Springtime in Brooklyn: Stress Relief Photo

We are eagerly awaiting the warmth and colors of spring. We invite you to take a moment to relax and enjoy our stress relief photo and inspirational quote and share them with loved ones. This week's photo was taken in the Brooklyn Botanical Garden in Brooklyn, New York. Thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and the care you provide for our seniorsMore caregivers are always needed as seniors in America are living longer. You can learn more about becoming a senior caregiver and apply for a job near you. We hope you have a great week. 

"The man who sets about making others better is wasting his time, 
unless he begins with himself."
-St. Ignatius of Loyola

What Is Respite Care?

“Being a Parent to Your Parent” is no longer cliché in 2018.

With seniors living longer than ever before, baby boomers and millennial's are increasingly faced with the daunting (albeit rewarding) task of caring for an elderly parent or grandparent at home. For some, ‘home’ is the house they grew up in as children, as they coordinate and manage the daily care of their loved ones, thereby allowing them to age in place. For others, ‘home’ means bringing Mom or Dad into their own homes to care for them as one of their immediate family.

Regardless, both approaches require huge reservoirs of self-sacrifice, dedication and commitment, to see to the physical and emotional needs of an aging loved one while maintaining one’s own family.

However, the sober reality is that we are all human and many of us also rely on a dual income to support our families. Therefore, to juggle our myriad responsibilities of raising and supporting our children, while caring for elderly parents or grandparents simultaneously, inevitably leads to ‘burnout.’

Burnout, isn’t just a physical sense of depletion on the part of the caregiver, but an emotional one too.

In fact, it often manifests itself in the form of resentment, where the caregiver becomes upset with their loved one for the physically rigorous and emotionally draining toll they have inadvertently placed upon them.

When this happens, it is critically important to consider respite care.

What is respite care?

Respite care allows the caregiver to take a break from their endless responsibilities by temporarily placing their loved one in substitute care. Taking care of an aging parent requires a lot of time, money and physical strength, but perhaps most of all, it requires lots of energy. Respite care can give the caregiver the chance to take a break and recharge.

Why is respite care important?
If a caregiver gives of themselves endlessly without taking a break, it will certainly lead to the inevitable burnout and resentment, mentioned earlier. However, it’s much more than that. Without a proper break, both the caregiver and the person being cared for, will undoubtedly experience a deterioration in their physical health and well-being.

Therefore, it is indeed in everyone’s best interests for the caregiver to get away for a brief respite of R&R, so that they may return refreshed and revitalized.

So why are people so hesitant to take a break?
This is indeed the “million-dollar question.”

In my years as a Nursing Home Administrator, I’ve seen countless examples of children who were acting as primary caregivers for their parents and had reached their emotional and physical ‘breaking point,’ and yet, were simply unready to take advantage of respite care.

While there were many iterations of this theme, the common denominators, in my experiences, were always the same:

  1. The caregivers were afraid that the brief change in routine would be too challenging for their loved one and would have a deleterious impact on their health.
  2. The caregivers were guilt ridden at the prospect of “abandoning” their loved one while they went out to enjoy a break.
  3. The caregivers were made to feel guilty by either the care recipients themselves, or by other “well intentioned” family members, who weren’t otherwise invested in the day to day care of their loved ones.
  4. The caregivers were simply not educated enough regarding the importance of respite care and the various options available to them.

“Knowledge is Power”
To combat all the above, I’d like to share the approach that we took at our facilities and what I would recommend to all readers, regardless of where you fall on the ‘respite care’ spectrum.

First, we would educate families to understand that while feelings of guilt (whether self-imposed, or foisted upon them by other family members), are natural, it is misguided in context. We would explain that there is no need to feel guilty and that respite care was the best thing they could do for their loved ones, since caregivers cannot properly care for a loved one, if they are not taking care of themselves. We further explained, that taking a break is akin to recharging a battery and giving it time out, so it can continue its duties. We advised families to think of it as a short-term investment for the long-term gains.

Finally, we educated them as to their options:

Respite care options

In my own experience, simply educating families on the nuances of the respite options available to them, was always the transformative catalyst to help them get past feelings of guilt and uncertainty and take the critical leap in deciding on a respite program for themselves and their loved ones.

There is a misconception that respite care means that the caregiver goes away on a several-day vacation overseas or to some exotic vacation destination. There is also a misconception that respite care means that the caregiver must transplant their loved one out of their home and comfort zone, to place them temporarily in the care of a facility.

None of these are true.

Respite is defined individually – by the individual.

For some, respite care is sufficiently applied as an outing with a friend or several hours spent in personal solitude. For others, respite needs to mean several days and a plane flight away. It all depends on the needs of the caregiver. In addition, there are two basic types of respite care; in-house and out-of- house.

In-house respite care is having someone come to the home, while the caregiver gets a chance to leave. This may be a family member or a friend. There are also many services that provide both medical and non-medical in-house respite care. There are volunteer services available in some neighborhoods as well.

