Vacation Planning for Family Caregivers

Auburn, NH – July 13, 2012 – This is the time of year that many of us look forward to summer vacation – a much-needed break from our day-to-day responsibilities and an opportunity to rest, have fun and re-charge. Unfortunately, it is often the people who are most in need of some time off – those with the largest amount of work and/or family responsibilities – who find it the hardest to get away. Family caregivers – spouses caring for husbands or wives, or adult children or grandchildren caring for elderly relatives – often fall into this category.

If you are the part-time or full-time caregiver for an elderly loved one, it is understandable to feel overwhelmed, or even a little guilty, about leaving town for a few days or weeks. However, it is also important to understand the significance of maintaining your own health and how taking vacations – even short ones – can do wonders for warding off the physical and emotional effects of caregiver stress. With proper planning, and use of the right resources, it is possible to enjoy a fun and relaxing trip knowing your loved one will still receive all of the care they need. Here are a few suggestions to help you get away.

If your loved one already resides in a retirement community, assisted living or nursing facility, make sure you inform their care team of your travel plans. Leave behind a copy of your itinerary, your contact information, as well as the contact information for another local family member or friend to call in the event of an emergency.

If your loved one still lives in their own home, but you regularly assist with errands such as grocery shopping or provide transportation to doctor’s appointments, you will need to find someone who can reliably fill-in for you while you are gone. Another family member, friend, neighbor, or a paid home health caregiver are all options to consider.

No matter who will be assuming your responsibilities while you’re away, you will want to be sure to sit down and write out a detailed list of everything you do in your role as caregiver along with instructions of when and how you perform each task. Include a list of all of your loved one’s doctors with contact information, a detailed list of medications and dosage instructions, and who to call in the event of an emergency. Leave one copy of this information home with your fill-in caregiver and take a copy with you. Again, leave behind a copy of your travel itinerary and your emergency contact information.

If you are providing full-time care for your loved one, it may be in both of your best interests to hire professional respite care. There are different kinds of respite care to consider; the best option will be determined by the amount and type of care your loved one requires.

  • In-home respite – provided by non-medical home care agencies, such as Visiting Angels, to help with hygiene, meal preparation/diet monitoring, light housekeeping, errands, shopping and companionship. In-home care can be part-time or full-time based on the needs of the person receiving the care
  • Adult day-care centers – if you can arrange transportation and overnight care for your loved one, many churches and community centers provide adult day-care services to care for and engage seniors during the day
  • Short-term nursing homes – some nursing homes will care for patients on a temporary basis in the event their regular caregiver is out of town
  • Day hospitals – if your loved one requires medical care, some hospitals have programs that provide care to patients during the day. Again, you will need to make other arrangements for overnight care and transportation

Everyone is entitled to a break now and then. For a family caregiver, taking a vacation may mean extra planning and expense, but it is also a necessity if you are to stay at your mental and physical best as you care for your loved one. To learn more about the support services available in your area, contact ServiceLink at (866) 634-9412 or Visiting Angels at (866) 492-6435 or www.visitingangels.com.

Summertime Brings Swimming, Fun and Dehydration

Summertime is a wonderful time of year for outdoor activities. Unfortunately, it also brings hot weather, and many times, dehydration for seniors. Summertime is a wonderful time of year for outdoor activities – people go on picnics, barbeques, go swimming and enjoy those long warm evenings that are perfect for sitting outside on the porch. But, unfortunately, it also brings hot weather and many times dehydration for seniors.

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Exercise for the Elderly Part !

As I read Jeffrey Johnson's weekly message this week it really it home.  I have recently began to start exercising and joined Weight Watchers. I do have to say the program works and health/diet education is extremely important since it seems all products state,"Low Fat" etc.  I have been educated on reading the labels to find the TRUE nutrition of the product being sold.  Changed my diet to eat fresh fruits and vegetables as much as possible and BINGO - one my way to losing weight and feeling healthy!

If these facts don't shake you up nothing will. "The National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) shows about 30% of persons aged 45-64 and 2% ages 65 and above exercise regularly. On the other hand, the NCHS approximates that 70% of males and females aged 50-74 are overweight with 30% of that number being clinically obese."  http://www.helium.com/items/1970744-simple-and-safe-effective-exercises-for-the-elderly.

Exercising for the masses, although a relatively recent phenomenon, seems not to have taken hold, at least based on the above statistics . . . and that is a shame. To remain as healthy as possible is clearly as important for our elderly as it is for our young. Yet, we seem to have this concept backwards, as evidenced by the ever increasing injuries for our youth who are more and more manipulated into the world of sports (as a form of exercise) before their bodies are ready for such activity. And to the counter point, although we see many elders walking our beaches and parks, the above facts do indicate that the trend for elder exercise is truly not taking hold as it should in order to promote good health well into old age.

The elderly, admittedly, have some concerns with initiating a healthy exercise program. For example, as we age, our bodies do change, e.g., heart and lung capacities reduce, flexibility may shrink, muscle mass reduces as does strength, and stability is reduced increasing the risk of falling. An exercise program for the elder in your life should incorporate muscle strengthening exercises to improve joint flexibility, cardio exercises, balance development, and a healthy diet. These exercises can be broken down into several areas of focus:

  • *  Weight training
  • *  Aquatic exercises
  • *  Floor exercises, e.g., yoga, stretching, etc.
  • *  Aerobic exercises
  • *  Meal planning

As important as selecting the exercises that will improve and maintain health is, it is equally important to incorporate exercises that will reduce the risk of injury. In general, this means stretching properly and warming up before leaping into the exercise program. It can also call for exercises that are low impact such as, swimming, forms  of cross-training, yoga, etc.

