Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 10/4/2021 3:00:27 PM

Medication Management, from Prescription to Refill

If you are a caregiver wishing to make your life easier by doing just one thing for a start, try medication management.

Medication management entails being knowledgeable about the patient’s medications and being organized enough so that the patient takes them in the right way, in the right amount, and at the right time. Being a champ at managing your patient's meds can save you a lot of time and can allow you to do other important things for yourself, and for your patient. Most importantly, it ensures that your patient gets the maximum benefits by preventing missed doses, and keeps them safe by preventing ‘double dosing.'

Be sure to follow these helpful tips:

Upon prescription:

• Ask the doctor for any clarifications regarding the prescription, like the drug name and dosage if they are not legibly written.
• Ask what the meds are for, and other details such as how much and when to give them.
• Ask the physician what to do if certain adverse effects, such as severe allergic reactions, are noted.
• Inform the physician of all the patient's medications including supplements and herbal medicines.

Upon obtaining medications from the pharmacy

• Obtain all meds from the same pharmacy whereby possible. It helps the pharmacist determine the compatibility of the drugs.
• Check if the prescription has the patient’s name on it. Double check for accuracy, ensure that what you get is the same as what is prescribed.

Getting organized

• Make a comprehensive chart. Assign one column for each of the following details: generic name, brand name, what the medication is for, date when they were prescribed, date when to stop taking them, the doctor who prescribed it, the amount to take per dose, the time to take them or the frequency, the route (how to take them), and common side effects. Assign one column for important notes, such as if they are to be taken on an empty or full stomach, if they should not be crushed, or if certain activities, such as driving, should be avoided. If you can manage, take a picture of the bottle and the pill together, and include the pictures in your chart. Be sure to include supplements and herbal medicines that the patient is taking even without prescription.
• Make a list. This time, list all medications that the patient needs to take at a certain time of day. The list is critical, especially when refilling the boxes, and when ensuring that you have the right pills at medication time.
• Keep the chart handy and take it with you in every visit to the doctor. The doctor needs to know all medications that the patient is taking, whether prescribed or not.
• Obtain three pill boxes with different colors. Each pillbox should have seven slots that are big enough to contain a day's medication. Assign a color each for the morning, afternoon, and evening pills. If possible, make four sets of these pillboxes to allow you to organize the medications up to 4 weeks.
• Update the chart and your list accordingly. Remove discontinued meds from, and add new ones to the chart and the list as appropriate.
• Set up alarms. Mobile devices allow multiple alarms to be set in a day. Even if you feel in control of your time, unexpected events can lead to missed doses.
Storing the medications
• If you have young children living with you and your patient, or if your patient who has dementia is prone to double-dosing due to forgetfulness, keep medications out of reach in a locked cabinet.
• If the patient with dementia is taking medications on their own, keep the color-coded pill boxes in separate locations. Sometimes, in their confusion, they reach for the wrong pill box even if they are color-coded for the right time of day.
• Take note if there are medications that need to be stored in the ref.
• Make a habit of checking the expiration dates of medications. For those nearing expiry, it will help if you stick a note on the bottle with the expiration date written in big letters.

Refilling supplies

• Medications that are to be taken for long-term are best to be purchased in bulk because they are cheaper. Consider mail order plans that can provide medications for up to 90 days to save you trips to the pharmacy. You may ask the patient’s insurance provider or pharmacy for this option.

Others

• Make sure no one else is taking the medication other than the patient.
• Keep the contact number of the hospital or the physician handy in case of emergencies related to taking medications.
• Familiarize yourself with the medication and dosages. Read the labels carefully. Before giving the meds, it is best to double check everything, especially if there are new additions.
• Keep a record of side effects and include details such as when they were noted.

Medication management may be overwhelming at first, but when done properly, it becomes your first ticket to a successful and less-stressed life as a caregiver.


Posted: 9/17/2021 1:28:06 PM

Help Patients Become Independent Through the Use of Assistive Devices

The need for caregiving, especially in older people, is increasing. And a problem that comes with this is that some older patients lose their independence to old age and disease.

Here's a scenario: Imagine an active retired teacher who has a debilitating chronic illness. This person loses many bodily functions until it becomes difficult for them to do things on their own. It was hard for them then when they had to give up their driving privileges. It was even harder to accept that they'd become too weak to even get on public transportation.

Whether it's about walking or doing something that they want, it's a big struggle. Take note that these people are once able-bodied and with a lot of experience about the world. They are now suddenly limited to doing a few things because of an illness.

The loss of independence can impact a patient's health and overall well-being. Caregivers must be aware that one way to help patients regain their sense of control is to provide different means for their patients to be on their own safely.

