Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 7/20/2018 2:23:47 PM

Different Culture, Different Approach—Same Quality Care

No two people are alike, and all healthcare workers should be aware of that. Patients come with different ages, conditions, personalities, and attitudes. Yet somehow, of all the types of diversity that caregivers work with, one of the most challenging to embrace is the difference in culture.

What is “culture,” and why is a patient's uniqueness in this regard a big deal when providing care?

Basically, culture is a way of life that a group of people have developed over time. As the group shares the same experiences, they tend to have collective and similar beliefs, habits, traditions, and ways of thinking.

Let’s use a very simple analogy: Compare a patient to a cake. A patient's culture is like the combination of ingredients that make up the cake's base, and can be anything—sponge, fudge, pound—coming in many different flavors, each variety represents a different culture. The icing, topping, decoration, and filling are personal qualities that contribute to their uniqueness as an individual.

For these reasons, cultural differences can manifest strongly in a patient, and caregivers must be sensitive and aware of how patients expect to be treated.

Here’s a simple guide to help you become more culturally sensitive as you deal with patients from different cultures:

1. Do self-reflection.

You need to gain insight into your own biases toward other people’s beliefs and traditions regarding health. Self-reflection is important, so you can still provide quality care even if you do not agree with the patient’s health beliefs and practices.

2. Be aware of common cultural considerations in the healthcare setting, such as:

a. Personal space. Some cultures are stricter when it comes to allowing other people near them, especially if the caregiver is of the opposite sex. Be aware of personal boundaries, according to their terms.

b. Touch. More conservative cultures often do not allow touching of some body parts or even the whole body, especially if the contact is from the opposite sex. Therefore, before doing any care procedure, explain that you will need to access certain body parts and ask permission from the patient before continuing the task.

c. Communication. From your training as a caregiver, you learned that being honest with patients about their health condition is the best way to help them cope. But some cultures do not consider this kind of truth helpful but, rather, unnecessarily distressing and not beneficial.

Always communicate with both the family and the patient so you know how to handle such a situation. If the patient speaks a language you do not understand, inform the supervisor immediately so they can call an interpreter.

d. Eye contact. Not all people consider eye contact to be a sign of sincerity. Some people in some cultures take offense when you look them directly in the eye. Be aware of this cultural difference.

e. Diet and food preferences. Before you prepare meals for patients, ask which foods and drinks are permitted in their diet. Know their likes and dislikes as well as their preferences.

f. Health habits and beliefs. The differences can be profound in the way people from different cultures view health and illness, and how they manage their wellbeing. You may see patients using their traditional healer's medicinal herbs.

Whatever the case may be, matters like these are brought to the healthcare team’s attention because these practices may affect health outcomes. For this reason, a dialogue happens between the team, the patient, and their family. Both parties come up with an agreement on which practices will not put the patient at further risk and can, therefore, be permitted.

3. Respect the patient.

Respecting patients is the foundation of trust in the healthcare setting where cultural differences exist. Learn to acknowledge a patient's needs according to their set of beliefs and practices. Also, never pass judgment. Deliver the same quality of care to every patient, regardless of their cultural practices.

4. Seek information.

Look for resources that help explain the patient’s culture and encourage the patient to tell you their expectations regarding to care. Be proactive in being informed, before a problem arises.

5. Ask for help if needed.

If you feel that you cannot provide the same quality of care because the patient’s needs conflict with your personal beliefs, talk to your supervisor. Your leader can help you either speak to the patient or get another patient assignment.

Part of being a great caregiver is the ability to help patients achieve the best health outcomes, even when they are from a different culture than your own. By being culturally sensitive and efficient, you can enrich your career with learning experiences from circumstances like these.

Posted: 7/13/2018 12:25:06 PM

How Do You Score as a Caregiver? 15 Points for Self-Reflection

Caregivers’ struggles are real. And there isn’t a workday without certain challenges in patient care. As days and years go by, we sometimes come to a point of self-reflection about our work. How am I doing as a caregiver? Have I done an excellent job? Have I made an impact on my patients' lives?

Caregivers should self-reflect occasionally, because it enables them to check their behavior and performance to better understand their thoughts, emotions, and motivations. It’s one way of improving and learning about oneself.

If you are a caregiver, here are 15 telltale signs that you are great at your job:

If you answer “yes” to at least 10 of the points below, give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done!

