Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 4/18/2019 6:02:18 PM

Seven Genius Ways to Be a Team Player

Is teamwork in healthcare overrated? We often hear about the importance of teamwork during shift huddles—different people with unique roles striving together toward one goal, using the same plan of care. We talk to other staff including colleagues, nurses, and supervisors regarding patient matters. Everyone on the team is on the same page, communicating frequently, and sharing tools and equipment.

Why are teamwork and collaboration important to patient care? This is the big question, with big answers. Teamwork in patient care is important for a number of reasons:

With new technology and methods for delivering care, staff need to quickly learn new ways of doing things.

The increasing older population, and those with chronic diseases and multiple health problems, will require staff to work together to accomplish goals faster and more effectively than ever.

Teamwork prevents errors and improves patient safety.

When you learn to work on the same goals, there is less chance for burnout, less of the I-lead-you-follow mentality, and more of a we-can-do-this-together attitude.

You’re more motivated to carry out your tasks when working together as a team.

Most importantly, when patients and their family see staff working as a team, they feel more confident, at ease, and are more likely to cooperate with treatment. They tend to be vocal about their feelings, too!

If you want to be a team player and make a positive impact, these helpful tips are for you:

1. Learn respectful two-way communication.

How good are you at listening? Half of receiving and giving messages is being able to keep an open mind about what is being said so you can give an appropriate reply. It's important to listen properly and have the confidence to speak your mind. As a caregiver, you stay with the patient most of the day and likely have a great deal of input for other members of the healthcare team.

Also, if you’re not sure about something, don’t be too shy to ask, especially if the matter concerns patient safety. Stay respectful and you’ll both better understand others and be better understood.

2. Encourage patients to cooperate.

The patient is the center of the healthcare team. Without their cooperation and willingness to get better, even doctors have a hard time accomplishing goals. As a caregiver acting as the patient's companion, you can reach out and help motivate them to work with you and the rest of the staff.

3. Be sensitive to what still needs done and how you can help.

For caregivers, this tip might sting. With the piles of tasks at hand and time always running out, it seems impossible to lend a hand to someone else. But learning to maximize each other's skills and expertise can make you accomplish more as a team in no time.

4. Follow the care plan.

Because the care plan is a reflection of the healthcare team’s collaboration, following the plan and being open to discussing matters relevant to it is a great way to be a team player.

5. Follow the rules.

In teams, there are certain rules that members agree to follow in order to avoid errors and conflicts among staff. Be sure to keep up your end of the bargain.

6. Make other team members feel that they belong.

You may sense that a newly hired nursing assistant is having a hard time getting comfortable working with the other staff. Why not step in and include them in conversations? Even better, offer your direct assistance.

7. Recognize team and individual achievements, however small.

If you notice that a colleague battling personal problems still manages a smile and is kind to their patients, recognize their sincerity and hard work (and see if you can lend a hand or help cheer them up).

Teamwork is essential to achieving the outcome in a patient’s best interest. Be willing to contribute, support others, and motivate patients because it is the only way to accomplish team goals!


Posted: 4/8/2019 6:10:10 PM

How to Find Motivation When You’re Struggling

Being a caregiver is a rewarding job, but ask anyone who’s been there and they'll probably tell you that there will be tough times, and those times may last a very long while. The challenges of caregiving are vast and threaten to dampen the spirit of even the strongest people.

Consider these scenarios:

Your feel your patient is giving you a difficult time by being uncooperative, for example, purposefully soiling sheets to annoy you.

The prolonged physical and emotional exhaustion of caring for a fully dependent patient is taking its toll.

You are struggling with challenges in your personal life, so you can barely keep it together at work.

Your coworkers are being rude to you, causing drama, or making you feel alienated at work.

Or, you’re experiencing a combination of these problems. The struggle is real!

In difficult times, it’s hard to focus and find fulfillment in caregiving. You have to keep going, not only because your patients rely on you, but because you're not willing to call it quits the moment it gets tough. Kudos to you for stepping up!

