The Heart of St Patrick

Homecare Advocate readers, we are pleased to bring you our very first post by guest blogger, Kate Damron.  She is part of our customer service team at our north Knoxville store, and she has a real heart for helping people.  Read on as she explains how the act of caregiving embodies the essence of Saint Patrick.

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Homecare Advocate Blog: The Heart of St Patrick

Yes, yes.  We all know we have to wear green on St. Patty’s Day to avoid being pinched. Shamrocks and tall green hats are shamelessly flaunted.  Some people use the day as a chance to go to an Irish pub to celebrate.  Stores observe the holiday with discounts on St. Patrick’s related items and fun promotions for all things green.

As we celebrate, let’s make it even more meaningful by remembering why Saint Patrick’s day is a holiday at all.

The Britain-born youth was captured at 16 in the late fourth century by raiders and sold as a slave in Ireland to a Druid high priest.  During the six years he spent in captivity as a shepherd, he grew stronger in his faith.  Eventually, he escaped and was reconnected with his family in Britain at about age 24.  Then, he felt God calling him back to minister to the people of Ireland.  He become a priest and returned to Ireland after only a few years.

Patrick is reckoned to have had an enormous impact on the conversion of many Irish from Druidism to Christianity and in organizing church leadership.  He also founded several monasteries.  Many of the symbols we see today including the shamrock and the Celtic cross are the result of syncretism as St. Patrick endeavored to help the Irish transition from pagan rituals to Christianity.  The shamrock we see everywhere is legendary for St. Patrick’s use of it to illustrate the Trinity.

It is an encouragement to remember that we celebrate this holiday because of the love that one man had even for a people that had enslaved him. So much so, that after he gained freedom, he studied to become a priest in order to return to that same people and change their hearts so they could experience freedom. His hard work and efforts profoundly changed the culture in tangible ways that we still see today!

As we care for our loved ones, we have the advantage of serving them out of love and out of a mutually meaningful relationship. The road may not be easy, but it is worth it when we see the joy in their eyes as they greet the ones they love each day and as they gaze upon the homes they have lived in so many years. The life they live at home does give them so much more freedom to continue to enjoy a good life and to impact the lives of others themselves. Sometimes, it may be easy to think that we don’t make a difference, but giving loved ones as much independence and dignity as we can is immeasurable and makes a difference in the lives of individuals and in our culture.  Thank you for your dedication and hard work as you take care of your loved ones.

:: Kate Damron ::

Snowflake Ball 2013

We had a wonderful time this weekend at the Snowflake Ball & Silent Auction, the annual fundraiser for the Senior Companion Program.  Lambert’s has been on the Advisory Board for the Senior Companion Program for several years now and was the chair of this year’s Silent Auction.  We are pleased to report that we raised a record-breaking $9603 at this year’s event!

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

The Senior Companion Program pairs volunteer seniors with low-income seniors who need help with activities of daily living, companionship, and services to maintain their independence and remain at home.

This program offers a valuable service to our community’s most vulnerable population and empowers active seniors to make a difference in others’ lives.  The funds raised at this year’s Snowflake Ball & Silent Auction enable the Senior Companion Program to provide 1,600 hours of free care this year!

Here are some photos from this year’s event:

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

We appreciate all of the local businesses and artists who contributed to the Silent Auction such as Collage-A-Pet, Jeffries WoodWorks, Aud Pod Pottery, among others.  It means a lot to us at Lambert’s to be able to give back to our community and to find kindred spirits who have a passion for helping seniors like we do.

Here is some of our Advisory Board members who attended the Ball:

Homecare Advocate Blog: Snowflake Ball 2013

If you’d like more information on receiving services by the Senior Companion Program, volunteering your time as a Companion, or making a financial contribution to the program, please send an e-mail to knoxooa@knoxcac.org and tell them you heard about the program through Lambert’s blog.  They’re a wonderful group of people, and they are here to serve you.

