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We hope you find some helpful information with regard to at home senior care in the compilation of articles we have gathered related to topics about Joint Pain, Stroke and the Elderly, Alzheimer’s -Caregiver Burnout, Looking after your parents from a distance, Better health, Live well with heart disease, Doctor patient communication, Medication management.
Written by Lisa M. Petsche
These days, health care is viewed as a partnership between patient and provider, with both parties responsible for ensuring a constructive relationship. Patients, also referred to as health-care consumers, are taking a more active role than ever in this regard. Good communication is essential, of course, to any positive doctor-patient relationship, whether it involves your family physician or a specialist.
Before an appointment
Make a list of the things you want to discuss, in order of priority. Also jot down any symptoms you’re experiencing, including their frequency, duration and intensity, and how they are affecting your daily life.
Note, too, any treatments you have tried. Always bring a list of the medications you’re taking, prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as any natural remedies, including the dosage.
Bring along a note pad and pen to jot down key information.
Consider asking a good friend or family member to accompany you; that individual can help with processing information and remembering instructions. He or she may also have questions that hadn’t occurred to you.
During the visit
If you have a hearing or visual impairment let the doctor know at the outset. If you have a language impairment from a stroke or other condition that makes it hard for others to understand you, bring along someone who knows you well and can interpret your responses if necessary, or ask questions on your behalf.
Share information. Provide as much detail as possible about any problems you are experiencing and how these are affecting you. Don’t leave out anything. Let the doctor decide what’s relevant.
Be honest about your lifestyle and habits. For example, if you’re diabetic but you don’t stick to the recommended diet, or you haven’t been taking medications as prescribed.
Let the doctor know about anything going on in your life that may be contributing to your situation – for example, a recent loss or other traumatic event that’s causing significant stress.
Write down important information provided to you. If you have brought someone along, ask him or her to do this so you can give the doctor your undivided attention.
Ask for details. If you’re diagnosed with a medical condition, inquire about what to expect, including how long it’s likely to last, treatment or management options, and where you can get more information. For any recommended test or treatment, inquire about cost, where it must be done, what’s involved, benefits and risks, and alternatives.
Request a layman’s explanation if you don’t understand medical jargon used by the doctor. Summarize aloud the information he or she gives you, to check if you have interpreted it correctly.
Don’t try to be an expert. While there’s a wealth of medical information readily available to consumers these days (especially via the internet), and it’s good to be informed, don’t act as if you know more than the doctor does. Be tactful if you wish to challenge findings or recommendations. For example, it’s much less threatening to say, “I’ve read about a new medication called X; what do you think of it for my situation?” rather than, “Why aren’t you prescribing X?”
Don’t hesitate to voice doubts, worries or fears. If, after your doctor addresses them, you’re still uncomfortable with a diagnosis or the treatment options presented to you, request a second opinion.
Don’t worry about taking up too much of your doctor’s time. Ask all of your questions and express any concerns. However, prioritize your issues (lower priority ones may have to wait for another appointment), be concise and don’t get off topic.
Before leaving, make sure you are clear about any next steps – for example, whether you should schedule another appointment, when and how you’ll learn of test results, and what you should do if your condition worsens or you experience an adverse reaction to a new medication.
Ask about the best time to call if any more questions occur to you after you leave the office.
People are increasingly realizing the importance of exercising the mind. The Oxford Dictionary defines exercise as “activity requiring physical effort carrying out for the sake of health and fitness.”
The importance of brain fitness cannot be underestimated, and physical movement has a role to play, in addition to popular “brain games” such as Suduko, brain teaser cards and crossword puzzles.
The brain is divided into left and right hemispheres. When information comes into the left ear, it goes directly to the right side of the brain. The right hand is controlled by the left hemisphere, while the left hand is controlled by the right. In fact all sensory-motor function on the right side is controlled by the left hemisphere and vice versa.
The more we access both hemispheres of the brain, the better we are able to function. We need to use both hemispheres of the brain to excel. Ensuring good blood flow to the brain promotes a high level of mental functioning, and physical exercise is a major factor in this.
Also, movement anchors thought. Take note of the thoughts that come into your mind when you’re taking the dog for a walk, preparing dinner or having a workout. Stimulated by physical activity the mind generates new ideas.
