Care Seeker Resources

A collection of resources to help you navigate the care continuum.

By: Stephanie Jackson  |  Type: Article  |  On: May 01, 2017

How to effectively communicate with a care provider

As a patient, your relationship with a care provider is essential in recovery, preventing disease and maintaining your overall health.

As a patient, your relationship with a care provider is essential in recovery, preventing disease and maintaining your overall health. This is especially true if you are seeking home health services. Although health professionals can run tests and observe your medical data to reach conclusions or diagnoses and offer treatment, a lot of investigatory work they do comes from effective communication with you or your loved one.

Why communication matters in health
Many patients don't realize how much power they have in determining their own health outcomes, and a lot of that starts with the way they communicate with care providers. Patients actually have more access to information about preventative disease, alternative medicine, and traditional treatments than ever before with the internet as well.

That's why, according to the Family Caregiver Alliance, many medical professionals are now seeing the doctor-patient relationship as a partnership. The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health also concluded that communication between doctors, patients, and their families actually improves patient health because they are more engaged and knowledgeable.

 

Come prepared to talk about your medical history with your care provider.

Come prepared to talk about your medical history with your care provider.

That means that you need to prepare for your medical appointments, break down barriers between yourself and your caregivers, and learn how to adequately communicate with medical personnel in a meaningful way. Not only does this remove the risk of medical error on their end, but it also helps you become better educated in your own health.

Learning how to communicate with health professionals
Communicating about your medical history with someone you just met might seem a little daunting, but there are ways to remove those barriers. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for your next appointment:

  • Have a list of questions prepared beforehand: In the days leading up to your appointment, write down some of the lingering questions you have about a certain condition or your general health. This ensures you don't leave anything important out, and it makes the appointment flow much more smoothly.
  • Think about bringing along a family member or friend for support: This can be especially helpful for those with physical disabilities or patients with cognitive decline. These individuals can keep notes about your care professional's treatment recommendations and also help you remember details about your medical history.
  • Be honest about your medical history: In order for your doctor to make the right recommendations, he or she will need to have a full and clear account of any conditions you may have struggled with in the past, whether they are physical, emotional or mental.
  • Include details about your mental health: Far too many people put their mental health on the back burner, but this aspect of your well-being is just as important in your recovery. If you have been noticing a cognitive decline or symptom of dementia, your care professional needs to know. Tackling these issues early on is key to prevention, and it starts with communication.

Clear communication with your doctor isn't just important for medical professionals, it's also imperative in keeping your health in the best shape possible moving forward. 

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By: Stephanie Jackson  |  Type: Article  |  On: December 01, 2016

Financial assistance for making your home wheelchair-accessible

If you need financial assistance for home modifications to make your house wheelchair-accessible, there are several resources that may be able to help you get started.

Many seniors want to live their lives as independently as possible, and home modifications are an excellent way to help them do just that. If you need financial assistance for home modifications to make your house wheelchair-accessible, there are several resources that may be able to help you get started.

Common home modifications
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there are a few common alterations that many people seek out once they rely on a wheelchair for day-to-day activities. Some of these may include:

  • Push-button access to doors that replace traditional door handles.
  • A walk-in shower.
  • Handrail installation on staircases, both outdoors and indoors.
  • Altering kitchen counters so that they are lower and easier to reach.
  • Wheelchair ramps that help you get inside and outside more easily.

Whether you are seeking resources for one or all of these alterations, it's important to speak first with your physical or occupational therapist to see what might work best for you and your home.

 

There are several resources that can help you make your home wheelchair-accessible.

There are several resources that can help you make your home wheelchair-accessible.

Get educated about home modifications
Getting yourself informed about making your home wheelchair-accessible is the first step, and there are plenty of resources and organizations that can help. The HHS also explained that repairs and alterations can cost seniors anywhere from $150 to $2,000, depending on the type of renovation you are seeking. A contractor will be the best person to explain to you what is needed in your home, how much it will cost and what kinds of reduced rates or fees might apply.