One way to foster independence is through the use of assistive devices. Assistive devices are smartly designed gadgets and equipment that help people with a loss of function perform a certain task. They are very useful and safe to use. Some assistive devices are prescribed, some are not.

1. Canes, crutches, and walkers.

These assistive devices increase a patient's base of support and improve balance to walk independently. They require a prescription because they target a specific weakness. For this reason, a patient cannot should not use the crutches belonging to another person. As a caregiver, make sure that the patient’s cane or crutches are within easy reach.

2. Hearing and vision aids.

Poor hearing and vision also limit a patient's performance of daily activities, so physicians prescribe hearing aids and eyeglasses for them. When your patients use these devices, help them put them on and take them off.

You may offer to clean them, too. Gently remove visible wax and debris from hearing aids and proceed to wipe with a damp cloth. You may clean their eyeglasses by running them under warm water and using a tiny drop of dish soap to remove oil marks on the lens. Use a lint-free towel to pat dry the lenses and the rest of the eyewear.

3. Built-up utensils, universal cuffs, plate guards, and weighted utensils.

Built-up utensils are designed for people with poor grip strength. They have a thicker handle for easier hold.

On the other hand, a universal cuff is a comfortable elastic that is strapped around the hand. It has a pocket to hold a utensil securely. It also benefits those with poor grip and coordination.

A plate guard is a dining aid that is useful for one-handed eating. It prevents food from spilling out of the plate. People with one-sided weakness or paralysis can use this device.

Weighted utensils are heavier than your usual ones. They provide additional weight to help stabilize hand and arm movements for shaky hands.

4. Reachers and grabbers.

These assistive devices help clutch items from hard-to-reach areas so that the patient doesn't need to stretch or bend excessively. Think of them as arm extensions that can pick things up. Store these devices in an accessible place.

5. Dressing devices.

Patients with limited hand function and poor coordination will appreciate these devices.

Button hooks are slipped inside a buttonhole to catch the button underneath to fasten it. Zipper pulls help pull zippers up. Sock aids and long-handled shoehorns are handy tools that patients can use to put on socks and shoes without bending over.

6. Bathing devices.

Bathing devices help patients clean and groom themselves independently yet safely. An example is a tub transfer bench. It lets the patient sit on it to get out of the tub without tripping over the tub. Handheld showers rinse hard-to-reach areas.

Similarly, shower chairs allow the patient to sit instead of just standing when taking a bath. Long-handles sponges help wash areas that are difficult to reach.

Now that you have a good idea of tools that can help your patients become more independent, you can work with the healthcare team to provide them with what they need.


Posted: 8/19/2021 3:26:56 PM

Working While Pregnant: The Dos and Don’ts for Expectant Caregivers

Caregivers are some of the most resilient and hardworking employees there are in the healthcare industry. Nothing can change that, not even pregnancy. When caregivers learn that they're expecting, they bravely carry on, sometimes right up until their due date.

A caregiver's dedication is truly amazing, but when this special time for women arrives, their safety and their unborn child's well-being take a priority.

Dos

1. Keep your obstetrician in the loop.

Your OB must know about your job and the kind of tasks that you usually do. Telling your obstetrician about your work conditions can help them prepare safety recommendations for you.

2. Tell your supervisor.

You must also inform your supervisor, and your co-workers next, that you are pregnant. Your supervisor can arrange suitable workloads for you. For example, they can assign tasks that don't involve a lot of heavy lifting or those that wouldn't trigger your nausea.

Your colleagues, on the other hand, can offer support. They'll likely understand if you need frequent toilet breaks or rest periods.

3. Bring your anti-nausea kit with you.

During your first trimester or the first three months of your pregnancy, hormonal changes usually trigger nausea. This unpleasant feeling is especially worse in the morning. Prepare a small kit that contains barf bags, tissues, a bottle of water, and some crackers. Saltine crackers help calm your stomach. Keep this kit with you even when you travel to and from work.

4. Take care of your feet.

Wear compression socks or stockings. On your third trimester of pregnancy or from the seventh month onwards, you might have swollen feet, especially after a long day.

Swelling can be uncomfortable because your shoes feel tight. You can prevent swelling by wearing compression socks or stockings. It is best to put them on in the morning upon waking up or anytime when your feet aren't tired.

The use of these socks also prevents clot formation in the leg caused by the pooling of blood late in pregnancy.

Take a few minutes during your breaks to sit comfortably and raise your legs. Elevating your feet help to drain the pooled blood in your lower leg and relieve swelling.

5. Strictly follow infection control procedures.

Getting an infection at work can have disastrous consequences for your pregnancy. You can transfer microorganisms to your baby, and your baby can have birth defects or even die in your womb. Examples of such diseases are chickenpox, shingles, measles, and rubella. Supervisors need to know your condition so they can assign you to other patients.

