Senior Caregiver Checklist After Hospital Stays & Doctor Visits

Patients of even the most meticulous at-home senior caregivers encounter hospital visits due to an unexpected fall or change in health conditions. A trip to the hospital or simply an appointment with a new doctor can be stressful for seniors, who often return home without a grasp of appropriate follow-up steps for senior care based on the new conditions.

 

This National Alliance for Caregiving checklist, which includes follow up questions for physicians and other professionals involved with senior care, is designed for patients and caregivers to help ensure a smooth transition from the hospital to at-home care. Both parties stand to benefit from a clear understanding of the senior’s condition and recovery plan.

 

1.      Do you understand your health conditions? Ask what is likely to happen with your health.                                                                         

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

2.      Do you know what problems to watch for and how to handle them? Ask what to do and who to call if you have problems.                      

 Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

3.      Do you know what each of your prescriptions drugs does? Do you know how to take them, and what side effects to watch for? Ask who you should call if you have questions.

 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___    

                                       

4.      Do you understand how much of your prescription drugs, equipment and services will be covered by your insurance and what you will have to pay? Ask to speak to a social worker about possible resources to help with insurance payment.

 

 Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

5.      Do you have written discharge instructions that you understand, your list of drugs, and a summary of your current health status? Bring this to your next appointment.

 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

6.      Do you know what appointments and tests you’ll need during the next couple of weeks?                                                                   

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

7.      Do you have a doctor or healthcare provider to call if you have questions or problems? Write down the names and contact information.

 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

8.      Are you worried about how you or your family is coping with your illness? Ask to speak to a therapist or find out about support groups, if needed. 

 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

9.       Do you know what medical equipment you will need? Ask who to call if you have questions about equipment.

 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

10.  Do you know which of the items below you will need help with and for how long? Bathing, dressing, grooming, using the bathroom; Shopping for food, making meals, doing housework, paying bills; Getting to doctors appointments, picking up prescription drugs. 

Senior ___  Caregiver ___

 

Seniors often require full-time care in the weeks following a hospital visit. Caregiverlist offers free resources such as a Medication Reminder Schedule and Simple Senior Care Plan to assist caregivers in providing quality care to senior clients. These tools are especially helpful for caregivers who start seeing a new patient, or have an existing patient whose care requirements change.

 

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What is the Veteran's Caregiving Benefit?

The current administration is lobbying for better benefits for our veterans - especially with more and more servicemen surviving injuries in Iraq, while living with the loss of limbs and with ongoing needs for medical assistance and caregiving.  It seems the least we can do for these servicemen is provide for their care needs when they return home.  I know I am grateful I live in a country where, as a woman, I can wear what I want, and earn a living and grateful for the servicemen who protect us and provide for our freedoms.....I wish we could air-drop bikinis to the women in Afghanistan....but back to caregiving for the American veterans.

A question we are frequently asked is what benefits are available for retired veterans.  Here is the answer:

Veteran's of qualifying foreign wars do qualify for in-home senior caregiving services, with preapproval from a doctor and the proper documents submitted (doctors at a Veteran's hospital are your best bet for assisting with quick approval or you can also secure this benefit quickly upon discharge from a hospital with the assistance of the hospital social worker).

The veteran and their spouse, with financial assets of $80,000 or less (excluding home and cars) qualify for caregiving services in these amounts:

  • Up to $1,519 per month for a Veteran
  • Up to $976 per month for a Veteran's Spouse, even if the Veteran is deceased
  • Up to $1,801 per month for a Couple

    Any licensed senior home care agency that hires caregivers as employees and provides for all of their payroll taxes and insurances will qualify to provide for the care. 

    You may learn more about the Veteran's benefit, along with the forms to file, on this page of Caregiverlist.

     

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  • Enjoy Caregiving? Become a Certified Nursing Aide

    Do you enjoy providing caregiving services for a loved one or neighbor?  If so, you may want to become a Certified Nursing Aide and expand your employment opportunities while enjoying a fulfilling career.