1. In general, your patients express their gratitude after you care for them.

Happy and satisfied patients say “thank you” generously to those who show they genuinely care. If you are thanked often, it is a sign that you do your job well.

2. You remember instances when you impacted a patient’s life.

Have you ever had a patient who got well, and after some time came looking for you, just to say they appreciate how you treated them? This is a five-star qualification that you’re a great caregiver.

3. Your colleagues think highly of you.

Trust is hard to come by these days. When coworkers have a high regard for you, it means they trust you and value your contributions to the team.

Perhaps only you could make the most difficult patients agree to care procedures, for example. This ability is extraordinary, and your colleagues are vocal in expressing their appreciation for that effort.

4. You became a better person because of your caregiving experience.

Have you learned more life lessons because of your job? Have you improved your communication and caregiving skills? Did you become more patient, considerate, and understanding? Can you say that you are a better version of yourself, because of your job? If can you answer “yes,” then you have been rewarded by the job itself.

5. You come to realize the value of life, health, and family.

Dealing with sick, elderly, or disabled patients should make you realize that life, health, and family are what matters most in this world. With this realization, you do your best to preserve patients’ health, respect their families, and promote a celebration of life.

6. You accept challenges as part of the job.

You know already that you’re a great caregiver when you stop wishing for a trouble-free day, and instead prepare yourself physically and emotionally for each challenge that arises, every day.

7. You do more in less time.

Efficiency at one’s job and a mastery of tasks are sure signs of success as a caregiver. At this point, you also realize that you are now able to teach others about caregiving, through mentorship.

8. You act ethically and do what is right, even if there is no reward.

Even if no one is watching or able to acknowledge your good deed, you still do your best anyway.

9. You put patients first, above all, and prioritize their safety.

You fully understand the essence of caregiving and you place patient safety at the top of your priorities. Caring for others is rooted so deeply in you so that it comes naturally, even if a task is not part of your job description.

10. You are a team player.

You may enjoy working alone, but you admit that when the team works as one, you tend to perform better and become positively challenged.

11. You know how to recognize when you need help and rest.

A good caregiver knows that they are no superhero. Consider yourself an excellent caregiver when you can admit that there are days you need help, too.

12. You are sincere when you deal with patients and their families.

Even after years of being on the job, you can still say that you care for patients with empathy and compassion. This is a sure sign that you are a caregiving champ!

13. You consider your workplace to be a place of learning.

If, during self-reflection, you can say that you have learned a lot at your job, then consider yourself a successful caregiver. This is a positive sign that you are truly good at your job.

14. You want to advance your career or develop new skills.

A great worker always seeks to continually improve themselves and do better at their job, and caregivers are no exception.

15. Overall, you find your job fulfilling.

Perhaps the most important part of this self-reflection is looking back and being able to say that you feel fulfilled as a person because of your rich experiences as a caregiver. A sense of fulfillment is necessary to move forward and improve one’s skills in caring for patients.

Posted: 6/29/2018 3:34:29 PM

Relaxation Techniques: A Caregiver’s Act of Kindness

It is basic human nature to fight stress because too many difficulties in a person's life can easily crumble defenses, causing trauma and illness. And because patients have many sources of stress, it is crucial for caregivers to know how to help their patients relax and be calm.

Stress manifests in many different forms, such as pain, uncertainty, anxiety, worry, strained relationships, and nagging thoughts. Whatever the reason, patients need to know how to relax to improve their overall wellbeing.

What are the known benefits of relaxation for patients? These techniques have been proven to:

1. Improve physical defense against stress by improving heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, circulation, and relaxing tensed muscles

2. Promote restful sleep

3. Improve mood

4. Fight fatigue

5. Reduce anger and frustration

6. Reduce pain and discomfort

Given the many benefits of these techniques, it is disheartening to know that many care plans do not include relaxation in the list of patient care procedures. This may be because there is so much to do in such a short time, so this beneficial strategy either moves to the bottom of the to-do list or is totally scratched off.

However, caregivers can take initiative to help patients relax in times of stress. Assisting a patient this way expresses kindness and empathy, strengthening the connection between patient and caregiver.

Here some relaxation techniques that are shown to be beneficial:

1. Breathing exercises

While the patient lies comfortably in bed or is leaning back in a chair, ask them to place one hand over their belly and the other over their chest.

Next, tell them to inhale deeply through their nose and hold their breath for 2-3 seconds. They should feel their belly expand. Then the patient exhales slowly through pursed lips. The patient can easily do this by imagining slowly blowing a candle out.