::AWP::

5 Ways to Honor Martin Luther King, Jr

Homecare Advocate Blog Post: "5 Ways to Honor MLK, JR"

Today is a special day where we pay our respects to one of the great leaders and defining contributors to American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  He stood for equality, compassion, nonviolent activism, and holding stead-fast to your principles.  As we celebrate him today, here are 5 ways that you can honor him and his legacy.

1.  Get involved.

“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” The elderly often feel forgotten and left behind.  As they age, their world gets smaller, and they hold tight to their closest loved ones.  Life is busy, schedules are chaotic.  But ask any grandma living alone, and she all too well remembers all the days that passed without any visitors and how slowly the clock ticked on by.  She yearns for someone to think of her, her ears ache for the phone to ring with a familiar voice at the other end.  Reach out to seniors who are less fortunate; spend time with those who live solitary lives.  Be present in their lives.  Show them love.

2.  Speak out.

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter.” Get involved in the issues that impact senior citizens.  Speak to your elected officials about the value of homecare, and educate our leadership about developing policies that empower the elderly and disabled to maintain their independence at home.  Not sure where to begin?  Talk to a senior about what would increase their quality of life, what it means to them to choose their own health provider, and how we can help them live more comfortably and safely at home.  Be their voice.

3.  Do small things with great love.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry.  He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Every role is an opportunity to show love and make a difference in the world.   Whether you’re the delivery technician, the therapist, the neighbor, or the plumber, you have the chance to make a meaningful impact on the person you’re helping.  It’s quite possible that if you’re assisting a senior, you may be the only person she/he has spoken to that day–or even longer.   Acknowledge the person you are serving, take pride in the quality of your work.  Give them assurance that you are here to help them and that you care about their well-being.

4.  Put living in life.

“There is nothing more tragic than to find an individual bogged down in the length of life, devoid of breadth.” Lambert’s co-owner, Elizabeth, once eloquently said “life is living!”  Her words remind me of Dr. King’s warning of no meaning, no purpose, no life in our lives.  It is not enough to survive for the sake of getting older–we want to fill that life with something worthwhile.  Seniors are more active and capable than ever before with the advancements in medicine and technology now available.  Invite a senior on a day-trip to the mountains; take them to feel the sand in their toes.   Instead of defaulting to “I can’t…” or “he won’t…”, talk to your loved one’s physician and medical equipment supplier about what options there are.  For example, our oxygen patients can fly with FAA-approved oxygen concentrators, an option that wasn’t there years ago.  Ask your loved one about his/her bucket list, and you’ll be surprised at the precious new memories you can still make together.  Help them feel alive.

5.  Breathe in, and begin.

“Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.” We often hear from boomer-aged children who are trying to figure out how to care for an aging parent.  Their parents’ needs are changing, and they are unsure what it will take to keep them safe and happy.  Can they stay at home?  Can we make this work?  The realization that you are going to become a family caregiver may be daunting.  Overwhelming.  You see your loved one’s needs, and you wonder if you have what it takes for the long-haul.  Fear not.  Begin where you are, doing what you can.  Talk to others about how they can contribute, and seek advice from the family physician on resources available to you.  You can do this; you are not alone.

Wishing you all dreams of brighter tomorrows and the courage to create a better future.

::AWP::

Secrets of Being a Good Caregiver

As our Homecare Advocate readers know, Joni & Friends is near and dear to our heart at Lambert’s.  We participate in Joni & Friends activities and mission trips, and we recently sent our ATP Wheelchair Specialist to Guatemala to assist in distributing appropriately fit wheelchairs to those in need via their Wheels for the World program.

When we came across this moving letter written by Joni’s husband, Ken, on the secrets of being a good caregiver, we knew we had to share it with you.  He titles this open letter, “Caregiving: A Cause for Christ“:

Lots of people agree: I have a beautiful wife. With her ready smile and engaging personality, most people hardly notice her wheelchair. And when they learn that she writes books, travels extensively, and leads a dynamic ministry to people with disabilities around the globe, they’re amazed. To most of the world, Joni Eareckson Tada doesn’t seem disabled at all.

