Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 4/21/2018 9:01:15 AM

Find a Hobby and Love Yourself While Caregiving

Is caregiving making you tired, burned out, and cranky? Don’t allow yourself to reach this point. How? By finding a hobby! You might say, "Nah, I'd rather sleep!" But hold that thought, and consider this: although having a good night's rest is necessary and can seem like a huge privilege that rarely happens, not all the stresses of caregiving can be solved by sleep.

Caregivers must have time to do the things they love when they are awake, however cliché that may sound. Let's find out why.

Doing something that excites you, in the form of hobbies, puts you in a better place emotionally and mentally. Your frame of mind shifts from the challenges of caring for your patients to the positive feeling of doing something that interests and inspires you.

Hobbies allow you to stay in the present, feel good about yourself, and reset your state of mind. They calm nerves and fight stress. They also create a balance between work and personal life and give you a renewed sense of purpose—caring for oneself and not just for others.

If you don’t yet have a hobby, here are some tips to get started:

1. Set and make time.

Caregivers tend to say, "Yeah, I guess I can start a hobby, when I have time!" If you’ve told yourself that, chances are the moment will never come unless you firmly set aside time to make it work. Stick to your plan like a strict diet program and you’ll reap good results in the future.

2. Ask yourself what you love doing the most and make a list of your favorites.

Would you rather have peace and quiet, or to socialize instead? Would you prefer to enjoy it with company or alone? What time of day or night is a hobby possible for you? How many minutes a day, or how frequently in a week, can you spend doing your hobby? How long before you finish a project? How much money do you need to support your hobby?

3. Plan and act on it.

Keeping the idea in the back of your mind is useless if you do not make the effort to begin somewhere. As with any attempt, it is the start that seems to be the most challenging, but once you are into it, giving it a rest is the next big challenge.

4. Once that you have finished a project, share, donate, or sell it to fund your next venture.

Don’t just keep your hobby to yourself, share it with others to spread the positive effects and help motivate you to complete the next project.

If you are open to having a unique and interesting hobby, here's a short list that might interest you.

1. Care for a bonsai tree

Bonsai is the Japanese method for growing miniature trees, scaled to its original shape and size as a full-grown tree. Choose fruit-bearing ones like orange or lemon so you can reward yourself with a harvest in the future. You need a lot of patience and dedication for this hobby, because the waiting time for results can take years.

2. Photography

No expertise needed as long as the moments you capture speak to you, although photography clubs and classes can be a great way to stick to your hobby. Create memes and quotes with the photos to level up on your experience and share it with your friends and family.

3. DIY (do-it-yourself) project

Perhaps you saw on social media a video of a real DIY life hack that interested you. Choose your favorite and start creating something practical or artistic.

4. Bring to life old or broken things

If you are into fixing and tinkering, try getting an old vacuum to work, restoring a wooden chair, or making a music box sound again.

5. Make the most of a dollar

“How far will my one dollar go?” Challenge yourself using coupons and deals from the Internet and newspapers. This can be a recurring challenge with great results.

So, there you have it. Go ahead and start a hobby! Love yourself!

Posted: 4/6/2018 11:27:35 AM

Bracing Yourself When Your Patient Turns Violent

Have you ever enjoyed an action-packed movie where a patient becomes violent and attacks healthcare staff? You might be recalling a few scenes right now, for example, a caregiver is held at gunpoint by a walk-in client asking for treatment or a frustrated patient loses it and hits someone, getting tackled and restrained as a result.

These scenarios are some of the highlights of these movies, and perhaps you think that they rarely happen in real life. But they do.
In 2013, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics released figures related to workplace violence in healthcare professions, and the numbers are shocking.

The healthcare industry takes the number one spot for serious workplace violence. By “serious,” we mean that workers had to take days off to recover from their injuries. The number of incidents is at 7.8 per 10,000 full-time employees, four times higher than in the private industry, which ranks second.

