Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 6/10/2019 3:22:35 PM

Traits of a Caregiving Champ

Caregiving is a special calling. It is more than providing assistance to a patient and goes beyond helping someone with their activities of daily living. It is making meaningful connections that nurture and care.

Whether your role is to assist a loved one or help patients as a staff member, you are bound for unforgettable and valuable experiences and want to bring your best self to the task. The best way to be that champion caregiver is to embody the list below:

1. Keep a positive mentality.

As workers with often unpleasant, back-breaking tasks and frequently faced with emotional challenges, caregivers may find it hard to look for the brighter side. But a positive attitude is necessary to look forward to each day. Someone who can see the silver lining ends up a winner because they will always find a reason to stay and to strive.

2. Have patience.

In caregiving, caregivers don’t always get what they want. In fact, it’s the other way around! With the healthcare industry’s goal of improving patient experience, they undoubtedly become the center of attention. That means, of course, that you’ll have to accommodate their adjustments to treatments and therapies.

If you don’t seem to see improvement, keep working hard and patiently hope for good results. Often, caregivers assist weak patients. In fostering independence as part of the healthcare team's approach to holistic care, you need to extend your patience to help them effectively.

3. Be compassionate and kind.

Understanding a patient’s journey and treating them kindly is what gives caregiving its proper meaning. It’s not all about finishing tasks—it’s more about reaching out to patients meaningfully and being sincere in dealing with them. Compassion puts your heart into your work, leading patients to feel your genuine support and motivating them to cooperate with treatment.

4. Show respect.

Respect for your patients is the foundation of care. As a caregiver, it is important to understand respect from a patient's point of view. You also have to consider cultural differences and a patient's personal choices. Being respectful creates a lasting impact on patients, so they tend to appreciate your efforts.

5. Communicate.

In caregiving, it’s not all about doing. Often, problems can be solved with just the right talking. If you want to handle challenges like a pro, learn how to reach out to patients and listen attentively to what they say in return. Being communicative also requires you to observe body language and help patients express themselves.

Communication is a skill, and everyone has the potential to excel with enough practice and training. If you struggle with conversation, observe a colleague who communicates effectively and apply what you learn to your work.

6. Show off your skills.

Speaking of skills, caregivers need them to be effective and successful in patient care. Being able to perform procedures correctly ensures the patient receives the best service in the safest way. This is the essence of caregiving.

If you are unsure of a procedure, consult your supervisor or the nurse. If you are new to a task and aren’t confident, it is better to ask for help than risk injuring the patient.

Being a caregiver is not an easy job, but those who embody the right values and approach to their work will reap the rewards at the end of the day. And, one of the best feelings you can have while working in healthcare is being considered a patient’s champion!

Posted: 6/3/2019 4:43:15 PM

Tips on Caring for Patients Undergoing Regular Dialysis

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, more than 661,000 Americans have kidney failure. Of these, 468,000 are undergoing dialysis.

Kidney failure is the end stage of chronic kidney disease, where the kidneys are unable to make urine and remove toxic wastes from the body. The body cannot survive this way so patients need to undergo dialysis, a way to filter waste products and remove excess water from the body. The most common way to perform dialysis is with a dialysis machine that directly filters a patient’s blood. This is called hemodialysis.

Dialysis for kidney failure as a result of chronic kidney disease is a lifelong treatment. So, if you are a caregiver with a patient undergoing regular dialysis, this article is for you!

Here are some important points to remember:

1. Help your patient prepare for their appointments.

Patients need to follow a strict schedule for their dialysis sessions. Whether they receive the procedure in a clinic or at home, they must strictly adhere to the doctor's orders.

For those undergoing dialysis in a center, help them put on a fresh change of clothes. Bring their health records if required. Make sure to arrive at the scheduled time.