However, it's important to know that these modifications and their respective expenses are provided by the Older Americans Act, and then dispensed through the Area Agencies on Aging, according to the HHS. You can find out where your local AAA chapter is by visiting the Alzheimer's Association's Community Resource Finder (www.communityresourcefinder.org)  and then clicking on the "Community Services" tab.

Resources and organizations
In addition to your local AAA, there are several other resources and organizations that might be able to point you in the right direction when it comes to financial assistance. The HHS recommends Rebuilding Together, Inc., which operates with local affiliates and volunteers to help low-income seniors find the resources they need. You might also be able to find rebates with the U.S. Department of Energy's Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, though those discounts may vary state by state.

It's also worthwhile to contact organizations in your area, as many cities and towns offer grant funds through community development centers and local departments. Local banks and lenders might advise you to look into home equity conversion mortgages or reverse mortgages to cover additional costs for renovations as well.

If you're a senior looking to make your home wheelchair-accessible, there are many ways you can get the assistance you need, both from private and public sources. Be sure to ask family and friends about their own experiences with these types of renovations as well so that you gain more insight into the right contractors to hire for this important task.

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type:  |  On: July 13, 2016

3 summer safety tips for seniors

For older adults and their caretakers, safety should be top-of-mind during summer.

Summer is here, which means it's time for fun in the sun and some much-needed relaxation. For older adults and their caretakers, safety should be top-of-mind as well. After all, depending on where you live, you could see temperatures skyrocket to well over 100 degrees!

According to the National Institutes of Health, seniors are especially prone to hyperthermia, which occurs when the body can't adequately respond to increases in temperature. This can result in conditions like heat exhaustion, fatigue and stroke. To ensure the season is enjoyable for folks of all ages, stay cool with these following tips:

1. Dress up in cool clothes
Many home health providers have to help their senior clients with getting dressed each day - an especially important task in the summer months. After all, an older adult who is not prepared to perform this daily task may end up in a sweater and coat when it's sweltering outside.

While tanks and capris are great for cooling off, they won't protect the senior from the sun. Ensure the individual is wearing sunscreen when you head outdoors, and consider having him or her wear a hat. The head wear will create a little bit of shade to help shield the body from harmful UV rays. Also, if it's cool in the morning, opt for layers so the senior can remove them throughout the day.

Senior woman wearing sun hat.A hat can help protect the senior's skin from the sun.

2. Take water everywhere
Always have a cold bottle of water on hand, and keep track of how much fluid the senior consumes and with what frequency. This will help stave off dehydration, which can lead to anything from a minor headache to decreased blood pressure. The latter symptom should be considered a medical emergency, according to the Mayo Clinic, and it's best to avoid getting to that point altogether.

If the older adult is reluctant to sip on plain water, flavor the beverage with pieces of fruit. Just be sure to avoid alcoholic beverages, as this can increase the risk for dehydration.

3. Find fun indoor activities
The best way to beat the heat is to not go out at all. While caretakers should still spend time outdoors with the seniors during summer, indoor activities might be better on especially hot days. For example, check out the latest movie at the theater for a morning matinee. Otherwise, arrange a day to scrapbook and look through old pictures!

As a home health provider, it is important to keep your senior clients safe this summer. With these tips, you can help the client avoid heat-related illness while still enjoying the season.

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type: Article  |  On: February 18, 2016

Top 3 questions to ask a geriatrician

The parent who once cared for you now needs your help, so it’s important to enter this endeavor with the right knowledge.

It can be a strange feeling to see family roles reverse before your very eyes. Whether it's your mother, father or another older loved one, he or she will have new health care needs with age. The transition may come as a surprise. If you've been away for several months, perhaps in another state raising your own family, it may not be until you get together during the holidays that you really notice the health decline. Suddenly, Mom's hands shake more rapidly as she reaches for her tea kettle, or Dad can't remember the name of your youngest daughter.

As this person's younger counterpart, the responsibility to find a reliable and suitable physician may fall on you. The parent who once cared for you now needs your help, so it's important to enter this endeavor with the right knowledge. Here are three questions to ask a potential physician:

1. Are you willing to coordinate with other doctors?
Your senior loved one likely sees more than one doctor, perhaps a dermatologist for dry skin and a gastroenterologist for stomach issues. This presents certain challenges for the patient's health care plan, especially when multiple physicians prescribe pain medications.

