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:

Temperature
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.

Caregiver Guide to Identifying Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Drug and alcohol abuse impacts people of all ages and can become a hidden danger in the elderly population. Many aspects of aging are difficult as you begin to lose some of your capabilities and your life-long friends are passing away. One martini or one glass of wine to help relax at the end of the day can easily lead to another and another until an addiction develops. It is important for seniors to develop a healthy way to deal with the natural stresses that come with growing older.

Senior caregivers are often the only person a senior needing care will see every day and can learn how to identify if a senior has a drug or alcohol abuse problem.

People often mistakenly think that seniors have passed the danger zone for addiction simply by growing older. However, the Baby Boomer generation may be even more at risk as they age. Remember that some Americans who are Boomers grew up in the highly experimental drug culture of the 60's.

Signs and Symptoms of Elderly Addiction

One of the reasons why elderly addiction goes unnoticed is because the symptoms are easily mistaken for other symptoms associated with aging. For example, someone with the following symptoms may have a problem with addiction:

  • Confusion

  • Memory loss

  • Lack of balance

  • Slurred speech

  • Social isolation

  • Depression

Each one of these symptoms could be associated with a condition related to aging or with aging in general and this is where the challenge presents itself for caregivers. Caregiver training allows a senior caregiver to identify addiction issues in order to begin the intervention process.

Fortunately, there are other ways to spot drug and alcohol addiction in the aging population.

How to Spot Addiction in Senior Adults

Although many of the symptoms could be confused or explained away, caregivers should have cause for concern if the person in their care exhibits multiple symptoms.

If you notice any of the following signs in addition to any symptoms above, you may be dealing with a substance abuse problem.

  • Hiding pills or alcohol – Anyone who is addicted is likely to hide the problem, so look for signs that the person in your care is hiding something. Look for empty bottles hidden in their room or buried in the trash.

  • Erratic behavior – As a caregiver, you’re already going to be looking for signs that the person in your care is in good health. This makes it likely that you’ll be the one to spot addiction before anyone else. Although your patient or loved one may take multiple medications, look for signs that they are intoxicated. This may manifest as a change in their behavior, such as detachment, increased energy, exceptional moodiness or even giddiness.

  • Sudden onset of isolation or depression – If you’ve been caring for the same person for a while, you probably have a very clear knowledge of their daily routine. If their routine suddenly begins to change or you discover they are isolating themselves for no apparent reason, this could indicate a problem with addiction.

If the person in your care has access to alcohol or addictive prescriptions, it’s very important to watch out for signs of addiction. Alcohol and prescription drug medication addictions are increasing in the elderly population, and it can pose an extreme danger to their health and to others. As we get older, our bodies don't metabolize things as well as they once did. This can cause an elderly person to become intoxicated sooner than they may anticipate. If possible, talk to your patient or loved one about the dangers of addiction, especially at this point in their lives.


How to Become a Caregiver for Senior Care with State Approved Caregiver Training

Senior caregiver training requirements vary by state, based on state law requirements for licensed senior home care agencies and private duty senior care (caregivers hired and paid privately - this is still an old-school term used in the industry: "private duty").

Why do states regulate senior care? Because most senior care fraud starts in the home by a loved one or caregiver. Senior care can take an emotional toll on the caregiver and sometimes this can lead even good caregivers to take a wrong turn to justify financial, emotional or physical elder abuse.

In addition, many of our modern employment laws, such as payroll taxes which an employer takes out of each check for the employee and also contributes additional money for each payroll, provide for Social Security benefits, Worker's Compensation benefits and insurance protections and healthcare benefits.

States are passing legislation to protect both the caregiver and the senior. 

Caregiverlist provides a training portal to allow senior care companies to easily train all of their caregivers and track the training renewals while giving the caregivers a competency exam to test retention of the training skills.

Family caregivers and hire-direct caregivers can also take online caregiver training to learn basic caregiving skills to make sure they are maintaining safety and staying current with elder-abuse laws, privacy laws and the latest Alzhiemer's disease care and approved medications and other age-related disease care. Caregivers may view training required in their state and join the Professional Association of Caregivers to receive a t-shirt and lapel pin along with their online training course.




Receive Online Caregiver Training + T-shirt and Lapel Pin

Michigan Nursing Home Costs and Star Ratings Updated

Michigan, the “Wolverine State”, has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world along Lake Michigan. Michigan ranks 15th most expensive in Caregiverlist®’s national nursing home cost database, with an average room rate of $229 per day for a shared room, or about $83,500 annually.