2. Be alert for signs and symptoms related to dialysis and kidney failure.

Patients may complain of muscle cramps, itching, problems sleeping, tiredness, and depression. They may also report shortness of breath, a general unwell feeling, nausea, and vomiting, which are all related to low blood pressure. Be sure to tell your supervisor about these effects and make a note of your observations and patient's complaints.

3. Help the patient take their medications as prescribed.

Patients undergoing dialysis need certain medications, so make sure they take them on time, every time.

4. Protect the access site.

Patients in long-term hemodialysis treatment will have a surgically prepared site called a fistula. A fistula is under the skin, so there is no visible catheter or tube. The site is usually on their arm and you’ll notice a vein in that arm is larger than normal. When you gently place your hand over the fistula, you'll feel a slight vibration meaning blood is flowing fast and heavily in that area.

You must protect this site from being bumped, accidentally used to draw blood during procedures, and inflating blood pressure cuffs. If a patient complains of numbness, tingling, or coldness in the area of the access site, hands, and fingers, report it to the nurse or physician right away.

5. Follow the recommended dietary changes.

A patient undergoing regular, long-term dialysis will have food and fluid restrictions. They will need to limit salt, potassium, and phosphorus intake. The patient's dietitian will also have a list of foods to avoid. Since they have excess fluid in their bodies, they also must cut back on fluids. Help your patient follow the doctor’s orders—it can be life-threatening for them if they don't.

6. Have patience.

If you accompany your patient to the clinic, expect that they will need to stay for several hours. Depending on your patient's preference, they may want to sleep during the procedure or keep themselves occupied. Have their books or gadgets within easy reach. You need to stay in designated areas, so practice your patience for waiting.

Caring for a patient on dialysis is not always easy but is often predictable. A caregiver’s role is to support patients during each session and make sure they follow all instructions in the care plan.

Posted: 5/27/2019 9:29:44 PM

10 Valuable Life Lessons from Caregiving

Caregiving is an epic journey, not because of its all inspiring stories, but because its ups and downs are full of valuable life lessons. The road to success in caregiving is rough and tough, but it is in this special role that we are taught some very important lessons in life.

Here are our top 10 life lessons for you as a caregiver:

1. Being organized is a lifesaver.

Caregiving is a taxing job with lots of physical exertion and time-consuming tasks. You need a system of doing things or you waste your time going from one place to another without being truly productive.

Disorganization leads to useless repetition and eventual exhaustion. You’re always pressed for time and end up with poor quality or unfinished work. The best way to survive your caregiving responsibilities is to continuously find ways to simplify your routine and genuinely connect with your patients.

2. Humor has a place in healthcare.

The best humor starts with a positive mindset and kind spirit. For it to be acceptable in a place where life can hang in the balance, it must be done with hope and acceptance. When sincere, humor is a powerful coping mechanism that allows someone to smile or laugh instead of cry, or get an instant boost of energy on tiring days.

3. In the end, health, family, love, and relationships are all that matter.

Hospice patients tend to choose these four pillars of human existence over material things when they are face-to-face with death. Their life regrets often come from choosing fleeting and temporary happiness over meaningful connections.

4. Self-care is a must.

In caregiving, you simply cannot give it all without leaving something for yourself. You risk losing yourself or giving up a rewarding job in the process. So, however pressed for time you feel or difficult your tasks, you need some me time without the guilt. The basics like proper nutrition, hydration, rest, and relaxation are critical to staying fit, focused, and uplifted.

Taking care of your mental health is just as important, and you can do this by keeping in touch with supportive family and friends and injecting your thoughts with inspiring messages. Fortunately, we have the technology to make this easy! With a simple tap on the screen, personal and group video calls can strengthen your relationships and be a source of support. You can also join social media groups and cope by discussing challenges and ways to overcome.

5. Compassion is the highest form of humanity.

In healthcare, the hustle and bustle of patient care can take its toll on workers so they focus on completing tasks and meeting deadlines instead of genuinely connecting with and understanding patients. Caregivers can become cold and uncaring, even though “care” is right in the job title. In caregiving, you simply cannot lose compassion. Being kind and sincere while dealing with patients is the only way to put “care” back in healthcare.