Out-of the house respite care may be in the form of adult day care centers, or skilled nursing facilities, where the parent is dropped off for an enjoyable outing, or a several-day residential stay while the caregiver has a chance to take a break.

Again, it all depends on the needs of the caregiver.

In conclusion,

In the final analysis, being the primary caregiver of an elderly loved one is God’s work and can be an immensely enriching and rewarding experience for both the caregiver, as well as the care recipient.

However, it can take its toll if there is no break from the routine.Taking some time off can help the care provider and the care recipient navigate the vicissitudes of this journey in health and happiness. As a care provider, only you can define and determine what respite care means for you, personally.

Rest assured, however, that regardless of your definition of ‘respite care,’ terms like “abandonment,” “displacement,” and “inferior care,” needn’t become part of that lexicon.

By: Judah Gutwein, LNHA, CEO of Sky Care Media LLC, an online marketing agency for healthcare providers.

Parkinson's Disease Awareness Month

This month is Parkinson's awareness month, read below to learn more about it and #StartAConversation.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects dopamine producing neurons in the substantia nigra part of the brain. Around one million americans live with this disease and more than 10 million people around the world.Symptoms for parkinson’s disease develop through the years and it varies in each person affected by it. There is no cure yet, but there are different treatment options that can improve symptoms.

Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms

Some of the symptoms include:

  • Tremors

  • Slowness of movement (bradykinesia)

  • Rigid Muscles

  • Balance problems

  • Changes in speech and writing

Parkinson’s Disease Causes

Most of the causes of the symptoms for Parkinson happen due to a loss of neurons that produce dopamine, which in turn causes abnormal brain activity. The exact cause is still unknown but there are some factors that might be related to it, including:

  • Genes and specific genetic mutations

  • Environmental Factors, including toxins

Tips for Caregivers

  • Find support from a group or an association, like P.A.C.

  • Involve an expert or a professional

  • Organize and plan your care

  • Take care of yourself too!


Carolina Coastline: Stress Relief Photo

Caregivers provide companionship and caregiving to seniors, and must remember to "care for the caregiver." We thank you caregivers and certified nursing aides for your hard work and caring for our seniors. This week's stress relief photo was taken in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The beach is a relaxing place, even when the weather is not ideal. We invite you to take a moment to enjoy the photo and the inspirational quote and share them with loved ones. We hope you have a great week.

"It doesn't matter if the water is cold or warm if you're going to have to wade through it anyway."
-Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Senior Caregiving: Assessing Needs in the Kitchen, Bedroom, and Bathroom

Most seniors want to age in place, according to AARP, but sometimes the biggest threat to that goal is their home itself. Keeping seniors safe at home requires making adaptations that reduce risk and help meet daily needs. Whether you’re moving an aging loved one into your home or helping them stay in their existing home, this guide will help you plan modifications in the kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.

In the Kitchen
The kitchen is the heart of your home, but for seniors with growing disability, it’s also a room rife with danger. Whether it’s a senior in a wheelchair trying to reach a pan on the back burner or a person with dementia eating expired food, it doesn’t take a house fire to land a person in the hospital. Ask these questions to assess your loved one’s function in the kitchen:

  • Can she plan, prepare, and serve meals independently?
  • Is she able to stand at the stove or sink for extended periods?
  • Can she access controls on the stove, sink, and other appliances?
  • Are cabinet handles and drawer pulls easy to use?
  • Does she understand and practice safe food handling?
  • Can she eat and drink without assistance?

Common kitchen adaptations include installing a stove with front controls and adapting counters, sinks, and appliances for wheelchair accessibility. Even if a senior doesn’t use a wheelchair, it may be more comfortable to sit while cooking. Cabinet hardware and kitchen utensils can be swapped out for ergonomic designs that are easier on arthritis. And of course, every kitchen should be equipped with working smoke detectors and fire extinguishers.

In the Bathroom
The bathroom is where 80 percent of senior falls happen, according to reporting by the National Safety Council, and it’s not hard to see why. Between slick surfaces, low toilets, and high tubs, this small room houses a lot of hazards. Consider these questions as you plan for modifications:

  • Does the layout allow ease of movement?
  • Can she get in and out of the tub or shower without help?
  • Can she stand comfortably in the tub during bathing?
  • Are faucets easy to use?
  • Can she bathe and groom herself independently?
  • Does she have trouble getting on or off the toilet?
  • Is she experiencing incontinence?

All seniors benefit from non-slip flooring, a grab bar at the toilet, and a raised toilet seat. Redfin advises going further, suggesting that "Safety rails with textured grips, shower seats, transfer
seats, and roll-in showers are also valuable options to make bathing safer and easier for your loved one. A single lever for the faucet is usually easier to turn and operate than two separate knobs, so consider a new faucet head if necessary." In addition, caregivers should account for incontinence in the elderly and install nightlights for overnight bathroom trips and locate the senior’s bedroom nearby a bathroom.