After almost forty-five years of quadriplegia, Joni makes having hands and feet that don’t work look easy. I love that about my wife. I like that she doesn’t make a big deal about her spinal cord injury but simply moves forward into life, leaning hard on the grace of God. Everybody says the same: Joni seems “normal,” someone who is not defined by her disability.

I wish it were that simple. Actually, Joni does, too. Most people have no idea what it takes for my wife to simply get up in the morning. It’s nearly a two-hour routine that includes giving her extensive range-of-motion exercises and a bed bath, going through toileting routines, putting on her leg bag, strapping on a corset and getting her dressed, sitting her up in her wheelchair, brushing her teeth, and fixing her hair and face. And I’ve just described the abridged version. Plus, don’t assume that at night Joni simply jumps out of her wheelchair and into bed — it’s virtually the same routine as in the morning, except in reverse. Day in and day out, 365 days a year, it never varies—unless Joni becomes ill; then it’s more intensive.

Caring for Joni is something I gladly signed up to do almost thirty years ago when we took our vows on our wedding day. In sickness and in health, for better or for worse, I promised to cherish my wife and take care of her to the best of my ability. Since then, never once have I regretted my decision to marry Joni with her quadriplegia—even in the midst of the many nightmarish ordeals related to her health and the dreary day-to-day routines. I love my wife with a love that is anchored in Jesus Christ. But that doesn’t make it easy.

All relationships have their challenges, but when you add a chronic disability, the challenges can seem overwhelming. You could be a son caring for your father with Alzheimer’s or a single mother coping with your teenage son with autism. You could be the father of a little boy with muscular dystrophy or the wife of a husband who has suffered a stroke. Disability has a way of testing even the best of relationships with daily routines that never vary, social isolation, financial pressures, unmet expectations, and a life that is extremely atypical from most people. Without Christ firmly in the center of the suffering, a caretaker can crack under the pressure of loneliness, guilt, and despair. It is little wonder that the divorce rate in families affected by disability is nearly 80 percent.

I have witnessed the heartbreaking reality of that statistic. Every summer, Joni and I participate in our Joni and Friends Family Retreats. At these events, we have the chance to meet hundreds of families affected by disability; they come for the fun, fellowship, networking, times of prayer, and Bible study. (Next summer Joni and Friends will hold twenty-five retreats across the United States and fifteen in developing nations.) But at each Family Retreat, I’m always amazed at the number of single mothers who attend with disabled children. Where are the fathers? Again, statistics show it’s usually dads who bail out, even in the face of Isaiah 58:7, which says never to “hide yourself from your own flesh.” Ironically, almost none of these single mothers blame their disabled children for their misfortune. Instead, they describe those children as their “biggest blessing.”

After years of caring for my wife, I would say the same about Joni. She is my biggest blessing — especially as I was helping her through her recent battle against stage III breast cancer. The prospect of losing my wife to such a dreaded disease made all the “baggage” related to her disability seem minor. The major thing was rescuing her life. Thankfully, God gave me the grace to put my caregiving skills into overdrive as I stood by my wife through her mammogram, biopsy, mastectomy, recovery, and chemotherapy. I was the companion at her side for countless hospital visits and oncology appointments, as well as her counselor as we sought out second and third opinions.

Lots of people thought God was “laying too much” on Joni, a quadriplegic in her sixties who also deals with chronic pain. Privately, I sometimes wondered if it all might crush me. But once again, by the grace of God, Joni was able to make even cancer look easy. And for me? If anything, the long battle against her cancer strengthened my faith in Jesus Christ as well as deepened my love for my wife. Together, through every PET scan and chemo infusion, Joni and I were living examples of Psalm 79:8: “Let your compassion come speedily to meet us, for we are brought very low.”