They should breathe out a few counts longer than they breathe in. It is also important to do the exercises slowly so patients do not feel faint or dizzy. Have the patient inhale and exhale 3-5 times.

2. Visualization

Ask the patient to close their eyes and think of a happy and peaceful place. The place could be imaginary or a favorite spot, such as the beach, forest, or park. Ask them to imagine releasing all their tensions and anxiety as they explore with their mind.

Encourage your patient to visualize this place as vividly as they can, noting the small details that trigger the senses, like birds chirping, water flowing, the scent of flowers, a gentle breeze . . . whatever is calming to them. Let the patient stay in this state for a few minutes and then ask them to slowly open their eyes.

3. Music and art therapy

Music and art help patients take a short break from discomfort and unhappy thoughts.

Play the patient’s favorite music while they eat meals, perform activities, or drift off to sleep. During the day, encourage them in their favorite art or craft projects. Help them gather and prepare the materials. If the patient cannot think of one, introduce something, such as painting, coloring, or doing collage.

4. Physical activity

Certain physical activities, like walking, can help promote calmness in a person. Caregivers can invite patients to stroll nearby or walk a dog. Walking can help relax an anxious patient.

5. Massage

A back rub before bed produces restful sleep, because it improves circulation and relaxes tensed muscles. A caregiver can massage their patient after helping them bathe and before putting on their shirt. When giving a massage, always ensure the patient's privacy.

Massage only with warm hands, using a skin lotion. Use long, firm strokes from the lower to upper back and move the massaging hands across the shoulders and around the shoulder blades. Do this for 3-5 minutes.

Next, knead the muscles using the thumb and fingers, concentrating on the areas across the shoulders, the nape, and the sides of the shoulder blades near the spine. After, help the patient dress comfortably.

Most relaxation techniques are generally safe. If you intend to help your patient release tension using these strategies, consult your supervisor or nurse on which technique is best for your patient. And, if for any reason you are stressed out yourself, use the same techniques and feel the results!

Posted: 6/22/2018 1:39:59 PM

Best Practices in Caring for Patients with Incontinence

Incontinence is the lack of voluntary control of urination or defecation. Some 25 million adult Americans report some form of incontinence. Women experience it more often than men, but among age groups it is more common among the elderly. Because the older population is expected to grow to about 72 million by the year 2030, caregivers should expect that, in the future, they will be helping more patients with incontinence.

There are many types of urinary incontinence. Some patients leak urine when they laugh or sneeze. Some do not reach the toilet on time and pass urine when they feel the urge. Some women experience it when they are well-advanced in their pregnancies, too. There are cases when a person is unaware of the urge to urinate and urine simply flows out. In fewer cases, the bladder overflows and the person leaks urine.

Fecal incontinence, on the other hand, is the inability to control bowel movements. It could be as simple as leaking a small amount of stool while passing gas to a complete loss of bowel control.

Whatever the case, caregivers must have the upper hand while caring for incontinent patients. Take a look at these very helpful tips:

1. Be empathic and use a matter-of-fact approach.

Remember, it’s not just a physical problem but also an emotional challenge. People consider bathroom “accidents” embarrassing, shameful, and frustrating. The loss of a bodily function or control is a source of stress for patients, and caregivers must be careful to preserve the patient's dignity at all times.

Focus on helping the patient clean themselves and never pinpoint the problem. Instead of saying, "You had an accident again but that's ok," say, "Let me help you to the toilet," or "Let me help you clean up and change."

2. Next, focus on the physical aspects.

Some food and drink make incontinence worse. For those with poor bowel control, avoid spicy and fatty foods and limit gas-producing fruits and vegetables, such as prunes and sweet potatoes.

Decrease or cut out caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea for patients who leak urine. It also helps to limit their fluid intake at night.

3. Help them prevent future “accidents.”

A strategy for urinary incontinence is to assist them in relieving themselves every two hours or so and before going to bed, to prevent having a full bladder for a long period of time.

4. Prevent complications from incontinence.

The main principle to follow here is to keep the patient clean and dry at all times. If the patient independently washes themselves, remind them of the importance of thoroughly cleaning and drying the genital areas to prevent skin irritation.

For those needing assistance in changing or those using incontinent pads, wash and rinse the genital areas thoroughly with lukewarm water and mild soap and pat dry before putting on new pads. For bedridden patients, airdrying for a few minutes before a pad change will help prevent bed sores.