    Certification is managed by the department of health in each state in the U.S.A.  You may usually find training programs through community colleges and in some states, nursing homes and hospitals offer certified nursing aide classes.

    Admission requirements for Certified Nursing Aides are typically:

    • Minimum age of 18
    • Reading, writing and math competency
    • English competency
    • Drug testing
    • Background checks

    The cost ranges from $500 - $4,000 and usually financial aide and grant programs are available.  Classes usually can be completed inm 1 to 3 months.  Usually part-time evening programs are available.

    You may learn more about caregiving job opportunities and find certified nursing aide training programs in your area on Caregiverlist.

     

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    The Cost of Caregiving for Alzheimer's Disease in Dollars and Health

    Many caregivers feel overwhelmed when a patient or loved one develops Alzheimer’s Disease, the most common form of dementia.  More than 5 million Americans currently suffer from the disease, a number that’s estimated to grow substantially during the next couple decades as our senior population increases with the aging of the Baby Boomer generation. 

    By 2030, more than 7 million people ages 65 and older will have Alzheimer’s, according to an estimate published in the newly released Alzheimer's Association annual reportAngela Geiger, chief strategy officer at the Alzheimer's Association, worked with Fox News to identify other key points of this new report, several of which relate to caregivers. Those caregiving for seniors with memory loss can use these 10 factoids on Alzheimer's Disease to better care for their senior loved ones and senior clients.

    1) Alzheimer's disease is more than lost memories. Forgetfulness is a hallmark symptom, but the disease cuts deeper. "Your body forgets how to function," explains Geiger. In fact, Alzheimer's disease causes death, as its progression eventually prevents the individual from engaging innate abilities like moving and swallowing.

    2) Early diagnosis may garner better care. According to 2009 research in the journal Alzheimer's and Dementia, people 70 and older who were told they had Alzheimer's or dementia by a doctor and were aware of it--or had family members who knew--tended to have more doctor contact and fewer days in the hospital. But early diagnosis, which can translate into a care plan that can have a significant impact on the quality of life of the individual and the family, is not always attained. "We know people don't know enough about early signs [of the disease]," including healthcare professionals, says Geiger. Mood and behavior changes, an early warning sign of Alzheimer's, often get misdiagnosed as depression, for example.

    3) Alzheimer's patients have higher out-of-pocket costs. People 65 or older with Alzheimer's disease or dementia pay 30 percent more in out-of-pocket healthcare costs than those without such disease, according to the new annual report.

    4) Total healthcare spending is radically higher in Alzheimer's families. Add up all the healthcare dollars spent by various payers--including Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers--on people 65 or older with Alzheimer's or dementia, and you get triple the burden of people without, says the new Alzheimer's Association report. "The costs get greater and greater as the disease progresses," says Geiger, and more consistent, specialized care is needed, typically resulting in 24-hour nursing home care.

    5) Additional medical conditions complicate matters. The majority of people with Alzheimer's or dementia also have at least one other serious medical condition, according to a January report by the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice. For example, 60 percent also have hypertension, 26 percent have coronary heart disease, 23 percent have diabetes, and 18 percent have osteoporosis. The presence of Alzheimer's or other dementia only complicates the management of another chronic disease. To properly control diabetes, notes Geiger, vigilant daily maintenance is required, from checking blood sugar to taking insulin to being extremely conscientious about food choices.

    6) Hospital trips become more frequent. Having Alzheimer's or another form of dementia at age 65 or older resulted in triple the likelihood of a hospital stay compared with people without such an illness, says the January Dartmouth report. And the frequency extends to caregivers, too. A 2008 Journal of General Internal Medicine study found that nearly 1 in 4 caregiver spouses of people with Alzheimer's or dementia required a trip to the emergency room or hospitalization.