In older adults who regularly partake in dancing, whether it be slow dancing to love songs, square dancing or country line dancing, the signs of dementia/Alzheimer’s disease are decreased by 96 per cent, and for those who play a musical instrument, 69 per cent. These activities are both physical and use integrated, cross-lateral movements are playful and stimulating to the mind.
Many music schools across Canada are teaching guitar and piano to people in their 60s and 70s. Have you noticed the “walking clubs” popping up everywhere you go? The people who organize these groups know the importance of staying active and keeping your mind sharp go hand in hand.
Furthermore, physical and intellectual activity develops brain tissue. Whenever we engage in a new activity, the brain remodels itself. It retains this capacity right into old age.
Doing brain games, physical activity for both our gross motor skills like walking, dancing, or golf, and fine motor skills such as knitting, typing on the computer, learning sign language (alongside with your grandchildren) or playing a musical instrument, all promote improved brain function.
Google “brain games” in the search engine, and you will find a smorgasbord of online games that benefit your mind, including card games, puzzles, concentration games, and optical illusions. Go to the library and participate in a workshop that introduces a new language or exercise. Look in the newspaper and see how many of the brain game puzzles you can figure out before they give the answers in the next day’s edition. Sing, dance, or play a musical instrument.
The key is to find and take part in activities that will benefit you both physically and mentally.
Many of us assume that joint pain is a normal part of aging and therefore, the pain is likely here to stay. Nothing could be further from the truth, say medical professionals, especially with the advancement in treatment options that include exercise, foods, and alternative dietary supplements.
The first step however is to accurately diagnose the source of your pain. It might surprise you to learn that many people try to ignore it. For example, research data reveals that one in five people say they have chronic pain (such as that caused by arthritis) but nearly half say they don’t know what’s causing it. Many people wait, hoping the body will heal itself, but that’s no remedy. If you do have joint pain, it’s important for a doctor to examine you and tell you why.
Treatments range from improving life quality, to medication, to surgery – and preferably in that order. Here are the most important initial steps you can take to control joint pain:
Maintain a healthy weight. Experts say that losing as little as 11 pounds can cut the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee by 50 per cent. A healthy body weight reduces the small tears that break down cartilage.
Exercise with guidance. Pain victims often get caught in a vicious cycle: aching joints prevent them from exercising, which in turn causes joints to weaken and deteriorate further. Instead, work with a therapist to develop the right program for you. This will likely include low- or no-impact aerobic exercises (swimming, walking, cycling, dancing) along with a strength building routine, with light weights, plus stretching and relaxation exercises. To manage pain and swelling, apply ice to your joints after exercise.
Eat beneficial foods. Top of the list is fish with omega-3 fatty acids. In addition, research shows that vitamin D may help protect your joints with its anti-inflammatory effect.
Wear supportive, comfortable footwear. Bone experts advise that every shoe should have an extra layer of protective padding.
Quit smoking. Research shows that besides disease, smoking has an effect on both bone health and on an individual’s response to treatment.
You are not the primary caregiver of a loved one. They live many miles away from you, too many to be able to drop what you are doing when you are needed and pop over to help out, but you want to support your relative as much as you can. You are also feeling guilty and pressured because you are not there to share the workload and you know the primary caregiver could really use your help.
Just because you can’t be there on a regular basis or at the drop of a hat don’t think that you can’t be a valuable support and resource to the caregiver. There are so many things that you can do to make you feel as though you are doing your fair share and could alleviate so much stress and the workload of the primary caregiver. Here are just some suggestions on what you can do to make a difference.
There are so many practical ways you could help the primary caregiver in support of a beloved relative, especially if one is dealing with a chronic illness, such as Dementia. There are some key ways to lend a helping hand.
You can first start helping by educating yourself on the illness and the impact it has had on your relative and the caregiver. If the relative is dealing with a specific type of dementia, research as much as possible on the illness so you can at least understand the symptoms and its associated behaviours. Resources include your local library or book stores, groups such as the Alzheimer’s Society, health care professionals, and on-line resource sites. There is such an abundance of information out there that is easy to obtain and educating yourself only requires your desire to learn.