Here are some not-so-easy, but very effective ways to find your motivation:

1. Remind yourself: "This is temporary and will soon pass."

Everything undergoes change and nothing is permanent. Your difficult position will get better in time, just hang in there and keep moving forward. It's true that action starts in the mind, and telling yourself that better and easier times are coming your way can encourage needed hope.

2. Acknowledge the difficult situation and prepare to face it head-on.

The worst way to deal with a loss of motivation is to deny that it’s happening. Our brain is not wired to look for answers and solutions unless we admit there's something wrong. Without recognizing the struggle, you tend to stay in that murky pit for a long time. It's ok to say that you're having a hard time while telling yourself that you'll handle it. Believe in yourself and you’ll get back on your feet again.

3. If you seem to have a hundred reasons to quit, remember a few reasons to stay and hold on to them!

Caregiving is a calling, there’s a lot to learn, your patients depend on you, you need to pay the bills . . . whatever your reasons are in the moment, these will keep you afloat.

4. Read inspirational stories and watch motivational videos.

Social media is teeming with inspiring content, so fill up on those uplifting words and stories to feel good about yourself.

5. Be with people you can rely on and ask for help.

Surround yourself with spirited and motivated people. Friends, colleagues, and even supervisors are willing to lend a hand if you ask. Because they care for you, they likely know how to help.

6. Pamper yourself.

Sometimes you really do need a temporary break from it all. Turn to respite care and find relaxing activities to do. Indulge in whatever makes you feel good. Get a massage or treat yourself to your favorite dessert.

7. Seek professional help.

Loss of motivation, together with a lack of interest in life in general, can be a sign of something more serious, such as depression. If you feel it's more than the temporary blues, consult a professional who can provide the right treatment.

8. Rebuild your dreams and your goals.

Problems at work can make you lose sight of what you want to achieve in life. Are you bent on pursuing a nursing career, perhaps? It’s a worthy cause to keep going.

Caregiving is no easy task, but with these strategies, you'll soon have the motivation to go on and love your job again. Your day-to-day struggle will begin to wane and it will become easier to focus and stay on track!


Posted: 4/1/2019 2:10:15 PM

How to Make a Positive Impact on a Patient with Diabetes

In 2015, 30.3 million people in the US had diabetes—9.4% of the total population. In people aged 65 and above, one in every four had diabetes. The impact of diabetes on American health is huge, as it ranks seventh of the leading causes of death in the US.

Diabetes is a chronic or long-term disease wherein the body does not produce insulin or is unable to use it properly to take blood sugar into cells to make energy. Blood sugar levels shoot up and cells starve. Once diagnosed, the patient is likely to have the condition for life.

If you work as a caregiver, chances are you’ll care for a patient with diabetes at least once in your career. Caregivers can make a big impact on a patient's life because, with their help in proper management, the disease can be controlled. On the other hand, if a patient does not follow the doctor's recommendations and treatment, they suffer devastating complications in their overall function and quality of life.

So, the caregiver’s roles of companion and bedside care worker are very crucial to helping patients with diabetes. Below are some important things to keep in mind, with invaluable tips to make sure you do:

Medication

Medications are an essential part of the treatment plan for diabetes. The timing and dosage must be strictly followed to properly control the patient’s blood sugar levels and prevent severe complications.

Tip #1: Caregivers do not administer medications, but that doesn’t mean they can’t help. When it’s time for their meds, remind the patient a few minutes before schedule.

Patients may sometimes be busy with other things. If they can’t be bothered, bring their meds to them. If you think a patient is skipping or discontinuing their medications without the doctor’s knowledge, report it to the supervisor or nurse at once.

Meals

Contrary to the belief that diabetic patients should have a very restricted diet, patients can eat a wide variety of nutritious foods as long as they are in the right amount and eaten at the right time. Just like the recommendation for any healthy person, sugary, fatty, and processed foods should be avoided—not only because they cause a spike in blood sugar, but also because they are usually lacking in nutrients.