Perhaps that’s the secret to good caregiving: a constant awareness of one’s desperate need of Jesus Christ and a steady reliance on Him day in and day out, like breathing in and breathing out. The fact is that when I’m serving Joni, I’m serving Christ, for Colossians 3:23 reminds every caregiver, no matter how difficult or demanding the routines: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.” When my focus is on Jesus Christ, caregiving may feel extremely tiring, but the work doesn’t have to be tiresome. It’s for Him. I may get weary, but life doesn’t have to be wearisome— again, it’s all for Him and His glory. When I minister to Joni’s needs, I am serving the Savior. That fact is echoed in Matthew 25:33–42, where Jesus says that if we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, and clothe those in need, we are doing it for Him.

Other secrets to being a good caregiver? The enemy is not my wife’s disability (or even my wife when we disagree on things). The enemy is Satan. I’m constantly aware that Joni and I are in the midst of a spiritual battle. The Devil already hates Christian marriage, and if a wife or a husband has a disability, Satan no doubt feels he’s got the edge. But he’s wrong. Second Corinthians 12:9 assures us that God’s power has the edge when we are weak. Weak and needy people are usually more aware of how much they need the Lord. We also need each other — I’m not too proud to ask for help. Thank God for the girls who chip in to help Joni, whether at home or at the office. We couldn’t make it without them. Besides, to ask for help keeps me humble (and humility keeps the Devil at bay).

Another secret to good caregiving is taking breaks and getting exercise. While Joni was going through chemotherapy last year, I was so grateful that her sister flew out to help us. Kathy was able to give me little breaks in the routine so I could go work out — exercise really gets the endorphins flowing, clears the head, and cultivates discipline. Even a walk around the block brightened my spirits.

A key secret to enjoying my role as a caregiver involves friends. Throughout our marriage, Joni has always been supportive of my friendships with several key Christian men who hold me accountable. One friend lives in Oregon, but we pray and study Christian books together over the phone. Another friend lives nearby, and he’s always ready to get together for lunch, play a game of gin rummy, or invite me to the high desert for an afternoon in the fields with his bird dogs. Always, we’re mindful to keep Christ in our conversation, for my friends and I know that the King (as we call the Lord) is the key to genuinely close friendships between men.

One more thing: I have learned the secret of “praying without ceasing.” Caregiving can push you and your loved one into some pretty tight and uncomfortable places. That should be the signal to pray. Whenever nerves are frazzled or we’re ready to throw in the towel, one of us will invariably say, “Stop everything. We both know we’re in trouble. Let’s pray.” Before long, our spirits feel brighter. The air seems clearer and the atmosphere lighter. The burden has lifted, and whatever was harassing us just doesn’t feel as important.

Caring for someone like my wife epitomizes the heart of Jesus, who said, “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45, NKJV). It is my joy to give my life in service to Christ by caring for Joni. For no greater love does a man have for another than when he lays his life down for that person. Sometimes that person may be your disabled wife.

-Ken Tada

What a lesson for us all.

::AWP::

10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

As many Homecare Advocate readers know, there is a controversial program being rolled out nationwide by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) that has patient advocacy groups, economists, auction experts, and the homecare provider community up in arms. This program, dubiously called “Competitive Bidding” has been widely recognized as a poorly designed auction program that fails to meet Congress’ objectives of saving taxpayer money while fostering healthy competition among quality home medical equipment companies.  You can learn more about the problems of Competitive Bidding on our blog and here.

Homecare Advocate Post: 10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

However, we have good news!

Careful collaboration between expert auction designers, the HME Industry, and beneficiaries resulted in an auction program to replace Competitive Bidding, called the Market Pricing Program (MPP).

MPP complies with the original intent of Congress as a model that offers real, sustainable savings through market-driven competition while protecting beneficiaries.  The Market Pricing Program is budget neutral, saves Medicare & taxpayers money, finds the true market price of equipment and services, makes provisions for small businesses, and does not have the unintended consequences that Competitive Bidding is well known for.