Dont’s

1. Do not mix cleaning chemicals or handle products with pregnancy warnings.

Before using cleaning or disinfecting products, read the label. Do not use those with pregnancy precautions. An example of a product to avoid is an oven cleaner. Oven cleaners have toxic substances that cause miscarriage and birth defects. Mixing chemicals is unsafe because it can emit harmful fumes.

2. Don't skip meals.

If large meals trigger your nausea, ask your supervisor if you could take several small breaks to have light snacks instead of the usual lunch break. Bring healthy snacks with you, especially if your workplace's cafeteria does not offer much.

3. Don't smoke or consume alcohol.

Smoking is dangerous to your health, especially to your unborn baby. Alcoholic drinks are okay to take in moderation while you're not pregnant. But consuming even a small amount of alcohol while you're expecting can harm your baby.

4. Don’t eat raw meat, fish, or unpasteurized milk products.

Raw or undercooked food can cause food-borne illnesses that can harm you and your baby. Food poisoning is also possible, so it is best to cook food thoroughly. You may have to forego your cravings for rare steaks and sushi.

Also, unpasteurized milk has not been heat-treated, which also means that the milk may be contaminated with harmful bacteria. Unpasteurized milk products are not a good choice for your calcium source.

5. Don't binge on caffeine.

Caffeine-rich drinks can stunt the baby's growth and lead to small birth size. It's better to give up caffeine while pregnant. You can consume substitutes such as decaffeinated coffee, plain water in place of colas, and fruit juices instead of energy drinks.

Caregiving while pregnant can be challenging. At times, it could even be dangerous. But with adequate preparation and precautions, you can successfully wrestle those precious nine months and welcome a healthy baby in your arms.


Posted: 8/3/2021 1:43:36 PM

Understanding How Immobility Impacts Health

Humans have to move their bodies to be healthy. Lack of body movement opens a host of problems for immobile persons, and this ultimately reduces their quality of life. The longer the patient is bedridden, the worse the effects of immobility are.

Immobility is a result of injuries, medical conditions, and mental health problems. It is often associated with pain, too.

Caregivers need to understand the ill effects of immobility so they can prepare adequately and spot possible complications. They also have to be motivated in following the course of action that addresses the problem in the care plan.
Effects of immobility

1. Poor circulation.

When the body’s circulation slows, the blood does not freely flow and tends to pool and clot. Clots can be dangerous because they can completely block blood flow to a body part. We know that blood carries oxygen and nutrients to different areas. With the total lack of blood supply, cells die.

A prime example of such a problem is stroke, where the blockage happens in the brain, and the brain cells become affected. Another fatal consequence is a heart attack where heart muscles die because clots prevented blood flow to the heart muscles.

2. Lack of strength.

Prolonged immobility also reduces muscle mass and bone strength. For every week without much movement, a patient loses 7%-10% of their energy. This problem aligns with the saying that “when you don’t use it, you lose it.”

Lack of movement tells the brain that the body doesn't need strong bones and muscles, so muscle wasting starts. The bones begin losing calcium and become brittle. Joints join the bandwagon, too, and end up stiff in the long run. All these factors result in pain, difficulty moving, and further loss of function.

3. Increased fat storage.

For many health reasons, extra fats in your body are never welcome. Lack of exercise prevents the burning of calories, and those extra calories are stored as fats. Immobility sends mixed signals to the brain, and the body starts failing to utilize food to make energy.

4. Constipation.

Immobility slows down many body processes, including digestion. The stomach and the intestines do not move to push food along the tract effectively, and the contents tend to stay long in the bowels. This results in constipation or blockage of the bowels.

5. Kidney stones.

Kidney stones form when minerals, such as the calcium that the bones and muscles lost while immobile, build up. Stones can cause kidney damage, infections, and blockage of the urinary tubes. Symptoms of dislodged kidney stones include severe pain, nausea and vomiting, and bloody or foul-smelling urine.

6. Weak skin.

During long periods of immobility, the skin suffers from poor blood supply. The skin receives less oxygen and nutrients to remain healthy. Also, there is increased heat and pressure in bony parts that are in contact with the bed.

All these factors cause the skin to break easily, and pressure ulcers appear. When the patient is dragged or moved in bed, the skin is further damaged and the problem worsens. Pressure ulcers cause extreme pain. The broken areas could also become infected, which in turn cause a ripple of other negative effects.

7. Increased risk for respiratory infections.

With a prolonged lack of movement, the lungs could not fully expand. Deep breathing becomes harder, too. This results in the pooling of secretions in the airway. Infections set in easily this way. Additionally, when secretions block the airways, air sacs collapse, and the lungs get damaged.