Tip #2: If you are doing meal preparation, include a generous amount of fruit and vegetables in the patient’s diet. Add complex carbohydrate sources such as root crops, oatmeal, and whole grains. Give them healthy protein sources, too, such as legumes, nuts, and fish.

Exercise

When a person exercises, they burn calories and use up blood sugar. Strenuous exercise over longer periods is the riskiest for patients with diabetes. Actively moving about after medicating can drastically lower blood sugar, the signs and symptoms of which include shakiness, dizziness, sweating, hunger, and irritability or moodiness.

Tip #3: Always follow the care plan and the physician’s advice regarding the types of activities and length of time for exercises. A snack is usually required before exercise and rest periods are spaced out during the activity.

Foot care

People with poorly controlled diabetes will experience nerve problems to the extent that they won’t be able to feel pain, pressure, warmth, or cold in their lower extremities. Because of poor sensation, the feet become prone to injury.

Since there is poor wound healing and an increased risk of infection with diabetes, it makes matters worse. Diabetic wounds can already become severely infected without the patient noticing, and the consequence of this can be amputation, or surgical removal of the leg, or widespread blood infection.

Tip #4: Regularly inspect the patient’s feet for any broken skin. The ideal time to do this is while assisting patients with changing their clothes. If you see a wound, report it to the supervisor or nurse immediately.

You can prevent injury to the patient’s feet by discouraging them from walking barefoot and helping them wear comfortable shoes. Also, pat the feet dry after washing and apply lotion over the feet but not in between the toes. Use a file when trimming toenails and smooth the edges.

People with diabetes can live a nearly normal life as long as they keep their blood sugar controlled with medication, a proper diet, exercise, and rest. Caregivers can have a lasting impact on these patients by educating themselves about the disease and working tirelessly with their patient and the healthcare team in making sure they follow all recommendations.


Posted: 3/25/2019 2:37:15 PM

Telltale Signs that Patients Are Skipping their Medications

At present, there is a health problem so big, yet that remains unnoticed to many—nonadherence to prescribed medications. This is how bad the situation is: according to a review by the Annals of Internal Medicine, 20-30% of prescription medications are never filled and about 50% of medications are not taken as prescribed. What’s worse, this problem is responsible for approximately 125,000 deaths and 10% of all hospitalizations.

There are many reasons why patients do not take their medications as recommended. Some skip their meds on purpose, saying that the medications' side effects make them stop. Some experience difficulties such as swallowing problems. Other patients stop because they feel better and don’t think it’s necessary to continue. Some also think their medications are too costly, ineffective, or worse, making them sicker rather than better. Patients also miss doses due to confusion and simply forget.

Whatever their reasons, skipping medications can have serious and deadly consequences for patients. They are not receiving an important part of their treatment and, therefore, risk getting worse or suffering complications.

Caregivers are in a position to help, because they spend the most time with patients. Their careful observations can provide clues that a patient is not following their treatment as recommended.

Here are telltale signs that a patient has not been following their treatment plan:

1. The patient asks you to leave the room when it’s medication time.

Caregivers are not allowed to administer medications, they can only assist or remind a patient to follow their prescriptions. Patients can get away with skipping their meds by simply saying they took it when they didn’t.

2. Pill bottles don’t seem to empty.

You might notice a bottle that is supposed to be finished is still sitting on the medicine counter. You do not remember them refilling their medication and don’t notice any torn foil packs or empty bottles in the trash.

3. The patient’s symptoms come back or become worse.

One of the most significant signs that a patient has stopped taking medications is that their previous complaints have come back or they report feeling sicker after a little improvement.

4. The patient is often forgetful.

Memory problems can cause confusion in a patient, who will likely not remember to take their prescribed medications. Patients with dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, may be missing doses, which is also a sign they are advancing in the disease.