"Certain medications are linked to an increased risk for falls."

Researchers from Harvard Medical School found that 30 percent of Medicare patients who received opioid prescriptions got them from multiple doctors. The more painkillers seniors take, the higher their risk for hospitalization. To safeguard your senior loved one's well-being, it's vital for his or her physician to communicate, which is where care coordination comes into play.

According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, care coordination requires doctors to work together to deliver high-quality and value-based care by sharing patient information and collaborating on treatment plans. Care coordination also necessitates that physicians take the patient's preferences into account, agree on responsibility and aid in care transitions.

2. What is your perspective on medications?
There is nothing wrong with using prescription drugs in treatment plans when patients need them, but it's important for health care professionals to weigh all options equally. Doing so not only opens up opportunities for more effective care, but it also limits the dangers of taking multiple medications. According to a study published in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Drug Safety, certain medications are linked to an increased risk for falls, which is already the leading cause of injury among seniors.

Sometimes, prescriptions are the best route, and if that's the case, the doctor must have a plan to help the senior manage those medications. Ask the physician what tools he or she uses to educate patients on use and dosage. Does the doctor ever review the medication list to determine whether certain prescriptions are still necessary? How does the physician communicate with other health care professionals who write prescriptions for your loved one?

 

Doctor writing on clipboard.Ask the doctor what his or her referral process is like.

3. What does your referral process look like?
The adage "two heads are better than one" holds true in just about every facet of life, including health care. A geriatrician specializes in the health care of older adults, but your loved one may have unique needs that fall out of his or her primary care doctor's expertise. For instance, a senior with early signs of dementia may need to see a neurologist. Meanwhile, a patient with a history of cancer may require care from an oncologist.

The older adult's doctor must be willing to make referrals as necessary, but sometimes the medical facility they work at makes that difficult. Ask the physician about the referral process to determine how convenient it will be for your senior loved one to see specialists in the future.

While these questions offer an effective guide to gauging whether a geriatrician is the right match for your senior loved one, not all answers will come from queries. Pay attention to the physician's demeanor, too. Is he or she reluctant to answer questions? Does the doctor seem genuinely interested in your family member's unique needs? Be sure to make a decision that sits well with both you and the senior.

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type: Blog  |  On: November 19, 2015

The Dreaded D-Word

Diabetes. If you have it or are at risk for having it, there’s no time like now to find out what you can do about it.

Diabetes. That’s it. That’s the dreaded D-Word. And if you have it or are at risk for having it, there’s no time like now to find out what you can do about it. November is National Diabetes Month, and several organizations are helping us understand the disease.

Diabetes is nothing to celebrate, but something to be taken very seriously. It can lead to a long list of other medical complications (kidney disease, heart disease, nerve damage, amputation, blindness, accelerated hearing loss, heart attack or stroke).

Diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States.

Types of Diabetes.

There are two common types of diabetes – Type 1 (typically appears in children and is caused by a lack of insulin in the body) and Type 2 (typically appears in adults whose bodies may not make enough insulin, or that don’t respond to insulin properly, or both).

Already Diagnosed?

If you or the person in your care has been diagnosed with diabetes, be sure you’re taking the right steps to manage/control the disease.

Diet and Medication.

Your doctor or pharmacist can help you develop a plan that includes when to test for blood sugar levels, what to eat and when to take medications. Go beyond that knowledge by keeping track of these important aspects of your daily life for you and the person in your care. You can create your own chart, or if you have a smartphone, you can download an app. Because there are many apps to choose from, try out several of them until you find the one that works best for you.

Medication Adjustment.

Schedule regular check-ups so that medication can be adjusted as necessary.

Exercise.

The E-Word – especially for caregivers who barely have enough time in the day to think, let alone actually get some exercise – is a crucial component of managing diabetes. Any extra steps (literally!) you take each day will help in managing diabetes, so do what you can to get  yourself and the person in your care moving. If possible, park farther away from the store entrance; take the stairs instead of the elevator; attend low-cost, low-impact aerobics or yoga classes; or simply dance around the house.

Are You at Risk for Developing Diabetes?

