Caregiver Empathy, Try the Mitten Test

Understanding how a senior's senses change as they age can help caregivers to relate better to when they may need to step in with a helping hand.

Guest Blog post by Charlotte Bishop of Creative Case Management.

The trees are budding and blooming, the bulbs have forced their way to the surface in beautiful blossoms and the birds are twittering and nesting.  Time to put away your winter coats, wool scarves and mittens, right? Well, partly right. Your winter mittens have another useful purpose that can help you make home an easier place for your older loved ones.

As our bodies age, certain of our nerve pathways begin to fail, and the human anatomy uncannily reroutes many of the circuits as they stop firing. But with age, more and more of those pathways may slow or fail for a variety of reasons, and it just makes it harder for older adults to do the simple manual tasks they used to do without even a thought. Turning a door knob, turning on a lamp or taking the lid off a jar become challenging, maybe even impossible. It is hard for those of you who may be in the prime of your lives to really get this, no matter how empathetic, so I recommend an easy exercise to help you experience what this erosion of manual dexterity and fine motor skills feels like. In doing so, you can also help identify challenging hardware or activities that can be more easily managed with a bit of creative help.
Caregivers for seniors can take a pair of mittens, walk through each of the rooms in your elder loved one's home and go through the normal activities of the person who lives in those rooms. As you enter a room, it is may be more challenging to flip a light switch or twist the switch on a lamp with your hands in mittens. These can be remedied by retrofitting wall switches with the larger rectangular switches that one merely presses on and off. Likewise, the lamp twist switches that are challenging with mittens can be replaced with wider winged grips. And even before you enter a room, the door knob may be your undoing if the knob is too small or too slippery. Handles may be an appropriate replacement.

You would find that mittens are effective barriers to everything from opening the ketchup bottle to a twisting the lid on a jar of apple sauce or beverage bottle and more. Some of the web sites and stores with helpful assistive devices can be found in the blog Safer Senior Living-The Kitchen. And if a key itself is hard for an older loved one to grip when opening a door, hardware stores have over-sized sheaths to make gripping easier.

With your mittens still on, try tying your shoe laces or buttoning a shirt or blouse. It may be time to get creative with Velcro-equipped shoes or other substitute hardware for buttons. And go through the motions of other self-grooming activities to determine what challenges are manageable and which are just out of reach. The number of what are called "assistive devices" will amaze you as you look to television remote controls, computer access and more. Check out the Department of Health and Human Services Assistive Technology site.

Charlotte Bishop is a Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Case Management.

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Dan Wheldon Wins Indy 500 for Alzheimer's Assn.

Dan Wheldon wins the Indianapolis 500 today, advocating for those with Alzheimer's Disease as his Mother has the disease.  He was not in the lead until the very end of the race when the lead car ran into a wall after taking a turn wide.

Dan's win brings nice publicity to the goals of the Alzheimer's Association to educate and support those with this form of memory loss.

Understanding the types of memory loss and the ways to provide for care are important steps to take when caring for someone with Alzheimer's Disease, which touches everyone from former presidents to race car drivers.

Caregiving Jobs Available Part-time and Full-time

Senior caregivers continue to be in demand as seniors choose to age-in-place in their own home.  Caring individuals may work as companion caregivers and receive training from their employer while other positions require experienced caregivers or Certified Nursing Aides.

Learn about the job description for senior caregivers, training and apply for a caregiving position in your area, either part-time or full-time.  As seniors are often discharged from the hospital or nursing home (Medicare only pays for up to 100 days in a nursing home and then seniors must privately pay), still requiring assistance with daily activities of living, senior home care agencies provide this care.  More than 1,000 senior home care agencies have opened their doors in the last few years to keep up with the demand. They hire new caregivers weekly.




Drug Company CEO's Say: Yes, We Raised Prices Just to Make More Money

Seniors struggle with paying for their prescription medications, with many seniors having monthly drug bills of $500 or more.  High blood pressure, heart conditions and even memory loss can be treated with medications.  The drug companies lobbied heavily for Medicare insurance drug coverage benefits to meet their profitability needs.

Now, pharmaceutical company CEO's share that they have raised prices "just for to make more profits".  The entertaining part of these comments at a recent industry conference is that drug companies argued they needed to raise prices to cover the excise tax they agreed to pay in order to pass President Obama's healthcare reform but they failed to mention the substantial increase in sales due to everyone having health insurance.

David Brennan, CEO of AstraZeneca, said that there is no good transparency on pricing in the United States market, one of the few countries where companeis can freely raise prices.

One of the benefits of national healthcare programs is that these countries will negotiate the drug prices.  Federal law in the U.S. prevents the government from negotiating with drug companies over theprice of drugs.  If a drug is approved by the FDA, medicare and Medicaid, the taxpayer, has to pay for it.  A simple reform law could allow Medicare and Medicaid to bargain with drug suppliers the same way insurance companies do — and would save billions in national healthcare costs, while forcing drug cmopanies to start competing with each other on prices as well as safety.

