by their concern for their family member's health condition. Caregivers usually cannot prepare nutritious foods for themselves, nor can they eat on time. Caregivers also feel too tired to get proper exercise. Furthermore, caregivers could not tend to their own physical ailments because they prioritize caring for their family member.

NOT HAVING ENOUGH RESPITE CARE

In a study, 83% of the caregiver respondents claimed that they are not getting enough respite care. When caregiving knows no break or holiday to have some relaxation and to ‘reset' oneself, the stress of the job builds up and takes its toll on the caregiver.

PHYSICAL STRAIN

About 20% of caregivers report that they undergo very high physical strain. Physical stress is overwhelming especially among high-burden caregivers or those who perform the most number of ADLs (activities of daily living) and IADLs (instrumental activities of daily living) for long periods of time, those caring for patients with dementia and long-term illnesses, and those caregivers who have been doing the job for more than a year.

EMOTIONAL AND MENTAL STRESS

Four out of ten caregivers report that their job is highly stressful, and 25% say that they find the job moderately stressful. Caregiving brings out many negative emotions; the highest reported in a study is the feeling of isolation. Caregivers also feel anger, frustration, irritability, and depression. Due to time constraints and the demands of the responsibility, caregivers find themselves not being able to socialize anymore, creating an unending loop of emotional chaos that leads to self-pity.

FINANCIAL STRAIN

A lot of informal caregivers find themselves dealing with financial challenges. Caregivers may use most of their savings to keep up with their family member's health expenses. Their employment is also severely affected, or worse, they either quit their job or get fired because of their caregiving responsibilities. They could not meet their monthly financial needs. Furthermore, financial support is hard to find.

LACK OF RESOURCES

Many caregivers feel that if only they have the right information, they can care for their family member better. Visits to the physician do not answer all their questions. Some think that their concern is too trivial and too time-consuming to be addressed properly. Another concern is that caregivers do not know where to get helpful information. Lack of support groups and other community resources adds to the feeling of helplessness.

Formal caregivers or those working in facilities and homes also raise concerns of their own, including physical and emotional stress, and declining physical health over time brought about by the demands of the job. Formal caregivers also feel that they have an uncertain career path. At work, they note a lack of oversight, training, and personal growth. They are overworked yet underappreciated; worse, they are often the victims of workplace bullying.

Asking a caregiver about their top job-related issues and concerns will return lots of answers, but the above points are the most common to the majority. The caregivers' collective voice must be heard, and their problems must raise awareness so that in the future when the demand for caregiver services rises, solutions are already in place to address these challenges.


Posted: 3/16/2020 3:30:44 PM

Throw Away Your Excuses: Meditation is Good for You

While caregiving has its rewards and special moments, it can also be a source of stress and anxiety. The physical demands, emotional downturns, and impact on one’s personal life from caregiving can become overwhelming.

Caregivers need to be able to reach into their mental health toolbox and choose meditation as a way to cope.

Meditation means putting aside time to be alone, away from the hustle and bustle of your daily responsibilities. It is spending a few moments in quiet thought while positioned comfortably. It is ridding one’s mind of all worries and then focusing oneself on the present. Think of it as a way to reset, or temporarily break away from challenging tasks.

But sadly, for most caregivers, meditation is at the bottom of their to-do list, if included at all.

Here are some reasons why caregivers keep putting this stress reliever off, and why they really shouldn't:

1. “I don’t have time.”

Caregivers often say they don’t even have enough time to eat or socialize. How can they possibly spare some for meditation? We get it. That’s a great question!

You don't need hours to meditate. In fact, you can do meditation for as little as two minutes. If you can manage five to ten minutes per session, that’s even better!

For those wondering if just a few minutes of calm spent meditating actually works—yes, it definitely does!

Think of it as setting your timer back to zero before returning to your busy schedule, rather than carrying over your present burdens and adding to your challenges the next day.

Meditation is a process of unloading worrisome thoughts so that you can focus again, and helps you think positively and remind yourself what a beautiful person you are. Is that worth spending five minutes each day? The answer should be a definite “yes!”

2. “I don’t have a quiet place.”

If you are really serious about meditation, you’ll be able to find a quiet spot to sit comfortably. It doesn’t have to be a special place. It can be the bathroom, your car, somewhere outside, or simply your bed. It can be any place you can spend some uninterrupted time alone.

3. “I don’t know how.”

The good thing about meditation as a coping strategy is that you don’t need special training to do it.

One of the simplest ways to meditate is to close your eyes and be mindful of your breathing, while telling yourself that you feel relaxed in that moment. Add to the experience by playing some relaxing music and lighting scented candles. Easy, right?

