Recent Caregiver Blogs

Posted: 8/19/2019 2:48:07 PM

Goal Setting with Patients is Highly Beneficial

It's important to set your own goals and work hard to achieve them. – Yuichiro Miura

This quote by celebrated alpinist Yuichiro Miura is especially meaningful when applied to patient care. Many patients know the basics of becoming healthier: eat right, sleep well, exercise every day, and stop unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking too much alcohol. But they find themselves unable to do so in the long run because of poor goal-setting and action-planning habits.

Patients want to get better, but complying to orders for lifestyle changes has many barriers, so it’s important to tackle these obstacles right from the start—by setting good goals.

For example, in preparing nutritious meals, the family caring for a patient may run into several difficulties including a lack of culinary skills or the time to shop for and prepare fresh, vegetable-based meals. Finances can be a problem, too, because eating healthier may be more expensive. If the family shares and enjoys a culture where high-fat foods are meal mainstays, it will be difficult for a patient to comply with a low-fat diet up against temptation and lifelong habits.

As a caregiver, how can you help patients in this regard? The key is goal setting coupled with solid determination and a strong commitment from the patient. Just as the quote says, the goal and (most of the) hard work should come from the patient, since they are most likely to stick to a plan they chose for themselves. A caregiver's role is to guide the patient, motivate them, and cheer them on as they take the journey to achieving those goals.

If you think goal setting will benefit your patient, here are some helpful tips you can follow to get them started:

Collaborate with your supervisor or nurse regarding goals that can be set with the patient. The reason for this strategy is not to dictate what a patient should aim for but to have ideas that will be highly beneficial to them. There will be times they are clueless on how to start, and you as their caregiver are the one to encourage them on. Help them think of goals using the following prompts:

• Is there something you want to do differently that will help you get better?
• What would you like to do for your health that you haven’t done or been able to do yet?

Put the patient's goals in writing. Writing down goals makes a patient's plans feel official because you acted as a guide and witness. You can also jot down their progress on the same sheet as they carry out their plan.

Come up with SMART goals: Specific, Measurable, Appropriate, Realistic and Time-Based. Let’s stick with the example of eating more nutritious foods. How can you set SMART goals with a patient looking to improve their diet?

• Specific goals detail what a patient wants to happen. So, instead of "eat nutritious food," try, "include more fruits and vegetables and less red meat in my diet."
• A measurable goal describes how often or how much an action is needed. For our example, it could be, “filling half the plate with fruits and vegetables.”
• Goals should also be appropriate, meaning they should have positive effects for a patient given their health condition.
• Realistic goals describe goals a patient feels confident about and is likely to achieve.
• Time-based goals have a duration or time frame to carry out the plans. In this case, "every meal" would be the set time.

Break down goals into several objectives. Objectives are more specific than larger goals. In this case, an objective could be creating sample menus that include vegetable dishes and fruit platters.

Talk with the patient regarding possible barriers. Discuss how you can help them overcome those stumbling blocks to achieving their goals.

Celebrate small successes with every milestone reached. Make every completed step a reason to recognize efforts so it encourages the patient to continue the challenge and repeat positive behavior.

When you help patients set and achieve goals, many wonderful things happen, and the patient is better off than before. If you haven't tried goal setting with a patient yet, it's time you do. Then expect to see positive results!

Posted: 8/12/2019 1:11:21 PM

Compassionate Care: Caring is Different than Doing

A caregiver's day is riddled with overwhelming tasks, and it’s easy to get engrossed in your to-do list so you can check everything off at the end of the day. Usually, you feel like you don’t have the time to find out how patients are feeling or doing.

Do you ever feel guilty that the patient themselves is sometimes taken out of the picture as you go about your day? Do you avoid more meaningful connections with patients so you can finish your work on time?

Healthcare is experiencing compassion crisis, with many patients claiming that the care they receive is lacking in kindness and empathy. This is a sad, because the essence of caregiving is in the caring and not just the doing.

When caregivers focus on finishing their duties, it’s a good thing and a sign of a job well done. But daily job success that is focused on tasks alone is disguised as effective time management and prioritization without taking into consideration how the patient feels about the care they receive or how well the caregiver has helped them.

Compassionate care is a must. Here are helpful tips to turn your doing into caring:

Use the time for care procedures as an opportunity to make meaningful conversation. A well-known quote by Maya Angelou, famous American poet and memoirist, comes to mind: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” This is meaningful connection in action. Patients must not only see what you do but also feel that you genuinely want to help.

Smile a lot. Smiling as you greet patients is the simplest form of kindness, which can have a great impact on their health because it sends a message of hope and positivity. This comes more naturally to some, but every caregiver can make an effort to greet patients warmly, for the sake of providing better care.

Encourage and motivate. Show appreciation when patients cooperate with procedures, even something small like finishing their meals on time. Recognizing patients’ efforts can make them feel good about themselves as well as encourage them to repeat positive behavior.

Use therapeutic touch. A gentle pat on the shoulder and holding their hands when they are in pain or feeling low can uplift their spirit and provide comfort. Another way to use therapeutic touch is by giving massages and backrubs before bedtime or at bath time.