6. How you think drives your day.

Your mindset before you sleep at night and upon waking in the morning will determine your overall approach to the challenges of the coming day. If you have an I-can-do-this attitude, you’ll find it easier to let go of small annoyances and focus on your patients and tasks.

7. For patients, independence amidst limitations is gold.

Imagine a fully functioning and active adult faced with a debilitating disease that severely limits their function and movement. It can be a devastating truth to accept, let alone overcome.

It is important for these patients to do things on their own as long as they are safe. It may take much longer to perform an activity than if you do it for them, but enabling their independence helps them feel good about themselves.

8. Nothing is or will be perfect (and that’s ok).

Even if you carefully plan and organize your day, follow all instructions in the care plan, and efficiently perform your duties, something can go off track at any time and get even worse when you try to fix it. At this point, you need to keep calm and stay focused. Also, preparation will help prevent avoidable disasters.

9. You'll never know the power of song in healing and recovery until you hit “play.”

Music can reprogram a person’s inner disorder and anxiety. Whether you play or sing it, your favorite song can calm nerves, help blow off steam, and pump up happy hormones.

10. We all are simply transient beings.

Being amazed by health and life while constantly confronted with sickness and death seems to make the years on the job fly by. One of the greatest lessons of caregiving is realizing that life is a precious and fleeting gift. We’re all just passing by, so we have to make the most of the present moment while remembering the good of the past and hoping for a better tomorrow.

One of the rewards of caregiving is learning the lessons no book can teach you. In the process, you'll realize the job that challenged you has made you a stronger and more fulfilled individual. And this makes it all worth it in the end!

Posted: 5/20/2019 5:04:40 PM

Keep Your Eyes Peeled for Signs of Infection to Save a Life

Infection in patients is a serious problem, especially if they get it while receiving medical care. It can signal that a patient has a weak immune system and that there may have been lapses in staff procedures for keeping harmful microorganisms at bay. This is where the role of caregiver becomes very important, because they spend the most time with a patient.

There are many types of infections. Some are passed from one person to another. Some start from animal or insect bites. There are also those that are developed from eating contaminated food or drinking contaminated water. Most of the above infections affect the whole body, but some are also limited to a wounded body part.

For caregivers, it is important to recognize possible signs of infections in a patient, so they can receive medications and other treatments as soon as possible. When an infectious disease is underway, being alert and acting fast on behalf of a patient can save their life!

Here are the usual signs of infections that caregivers must watch out for in a patient:

1. Fever

Fever, or an increase in body temperature above normal, frequently suggests the body is fighting off harmful microorganisms that have invaded the body. It signals that a part of the body is damaged by harmful microorganisms.

2. Chills and sweats

Chills or shivering occurs when the body tries to produce heat when it feels cold. It happens before fever or when the body temperature has significantly risen due to infection. Sweating can also happen, especially at night, which is a sign of some serious types of diseases.

3. Cough, runny or stuffed nose, sore throat

These signs and symptoms suggest that a patient may have contracted a respiratory infection.

4. A general unwell feeling

Patients who have a systemic kind of infection may feel weak and sick. They usually prefer to stay in bed instead of doing the activities they enjoy.

5. Muscle aches and joint pain

If a patient is running a fever and reports that their muscles and joints ache, it’s likely they have an infectious disease. The joints of the hips, knees, elbows, arms, or feet may hurt. The patient may also experience muscle aches all over the body, especially in the arms, legs, and back. Note that joint and muscle pains caused by infection are different from what is experienced after heavy exercise.

6. Stiff neck

When a patient has a high fever and is complaining that their neck is difficult and painful to bend, this is a sign of a serious infection.

7. Painful urination

Painful urination indicates that a patient’s bladder or kidneys have become infected. The patient might also have reddish urine.