8. Depression.

Patients who cannot freely move around tend to feel helpless and depressed. Since they are also usually socially isolated, they also have poor self-esteem.

Bedridden patients could not easily do what they want. As a result, they become frustrated and irritable. In older people, immobility also increases the risk for confusion and poor mental functions.

Depression worsens the effects of immobility because patients lose the motivation and interest in doing things.
Prolonged immobility poses a big threat to the overall health of a patient because of the many ways that the body and mind are affected. This is the reason why caregivers must work with the healthcare team and be diligent in following the care plan to help patients get their much needed exercise. Addressing mobility issues can significantly improve a patient’s quality of life.


Posted: 7/22/2021 3:47:29 PM

Understanding and Dealing with Behavior and Personality Changes in Alzheimer’s Patients

In Alzheimer’s disease, the brain cells start to die. Since the cells do not replenish, the brain begins to shrink. These changes mean that all brain functions are affected, including how patients think, recall information, and solve everyday problems.

The patients also show behavior and personality changes that other people do not readily recognize as symptoms of the disease. Some of these changes appear earlier than the other symptoms. This is the usual reason why families seek medical attention.

Alzheimer’s disease is a good topic of discussion for you and other caregivers because of several interesting factors.

One is the fact that at this time, the US has 6.2 million people aged 65 and older who have Alzheimer's dementia. This number is expected to increase in the coming years as the entire baby boomer population reaches retirement age. There is a huge chance that you will have to care for affected patients frequently.

Another factor is the very challenging nature of dealing with personality changes in these patients. To families, their loved one is now a different person. To their caregivers, on the other hand, patients are just being extra difficult.

What are some common behavior and personality changes in Alzheimer’s disease?

1. Threatening and violent behaviors.

Patients have difficulty communicating and expressing themselves. As a result, they get angry and upset more easily. Alzheimer patients become aggressive out of frustration or boredom, too. They can snap and yell for the slightest of problems. It may be unsettling for you to find them pacing at times. Patients with Alzheimer’s also get violent and hit others.

2. Fear and anxiety.

Patients worry about many things, especially in the early course of the disease, when they realize that they are less unable to function as usual. Their anxiety worsens some of their symptoms, and the cycle repeats itself.

3. Apathy and indifference.

Because of the brain changes in Alzheimer’s disease, patients show a lack of interest, enthusiasm, or concern for others and for things happening around them. These can be a sign of depression, too, which is common among Alzheimer’s patients.

4. Hallucination and paranoia.

Patients sometimes report that they see, hear or feel something that is not there. This experience is called hallucination. They also become paranoid or suspicious of others. Oftentimes, patients hide things or believe that others are hiding things from them.

5. Unusual sexual behavior.

Alzheimer’s patients become impulsive and uninhibited. Family members feel embarrassed when they see their previously respectable parent or grandparent exposing themselves or are overly interested in sex.

6. Compulsion.

Patients sometimes have a strong urge to do something repeatedly even if the action puts them in harm’s way.

What to do when patients show changes in behavior and personality.

1. Be more understanding.

Now that you know that the brain changes in Alzheimer's disease are to blame for the patient's 'new' personality, be more considerate. They may be rude and aggressive, kick or bite you, but these actions are part of the symptoms of the disease. They have difficulty controlling these behaviors. A little understanding goes a long way in caregiving.

2. Don't take it personally.

Patients with Alzheimer's disease might hurl hurtful words at you. You will be judged and criticized in the most humiliating way. You may hear them curse and swear, too.

Under normal circumstances, you’ll probably be triggered and angered by the 'abusive' treatment. But the scenario is different for these patients. It is best to not take what they say to heart and just let the behavior pass.

3. Anticipate and meet their needs.

The changes in behavior and personality are often the result of unmet needs. As a caregiver, be more sensitive to their preferences. Know their usual routines and their personal favorites, from food to TV shows. See to their comfort, too. Anticipate their needs to reduce their stress. Ask yourself if the patient is hungry or thirsty or if they have to use the toilet.

4. Calm the patient.

When the patient becomes stressed, they act out and possibly become combative. Firstly, you have to be calm yourself. Try to focus on their feelings rather than reasoning with them and then meet their needs.

5. Ensure that they are taking their medications.

Caregivers cannot administer medications, but they can remind patients to take their meds on time. Medications help control the symptoms and therefore also help manage behavior and personality changes.

Caring for patients with Alzheimer’s disease is very challenging, especially if they show unpleasant demeanors. Understanding that these changes are symptoms, too, will go a long way to help these patients have a quality life.