Drug company Shire (SHPGY) CEO Angus Russell said:  “Prices were just shoved up every year to make more money and meet earnings, to be blunt."  He was referring to mass market drugs used to treat common conditions like high blood pressure.

Glaxo SmithKline (GSK) CEO Andrew Witty said that everyone else was raising prices but they did not and thinks that ultimately prices will come back down.

The costs of medical care is the reason for 60% of bankrupticies in the USA and when seniors run out of money to pay for care, their long-term nursing care is paid for by Medicaid.

Dr. Oz Talks to Chicago About Healthy Living

Dr. Oz, who know has his own television show, after being introduced to the world on Oprah's show, visited with Chicago residents on Thursday to discuss healthy living and health care.  He also shared some of his ideas for changes to our approach to health care which would make maintaining good health easier.

Caregivers have the challenge of monitoring the health of the seniors they care for and seniors and their family members have the challenge of tracking their medications and health conditions among all their doctors. 

Dr. Oz advocates genetic testing to help understand the diseases we all would be most likely at risk for, while also being mindful that our parent's generation did not perhaps eat the same diet we eat today and may not have maintained a daily exercise program.  We know the healthy foods to eat today and we know that 30 minutes of daily exercise delivers many health benefits.  If you practice healthy eating and daily exercise, you can at least know what additional areas you should monitor based on your genetics.  For instance, Dr. Oz discovered he actuallyhas low risk for prostate cancer but is at a high risk for macular degeneration.  There are additional vitamins he can take to help with keeping macular degeneration from developing and he can be sure to have regular eye exams to catch the disease early, should it develop.

Dr. Oz also discussed the sharing of health records and indicated that many doctors do not want the health records emailed to a patient because they receive so many phone calls from the patients asking for explanations of the recorrds.  If they are in a format that is difficult to translate for the non-doctor, then they invite concern.  Dr. Oz's practice delivers health records with detailed information to make it easy for patients to understand the information.  His hospital created a health vault to make it easy for patients to access their records.

Dr. Oz also discussed frivolous medical lawsuits which have driven up the costs of health care.  He discovered his hospital had paid more than $25 million in premiums for insurance protection from lawsuits and there had only be $3 million in claims.  The rest of the suits were settled to avoid the costs of litigation.  Dr. Oz suggests having a court where everyone can see the claims and a judge can settle them, to deter the large amount of frivilous suits.  Everyone makes mistakes in any industry and it is simple enough for a doctor to make good on a mistake but being sued for items that make no sense should be ended.

Dr. Oz's website provides tools for healthy diets and exercising to help you enjoy life at all ages to assist you to plan for a healthy retirement.




Caregiver Pay Survey: How Much Should Senior Caregivers be Paid?

Senior caregivers who excel at their work bring compassion and caring to their job duties.  Quality caregiving requires emotional intelligence along with knowledge of how to interact with seniors who are dealing with a variety of health issues.  Learning how to safely transfer someone with mobility issues and provide for personal care and monitoring meals and medications keeps a caregiver busy throughout their day.

Some caregivers have advanced training to work with seniors with memory loss, provide hospice care or rehabilitation after a stroke or hip replacement.

The big question is:  how much should senior caregivers be paid?  Senior care companeis provide for payroll taxes to allow a caregiver to collect Social Security benefits when they retire and provide for unemployment insurance and worker's compensation insurance, as required by law. This guarantees a caregiver they can collect unemployment benefits and receive compensation if they are injured on the job.  Some positions provide for additional benefits.

Share your opinion on senior caregiver pay to help educate the industry and seniors and their families:

Take the Caregiverlist Caregiver Pay Survey

We will share the results on Caregiverlist.


Caregiver Job Resumes

Caregiver resumes are not always required for senior care positions.  But by creating a resume, you will be able to show your professionalism and highlight your skills and experiences.  This will assist hiring companies to verify your skills and reasons for wanting to pursue a career in caregiving.

Caregiver turnover can be as high as 50% or more at senior care companies.  Some of this turnover cannot be prevented as senior clients may pass away or get better and many professional caregivers choose to take time off when this happens.  In addition, care needs can change quickly, causing changes in schedules and a caregiver may not be able to accommodate this.  Some positions are temporary for short-term respite care needs to relieve a family member.

However, professional caregivers who are dependable and compassionate can always find another caregiving position as also many new senior care job openings occur daily as seniors may have a new medical condition which requires care after they are discharged from a hospital or nursing home stay, such as a hip replacement, stroke or memory loss.

Senior caregivers should expect to change positions because of these specific industry nuances.  Learn how to create a quality resume and update it as you develop more skills.

You may use a free resume builder on Caregiverlist and apply for a senior care position in your area.



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