10 key points of MPP include:

  1. Budget neutral, so it won’t cost taxpayers any more money
  2. Binding bids for bidders, requiring that companies bid real prices that they are held to
  3. Price set at Clearing Price instead of the Median Price of bid winners, so winning companies are not forced to provide goods/services at a loss
  4. Transparency and oversight of the program, allowing you to see how the program is being run and what any adverse effects are
  5. Smaller bid areas each bid 2 product categories, reducing the risk of mass business closures
  6. Use of lead product in category for pricing, thus eliminating potential for “gaming” of the system
  7. Designed by expert economists with input from industry and consumer groups, utilizing best practices of auction design for a solvent, sustainable, responsible program
  8. Same product categories, targeting the highest-cost areas of medical equipment
  9. Same protections for small businesses & rural areas, safeguarding these vulnerable areas
  10. Same timeframe, allowing taxpayers to see immediate financial savings

Congressman Tom Price introduced legislation in September to replace Competitive Bidding’s disastrous program with MPP as a budget-neutral, industry and economist-backed alternative, in the bill HR 6490.
Homecare Advocate Post: 10 Ways New Bill Saves Medicare Money, Protects Beneficiaries

This legislation resolves the serious and consequential problems that Competitive Bidding continues to have in its current form.  This bill has explicit and detailed directions on how Competitive Bidding will be replaced and the Market Pricing Program (MPP) will be enacted.  Want more information on MPP?  Visit these informative sites here, here, and here.

So, we have a bill.  What now?

We need your help!  Contact your elected officials and tell them that you want them to co-sponsor HR 6490 to repeal Competitive Bidding and replace it with the Market Pricing Program.

Let them know how this will impact you as their constituent. Are you a Medicare beneficiary? Explain your concerns about access to quality equipment from your choice of local provider.  Are you a family caregiver?  Explain how going to a different provider for each piece of medical equipment is going to be difficult to manage.  Does someone in your family work for a Home Medical Equipment Company?   Explain your concerns for them losing their jobs–and for the entire business to close as result of Competitive Bidding.  And most importantly, tell them that you want their support and co-sponsorship of HR 6490!

For information on how to reach your elected officials and for a sample letter you may customize as you see fit, please visit this site.

::AWP::

Help for Caregivers: Dealing with Defiant Parents

November is National Family Caregivers Month, and we couldn’t be more proud of the selfless men and women who devote their lives caring for family members and loved ones.   Most caregivers can tell you, caregiving is not for the faint of heart.  Caregiving is a demanding job even in the best of circumstances.  A common question we hear is how a caregiver can handle someone who has become defiant, confused, delusional, angry, or even abusive.

Those negative behaviors can take an extreme toll on the caregiver, leaving them hurt, burned out, depressed, and perhaps guilty if they grow to resent their role.  In earlier posts, we’ve talked about the importance of caring for the caregiver and implementing specific, tactical measures to protect yourself and equip your family for the long-haul that caregiving can be.  This is critical since caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint, for many.  It requires thoughtful and deliberate measures to keep the caregiver from feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and hopeless.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Help for Caregivers, Dealing with Defiant Parents

Some great resources for caregivers dealing with difficult people include:

I came across a blog post earlier today by a woman frustrated with the responsibilities of caring for her verbally abusive parents.  She explained, “I will continue to be a good daughter and help as long as I can because I have accepted the fact that things will probably not change for me. But I do not want to act the same way they are acting when I get old. I read so many letters here about people with terrible issues as they try to handle their aging parents.  I do not want to be like that.

A thoughtful commenter wrote back, suggesting that she make a list of the behaviors she promises herself she will and will not do once she is older and receiving care. I love this idea because it uses these negative experiences as teachable moments for us to apply to our own lives and futures.  For example, who wants to be around Cathy, the Constant Complainer?  While Cathy is telling everyone what isn’t right, what hurts, and what isn’t good enough, she may fail to realize how she’s pushing everyone away.  If one hears Cathy’s complaints day in and out, we’re more aware of our own grumps and are mindful not to sound like Cathy.  Nobody wants to hear a Constant Complainer.  Likewise, we know not to be like Stubborn Stan, David the Disastrous Driver, or Ungrateful Ursula.