    7) Family caregivers take a personal health hit. Multiple studies have found that unpaid caregivers for those who have Alzheimer's or other dementia are more likely to have higher levels of stress hormones, reduced immune function, new hypertension, and new heart disease than noncaregivers. Geiger stresses the importance of caregivers' efforts to alleviate their own stress: "We want to break down that isolation." She encourages caregivers to participate in local face-to-face support groups or, if they prefer, anonymously in online message boards.

    8) Family caregivers face a long haul. People with Alzheimer's and dementia typically experience a slow progression of the disease, so family caregiving is often a long-term prospect. A 2004 report by the Alzheimer's Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that at any one time, nearly a third of these caregivers have been at it for five years or longer and nearly 40 percent have been doing so for one to four years.

    9) Family caregivers do the job free. The Alzheimer's Association estimates that in 2008, 9.9 million caregivers--from children and other family members to friends and neighbors--provided 8.5 billion hours of unpaid care, which amounts to some $94 billion in value. On top of that, these caregivers pay an average of $219 per month out of their own pockets, according to the 2004 report by the Alzheimer's Association and the National Alliance for Caregiving.

    10) The states will feel an increasing burden. The annual report estimates that by 2025, the western states of Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and Alaska will experience an 81 percent to 127 percent growth in the number of residents with Alzheimer's Disease, as compared to year 2000. Also by 2025, California and Florida, where more than 500,000 residents will have the disease, will lead the nation in volume.

    You can also learn more about the costs of senior care and ways to pay on Caregiverlist's home page.

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    Early Warning Signs for Alzheimer's Disease

    Senior caregivers know the difficulties of caring for someone with memory loss.  But sometimes when you see someone daily, you do not as easily notice some of the early warning signs for memory loss in the form of Alzheimer's Disease.  The Alzheimer's Association has been promoting their new "Know the 10 Signs" for early detection and early diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease.

     These 10 signs include:

     

    1) Memory changes that disrupt daily life

     

    2) Challenges in planning or solving problems

     

    3) Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure

     

    4) Confusion with time or place

     

    5) Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships

     

    6) New problems with words in speaking or writing

     

    7) Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps

     

    8) Decreased or poor judgment

     

    9) Withdrawal from work or social activities

     

    10) Changes in mood and personality


    As soon as you notice signs of memory loss, it is a good time to make sure the senior has an estate plan in place and to understand the ways to pay for senior care as many years of caregiving are often necessary for those living with memory loss.


     

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    Nursing Home Wrestling Incident: the Challenges of Memory Loss

    Families who have needed to find care services for a senior suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia know the challenges of finding the right nursing community.  Many nursing facilities do not accept patients who have Alzheimer's Disease or dementia because they do not have proper facilities or staff to provide for adequate care.

    The Minnesota incident of a former wrestler who mistakenly wrestled another resident, with injuries resulting in the eventual death of the resident, have brought to the table a new discussion about how best to provide for care for those seniors with memory loss.  There are no easy answers.  Fortunately, the wife of the resident who died also does not feel Minnesota wrestling legend Verne Gagne understood what he was doing.

    Ask Caregivers who assist seniors with memory loss about the behaviors a senior with memory loss will act out and you will understand that it is not at all uncommon for someone to go back to performing a task they did many years ago.  And often it will especially be something that they performed over and over again in their earlier years.  And when these tasks are done in the wrong environment or with others, many accidents can happen.

    When I owned a Senior Home Care Agency, one client with memory loss had the habit of going to his basement to work on his water heater because he had previously been an electrician.  Another client who was a bank teller was drawn to sorting papers constantly throughout the day and another client got up and dressed for work to go to the office every day - even though they never went anywhere. 

    The Minnesota situation is very sad. Although at the same time, it is understandable that Mr. Gagne would go back to his wrestling days - he was very active in the industry and even helped launch the careers of pro wrestling legends Hulk Hogan and Jesse Ventura.  What do you think the best care options are for those with memory loss?