Be gentle in every procedure, especially those that are painful or uncomfortable. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that pain and sickness can bring out the worst in a person. Any discomfort can make a patient irritable and cranky. Do not be tempted to get back at a patient by being harsh with care procedures, such as pulling an incontinence pad without lifting their buttocks first or forcefully removing adhesive strips.

Preserve their dignity. Another great way to turn doing into caring is by preserving the patient’s dignity, especially while performing care procedures where their body can be unnecessarily exposed to others. If you were in their position, you wouldn’t want to be embarrassed in the same way! So, make sure to pull the drapes or close windows and doors while giving a bed bath or changing clothing. Also, never humiliate them by calling them offensive names or mocking them.

Caregiving entails completing long to-do lists and following orders to a T, but let's not forget that the patient is still the center of it all. It’s not enough to just accomplish tasks. Your patients need to see and feel that you genuinely care and do your job from the heart.

Posted: 8/5/2019 2:50:05 PM

Detecting Elder Abuse—Even the Unlikely Signs

Elder abuse is more common than you think. This is because anyone who interacts with older people can be a potential abuser, and there are many types of abuse and a variety of settings where it can occur.

One in every 10 older people experiences some kind of abuse in the US, but only one out of every 23 cases are actually reported. These figures are expected to increase due to the growing aging population that coincides with the retirement of all baby boomers in the future.

Caregivers must learn ASAP how to spot warning signs of elder abuse, even the most subtle ones, to protect this vulnerable population.

Abuse comes in many forms and is not always as obvious as bruises and wounds. Some signs of physical abuse go unnoticed because they are hidden by clothes, and perpetrators do not always appear abusive. They do not abuse everyone they come in contact with and may appear nice or even charming to other people.

What are the different types of elder abuse and their warning signs?

Physical abuse such as hitting, beating, pushing, and burning. A patient will have bruises, wounds, pressure marks, burns, or marks from an instrument used to harm them. Bruises and wounds in different stages of healing are a strong indication that physical mistreatment is happening on a regular basis.

Other unlikely forms of physical abuse include the inappropriate use of drugs to sedate or harm the elder and restraining or locking them in a room against their will. The patient may appear drowsy or frequently asleep. They may also show signs of disease that are actually side effects of medications or reveal signs of trauma, such as rocking back and forth.

Emotional abuse such as humiliation, intimidation, blaming, instilling fear, blackmailing, and cursing. Emotional abuse can make the elder victim withdraw from socialization, or become tearful, irritable, and agitated.

Other unlikely forms of emotional abuse include ignoring a patient and forbidding them to talk to or mingle with friends or other family members.

Sexual abuse is any forceful sexual act without the older patient’s consent. A patient will show bruises or wounds on the breasts, upper inner thighs, and genital areas.

Other unlikely forms of sexual abuse include forcing a patient to look at pornographic materials and videos or watch actual sex acts, or forcefully undressing them.

Neglect is the most common type of abuse and comprises more than half of all reported cases. Neglect can be unintentional, such as when a family caregiver is juggling two jobs and caring for a family of their own and therefore cannot attend properly to the patient’s needs. Signs of neglect include pressure sores, leaky or soggy incontinence pads, poor hygiene, and unsanitary living conditions.

Other unlikely forms of neglect include malnutrition, dehydration, weight loss, and missed medications, treatments, and doctor’s appointments.

Financial exploitation such as stealing from a patient, misusing their money, and the unauthorized disposal of a patient's property. Abusers forge an elder patient's signature or use fake IDs and documents to steal from them.

Other unlikely forms of financial abuse include giving to fake charities, fraudulent investments, and other scams.

Some caregivers are the abuser themselves, which is very dangerous. The patient can no longer rely on the person entrusted with their care, who has taken advantage of their weakened state and inability to defend themselves. Caregivers should be aware of this possibility and consider that another healthcare worker may be abusing their patient. However, most caregivers are in a very good position to stop the wrongdoing early in its tracks by recognizing the warning signs of exploitation and mistreatment and following protocols on reporting elder abuse.

The main challenge of reporting elder abuse is that you must ask for the patient’s permission before doing so, unlike child victims where reporting is mandatory. If you witness or suspect abuse in older patients, to talk to them in private. Tell them that you can be trusted and ask if anything is wrong. Tell the patient you are worried and that you know where to get help. Lastly, be there for them when they need you.

Posted: 7/29/2019 5:02:42 PM

What You Need to Know About “Elder Orphans” and Their Care

More and more adults are aging alone with multiple chronic diseases and live far away from relatives or friends. The term elder orphans was coined to refer to older people with no spouse, family members, or friends to help them with their health primarily as well as other matters such as finances and legal concerns. In the US, about one out of four older people are elder orphans. They are considered a vulnerable population in the sense that, while they function well at a minimum, the slightest hiccup can initiate a chain reaction of negative events.