You can also do visualization. Simply put, visualization is a daydream with the eyes closed. Think happy thoughts, such as being in a wonderful place, and savor the moment.

If your mind begins to wander or have nagging thoughts of all the day’s responsibilities, shoo the negative thoughts away and redirect yourself back to your peaceful imagery.

4. “I’d rather sleep.”

Adequate sleep is a precious thing. No one can contest that. But five minutes a day will hardly rob you of precious sleep.

In fact, having anxious thoughts throughout the day (that persist as you start to doze) leaves your brain running on autopilot, trying to solve problems all night. No wonder you wake up feeling like you haven’t slept at all!

Meditation before sleep gives your brain a process for shutting down to rest, so that you can start the next day refreshed and well-rested.

5. “I’ve tried it, but it doesn’t seem to work.”

First of all, it isn’t wise to put off meditation for this reason, because practice makes perfect! Second, you might have given up too soon without giving meditation a chance to benefit you. Do these simple checks before coming to this conclusion:

How long do you usually meditate each day?

Do you do it for at least two full minutes, uninterrupted?

Were you really able to clear your thoughts of the negative stuff before visualizing or doing mindfulness?

Do you do it regularly?

How long have you been practicing meditation?

Have you been conscious to proper technique while meditating?

Give yourself ample time and lots of practice, and soon you'll reap the benefits this practice promises.

Meditation is highly recommended for caregivers as a way to ease their everyday stress. If you are a caregiver and aren’t currently experiencing the benefits of meditation, then it is high time you do. Not only will this technique help you as a person, but it will also improve your working relationship with your patients and colleagues.


Posted: 2/24/2020 6:28:08 PM

What to Do if Your Older Client is Bored

They say “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” How true do you think that is? Could boredom be any more prevalent in the lives of retired seniors?

At retirement, a lot of things change. For one, older people may have more physical complaints and chronic diseases. They can lose energy quickly, move slower, and often have poor eyesight and hearing. Above all, they may not have much to do. Their children may have other immediate family members to care for and/or moved to another place and are not available for frequent visits.

If your client resides in a home or facility, the new environment, the unfamiliar routine, and the “less-than-friendly” people can cause a lot of stress. They often cannot do the things they love, and can feel they have lost their sense of purpose. Their situation can be not just frustrating, but boring.

If you are a caregiver and you see that your older client is uncooperative, disruptive, or constantly making excuses to avoid joining activities, or worse, they are frequently eloping, you have to be extra creative in keeping them active and busy.

FIRST, KNOW YOUR CLIENT AND THEIR PREFERENCES. Genuinely care about what your client wants and make conversation with them. Some clients are shy, but it does not mean that they are immobile. Ask them what they love to do. Let them talk about previous hobbies and how they make friends. Although the structure of activities in a home or facility can be the same for everyone, the approach may be unique for each client.

MAKE STRUCTURED ACTIVITIES A LITTLE MORE SPECIAL FOR THEM. Give them a reason to stand up and go, perhaps by letting them bring their favorite picture frame or photo album.

MAKE PLANS WITH YOUR CLIENT. Planning gives clients something to look forward to. How about a surprise party for a roommate or relative who is going to visit? With this strategy, you engage not only their physical body but also their minds, which can make them want to socialize.

ORGANIZE CLUBS ACCORDING TO HOBBIES. You will need the cooperation and approval of the rest of the staff for this, but your efforts would not be in vain. Sewing clubs, book clubs, scrapbooking clubs…anything goes as long as their health allows it!

WALK WITH THEM. This is the introvert's perfect activity. Walking with clients is great exercise for them. A walk provides a quiet distraction that takes them away from their routine for a few minutes. It will also be a good time to connect with your client so they can talk about how they feel.

INTRODUCE THE INTERNET IF YOUR CILENT IS STILL UNFAMILIAR WITH IT. The internet is a modern photo and video gallery. Since older people often enjoy visiting their relatives and reminiscing, the virtual way of doing so might be just the trick to lighten their mood.

IF YOUR CLIENT’S CONDITION ALLOWS IT, LET THEM TEACH. Elders are a source of great knowledge. Their years of experience put them at the expert level of many things. Other than stimulating their minds, it can encourage a sense of purpose by helping them feel like a productive part of society.

Over the coming years, it is already expected that healthcare will become more welcoming to older people who will need special attention to keep them active, healthy, and happy. Caregivers must be prepared for this period by working passionately to make it the best part of their career.