5. Make your patient's life (and yours!) easier.

Place an incontinence sheet on the buttocks area of the bed to catch accidental leakage and save yourself time and energy changing bed sheets frequently. Also, allow your patient to wear clothes that are easy to take off, such as drawstring pants or those with Velcro fasteners. Patients who are in a hurry to go will need to remove their pants easily and quickly.

For patients with dementia, it also helps to position the bed so that they have a direct view of the bathroom.

6. Use quality incontinence products and undergarments.

There are many types of incontinence products and underwear available in the market today. Choose ones that are reliable and do not cause skin irritation in your patient.

Posted: 6/18/2018 10:06:18 AM

Caregiver: A Cancer Patient's Lifeline

Did you know that the word cancer came from the Greek word meaning “crab”? Cancerous tumors have swollen blood vessels around them that resemble crab legs, and they spread mercilessly, recalling a crab scuttling quickly along the sand. Cancer significantly affects a patient's life and causes pain—imagine these creatures using their pincers to crush one of your fingers! The effects of a cancer diagnosis can be crushing, too.

A patient with cancer experiences many health-related changes that require them to seek medical help more often. Some of them will be most comfortable in hospice care, where their health is expected to grow worse. Caregivers who provide bedside care become a cancer patient's lifeline, fighting the battle with them and serving as an advocate to get the patient’s voice across.

If you are a caregiver, here are some tips to help you and your patient battle cancer:

1. Know what to expect.

As cancer creeps into a patient’s life, there is one thing that a caregiver must expect: there will be plenty of changes in many areas of their patient’s life. There will be discomfort and pain, a common symptom for cancer patients. For this reason, they may be irritable, avoid moving painful parts of the body, or refuse to eat.

The patient will have series of treatments, surgeries, and follow-up care. With these procedures, there will be a long list of medications and tasks related to their care.

After their chemotherapy treatment, the patient may feel nauseated, lose their hair, or experience mouth sores and other side effects. A cancer patient will also feel weak, especially if they are not responding to treatment.

2. Have the right attitude.

Caring for a patient with cancer is one of the greatest challenges a caregiver can face. This disease will challenge a caregiver's patience, resolve, and ability to react accordingly during emergencies and distress. It is important for you to be extra understanding of the patient's situation and show plenty of compassion and empathy.

3. Be organized.

The many changes that happen in a cancer patient's life can be overwhelming for the caregiver who is tasked with keeping things together. Keep a record of doctor's appointments, after-treatment checkups, medications, and care instructions.

If you are assisting in a patient’s home care, keep the house clean and safe, because clutter can cause falls and accidents and dirty surroundings lead to new illnesses in patients with a weakened immune system.

Also, have one place to keep all the patient’s medical supplies, separate from household supplies, to avoid confusion.

4. Prepare for emergencies.

Have emergency numbers handy, like the physician, nurse, and hospital. Know who to call for medical problems when they arise. Keep a journal for simple first aid tasks you may encounter. For example, if a patient has a tube inserted, ask the physician beforehand what you should do in case it is accidentally pulled out.

5. Don’t forget nutrition and hydration.

Take advantage of a patient’s good mood and appetite by serving highly nutritious meals and healthy drinks. If the patient feels nauseous, give small, frequent meals. If they complain of a bitter or unusual taste after medications or treatments, use spices in their food to mask the unpleasant taste.

There might be a time when a patient is too weak to chew. In this situation, it helps to prepare blended foods or milkshakes.

6. Work with the healthcare team.

The road toward cancer treatment is never a one-man journey. Always keep communication open with other members of the healthcare team. Don’t hesitate to ask for more information or seek help whenever necessary. Be alert for any physical changes in your patient and document each observation. Report your observations to your supervisor.

7. Keep your patient comfortable.

If you are unsure about how to keep your patient comfortable, ask them what helps ease their pain or helps them relax. Offer extra pillows or blankets as they sleep, adjust room temperature, and reduce glaring lights and loud sounds.

If they have mouth sores, perform mouth care and apply prescribed medications. Relieving the discomfort of mouth sores can help them eat and drink more easily and improve overall nutrition. After surgery, assist them in moving around in bed or transferring to a chair, to minimize their pain.

Provide ways to help entertain and distract them, such as an interesting book, TV program, hand-held game, or even a simple hobby.