Preventing Elder Abuse

Several cases of alleged senior abuse have crept up across the nation during the past month. On March 30, 2009, a 31-year-old former nursing home employee in Oklahoma was accused of abusing his senior patients and videotaping it, according to a Fox 23 news report.

Experts say many of these crimes against the elderly in long-term residential care are never reported to law enforcement or to the state and say it’s imperative for us to always be vigilant if we have a loved one in long-term care,” reported Kaci Christian of FOX 23.  The article describes the shock a family felt when they discovered their 60-year-old female relative, who was living in a nursing home and suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, “badly beaten, with her face swollen and discolored."

There are many ways to reduce the risk of senior abuse. First, consider home-care options that allow more control over the caregivers who are in contact with your loved one.

The process of selecting home care can be overwhelming, with more than 5,000 senior home care agencies nationwide.

The Caregiverlist Checklist for standards of quality care for senior home care agencies is a resource that outlines requirements for safety and consistency in care, making it easier for families to make an educated decision. Regardless of what long-term care option is best suited for your loved one, it helps to be aware of some less obvious warning signs of abuse. The following warning signs are part of an extensive list compiled by the The National Center on Elder Abuse:

  • Broken eyeglasses
  • Physical signs of being subjected to punishment or signs of being restrained
  • Senior’s sudden change in behavior
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow visitors to see an elder alone
  • Senior acting extremely withdrawn and non-communicative
  • Senior displaying unusual behavior usually attributed to dementia, such as sucking, biting, rocking

If you suspect senior abuse, call the NCEA hotline at 1-800-677-1116. The NCEA web site offers a host of additional information on identifying elder abuse.

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Senior Care Jobs

Even with the slowing economy and the highest rate of unemployment in decades, there remains a strong demand for senior caregivers to meet the staffing needs of senior care companies.  Caregiverlist's Career Center connects caregiving job applicants to hiring companies in their area for both part-time and full-time senior care jobs.

Senior Home Care Agencies are constantly hiring caregivers due to some of the unique aspects of the industry: 

-Hospital stays are shorter:  a senior may be discharged while still needing some assistance while recovering from a hip replacement or other types of surgery or from an illness (and I won't even mention the fact that sometimes seniors take home a new infection from the hospital which requires a caregiver to assist them while recovering).

-Medicare will pay for rehabilitation in the home now:  Physical Therapists, Occupational Therapists, Speech Therapists and RN's will provide care in the home for a senior as long as the medical doctor gives approval.  However, these skilled professionals just provide rehabilitation care within their specialties and do not provide daily care for Activities of Daily Living which means non-medical caregivers must be hired to assist (and this is usually superior to staying in a nursing facility which does not provide one-on-care by a Certified Nursing Aide).

-Hospice care:  many times seniors who have a terminal illness will choose to have hospice care in the home and will require a caregiver to assist with their personal care.

-Memory loss:  with advancements in medical technology and treatments, seniors are living longer and the longer we live, the more our chances of having some type of memory loss increase.  Many times part-time care is required to keep everything on track for a senior suffering from Alzheimer's Disease or another form of dementia.

Senior care jobs include working as a non-medical companion caregiver or Certified Nursing Aide or as a scheduler or recruiter for a Senior Home Care Agency to keep things moving as new clients begin services and as current client's care needs change.  Most Senior Home Care Agencies provide training and there are also many community programs and associations that provide training seminars on senior care.  Caregiverlist's short job application connects your information with multiple hiring companies in your area to help meet the ongoing staffing needs for senior caregivers.

 Some positions will require experience and others will only require a caring disposition and dependability.  Reference and background checks are always required the pay is always well above minimum wage (you can also learn all about background check requirements in your state as well as minimum wage on Caregiverlist's "by state" pages)

 

 

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Certified Nursing Aide

One of the first questions a senior will ask when needing additional care services is:  what duties does a Certified Nursing Aide perform?

My answer is always that the Certified Nursing Aide is the person who performs the "hands-on" care in a nursing home or in hospitals.

The department of public health in each state creates their own nursing aide certification guidelines.   Schools must receive approval to offer a Certified Nursing Aide program and nursing aides working in licensed nursing facilities must be certified.

There are many little details for providing care which can make a huge difference in the quality of the care - nursing aides learn these details as a student in a nursing certification program.

Skills include:  transfers, bathing, dressing, bed pan and catheter care, range of motion exercises, checking vital signs, decubitus ulcer care (bed sores), feeding tube, oxygen tank, hearing aide care, understanding age-related medical conditions and how to interact with a variety of patient personalities (including combative patients).  Making sure sanitary conditions are always maintained are also taught.

Tuition for Certified Nursing Aide training is usually from $500 to $1,000 and many times reimbursement is available through employee programs at nursing centers and hospitals or through city or state incentive programs.

Harold Washington College, a city community college in Chicago, Illinois, charges a $629 tuition fee for their Certified Nursing Aide program.  The Spring semester runs from January 19th and runs for 12 or 13 weeks depending on if it is the day or evening program.  The day program meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 8am to 4pm and the evening program meets Thursdays and Fridays from 4pm to 9pm.

Upon completion of the course, students take the state exam and then may begin working as a Certified Nursing Aide.



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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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An Historic Inaugural - Especially for Our Seniors

Our first African-American president will take the oath of office tomorrow in front of an audience that will include many seniors who can remember segragation and their grandparent's stories about slavery.

One of my dearest friends is African American and another is Chinese American and I cannot even imagine not having the opportunity to interact with other cultures or being segragated from someone of another race.  But today is also Martin Luther King day to remind us that it has taken much work to create opportunities for those from all backgrounds in this country.