Eighty percent of these aggressive behaviors are done by patients, and the most common victims are nursing, psychiatric, and home health aides. The number of recorded cases of serious violence directed toward health aides (that caused days away from work) reached more than 7,000 that same year!

In addition to physical injuries resulting from these violent acts, there are psychological effects and other grim consequences for caregiver victims. These include stress, burnout, and other patients being put at risk due to medical errors committed by severely stressed staff.

These revelations paint a clear picture for caregivers. The chances of caring for an aggressive patient are high, so you should be prepared at all times, bracing yourself for such interactions.

Should a patient become physical, here are some ways to handle their behavior and the situation:

1. Know when it’s coming.

Recognize the signs of worsening anger, such as restlessness, pacing, making a fist, or clenching the jaws. Patients that tend to attack staff are angry, frustrated, and distressed. They throw threatening language around.

2. Keep calm.

It may seem easier said than done, but it is absolutely necessary to stay calm and keep your emotions in check. An aggressive patient sensing fear in a caregiver will have more confidence in carrying out the abusive behavior.

3. Be non-threatening.

Stand at a 45-degree angle from the patient and near an exit. Always have an escape plan in mind.

4. Listen and talk to the patient.

Sometimes the reason for the escalation of anger leading to violence is because a patient feels that they are not being heard. Let patients express themselves verbally. Use open-ended questions and keep the conversation going.

5. Know where alarms are placed and be ready to activate them when needed.

Have a unique code that you can say to alert other staff of the danger.

6. When the attack happens, follow protocol.

Your organization should have procedures in place when a violent act is committed, such as restraining the patient, calling security, or taking the patient to an empty room.

7. Ensure that other patients are safe.

A threatening patient can strike fear in both the staff and their fellow patients, and the entire floor could be affected by the incident. Make sure other clients are out of harm’s way.

Caregivers know the stresses of their career, but violence should never be accepted as just “part of the job.” Caregivers should be proactive in preventing hostile behavior in patients by recognizing the early signs, calming patients as soon as possible, and following protocol during an act of violence.

Posted: 3/30/2018 3:06:33 PM

Pneumonia in the Elderly: What Caregivers Need to Know

What is pneumonia?

Pneumonia is an infection of the lung caused by either a virus or a bacterium. The lungs fill with fluid which makes breathing difficult. A person with a lung infection develops fever, chills, and a cough with yellowish or greenish sputum.

Did you know that, after getting sick with pneumonia, it generally takes 6-8 weeks before a patient can return to their normal level of functioning and well-being? What about in the case of older people with pneumonia?

According to the American Thoracic Society, older people are at risk of developing pneumonia and are more likely to die from the disease if they become sick. This means that they have a hard time recovering from the disease.

This fact must be eye-opening for caregivers who take care of older persons. Caregivers must have a good grasp on what pneumonia is and how it affects the elderly, so they can care for these patients more efficiently and increase their chances of a fast recovery.

Older people easily get sick with pneumonia and have a hard time recovering for several reasons.

1. Aging causes changes in the lungs that enable an infection to develop.

2. Older people have weakened immune systems.

3. They have other health problems, such as heart conditions, diabetes, or hypertension.

4. Older people may be experiencing pain which makes them hesitant to take deep breaths.

5. They may be taking medications that have many side-effects.

Caregivers play a very important role as the first person who would notice if the patient may be developing a lung infection, because they spend a lot of time at the bedside. It is likely that the patient will tell them they are not feeling well. Additionally, caregivers take body temperatures, so a spike in the thermometer reading should raise a red flag and compel caregivers to report to the supervisor. They are also able to see them coughing up sputum.

But one thing that most caregivers fail to do is to prevent it from happening. Those who care for the elderly need to do everything they can to prevent patients from developing pneumonia, because once the disease starts, the possibility of complications is significant and the chance of a full recovery becomes slim.

Here are some important tips to stay one step ahead of this disease:

1. Go back to basics.

Nutritious meals, fresh air, proper exercise, morning sunshine, and adequate hydration help maintain the immune system and make the body strong to fight off infections, so put more effort toward making sure the patient has enough of these. Think of it as putting on armor before going to battle. It is much-needed protection.