Speak to the caregiver and find out what the specific symptoms and behaviours are that are afflicting your relative so you can begin to understand and relate to the challenges the caregiver is going through. Allow yourself to be their sounding board without being judgmental. They will feel so much better if you are just there to listen. Do this for them at least once per week – it’ll be like therapy for them and if they feel they can share on how they are managing without being judged they will look forward to talking with you.
Be the resource finder for them when they need specific information on services such as: Transportation, meal delivery programs, day care and home care services, health care professionals, long term care facilities and retirement homes, support groups and other health agencies.
The primary caregiver may have had to take leave from their work to provide round the clock care for a loved one and are suffering monetarily and struggling emotionally from having to take care of someone with dementia. If you are able to support the caregiver financially in any capacity, provide relief for them when and where you can. Send them a gas card once a month to help cover for specialist, doctor or hospital visits. Shop and pay for some of their groceries on line and have it delivered to the house. Emotionally they may need a break. Purchase them a spa treatment when you know they are really stressed and could use some relaxation therapy. Source out alternate care providers such as home care workers that specialize in the type of care you need and have alternate providers step in and give the primary caregiver a vacation or book them into a day program (many of these are non-for profit and government subsidized and can provide relief at a minimal cost) that supports clients with dementia. When you can, take over the duties of the primary caregiver so he/she can take a much needed vacation.
Stay connected with your loved one and give the caregiver a break at the same time. Find time in your schedule 2-3 times per week to talk with your relative. You can do this over the phone or even better, use on-line services such as SKYPE, it’s free and he/she can see your face which will help keep you familiar and connected to them.
Make sure the caregiver can call you direct at any time without worrying about the long distance charges. Give them your cell number and email address and let them know you are there day or night in case of an emergency or if they just need an ear to listen. Encourage them to ask for help when needed. It can make a huge difference to them knowing that there is someone out there they can always depend on.
If you are a part of a large family they surely want to be kept in the loop as to what is happening on a regular basis. Instead of having the primary relay information to multiple family members, offer yourself as the go to person. Once a week, gather all the pertinent information you can from the caregiver and conference call your family on a certain day and time. Once this becomes a regular habit, the amount of phone calls the caregiver will need to receive will be reduced substantially and provide him/her with some additional relief time.
Never, ever forget to show thanks for all that they do. An e-card on special days or when they need a pick me up can make a world of difference. For just a few dollars a year you could send them weekly e-cards that are humorous, thankful and supportive. Send little gifts and treats to them from time to time to show your appreciation such as movie coupons and dinner gift certificates to their favourite restaurants. They’ll love you for it and will be re-energized to keep moving forward.
If there comes a time when the caregiver must make an alternate choice in accommodation for your relative please show them your support as this decision never comes lightly and can come with a tremendous amount of guilt. Trust them that the time is right for the move and that everything up to now has been handled well and in the best interest of your relative. Be there to help with the move and for the transition period. Your presence will much needed and appreciated.
At the end of the day, and regardless of the choices you make to help the caregiver, always remember, the support you give that person is probably going to be the most important thing you can do to help your relative. And because that person is the one doing the majority of the heavy lifting, helping them in a productive manner will make a positive difference in the life of the person they are caring for.
(Special)-For many seniors, another doctor’s appointment means a new medication. As a result, seniors often find themselves juggling multiple medications prescribed by multiple physicians, which can lead to confusion and, sometimes, life-threatening mistakes.
“Many seniors assume that medication affects everyone the same, but medication impacts each person differently,” says Todd Semla, Pharm.D., president of the American Geriatrics Society. “It’s important for seniors to ask questions about their medications and for doctors to create a personalized medication plan for each individual.”
Writing down questions prior to a doctor’s visit will not only help seniors understand the functionality of their medication, but once answered, can act as an extra source of instructions.
Dr. Semla suggests seniors come prepared with the following 10 questions prior to a visit to the doctor:
How will the medication help my condition and how will I know if it’s working?
- How long should I take the medication?
- Is it necessary to take the medication at the same time every day?
- Should the medication be taken with food?
- How will this medication interact with other medications?
- Will drinking alcoholic beverages effect how the medication works?
- Can the medicine be crushed for ingestion?
- What should I do if I miss a dose of medication?
- Will the medication affect my daily activities?