In the Bedroom
The bedroom is a senior’s safe space, so shouldn’t it be safe? Prevent accidents while dressing and sleeping by asking the following questions:

  • Can she dress and undress independently?
  • Does she select clothing appropriate for the weather and occasion?
  • Is she able to get in and out of bed comfortably?
  • Is nighttime visibility adequate?
  • Are there clear, wide pathways through the room?

The biggest concerns in the bedroom are falls, incontinence, and dressing. Minimize bedroom furniture and secure area rugs and loose cords to eliminate trip and fall hazards and install nightlights or bedside lamps so the senior can see, even at night. If she frequently gets up to urinate at night, a bedside commode can help. If the bed is too low or too high for comfortable transfers, a bed rail or another adaptive device can aid getting in and out of bed. Seniors with balance problems benefit from a chair that allows them to dress while seated.

While these three rooms are the most hazardous in any home, they aren’t the only places that hold danger. Watch your family member as she goes through her daily activities so you can identify other areas where extra help is needed. Since seniors are often reluctant to admit when they need assistance, it’s up to you to stay aware of changing needs and adapt as necessary.

Image via Unsplash

Skilled Nursing Tips for Family Caregivers / Checking Vital Signs

Vital signs are the front line health metrics which help a care team assemble a picture of a patient’s current condition. Vitals typically measure temperature, pulse rate, and respiration rate, however, blood pressure levels are often also included.

Why is it helpful for a family caregiver to measure these key health indicators? In a time of concern (i.e. if your loved one is under the weather), checking their vitals helps you to gauge the severity of the situation from a health standpoint. If you’re wondering whether to take them to the E.R. or call their doctor, it can bring you peace of mind and help you make a clearer decision knowing that their blood pressure, temperature, and pulse are all normal and you’re not necessarily in crisis mode.

Checking vitals is often times what a nurse will do in the doctor’s office or hospital, however, it’s possible for any family caregiver to do it at home. Luckily, loads of technological medical devices are available at your pharmacy or online with which you can take accurate vitals readings digitally. Understanding the data you’re given, however, is a different matter.

Don’t miss this quick guide to checking and understanding vitals:

Did you know that a normal body temperature may range anywhere from 97.8 to 99° F? 98.6° F is the average, however, your loved one may run a little colder or a little hotter than that. Knowing their baseline temperature will help you catch sudden spikes or drops that may require special attention.

Increases in body temperature, or fevers, are especially worth monitoring when they creep over 101° F. While a fever isn’t necessarily dangerous, high body temperatures may exacerbate symptoms of certain conditions like multiple sclerosis and dementia, especially if they are the result of an infection. If you are worried about a sudden fever, monitor your loved one’s temperature and record the readings every 1 to 3 hours; share this information with your loved one’s home health nurse and doctor.

Hypothermia, on the other hand, is a drop in body temperature below 95° F which typically results from exposure to the cold but can also be caused by low blood sugar, alcohol intoxication, and advanced age. A low body temperature coupled with hypothermic symptoms like shivering, increased heart rate, rapid breathing, and lack of coordination require immediate medical attention.

Respiration and Pulse Rates
Your loved one’s respiration rate, or the number of breaths they take in a minute, may range on average from 12 up to 20 breaths while at rest. Medical conditions and illnesses can affect how slow or how fast your loved one is breathing. Sudden changes in respiration rate should be monitored and reported to a medical care team.

Your pulse rate measures the number of times your heart beats in a minute; on average, pulse rates can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Pulse rate is typically measured with other helpful devices like a pulse oximeter or digital blood pressure monitor, however, you can easily measure pulse rate yourself with a couple fingers.

Gently place your forefinger and middle finger over the artery on the thumb side of your loved one’s wrist or on your loved one’s neck on either side of their windpipe. Set a timer for 60 seconds and then measure the number of thumps you feel with your fingers during that time. An exceedingly high pulse rate over 100 bpm is called tachycardia and may require immediate medical attention if it does not subside. The same goes for a pulse rate that is far lower thanyour loved one’s norm.

Blood Pressure
The clinical accuracy of blood pressure readings is a must in a good digital blood pressure monitor. Being able to quickly and clearly display an accurate reading, as well as record it and alert users to alarming readings, equips caregivers with health information they can rely on.

A normal blood pressure for a healthy individual is around 120/80 mmHg; it’s a measure of the force at which blood is being pumped through the circulatory system. Depending on your loved one’s condition, their baseline blood pressure may be higher or lower. Any unusual blood pressure reading that drops below 90/60 or jumps up above 140/90 could indicate that another underlying factor is at play, like an infection, and that your loved one should be monitored closely (and their doctor called).

Measure blood pressure regularly around the same time each day while your loved one is at rest, following the instructions that come with your digital monitor. Knowing what is a normal reading for your loved one will help you recognize potential warning signs sooner rather than later.