2. Perform handwashing and use personal protective equipment as necessary.

Pneumonia can start from microorganisms that came from coughs and sneezes from other people who come in contact with caregivers. Proper handwashing and the use of gloves and gowns can prevent the spread of infections.

3. Protect your patient from drafts and very hot or very cold environments.

These factors cause changes in the body that make people prone to the common cold, which could possibly lead to pneumonia.

On the other hand, caregivers who take care of older patients already diagnosed with pneumonia must ensure the following:

1. Watch out for signs of confusion.

Pneumonia can cause confusion in older patients so watch out for falls and ensure their safety.

2. Keep your patient properly hydrated and offer nutritious meals.

Patients need proper nutrition and hydration to fight off the lung infection and start repairing themselves.

3. Remind them to take their medications when they are due.

Older persons with pneumonia will take antibiotics and other medications. For the treatment to go well, the patient should be able to take them on time and not miss a dose.

4. Follow doctor's orders and the care plan.

Making the patient well again is the goal of the whole healthcare team, not just the caregiver. Be sure to do all that is written in the care plan and everything the physician advises.

Pneumonia may be a difficult enemy to conquer when the victim is an older person. However, caregivers are in a unique position to do their best to ensure that this situation doesn’t happen.

Posted: 3/23/2018 2:22:42 PM

Staying Focused When Your Client Gets Confused

Confusion can be a manifestation of many disorders and medical conditions, yet caregivers overlook its significance because it presents without overly dramatic signs. But putting “confusion” at the bottom of your priorities is a big mistake because it signifies that a client's condition has worsened, or that they have developed new health problems.

Confusion is sometimes being observed as:

1. Memory loss. Confused clients forget things and misplace items easily. Sometimes they cannot remember what they had for breakfast or the name of the person they just met. At times, they forget the meaning of words, so they also have difficulty communicating.

2. Being unable to perform complex tasks. They find it hard to add or multiply numbers, plan the monthly budget, or cook.

3. Disorientation to time, place, and person. They are unaware of the time and date. They forget where they are, where they live, why they went somewhere, and cannot recognize family and friends.

4. Dressing inappropriately for the weather. Their confusion makes them unable to feel if it is cold or hot outside, so they go out in the snow barefoot or wearing only pajamas.

5. Poor judgment and decision-making. They give away their money and other valuables because they lose a sense of their value and cost.

6. Hallucinations, illusions, and delusions. They see, touch, smell, and hear things that are not there, or they misinterpret items as something else. Sometimes they believe that they are someone else, like a queen or the president, or are sure that their roommate is the villain from a story they just read.

7. Emotional signs. Sometimes confusion presents as emotional signs. They have mood swings; they can instantly switch from anger to joy to sadness and other emotions. Sometimes they cannot seem to feel anything, lacking interest in or awareness of their surroundings. Sexually suggestive behaviors could also be observed in confused clients.

Now that you know the many faces of confusion, you need to learn how to focus on your client by following these helpful tips:

1. Always consider their safety. Confused clients are prone to becoming lost or injured, such as in falls and other accidents. When you see signs of confusion, anticipate their needs and keep them safe.

2. Know the triggers for worsening confusion. In the elderly, confusion can be caused by any physical illness or discomfort. If confusion suddenly develops in an elderly client who reports that they are not feeling well, inform the supervisor or the physician immediately so the client can be examined and get medical attention. In those with Alzheimer's disease, confusion can worsen late in the day, so it helps to keep the room brightly lit, clutter-free, and quiet.

3. Reorient those with temporary confusion. Those clients who become temporarily confused due to medications, surgery, or infections will benefit from being oriented to reality. The caregiver can remind them of the present date and time, where they are, and who their family members are.

4. In some clients, validate their needs instead of reorienting them to reality. For some clients, such as those with advanced dementia, orienting them with reality would not be helpful at all. For example, a client demands to go home even if they are already at home. Telling the client that they are at their residence would upset them because they cannot recognize their own house. Instead, asking what they need or why they need to go home will help reduce their anxiety, meet their needs, and calm them down.