- When should I call my doctor if I experience side-effects?
“Asking proper and precise questions can make all the difference to whether an individual takes their medication correctly, and could in some cases be the difference between life or death,” says Semla.
Here are some other guidelines below for seniors to follow during a doctor’s visit:
Bring a pad and a pal. It’s helpful to write down the answers and any specific instructions the doctor may provide to ensure proper use of the medication. Bringing a spouse, family member or friend along can also help guarantee that all specific instructions have been recorded and all important questions have been asked.
Double and triple check. Some seniors may feel uncomfortable asking questions about their medication for fear that they’re bothering a busy doctor or that they might not understand the medical terminology. But it’s critical for seniors to review any questions with the doctor or an available nurse before leaving the office, and then check with their pharmacist when they pick up new medication.
(Special)—The path to better health could be in your own backyard.
Gardening, or simply being around plants, is a fairly new trend used by experts to help ease pain and improve the health of older adults.
Health benefits of gardening include lower blood pressure and reduced stress levels as well as helping to maintain mobility and flexibility. Additionally, gardening provides a social environment for aging adults and serves as a distraction from their own aches and pains.
Recognizing these health benefits, hospitals, rehabilitation centres and nursing homes have begun incorporating “healing gardens” in their facilities and programs in an effort to change a patient’s environment to promote better health and a quicker recovery. “Gardening is an enjoyable activity that also offers older adults the exercise they need to keep physically and cognitively active,” says Jane Potter, MD, past president of the American Geriatrics Society. “Even if seniors have some physical restrictions, simply sitting and spending time in a garden or a room with plants may improve a person’s mood, making them happier, and as a result, healthier.”
Potter explains that when individuals are in hospitals or nursing homes, it’s important to keep their spirits up through a variety of activities because a patient’s environment plays a large role in positively influencing their mental and physical health.
Having a place where patients can sit and escape the sterile and often depressing environment found in many health facilities will have positive impacts on a patient’s overall health and well being.
While gardening provides a variety of health benefits, seniors still need to be cautious and make sure they take the proper precautions to stay safe. Potter offers the following tips for safe gardening.
Drink plenty of water. Hydration is key for any outdoor activity. It’s important for people to drink plenty of water before and after gardening.
Warm up. Digging, watering and raking are all activities that involve multiple muscle use. Before any physical activity, gardeners should stretch to ensure they don’t damage their muscles or ligaments.
Apply sunscreen. Seniors should apply sunscreen to exposed skin before spending time in the outside. Aging skin becomes thinner and more susceptible to sunburn, so it’s important to protect skin by wearing at least SPF 15 or higher.
Take breaks. When engaged in a truly enjoyable activity, we tend to lose track of time. Therefore, it’s important to watch the clock while engaged in physical activities to ensure that frequent breaks are taken to rest and rehydrate.
Garden early or late. The best time to be outside for physical activity is early morning or late afternoon when the temperature is cooler and the sun isn’t as intense.
Protect yourself. Gardeners should be sure to wear protective clothing to cover exposed skin and help shield themselves from bug bites and scrapes as a result of being in the garden. Examples of safe gardening gear are lightweight clothing to cover arms and legs, closed-toe shoes, hats and gardening gloves and bug spray.
(Special)—People 80 or older are more likely to die from stroke, stay longer in hospital and are less likely to be discharged home.
According to new research led by a neurologist from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, this is a growing trend that will have a domino effect on the health-care system.
“Globally, as our population ages and we approach what has been dubbed the stroke ‘silver tsunami,’ we can expect to see an increase in the number of patients suffering from stroke,” said lead researcher Dr. Gustavo Saposnik of the Keenan Research Center in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael’s Hospital.
“Our study’s findings suggest we can anticipate that the impact of aging on stroke will cause longer hospital stays, more disabled stroke survivors, increase the demand for acute and long-term care beds and the need for more complex care.”
Saposnik and colleagues from the Stroke Outcome Research Canada (SORCan) Working group analyzed 26,676 patients with an ischemic stroke admitted to 606 hospitals across Canada over a one-year period.