The Center for Disease Control has a free, quick online test  you can take if you suspect that you or the person in your care is at risk for developing diabetes. The test is by no means proof that either or both of you have or will develop diabetes, but your answers will provide you with enough information to want to seek a blood test.

Prevent Diabetes.

To prevent diabetes, have regular blood tests, eat healthy foods low in saturated fats, sodium and sugar, exercise, de-stress, and remain aware that the dreaded D-Word is lurking.

Here are just a few links to websites to help you understand, manage and prevent diabetes: www.cdc.gov

www.nih.gov

www.diabetes.org

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type: Blog  |  On: October 28, 2015

Stroke Prevention - You can help the person in your care avoid a stroke

October 29, 2015 has been designated as World Stroke Day by the American Stroke Association. Read here to learn the signs of a stroke.

Tomorrow, October 29, 2015, has been designated as World Stroke Day by the American Stroke Association. The statistics are staggering:

  • Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 out of every 20 deaths.
  • On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
  • Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States have a stroke.
  • About 610,000 of these are first or new strokes.
  • About 185,000 strokes—nearly one of four—are in people who have had a previous stroke.  Centers for Disease Control/stroke/facts
  • Has the person in your care had a stroke or several strokes? Is he or she at risk of having their first or second stroke? You can help the person in your care avoid a stroke.

Contributing Health Issues

The usual culprits that can lead to stroke are:

  • Poor diet 
  • Lack of exercise
  • Low potassium
  • High sodium
  • Alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • and of course, stress.

Signs of Stroke

If you observe any of these changes in the person in your care, call 9-1-1 immediately:

  • Numbness in face
  • Confusion in speech and understanding
  • Difficulty seeing
  • Dizziness, loss of balance, uncoordinated walking
  • Severe headache

First Things First

  • Schedule an annual physical for the person in your care, and work with his or her doctor to ensure appropriate medications are prescribed.
  • Review your medications list with your pharmacist to establish a plan for administering all medications at different times of day to keep the person in your care on an even keel and avoid spikes and drops in blood pressure, insulin, sodium and potassium levels.
  • Reduce alcohol and caffeine consumption.
  • Monitor blood pressure throughout the day.
  • If possible, go outside for 20 minutes a day. If mobility is a problem, position the chair or bed that the person in your care uses next to a window that lets in a lot of sunlight. It will not be the same as going outside, but the natural light will help brighten their general mood.

Take Time Every Day

Joyce Simard has developed Namaste Care™, a program she designed for people living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias, but the program benefits home bound people who do not have dementia and who are not at the end of their lives.

Among other things, Simard recommends taking time out every day to spend quality time together while stimulating the senses. Seasonal aroma therapy and soft music set the scene to help decrease stress. Hydration (popsicles in summer; warm tea in winter) is an important component of the program.

Incorporated in the Namaste Care™ program is the use of touch therapy (massage). You don’t need a massage table and you don’t have to be a certified masseuse to help the person in your care lower their stress. The mere act of touching them is enough.

Take Care of Yourself 

As a caregiver, you may feel stressed as well. Performing The Namaste Care™ program every day for the person in your care will also help you relax and reduce your own stress levels.

What other changes can you make in your routine to help yourself and the person in your care avoid strokes?

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type: Blog  |  On: May 20, 2015

Osteoporosis and You

Caregivers, May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. How aware are you about this serious condition? Did you know that Osteoporosis is something you should be worried about for the person in your care and for yourself?

Caregivers, May is National Osteoporosis Awareness Month. How aware are you about this serious condition? Did you know that Osteoporosis is something you should be worried about for the person in your care and for yourself?

What Exactly Is Osteoporosis?

In a nutshell, osteoporosis is a disease that can weaken your bones, making them so frail that a fall – or in worse cases, sneezing – can cause breakage. Bone density naturally begins to decrease once we reach our growth peak in our twenties, and as we all age, the risk for Osteoporosis increases. Post-menopausal women are at greatest jeopardy for developing Osteoporosis due to changes in hormones.

Is Osteoporosis Curable?

There is no cure for Osteoporosis.

Is Osteoporosis Avoidable?