My questions for you today:

What kind of letter would you write?  What would you want to remember?  How do you want to be remembered?

As a caregiver, you’ve seen your fair share.  It isn’t always easy, and your contributions are often a “labor of love”.  We invite you to leave a comment sharing your list and any of your own tried-and-true tips for caregivers facing difficult parents.

Also, make a conscious effort to remember the sweet moments that make caregiving fulfilling. Unexpected gifts of banana bread, thoughtful clippings from the newspaper, laughing at memories from long ago and inside jokes that only family can appreciate all serve as reminders of the love and history you share.

“Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worth of praise” (Philippians 4:8b).

::AWP::

Homecare Month 2012

November is a special time of year for us at Homecare Advocate because we get to celebrate two of our favorite honorable events throughout the month–National Family Caregivers Month and Homecare MonthThis November, we’re giving THANKS for the people, products, and services that help you live at home.

Let’s start with a brief overview of the big picture of homecare and the role of family caregivers.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Homecare Month 2012

NO PLACE LIKE HOMEcare

Homecare enables people to remain in their homes, connected to the community, with their family and loved ones, & maintain a higher level of independence.

Numerous studies substantiate homecare as a viable alternative to nursing homes & institutional care for its cost effectiveness, better recovery rate, overwhelming preference by those receiving care.  In fact, a recent study by AARP showed that 89% of people 55 & older want to remain in their current home as long as possible.

Homecare is a part of the solution to our nation’s health care crisis.  Urge your members of Congress to protect this valuable benefit.

CARING CAREGIVERS

More than 1 in 5 US households are involved in helping care for a person older than age 18.

591,666 family caregivers in TN provided free care to loved ones in the home in 2004.  This free care saved Tennessee $6.3 billion that would have otherwise been spent on formal caregiving by traveling nurses or an institutional setting.

Stand up for these caregivers who keep their loved ones at home by contacting your elected officials & telling them about the importance of protecting family caregivers and preserving homecare. This month, we honor & recognize these informal caregivers who keep loved ones at home where they benefit from homecare and have a higher quality of life.

We’re also collecting stories from our readers on how homecare and/or caregiving has impacted your life.  If you would like to contribute, please e-mail us at advocate(AT)lambertshc.com.

Happy Homecare Month!

::AWP::

Patient Safety for Homecare vs Institutional Care

We have a special treat for our Homecare Advocate readers today!  Elizabeth Hogue, an attorney who specializes in home care law, has written an informative piece that addresses the role of the family caregiver when a loved one opts for homecare instead of institutional care.  She agreed to share this with our Homecare Advocate readers, which provides great insight on the responsibilities of the caregiver while the patient receives intermittent care at home.

“Discharge planners/case managers who work in institutions such as acute hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, etc. may not have thought about a fundamental difference between home care and care provided in the institutions in which they work.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Patient Safety, Homecare vs Institutional Care

The difference is that patients receive continuous care in institutional settings, but receive only intermittent care from homecare providers, including home health agencies, hospices, HME (home medical equipment) companies and private duty agencies, unless they choose to receive and pay for 24-hour care seven days per week of private duty care.

Few patients choose the latter, if for no other reason than because it is extremely expensive.  Most home care patients, therefore, receive only intermittent care.

Patients must continuously meet the following criteria, regardless of payor source, in order to be generally appropriate for home care services:

  • The patient’s clinical needs can be met at home.
  • The patient can either self-care, or there is a paid or voluntary reliable primary caregiver to meet the needs of the patient in between home care visits.
  • The patient’s home environment supports home care services.