8. Vomiting and diarrhea

If a patient ate or drank something bad that the body cannot fight off, they will likely experience vomiting and loose bowel movements. The patient can also suffer abdominal cramps.

9. Pus buildup in a wound, with a reddish and sore surrounding area

If a patient has a wound with a thick, yellowish or greenish substance and if the surrounding area is reddish and swollen, the wound is likely infected.

Caregivers are an important part of the healthcare team and can spot the earliest signs of a problem such as infection in a patient. Other than knowing the most common signs, caregivers should also immediately report patient complaints and their observations to the supervisor so the patient may receive the right treatment.

Posted: 5/13/2019 4:13:37 PM

Understanding the Effects of Chemotherapy

Cancer is a terrifying ordeal for any patient, especially if they undergo the primary treatment, chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is the use of medication to prevent cancer cells from multiplying and growing. Unlike other treatments that specifically target cancer cells, such as radiation and surgery, chemotherapy affects the whole body—all the rapidly dividing cells. The side effects are related to this fact and caregivers should know what to expect to better care for patients.

1. Nausea and vomiting

According to experts, chemotherapy stimulates the vomiting center of the brain, making patients feel that uncomfortable nauseated sensation after treatment. They feel sick to their stomach and likely to throw up. Patients usually experience this side effect after high doses of the drug and if they do not respond well to antiemetic medications, or those that prevent nausea and vomiting.

What to do:

Have an emesis basin within the patient’s reach as well as a glass of water. Note that if they make a mess, they are likely to feel embarrassed, so be ready to assist them. Avoid passing judgment.

Provide small frequent meals, too. Choose foods that are soft, dry, and without a strong smell. Give them something cool to drink 30 minutes before meals so they don't feel bloated, triggering nausea. Offer fluids throughout the day (except during meals) to replenish what they lose during vomiting.

2. Hair loss

Patients who receive chemotherapy lose their hair because the roots are some of the body’s rapidly dividing cells, which are affected. Baldness can lower a patient’s self-esteem, so they don’t feel good about themselves.

What to do:

If they want to use a scarf, hat, or wig to cover their heads, help put them on.

3. Fatigue

Patients who receive chemotherapy usually have low energy levels and feel weak. This is because many healthy cells are destroyed alongside cancer cells. It can also be because the body is spending energy to repair itself.

Take note that fatigue is already a common symptom of cancer and, after treatment, the patient tires even more easily.

What to do:

Provide adequate rest periods during procedures or activities to give them time to gather their strength. Avoid overly tiring activities.

4. Anemia and being prone to infections

Chemotherapy affects the bone marrow, also made up of rapidly dividing cells. Bone marrow makes blood cells so, after chemotherapy, the patient will not have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body or white blood cells to fight off infections.

Because of these side effects, patients look pale, feel weak, and easily catch infectious diseases. The patient might also have bleeding problems.

What to do:

For anemia, follow the tips from #3.

To avoid infections, always wash your hands before and after patient care procedures and keep patients away from people with active infections. Be extra particular with the patient’s personal hygiene measures. Clean and sanitize the surroundings. Cook food thoroughly before serving.

If the patient has bleeding problems, use an electric razor when shaving. Report extreme tiredness, fever, or any signs of bleeding.

5. Mouth sores

The shiny lining of the mouth is also affected by chemotherapy, so patients tend to develop sores. It makes eating painful and difficult.

What to do:

Avoid serving spicy and salty foods. You may also give them ice chips to dull the pain.

6. Loss of appetite

Take note that cancer causes loss of appetite and chemotherapy can make this problem worse. And with the dry, bland foods recommended to prevent nausea and vomiting, it could be a real challenge to stimulate a patient’s appetite.

What to do:

Make meal trays attractive and be creative in your food presentation. Small, frequent meals are also helpful.

Caregivers are in a position to help cancer patients take on the side effects of chemotherapy, so don’t hesitate to lend a hand whenever possible!