Researchers found that 38 per cent of hospitalized patients with an ischemic stroke were 80 or older. What’s more, these individuals had a higher fatality rate (seven days after being admitted and at discharge), a longer hospital stay, were less likely to be admitted to the ICU and discharged to their pre-stroke residence.
In their analysis, researchers also found a link between fatality and socioeconomic factors, admission to a non-academic institution and gender.
“Women had a longer length of stay in hospital and were more likely to be discharged to long-term care institutions than their male counterparts,” Saposnik said. “In addition, those over 80, who were admitted to a non-academic and rural institutions were more likely to die from stroke, while non-specialist care was linked to a 14 per cent higher rate of death at discharge among the age group.”
These findings have important practical implications for clinical management and preventive strategies and health policy, the authors said.
“Our study should encourage further research to identify potentially remediable factors related to delivery of care to reduce morbidity and mortality in more elderly patients with stroke.
“The recognition of this growing problem may help to implement strategies aimed at involving more elderly subjects in clinical trials and other research, facilitating access to specialized stroke care and improving survival and quality of life in the elderly.”
January is National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month. One in thirteen Canadians over the age of 65 and one in three over 85 has Alzheimer’s disease or a related type of dementia (loss of intellectual functioning).
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the most common form of dementia, involves gradual breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. Affected persons lose the ability to interpret information and to send messages to their body to behave in certain ways.
Over time they experience mental, emotional, behavioural and physical changes, necessitating increasing amounts of supervision and, eventually, hands-on help with activities of daily living.
Family members, particularly wives and daughters, provide most – and in many cases all – of that care.
These caregivers themselves are at increased risk for depression and other health problems due to the emotional strain and the physical toll of caregiving.
Following are some things that you, as a friend or relative, can do to help prevent an Alzheimer’s caregiver you know from wearing down.
Keep in touch. Recognize that you may have to make most of the effort in maintaining the relationship.
Become informed. Educate yourself about Alzheimer’s disease to better understand the kinds of challenges caregivers can be faced with, and share the information with family and friends. Share findings with the caregiver as well – especially strategies for managing challenging behaviour.
Lend an ear. Listen non-judgmentally and demonstrate compassion. Don’t give unsolicited advice.
Connect her with other caregivers. Locate caregiver support groups (contact the local Alzheimer Society chapter) and encourage her to try one. Offer to stay with her loved one while she attends meetings or, if concurrent care is provided, to accompany her to the first meeting.
Promote self-care. Encourage her to eat nutritiously, exercise and get sufficient rest in order to maintain good health. Do whatever you can to help make this happen. For example, bring over a meal, or offer to sit with her loved one while she goes for a walk or takes a nap to catch up on lost sleep. Also encourage her to get regular medical checkups. Offer to stay with her loved one while she attends appointments.
Provide practical help. Determine what kind of assistance she could use most; perhaps it’s picking up groceries, running errands, or doing laundry or yard work. If she initially declines assistance, continue to express your desire to help. Meanwhile, take it upon yourself to deliver a casserole or muffins or, if you’re a neighbour, shovel her walk or mow her lawn when you do your own.
Surprise her with a treat. Ideas include a rented movie, a favourite magazine, fresh flowers or a plant, or a gift certificate to a restaurant that has delivery service. If you’re on a limited income, sign out reading material, movies or CDs she would enjoy from the local library.
Give her a break. Offer to sit with her loved one for an hour while she goes out to a hair appointment or lunch with friends – or for a longer stretch, so she can attend a cultural or social event or take a day trip.
Locate resources. Offer to obtain information about community support services – such as accessible transportation, home care, adult day care and residential respite programs – if none are in place, and encourage their use as appropriate.
Join the local chapter of the Alzheimer Society. Your support will assist them in providing aid not only to your friend or relative, but also to other Alzheimer’s caregivers like her. Typical chapter programs and services include a telephone hotline, support groups, a safe return program for wanderers, training for family and professional caregivers, a newsletter and a resource library. Membership also makes a thoughtful gift for the caregiver, connecting her to a key resource.
Watch for signs of trouble. Encourage her to seek help from her primary physician or a mental health worker if she feels overwhelmed or hopeless (possible signs of clinical depression), or if she starts to fear for her safety or that of her loved one.