All three of these criteria must be met on a continuous basis in order for patients to safely receive home care services of any kind.

The second criterion listed above is absolutely crucial for the safety of patients following discharge to their homes.  Home care staff may encounter very significant difficulties with this criterion as follows:

  • When staff evaluate patients for admission, they will certainly identify a potential primary caregiver.  Realistically speaking, however, all they can tell about potential primary caregivers during the admission visit is that they are vertical and breathing.  The competence and reliability of primary caregivers can only be assessed over time.  To the extent possible prior to patient discharge, case managers/discharge planners in institutional settings should identify possible primary caregivers and assess their willingness and ability to act as primary caregivers after patients are discharged.
  • Home care staff members are also often working uphill against the expectations of patients and their families.  Specifically, case managers/discharge planners in institutional settings are under so much pressure to move patients out of the institution that it is difficult to find the time to explain to patients and their families what must be their role in home care.  Consequently, patients often are referred to home care with the expectation that nurses will take care of everything, just like they did in the institution.  This expectation is further enhanced by the general lack of understanding by many patients and their families about home care. In addition, in the face of illness, it is only human for vulnerable patients and families to want agencies to simply step in and take care of everything.
  • In addition, some of the tasks that primary caregivers may be expected to perform are repugnant to them.  The “big three” such tasks are: wound care, changing diapers, and giving injections.  When these tasks are involved, the reliability of primary caregivers may be sorely tested.  Case managers/discharge planners and agency staff members should be specific about the tasks primary caregivers will be required to perform, especially the three mentioned above.

Reliable primary caregivers are crucial to the safety of patients after discharge. Although it will never be foolproof, case managers/discharge planners can help ensure patients’ safety by assessing the reliability of primary caregivers prior to discharge.  Post-acute providers are well-advised to educate case managers/discharge planners regarding this fundamental difference.”

As family caregivers, you play a critical role in ensuring safety and well-being of your loved one.

If you are a primary caregiver, how has your role been different from what you expected?  Were you prepared for the responsibilities of caregiving?  According to the National Family Caregivers Association, “Family caregivers are ill prepared for their ‘job’ as homecare aide, nurse, advocate, physical therapist, etc. There is no organized mechanism for providing the education, training and support family caregivers need.”

Talk to the doctors, nurses, and case managers.  Find out what your loved one needs and how to troubleshoot some of the common obstacles caregivers encounter as they provide short- and long-term care.  Consider joining a caregiver support group to share experiences and learn from each other.

Learn not only how to provide proper care for the patient but also for yourself.  Follow our 7 tips for self-care to protect yourself as a caregiver and to provide the rest and support you need.

What tips do you have for first-time family caregivers?

::AWP::

*All rights reserved.  No portion of this material may be reproduced in any form without the advance written permission of Elizabeth Hogue. If you have questions and like to reach Elizabeth for further information, she may be reached at: elizabethhogue@elizabethhogue.net or calling her office at 877.871.4062.  Interested in reading more of what she has to say on homecare issues?  Follow her on Twitter at @HogueHomeCare!

Tips for Trips: Traveling with Seniors

A few years back, my then-93 year old grandfather decided he wanted to take a trip to Switzerland.  He talked for months about the whole family heading over there for rides on their 186 mph rail systems, exploring the beautiful countryside, and learning about its rich history.  Why?  It had always been on his wish list, and he wanted to go.  Never mind the fact that he was in his mid-90s; I don’t think his age even crossed his mind.  His desire for that trip has been our inspiration for today’s Homecare Advocate post, traveling with seniors.

Homecare Advocate Blog: Tips for Trips, Traveling with Seniors

Retirement isn’t about sitting in the recliner watching game shows with the window shades drawn.  For many, it’s the time to DO THINGS they’ve been waiting their whole lives for. They spent the first part working hard, saving, and building towards retirement.  Now they can pick up a new hobby, travel, spend time with loved ones, and create.