According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the state’s population in 2015 was 9,922,576. Of that, 1,570,671 or 15.83% of the entire population of Michigan was 65 years or older. AARP reports that most nursing home residents are elderly: 88% of nursing home residents are 65 or older, and 45% are 85 or older. Most seniors find themselves in nursing homes after a hospital stay, mainly for rehabilitation services. However, some seniors will find that a longer nursing home stay is needed and, once Medicare’s initial 100 paid days are complete, that nursing home care will have to be private pay.

Michigan senior care planning includes understanding costs of nursing homes in the chosen area, along with their overall ratings. Most people don’t know how much nursing home care costs and few people think of the cost of care until it’s too late to plan.

Long-term senior care costs are among our readers’ top concerns. Because of that, Caregiverlist® constantly updates our nursing home cost database and have released the latest costs and ratings for Michigan nursing homes.

Below is a snapshot of Michigan nursing home costs and ratings. You can also see Caregiverlist’s® at-a-glance Infographic for Michigan Nursing Home Costs for January 2017 here.

Total Number of Nursing Homes: 455
Average Single Price: $256
Average Double Price: $229
Average Rating: 3.0 (out of 5)

Star Rating Snapshot:
5-Star: 36
4-Star: 186
3-Star: 189
2-Star: 20
1-Star: 24

The Michigan nursing home with the highest Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Rating is Eaton County Health And Rehabilitation Services in Charlotte, MI with a perfect 5 stars (out of 5) across all five categories. This facility has 142 rooms and its single-room cost, $225, is around 12% lower than the average price of a single nursing home room in Michigan. A shared room at the facility costs $220 per day, or 4.27% lower than the average double price of $229 in the state.

In-home caregiving is an alternative to institutional care If around-the-clock care is not needed. Deborah Moerland, FirstLight Home Care owner in Okemos, MI says, “Being at home is a much more comfortable place for most people. They are familiar with their surroundings and they have a much higher morale when staying in their own home. It is also much more affordable than other options. Home care also allows people to remain independent and maintain a higher quality of life.”

Caregiverlist® can provide a care plan to find senior home care agency options in Michigan and help you learn about the costs for senior care. Seniors and their family caregivers can research nursing home costs and ratings in any state nationwide through the Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Directory, the only resource with this trademarked information.

Michigan Nursing Home Cost Infographic for January 2017

Caregiverlist® has released the updated daily costs of nursing homes in Michigan for January 2017. The 455 nursing homes have an average cost of $229 per day for a semi-private room and have an average Caregiverlist® Star Rating of 3 out of 5 stars. Michigan's nursing home rates are the highest in the area. Wisconsin comes in second with $212, and Indiana has the least costliest nursing home rates in the area, with $164 per day for a semi-private room.

Illinois Nursing Home Costs and Star Ratings Updated

Illinois is known as the Prairie State, Land of Lincoln and home to Chicago, the Windy City (also home to Caregiverlist® headquarters.) If you are a senior, you can expect to pay an average of $5,050 per month for a share room in an Illinois nursing home, while the average monthly private room cost is $6,326. Illinois is the 15th least expensive state in Caregiverlist’s® national nursing home cost database, with a shared room rate of $166 per day and has an average star rating of 2.6 out of 5.

Senior care planning includes understanding costs of nursing homes, along with their overall ratings. Caregiverlist® updates our nursing home cost database so seniors and their families can get an idea of long-term care costs in their area.

Below is a snapshot of Illinois nursing home costs and ratings: December, 2016

Caregiverlist® Illinois Nursing Home Rating and Cost Index
Total Number of Nursing Homes: 823
Average Cost of Private Room for Illinois: $208
Average Cost of Shared Room for Illinois: $166
Average Star-Rating: 2.6

Illinois Nursing Home Star-Rating Results
5-Star: 29
4-Star: 202
3-Star: 378
2-Star: 146
1-Star: 68

You can also see how Illinois rates compare to neighboring states in our Illinois Nursing Home Cost Infographic for December 2016.

Which is the highest rated nursing home in Illinois? The Illinois nursing home with the highest Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Rating for which we have a daily cost is Tabor Hills Health Care in Naperville, Illinois. While its shared room daily price of $258 is higher than the average price of $166 for a semi-private nursing home room in Illinois, it’s 4.8 star rating is significantly higher than the state average of 2.6.