Stand by her. Praise her efforts and be an ongoing source of encouragement. In particular, support her if she decides to pursue placement in a long-term care facility, doing whatever you can to help her and her loved one with the transition.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and adult care issues.
Written by Lisa M. Petsche
It started with a routine visit to the doctor. The doctor didn’t like Jim’s heart rate so a trip to a hospital emergency room for a thorough assessment followed. Signs of heart damage were discovered, suggesting a recent (silent) heart attack.
Further medical tests and consultations were booked. Meanwhile, Jim, age 55, began to experience angina (chest pain). He was prescribed medication and instructed to curtail his activities.
Jim and his wife were unnerved. His father had had bypass surgery and died prematurely from heart disease.
A subsequent coronary catheterization (angiogram) revealed that one coronary artery – a vessel supplying the heart with blood – was narrowed. The doctor was able to correct this through balloon angioplasty and insertion of a stent (a permanent, mesh tube made of metal).
Jim later learned the artery in question had been 90 per cent blocked. Complete blockage in that location would have caused instant death.
Heart disease is, in fact, the leading cause of death for adults. Coronary artery disease (also known as arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries) is the most common type.
Coronary artery disease is caused by accumulation in the coronary arteries of fatty deposits called plaques. This results in narrowing within the arteries, restricting blood flow to the heart.
Typically the disease progresses over many years and may go undetected until a crisis occurs. Symptoms can include angina (usually brought on by physical exertion or emotional stress), shortness of breath and, if a coronary artery becomes completely blocked, a heart attack.
A diagnosis of coronary artery disease can cause anxiety and fear. If heart disease runs in their family, the diagnosed person may become fatalistic, believing there’s no point in trying to manage their disease. Some people cope through denial, carrying on with their usual lifestyle. Others, particularly those who have had a heart attack, may embrace changes in habits that can help halt or slow disease progression.
Family members, too, respond in various ways. Anxiety and fear are common, and may be manifested in behaviour such as regularly checking if their loved one has taken his medication, scrutinizing and criticizing his eating and other habits, and overprotectiveness (due to concern that any stress or physical exertion might cause a heart attack).
- If you’ve been diagnosed with coronary artery disease, here are ways to take charge of your situation.
- Learn as much as possible about your disease and its management, and educate family and friends.
- Focus on controllable risk factors. Commit to making lifestyle changes, keeping in mind it takes three to four weeks to develop a new habit.
- Find an outlet for expressing your thoughts and feelings – perhaps talking with a friend, keeping a journal or joining a support group.
- Stay connected to people who care. Let them know how you wish to be treated, and keep the lines of communication open.
- Learn to live in the present and enjoy life’s simpler pleasures.
- Set aside quiet time each day, to nurture your spirituality and help keep you grounded.
- See your family doctor if you continually feel sad, angry, overwhelmed or unmotivated. Depression is treatable.
Practical tips for daily living
- Find a cardiologist whom you respect and trust.
- Follow the prescribed management plan, which might include medication, a smoking cessation program, blood pressure monitoring, diet changes, exercise, rest, stress management techniques and regular check-ups. Ask loved ones to support you – and, where applicable, to join you – in making lifestyle changes.
- If you’ve had a heart attack, join a cardiac rehab program. To locate one, talk to your doctor or contact the local office of the Heart and Stroke Foundation (in Edmonton, call 780-451-4545).
- Keep an up-to-date medication list in your wallet. Consider crisis options such as medical alert jewellery and, if you live alone, a personal emergency response system for summoning help.
- Set up a record-keeping system to organize your health information. Ready-made products can be found in stores.
- Eliminate as many sources of stress as possible. Set priorities, simplify tasks and learn to settle for less than perfection.
- Be as active as possible. Just don’t overdo it. If you’re concerned about particular types of activity, such as sexual activity, mowing the lawn or lifting heavy objects, consult with your doctor.
- Cultivate a healthy sense of humour. Read the comics, watch a TV sitcom now and then or rent funny movies.
- Do something you enjoy every day, perhaps listening to music, reading or engaging in a hobby (revive a former pastime or try something new).
- Don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it (for example, with moving furniture).
- Take a holistic approach to your health and keep in mind that even modest lifestyle changes can make a difference. Take small steps, build on your success and enjoy how good you feel.
- Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in boomer and senior issues.
Written by Lisa M. Petsche
There’s a good chance a loved one will require hospitalization at some point, especially if he or she has a chronic health condition. The following are some tips to help you be prepared.
What to Bring
Be ready with the following paperwork to bring to the hospital: a list of current medications – prescription and over-the-counter drugs as well as vitamins and other natural remedies – and the dosage; health insurance information; and a copy of any advance directive, living will or power of attorney.
Be prepared to provide nursing staff with an alternate contact person in case you’re not available in an emergency. Provide as many phone numbers as possible – home, work, cell – to maximize the chances one of you can be reached in a hurry.
Keep a note pad and pen with you. It’s wise to maintain a log of your loved one’s diagnoses, past and present medications and any adverse reactions, specialists consulted, hospitalizations and surgeries.
Clothing-wise, bring pyjamas, a robe and non-skid slippers for nighttime. For daytime, provide comfortable clothing that’s easy to put on, such as loose-fitting shirts, pants, skirts or dresses. If your loved one will be participating in physiotherapy, track suits and running shoes are advisable. Don’t forget socks and underwear.
The following grooming items will also be needed: soap, deodorant, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste or denture cleaner, comb or hairbrush, hand mirror and razor.
Don’t forget to bring dentures, eyeglasses, hearing aids and prostheses. Bring a denture cup and eyeglass or hearing aid case for proper storage, and label or engrave whatever belongings you can. If your loved one uses a cane, walker or wheelchair, let the staff know and be prepared to bring it in.
What not to bring
For security reasons, discourage your relative from keeping anything of value – cash, identification or jewellery – in the room. You might, however, wish to leave a few dollars to cover the cost of sundry items, such as newspapers or snacks.
Don’t bring in prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications or herbal remedies. Interactions with medications the hospital physician has prescribed could prove harmful. The same goes for alcohol.
If your loved one is in a shared room, limit visiting to a few people at a time and speak softly. Exercise good judgment when it comes to bringing children, and ensure adult supervision at all times.
Find out his or her schedule and don’t visit around therapy times unless you’ve been invited to participate.
If he or she is expected to remain in hospital for more than a week, inquire about the availability of a parking pass.
Consult with nursing staff before bringing in food or beverages, in case dietary restrictions have been implemented.
Communicating with care providers
Find out who the coordinator is within the health care team. Usually it’s one of the nursing staff, known by a title such as primary nurse or case manager. This person will be your main contact.
Maintain good communication with family members, keeping them up-to-date on your loved one’s status, activities and plans. Professionals will be taken away from direct patient work if they have to address similar questions or concerns with multiple people. If necessary, set up a conference call or request a family meeting.
If other disciplines – such as a physiotherapist or speech-language pathologist – are involved, ask the care coordinator for their name and telephone extension so you can contact them directly if needed. If you call, be prepared to leave a concise voicemail message that includes the best times to reach you during the day. If you’re hard to reach, set an appointment to talk by phone or in person.
Write down key information provided during conversations and at care conferences. Request a layman’s explanation if you don’t understand medical jargon used. Always ask for clarification when you don’t understand information or instructions.
If you feel the need for emotional support for yourself or your loved one, ask for a referral to a social worker.
Depending on your loved one’s condition when the acute phase of illness is over, he or she may be able to return home, or may require transfer to a rehabilitation program for reactivation, a retirement home for convalescent care, or a nursing home or chronic care facility for long-term care.
The team social worker or the hospital discharge planner (who may be a social worker or a nurse) can assist you with problem solving and making necessary arrangements.
A good discharge plan involves the patient, significant others (family or friends) and health care providers. It addresses issues concerning medical management, activities of daily living (self-care and home management skills), mobility, safety and finances, as well as psychosocial needs. It also addresses related concerns such as transportation to medical appointments, recreation and leisure needs and caregiver relief, as appropriate.
If your loved one is returning home, clarify his or her medication needs and ensure necessary prescriptions are provided before discharge. Obtain details about services being arranged, including contact information for providers. Also inquire about follow-up medical appointments and tests, including who is responsible for arranging them.
Lisa M. Petsche is a medical social worker and a freelance writer specializing in health and elder care issues. Article from Seniorsdaily.net