The answer is: not necessarily. Perhaps the true answer is that we can’t always fight nature’s course, but we can certainly do our best to avoid Osteoporosis by not helping it along.

What Steps Should We Take to Decrease the Risk of Osteoporosis?

Short of finding the Fountain of Youth, there are many factors to consider in keeping our bones healthy. Among them are, of course:

  • Diet (rich in calcium AND: magnesium, boron, copper, zinc, vitamins A, C, D and K and essential fatty acids; lacking in: refined sugars, grains, trans fats).
  • Weight-bearing and balancing exercises (at least three times a week).
  • Practicing a wholesome lifestyle (avoid: red meats, alcohol, and smoking; partake in outdoor activities) and maintaining mindfulness in all we do.
  • Maintaining balance health through regular Ophthalmologist and Audiologist checkups.

What Effect do Medications Have on Osteoporosis?

  • The FDA has approved several medications to treat or prevent Osteoporosis. Your doctor can help you determine which medicine should be prescribed.
  • Cancer-fighting medications can have side effects that negatively impact bone density. Check with your doctor or pharmacist to see whether an addition medication should be taken to counter-act that side effect.

How Can Caregivers Help Someone With Osteoporosis?

  • Start by talking to the doctor about the condition to determine whether medication will help.
  • Prepare foods rich in vitamins and minerals that assist with good bone health.
  • Do your best to get the person in your care moving around. If you need to be the person who performs the exercises because the person in your care is not mobile, contact a physical therapist to learn the tricks of the trade.
  • In all that you do, make small, consistent and slow movements to avoid bumping into furniture and/or falls.

Ø  Visit these websites for more information:  National Osteoporosis Foundation, Mayo Clinic.

             Are you living with Osteoporosis? Share your thoughts and practices with us!

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By: Carelike Team  |  Type: Blog  |  On: March 11, 2015

The Balancing Act of Caregiving - Obtaining Physical Balance

The ability to balance is something that most of us learn as toddlers, and therefore, we take it for granted. Many times loss of balance occurs very subtly over time and we don’t notice changes. Diminished balance ability can cause great injury. Take some time to observe how well you and the person in your care are physically able to balance and make adjustments where necessary.

Caregivers, in last week's blog, we provided tips to help you maintain a work-life balance. This week, we’re spotlighting the importance of physical balance for both you and for the person in your care.

The ability to balance is something that most of us learn as toddlers, and therefore, we take it for granted. Many times loss of balance occurs very subtly over time and we don’t notice changes. Diminished balance ability can cause great injury. 

Take some time to observe how well you and the person in your care are physically able to balance and make adjustments where necessary.  

Medical
• Rule out any medical problems including: sinus, ear or tooth infection; allergies; and vision conditions. 
• Check with your pharmacist about whether dizziness is a side effect of any prescribed medications.

Exercise
Overcoming any of these medical problems is not enough to maintain physical balance. As a caregiver, you need to be on your game with regard to your strength, especially if you assist the person in your care when transferring from bed to chair or with toileting. The best way to keep up your strength is through proper and consistent exercise.

• Schedule your workout at least five days per week.
• Include upper and lower body exercises.
• Schedule exercise sessions for the person in your care as well. If he or she is able to attend senior exercise classes, try not to miss any of them. If he or she is homebound, visit a class that is held at your local community center or senior center and speak with the instructor about coming to your home to get you both started on a program.

Prevent Falls
When assisting the person in your care for transferring from one place to another, you can decrease the chances of one or both of you losing balance. Stop and think first about what the transfer entails: 

• Do not allow the person in your care to hold onto your neck.
• Clear a path from Point A to Point B so that you aren’t struggling to get around obstacles.
• Have everything you will need at Point B before you begin the transfer.
• Be sure necessary doors are already open.
• Move the wheelchair or walker closer to you.
• Position yourself on solid ground.
• Slow down – work at the pace of the person in your care.

If you don’t need to assist with transfers:

• Place the walker directly in front of the person in your care so that when you leave the room the walker is easily accessible.

If you monitor changes in balance, work toward staying in shape and plan ahead, you will be taking great strides to avoid unnecessary injury.

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