5. Maintain a routine and structure. Confusion can sometimes happen when activities are done out of schedule, or if there are new tasks introduced. For those with advanced dementia, maintaining a schedule of activities can help keep the client’s mind clear.

When clients get confused, it is important for caregivers to stay focused on keeping clients safe and reducing their stress. Caregivers must remain respectful and helpful, even when their clients show significant changes in behavior and mental status.

Posted: 3/16/2018 6:34:15 PM

Helping Post-Stroke Patients on Their Way to Recovery

Each year, about 800,000 Americans suffer a stroke. Currently, it is the leading cause of long-term disability. For this reason, more caregivers are finding themselves caring for stroke patients.

Most survivors want to return home and be independent as much as their health permits. But recovery after stroke remains a challenge. Those who have full support from their family and care team do better and achieve health goals earlier than most.

Take the case of Peter, a retired teacher who suffered a stroke one year ago. At that time, he could not speak properly, and the right side of his body was too weak to move. Because he had proper support, at present, Peter is looking good and can steadily climb up a flight of steps.

After his discharge from the hospital, most of his care was done at home. Nurses and therapists come to check on him during scheduled visits, and his home health aide, Annie, stayed with him most days of the week.

Peter is thankful for his family and the care team who made his recovery possible, but he is especially appreciative of Annie who gave him the most encouragement when improvement seemed far off. Annie’s support was one very good reason Peter got his health back.

She looks back at the past year and feels accomplished about being part of her client’s incredible progress. Below are Annie’s tips on how to make this success possible:

1. Always have something positive to say about the stroke patient’s progress.

Did they eat better today than yesterday, even if they did not finish their meal? Say that you noticed their improvement and then tell them you'll prepare more of their favorite healthy meal. Did they walk a little farther today than yesterday? This is still worth mentioning to keep them motivated to reach their goals.

2. Understand that a stroke may happen again.

Reduce this risk by ensuring that eat a healthy diet, keep their lifestyle habits in check, and take their medications as advised. They must follow the recommended diet and exercise regimen. Fill half their plates with fruit and vegetable servings, and add some good sources of carbohydrates and proteins with a very minimal amount of fat and salt.

Know when another stroke is happening. Remember the acronym FAST, which stands for Facial drooping, Arm weakness, Speech problems, and Time to call for help (when any of those signs are observed).

3. Always follow the care plan.

Although a caregiver or a home health aide spends the most time with the patient, caring for post-stroke patients is a team effort and the care plan must be strictly followed. Make sure that you do not delay in assisting them in taking their medications.

4. Provide for their comfort at all times.

Do they have trouble putting on a shirt because of arm weakness? Help them choose shirts with buttons in front. Support them when they change position in bed, when transferring, and when they are reaching for things. Prop them up with pillows if positioning is a problem.

5. Keep them safe from falls.

Stroke patients usually have weakness of the arms and legs. Stand slightly behind them on their strong side when supporting them while walking. Use a gait belt when walking or transferring them. Make sure grab bars are installed in the home and remove all possible causes of falls, like clutter and throw rugs.

6. Make note of every change.

Whether in behavior, function, or mood, changes may be positive or negative. Keep a record or a simple diary. These observations are very important in determining the patient's progress.

7. Provide emotional support.

Some stroke patients will have difficulty controlling their emotions. They may suddenly burst into tears, stop, then laugh out loud. Understand that these changes are part of their illness and that it can improve over time.

8. And perhaps the most important advice of all: do not give up on your patient, especially when progress seems slow.

Stroke can cause loss of function in some body parts, which leads to a lot of frustration in patients. Continue motivating them and give them the assistance they need.

Many post-stroke recovery stories are an account of teamwork among the patient, their family, the caregiver, and the care team. Home health aides who actively and genuinely support their patients are an important instrument in helping the post-stroke patient reach full recovery.