Next week, we will look at many specific exercises that will meet the needs of your elder, while reducing risks of injury. As with any exercise program, always consult the elder's physician prior to commencing the exercise.

Jeffrey Johnson

Affordable Care Act Grants for Seniors

68 million dollars in grant monies were allocated in the Affordable Care Act to assist seniors with health and long-term care needs. According to www.SeniorJournal.com/NEWS/Eldercare, funds will go to states, territories, and tribal communities to:

  • Understand their Medicare and Medicaid benefits, including coverage for preventative services
  • Navigate options for long-term care including community-based services that can help individuals remain in their homes
  • Assist those transitioning from nursing or rehabilitation facilities back home to put the supports in place to make that transition successful

The Administration on Aging (AoA) and the Centers for Medicare/Medicaid Services (CMS), will administer the program that President Obama intends to give individuals more control over their own care; especially as health care costs continue to spiral out of control. The grants will focus on four areas of support for seniors, individuals with disabilities, and family caregivers (Ibid):

  • Medicare Outreach and Assistance in Low Income Programs and Preventative Grants. 50 states and 125 tribal organizations have been funded to provide outreach and assistance; including coverage for preventive services.
  • ADRC Options Counseling Grants. 20 states funded to strengthen the Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRC) Options Counseling and Assistance Programs for community-based health and long-term care seniors.
  • ADRC Nursing Home Transition through Money Follows the Person Grants. 24 states funded to strengthen the ADRC’s role in the CMS Money Follows the Person program and support state Medicaid agencies as they transition individuals fro nursing homes to community-based care.
  • Evidenced Based Care Transition Grants. 16 states funded to coordinate and continue to encourage evidence-based care transition models which help older persons or persons with disabilities remain in their own homes after a hospital, rehabilitation, or skilled nursing facility stay. These grants will break the cycle of readmission to the hospital that occurs when an individual is discharged into the community without the social services and supports they need.

These grants should help seniors and families take control over previously uncontrollable areas of their lives that are critical to their overall health and well-being.

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Are you Really Ready for your Dr. Appt.?

This is a message from our founder Jeffrey Johnson and reminds me of my most recent trip to the Doctor.  I had some questions regarding a procedure I was to have at Dartmouth Hitchcock Clinic in Manchester, NH.  Please make sure you read below some great advice by Jeffrey.

I consider myself a reasonably intelligent person; I can figure out the tip on any dinner tab without the assistance of a computer, determining miles/gallon on my car is a snap, and I can even calculate which size shrimp is best to buy based on cost per unit. Yet, whenever I go to a doctor (for myself as compared to one of my kids), I find myself both forgetting every note I wrote to myself the many days ahead of the appointment, and, remembering almost nothing that the doctor said during the examination. So, just maybe I (and most likely others) need a bit of help with determining what questions to ask and how to remember them.

Let's realize that seeing a physician is a stressful event, whether it is for you or for an elderly loved one. Most often we go to doctors to get something "fixed," though admittedly it would be good if we all went for more "well visits" rather than "ill visits." With this stress comes some nervousness often resulting in forgetfulness. Here are some tips for helping to overcome this "forgetful" stage:

  • Write all your questions down and bring your notes to the visit.
  • Don’t be afraid to refer to those notes during the visit.
  • Have a pad and pen with you at the visit and take copious notes.
  • Make the visit go at your pace, not the doctor’s pace.
  • Bring a complete list of current medications taken, including vitamins and any other supplements.
  • Realize you may not cover all your questions, so start with the most important ones first.
  • Understand you or your loved one’s medical history (bring records if necessary).
  • Once you’re home and notice you have forgotten to ask something, call the doctor immediately – don’t wait.
  • Stay in touch with the doctor regularly during the non-visit times.

I have found it best to have a notebook for each person in the family. Keep running notes in that book from every doctor’s appointment and use that notebook as my ongoing reference for future visits and discussions with the physician’s office (you may be surprised at how often the doctor’s office personnel do not record information or record it improperly).

Some questions to consider asking when you are going to visit you or your loved one’s physician might be:

  • What are you looking for in today’s visit?
  • What are some of the interactions from the medications?
  • What blood work is being done and why?
  • What are you specifically looking for?
  • What are the optimal diet and exercise situations for my loved one?
  • What are we to do once we leave here?
  • How will your office follow-up with us?
  • What signs or symptoms should we be watching for?
  • Are we doing well compared to the average person of the same age?
  • What specific areas should we be focusing on to improve our loved one’s health?

There are many, many more questions, many situational in nature, which you could be asking – this was clearly a sampling of areas to touch on. The problem most often encountered is that of "not" asking any relevant questions. Be prepared and don’t hesitate to ask any questions that come to mind, or that you have written down prior to the physician’s visit. After all, this is all about your or your loved one’s well-being.

.... Jeffrey Johnson

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