Most people don’t know how much nursing home care costs and few people think of the cost of care until it’s too late to plan. Caregiverlist® can provide a care plan to find senior care options in Illinois and help you learn about the costs for senior care.

Seniors and their family caregivers can research nursing home costs and ratings in any state nationwide through the Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Directory, the only resource with this trademarked information. I

Illinois Nursing Home Cost Infographic for December 2016

Caregiverlist® has released the updated daily costs of nursing homes in Illinois for December 2016. The 823 nursing homes have an average cost of $166 per day for a semi-private room and have an average Caregiverlist® Star Rating of 2.6 out of 5 stars. Illinois' neighboring state of Wisconsin is the most expensive in the area, with an average daily nursing home cost of $212, while Missouri's nursing homes have the least expensive nursing homes in the area at $126 per day for a shared room.

Who are Senior Caregivers? Statistics on Caregiving

Caregivers dedicate their time, energy, strength and patience to provide care as paid professional caregivers and as family caregivers.

But what exactly do the demands of the caregiving job entail for the caregiver? To what extent are these tasks affecting their lives? In hopes of spreading awareness on the challenges and struggles that caregivers face, ALTCP.org shares 18 enlightening facts about caregivers.

Caregivers may obtain online training to assist them to deliver safe care and to learn how to manage the emotional aspects of caregiving. As more senior caregivers are needed, for both part-time and full-time caregiving positions, anyone interested in working as a professional caregiver may submit a pre-qualification job application to be considered for positions near them.


Washington DC Nursing Home Costs and Star Ratings Updated

Washington, D.C.— our nation’s capital — is a small area. And as such, it is home to the fewest nursing homes in the nation, 18 (tied with Alaska.) The Census Bureau estimates that in 2015,11.5% of the 672,000 D.C. population was over 65. Nursing home space in D.C. is at a premium, a fact that seniors should keep in mind when looking at long-term skilled nursing care.

Washington D.C. seniors and their families should be aware of the cost of nursing homes in their area. Washington, D.C. has the 4th costliest nursing homes in the nation, behind Alaska, New York, and Connecticut. The average daily price of a double room is $317, or $9,642 per month. However, you’ll find many quality nursing homes in Washington, D.C.. Over half of the area’s 18 nursing homes are rated 4 stars or better (out of 5 stars.)

Here’s a snapshot of the Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Index for Washington, D.C. for November 2016

Total Number of Nursing Homes: 18

Average Single Price: $340
Average Double Price: $317
Average Rating: 3.3

Star Rating Snapshot:
5-Star: 1
4-Star: 12
3-Star: 4
2-Star: 1
1-Star: 0

You can also see Washington, D.C. nursing home costs at-a-glance with our Washington, D.C. Nursing Home Cost infographic.

Which is the Washington, D.C. nursing home with the highest overall star rating? The Washington, D.C. nursing home with the highest Caregiverlist® rating is Knollwood Military Retirement Residence, a Continuing Care Community. What began as a cost-effective retirement community for widows of Army officers, it expanded its eligibility to other female relatives of retired Army officers, not solely wives. According to its website, in 1989, eligibility for residency was extended to couples, retired male and female officers of all branches of the uniformed services and eventually the male family members of retired officers.

Senior care costs, especially those incurred by long-term nursing home stay, is something most people don’t think about until it’s too late, usually after the Medicare-paid first 100 days of post-hospital rehabilitation. A good place for families to begin anticipating future costs is by talking to a professional and coming up with a financial action plan. Caregiverlist® can provide a care plan to find senior home care agency options in Washington, D.C. and help you learn about the costs for senior care. Seniors and their family caregivers can also research nursing home costs and ratings in any state nationwide through the Caregiverlist® Nursing Home Directory, the only resource with this trademarked information.

Washington, D.C. Nursing Home Cost Infographic for November 2016

Caregiverlist has released the updated daily costs of nursing homes in Washington, D.C. for November 2016. The 18 nursing homes in the District of Columbia have an average cost of $317 per day for a semi-private room and have an average Caregiverlist Star Rating of 3.3 out of 5 stars. Washington, D.C.'s nursing homes are the 4th costliest in the nation, just ahead of Hawaii. D.C.'s  neighboring state nursing homes are less expensive, with Maryland's average daily cost $255 and Virginia's cost $192 per day for a shared room.


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