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    January Unemployment at 7.6% but not for Caregivers

    Although the unemployment rate for January has been reported as 7.6%, the good news is that jobs actually increased in the healthcare industry. 

    Medicare does not provide for longterm care in a nursing home and because of this, more and more seniors are making the decision to receive one-to-one care by their own professionally managed caregiver at home, rather than rehabilitating from a stroke or hip replacement in a nursing center which may often only provide one nursing aide for every 12 to 15 senior patients.  This prevents the aid from being able to adequately interact and motivate each elderly patient adequately, especially if one patient has a mishap which requires more time. 

    In fact, staffing is sometimes inadequate enough in many nursing homes that even those seniors who are rehabilitating in the nursing center while Medicare is paying for their care will hire their own private senior caregiver to assist them. 

    Working as a senior caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide or Home Health Aide will pay between $8.00 and $16.00 per hour, depending on what part of the U.S.A. you live in.  In addition, you receive professional training and benefits.  Companion care may not require formal training beyond what a senior care company provides and usually pays 50% to 100% more than minimum wage.

    In addition, senior caregiving delivers a fulfilling career, as you know you truly made a positive difference for someone when you go home at the end of the day.  As caregiving sometimes require 24-hour around the clock staffing, there are many opportunities for weekend and evening hours for those who are seeking extra income or a part-time job while studying for a professional career.  Many times nurses and social workers will work as companion caregivers while in school studying for their prerequisites for nursing school or while an undergrad.

    Caregiverlist's Career Center provides information about working as a caregiver and connects applicants with hiring senior care companies in their area. You can also read stories from other caregivers to learn about their experiences working as a senior caregiver.

     

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    How Alzheimer's Disease Changes Behavior

    Everyone forgets something now and then.  How many of us have left the house to go someplace and then remember we forgot to bring something along or wondered if we unplugged the iron or what time a meeting we scheduled weeks ago is suppose to start?  Sometimes we simply have too much information going in and out of our head to properly process it or we don't take the time to really listen and file it away while multi-tasking - regardless of whether we are a senior or not which is why we all have the so called "senior moment".

    I am often asked how memory loss for those with Alzheimer's Disease is different than other types of memory loss.  One of the most common answers to this is that Alzheimer's Disease impacts a senior's decision-making ability ongoing and includes confusion of "person, place or thing".  Instead of just forgetting what time a meeting is scheduled for, they might also forget where the meeting is to be held and who is attending or they might confuse their sister for their mother.  Confusion comes into the picture along with the memory loss.

    PBS has provided informative programming on Alzheimer's Disease and their website provides a chart showing what part of the brain impacts the various behaviors experienced by those with Alzheimer's disease and makes it a little easier to understand how this disease differs from other types of memory loss.  

    Many times a senior may not have their memory loss properly diagnosed.  Because there are a few drugs which can slow the progression of memory loss and services available to help both a senior and their family members with the emotional aspect of dealing with memory loss, definitely make sure you visit a geriatric doctor who can provide a proper diagnosis.  Caregivers can provide better care if they are informed on the type of memory loss the senior has been diagnosed with as there are many tools available for exercising the mind and slowing the progression of memory loss.  It has also been shown that meditation - simply emptying the mind - can be very beneficial for those with memory loss, as well as relaxing.

     

     

     

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    The Aging of Benjamin Button

    The Oscar nominations for this year are out and the movie "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" has socred nominations in several categories, including best picture.

    The movie, adapted from the 1920's story by F. Scott Fitzgerald, follows a man who is born in his 80's and ages backwards.  By turning the wisdom of aging around, the movie offers much food for thought for those of us of all ages, including seniors.

    Anyone who is a caregiver will definitely appreciate this story, and appreciate the acting (and of course, Brad Pitt is still easy on the eyes).  Check it out.

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