The number of elder orphans will continue to grow in the coming years. In 2016, almost 15% of women aged 40-44 had not had children. By 2040, childless older people will be at 21%. This is a pressing worry, especially concerning their health, since there are fewer options for their care. Their primary option is to seek outside help from nursing homes, senior living communities, and other similar facilities.

It is in this vulnerable state that direct care workers such as caregivers come into the picture. While providing care for these older people, keep in mind the following concerns.

- Social Isolation

Elder orphans experience chronic loneliness from social isolation, meaning they have few people to talk to and connect with on a daily basis. This affects their health. Studies show they are at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. The risk of Alzheimer’s disease in this population is high, too.

Caregivers must go out of their way to have meaningful conversations with elder orphans and engage them in activities where there is interaction with others. Humor can also find a place in this scenario, since a good laugh releases happy hormones. Take the opportunity during a care procedure to encourage them to tell you about their history, concerns, and feelings.

- Lack of Proper Nutrition and Adequate Hydration

Older people often have difficulty preparing healthy meals because meal preparation and shopping for ingredients has become too difficult and tiring. Without a support system, elder orphans have difficulty meeting their own nutritional needs.

Caregivers can step in and make sure they receive proper nutrition by offering healthy foods and assisting during mealtime. Caregivers can also help them be comfortable and in the mood to eat. Older people may also have problems feeling thirsty even when dehydrated, so offering a glass of water several times a day can help meet their fluid requirements.

- Mobility Problems

One reason elder orphans need help with their health is that they are too weak or sick to move around on their own. Of course, this is also a significant factor in why they became isolated in the first place.

Caregivers can assist these patients to transfer from the bed to the chair or wheelchair, or to walk. Take a stroll with a patient or accompany them in their activities.

- Multiple Health Problems and Chronic Disease

Even a happy, long life takes a toll, and older people are usually battling several diseases at the same time. This poses a special challenge for caregivers who already have a lot on their plates.

Caregivers must strictly perform their duties and stick to the care plan so patients receive the best care possible. Assist patients in taking medication and following dietary and activity restrictions. You can also be their advocate, reporting your observations and patient concerns in a timely manner.

- Lack of Support System

Elder orphans have no next of kin to help with their daily challenges, and their isolation prevents them from accessing community resources. They may not be aware of the resources available to them.

Caregivers can act as their support system, being there for patients when they need to talk. Caregivers can also help these patients get the support they need by connecting them with the right person who can properly assist them.

Caring for elder orphans is a unique challenge, but with the right mindset and a genuine heart to help, you can support them in many wonderful ways. That makes caregivers heroes in this regard!

Posted: 7/22/2019 4:13:02 PM

How to Maintain Healthy Relationships with Patients’ Families

Families move their loved ones to care facilities and homes for one reason: peace of mind knowing their relative will get the quality care that they can’t adequately provide.

Expectations are high. Families need to see that the healthcare team is competent and knows what they’re doing. They need to feel the sincerity in every interaction. And this is understandable.

Being a caregiver is challenging not only because of the physical and emotional demands of patient care, but also because caregivers interact with family members as well. And because family members are usually stressed or anxious about their loved one's health issues, they can become difficult, overcritical, and tend to micromanage everything.

To maintain a healthy relationship with a patient’s family, first, fix your mindset. You have to recognize their innate need to be reassured their sick loved one is safe and cared for, and your compassionate approach sets the stage for other ways to make this possible.

To build trust, the family needs to hear reassuring words and see consistent quality care. When a family feels their loved ones are in good hands, they tend to relax and stop examining every detail of every care procedure. The questions every family member has in mind is, "Can I be confident that staff will care for my loved one the right way? Can I let my worries go and trust they'll do the best for my relative?"

Another way to establish a successful relationship with the family is to have honest and open communication. One way to do this is to avoid phrasing comments as your opinion. Instead, tell them your observations. Don’t say, “I think your mother is having a hard time adjusting here.” Try, “Your mother doesn’t finish her meals and keeps saying she wants to go back home.” Also, avoid sugarcoating your words to make them feel better. Acknowledge that you understand and are attentive to their concerns as well.

To interact with a patient’s family better, it is also important to treat them with respect. Be mindful of your choice of words and tone of voice. Never argue, and hear them out each time.

Be culturally sensitive, too. Sickness and disability know no religion or race, and you will often care for patients with beliefs different than yours. Their family will see any disregard for their culture on your part as a sign of disrespect and incompetence. This isn’t just rude, it can spark mistrust and subsequent confrontation.

Always knock before entering a patient’s room, especially if family members are present. Ask permission from the patient first before disturbing the bonding moments with their visiting loved ones.

Lastly, be sincere in your desire to help. You may be tired and pressed for time, busy in your routine, and tend to breeze through your duties without putting your heart into it. Patients and their families feel this disconnect and will be uncomfortable around you. They will be more demanding, too. Showing genuine concern about their loved one's condition creates meaningful connections with their family.

Maintaining a healthy relationship with a patient's next of kin is very important in achieving patient goals since they are a big influence on the patient, the center of the healthcare team. Be compassionate, respectful, and sincere. Establish trust and open communication lines, and the patient’s family will cooperate with you and return the respect.