5. The patient says they feel better and don’t need pills any more.

Other patients may not hide it and will tell you that they stopped on purpose. Also, do not be surprised to find that they’ve been taking more “vitamins” or “supplements,” which they prefer over their prescriptions.

When you suspect a patient is not following their recommended treatment, you may directly ask the patient if that’s the case. Whether you believe they are telling the truth or not, you must discuss the matter with your supervisor or nurse so your patient can get the necessary help regarding the importance of sticking strictly to the treatment plan.

Medicines won’t work if a patient won’t take them. This is the hard truth. These consequences can be prevented if everyone, including the patient, tries their best to do their part.


Posted: 3/18/2019 4:36:35 PM

How to Handle Criticism Like a Pro

No matter how badly you want your tasks done perfectly or how proud you are of your work as a caregiver, someone is bound to see imperfections. It’s human nature to notice the mistakes of others, so it shouldn’t surprise you!

For leaders, giving criticism is a part of their job. They are tasked to look for areas that need improvement and you may need to hear about a few of your weaknesses as well as advice on how to handle improvements.

Criticism is the act of giving your opinion or judgment. This can be about someone’s attitude, behavior, other qualities, or the way they work. If done constructively, to correct or prevent an error, or improve the work, criticism can do wonders for everyone involved including you, the patient, and the agency, home, or hospital where you work. But, when done poorly, or to bully or belittle a coworker, criticism can kill morale and dampen team spirit.

In the workplace, both constructive and hurtful criticism can take place, and there are different ways to handle these situations.
First of all, you have to learn how to tell them apart:

Constructive

a. Done privately
b. Starts with the purpose of the criticism
c. Focuses on changing behavior or correcting mistakes
d. Matter-of-fact, saying what is directly observed, e.g., "The bathrooms weren’t cleaned yesterday," instead of "You're so incompetent!"
e. Uplifts and encourages at the end of the discussion
f. Uses a neutral or appropriate tone

Hurtful

a. Confronts within hearing distance of others
b. Starts with your mistakes and overemphasizes them
c. Focuses on blame and accusations
d. Uses hurtful words such as “incompetent” or “useless”
e. Meant to embarrass you
f. Uses a negative or loud tone

For both situations, keep a level head and a calm approach. Keep hold of your emotions for a second and do a simple self-check. Is the criticism constructive or hurtful? If it’s a form of bullying, then use anti-bullying tactics.

1. When criticism comes as constructive feedback, pay attention.

Listen carefully to the message and try to disregard the tone. Supervisors, nurses, and doctors who oversee caregivers also have a lot on their plates and are often stressed out, too, so they may be a little short when talking to you. Let it pass and focus on the message instead.

2. Don’t take it personally.

It’s not a blow to your character as a person and it’s meant to maintain a safe work environment. If it hurts your ego, keep it together and don’t let your emotions get the better of you.

3. Take turns talking.

Avoid the temptation to interrupt their point with excuses, to avoid a heated confrontation. Do your best to actively listen and focus on their good intentions.

4. Look at the situation from your critic’s point of view and acknowledge what is being said.

Put yourself in their shoes and try to understand where they’re coming from. Reflect on the situation and what they need from you. If they mean well, you’ll be able to tell.

5. Ask how you can do things differently.

There’s nothing wrong with being direct and asking exactly how you can do better at work. It’s the first step on the road to improving yourself.

6. Work on a solution.

Ask yourself the following questions:

“What do I need to do to prevent this mistake from happening again?”
“How can I improve my work?”
“How should I respond the next time something similar happens?”

7. Move on.

Your supervisor might have seen a few errors on your part and requested some changes, but you don't have to sulk because someone has pointed out a weakness. It's an opportunity for growth and new beginnings!

Handling criticism like a pro is a sign of maturity. As a caregiver, always look at constructive feedback as something to help keep patients safe and improve your skills. Genuinely hurtful criticism should be taken as bullying and must be dealt with appropriately.