“The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”–Stephen Covey.  Traveling as a senior may be different than traveling as a 20-year old, but it can be just as fulfilling and rewarding.  Focus on how to achieve your main goals, and don’t get discouraged if it takes some creative planning due to your changing physical circumstances.  Assess your needs, and build from there.

A great example of this are the Burgers.  Nancy and Nate Burger have a wonderful Web site that details their extraordinary adventures across the globe.  Nancy, a stroke survivor with physical and developmental disabilities, has traveled with her husband across “the world, been on all 7 continents, and in more countries than I can name without a World Atlas”.  Oceans and rainforests could not stop this wheelchair-bound woman and her devoted husband.  They encourage others with disabilities, providing tips on traveling and showing what is possible when you keep focused.  Their Web site is chalked full of good, practical advice for trip planning such as this tidbit on what to pack: “As soon as you start to plan a trip, begin to make a list of all the things you touch during the day. Do this for a number of days, then eliminate the duplicates and get down to core items. These are the ones to concentrate on.” Click here to read more from the Burgers.

Here are some of our own time-tested travel tips:

  • Talk to your doctor in advance, describing activities in detail
  • Get a letter from your doctor documenting your condition, prescriptions, etc
  • Talk to your medical equipment provider about what company to get equipment/services through in case you need assistance
  • Consider renting medical equipment, such as wheelchairs or trapeze bars
  • Plan ahead, and book early for accessible rooms/vehicles/seats
  • Educate the hotel, travel agent, and others in detail about your needs (in advance) so that they may find accessible options for you
  • If you use a mobility device or oxygen, be sure your transportation can accommodate it
  • Be flexible in your schedule, listening to your body and needs
  • Before booking activities, check cancellation policies, the terrain, and duration of the event
  • Pack your medications (with a few days extra) in your carry-on bag
  • Pack light, and prioritize items you may not be able to find at your destination (disposable supplies, wound care items, etc)

Check with your local Home Medical Equipment company (like Lambert’s) on how to meet your needs while traveling.  For example, our company offers complimentary portable oxygen tanks that meet FDA approval for our oxygen customers who are flying.  They can also offer you guidance on helpful travel items such as compression hose to reduce in-flight swelling.

Ready to plan a trip?  Check out disability-centered travel sites that focus on hotels, cruises, and trips such as Wheel Adventure and Cruise Critic.  Any other suggestions and tips for our readers?

Happy trails to you!

::AWP::

Mini-Excursions: A Fun Day Out with Grandparents

Mark your calendars: Sunday is Grandparents’ Day! Want to do something special with Grammy and Gramps?  Today Homecare Advocate is covering some tips to help you and your special senior have a lovely Grandparents’ Day out and about!

Homecare Advocate Blog: Mini-Excursions, A Fun Day Out with Grandparents

Day on the Town

To many seniors, this is the perfect time of year for a fun day out.   Early September in East Tennessee means a break from the sweltering August heat, the fair comes to town, and weekends are packed with events for the locals.  Why not take Grandma out for a fun day on the town?

Check your local events calendar for upcoming activities this Sunday.  Whether it’s attending the Tennessee Valley Fair or even enjoying an Old Fashioned Sunday, you’ll be sure to have a great time as you make wonderful memories together.  Plan ahead, thinking of transportation, how your loved one will ambulate, where you’re going and how long you’ll be there, and whether/not there are dietary restrictions.  For a day trip, consider:

  • Event Parking, particularly distance to the event location
  • Mobility Assistance, such as a Cane, Rollator, or Transport Chair OR
  • Renting a wheelchair for the weekend
  • Water Bottle to be hydrated
  • Swivel Seats, great in the car to help get in and out
  • Compression Hose for those that have poor circulation or swelling when standing
  • Hearty Snacks to keep blood sugar stabilized and maintain energy

What other “must haves” do you recommend people bring for an activity?  Stay tuned, next up is Tips for Trips–how to go on grand adventures with grandparents.

::AWP::