It is also a reminder to us of the different viewpoints a senior may have because of the era that they lived in.  One of the biggest challenges for senior caregivers is to try to connect with the senior in a way that understands the senior's viewpoints and needs.  Sometimes it is very difficult for a younger caregiver to understand that a senior is not comfortable with their style of dress or jewelry or language - but when we take the time to think that we all go with what we know based on our environment and then think about the environment someone was in 50 years ago, we can better understand where they are coming from.  And then we can try to connect to them with sensitivity towards their thinking.

One of the greatest assets President-elect Barack Obama brings to the White House, according to those who know him well, is his ability to listen and connect with people from all walks of life and from all viewpoints.  This is definitely a skill we all need when dealing with someone much older or much younger than we are - I am sure in addition to his many other skills, President-elect Obama would also be a stellar caregiver!

 

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Senior Volunteering

President-elect Barack Obama said Wednesday that he wants his inauguration to be about more than him; it should be about getting all Americans involved in community service.

Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden and their families plan to participate in service projects in the Washington area Jan. 19th and are encouraging every American to roll up their sleeves and become involved in their communities to renew the promise of America.

If you are a senior, this is a reminder to get involved in your community, especially if you are retired and now have the time to volunteer.  And if you are a Caregiver, this is an opportunity to take the skills you have learned to other seniors.  Seniors are usually the most grateful group to volunteer for as many of them may have experienced the loss of family and friends and are open to making new friends and welcoming volunteers.

From meal programs to senior services, you can find out about senior volunteer programs through your local Area Agency on Aging and you can find this information in Caregiverlist's "By State" listings.

And, if you are thinking about becoming a professional caregiver but do not have paid experience, look into volunteering with a local hospice which will usually provide you with training and assign you to one-on-one care with a senior.  This is great caregiving experience that will assist you in finding a caregiving job.

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Our new "First Grandma" Marian Robinson

As the Obama's prepare to move into the White House, we have learned that Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, will be joining them.  Mrs. Robinson, age 71, finally retired from her job at a bank, to help with granddaughters Sasha and Malia during the presidential campaign.

As Caregivers know, juggling the needs of careers and children, along with senior care, can be daunting.  And likewise, running for president while raising young children also brings unique demands.  Fortunately for the Obamas, Grandma was willing to help out.

Healthy aging requires not only taking care of physical health with proper diet and exercise, but also staying socially and mentally engaged.  Marian Robinson provides a very positive role model for healthy aging - she kept on working beyond the typical retirement age and by staying involved with her family she now has a new job as "First Grandma" in the White House.  She won't be staying in Chicago where she would have less of a chance to interact with her daughter and granddaughters.

One of the biggest challenges for seniors besides health care, is isolation.  As people move around the country to follow careers, many times parents are left without any children who live near them.  It is very important for seniors to stay involved in weekly activities where they interact with others, especially if no family lives close by.

My own Grandparents lived just up the road from us, on the family farm.  The bus stop was a half mile from our house (it really was, I am not exaggerating), and we were dropped off at the bus stop each morning since the bus arrived really early as we were the first stop.  However, after school we had to walk home.  It wasn't a big deal because we just stopped in at Grandma's house on the way, where she always had a snack for us and she and Grandpa were ready to ask us about our day and provide their commentary (and teasing) on all.  It served my brothers and sister and me and our Grandparents well to spend the time together.

I read that Michelle Obama took two buses and a train to get to her high-school each day, so her commute out did mine, and clearly her mother and father did a lot of things right.  It is very cool that she continues to involve her Mother in raising her own children.  It will be nice for our country to have a "First Grandma" to bring the spotlight to a senior in the White House.

 

 

 

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Acupuncture Beneficial for Many Age-related Illnesses

Acupuncture originated in China more than 5,000 years ago and continues to be a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  The acupuncture points provide gateways to influence, redirect, increase, or decrease the body’s vital substances, qi (energy) & blood, to help correct many of the body’s imbalances.

You are probably thinking "ouch" but actually, the needles used for acupuncture are very thin and delicate.  You will not even feel most of them go in if you have a good practitioner.  And once the needles are in, you still won't feel them except for feeliing maybe extra pressure in that area for a moment.  On one of my visits for acupuncture, I started to get up, thinking all the needles were out.  The ones I could see were gone but there was still one in my forehead, which I didn't realize was still there.  It is a very relaxing experience and not at all painful.

I saw a presentation on senior care in China recently and it was noted that most of their nursing homes offer acupuncture treatments for everything from stroke to memory loss to depression.  It is routinely provided as part of the senior's daily activities- grab breakfast and then show up for an acupuncture treatment.

Acupuncture is beginning to be covered by more health insurance plans in the U.S. and offered in integrative medicine programs at hospitals and clinics.  In addition, more acupuncture research studies are being done to provide us westerners with the proof we seem to need before giving something new a try.  And much of this research is studying the benefits of acupuncture for age-related illnesses.  If it benefits the elderly in other countries, it can benefit the elderly in our country.

One national study showed half of 78 stroke patients receiving standard rehabilitative care, who also received acupuncture treatment recovered faster and to a greater extent, spending 88 days in a hospital or nursing home compared to 161 days for those without acupuncture treatment.  And guess what?  This saves dollars for insurance companies which is another reason acupuncture research is taking place and the reason there is a movement to incorporate it into health insurance plans.

I have found acupuncture to work amazingly well and to be the most cost-effective treatment for ailments.  I fell on my elbow a couple years ago and several months later still had a bump on my elbow along with shooting pain, at times, when my elbow hit something just wrong.  One acupuncture treatment later and the bump disappeared, along with the pain.  All for just $35 at my local college of oriental medicine.

As a caregiver, you may want to find out what acupuncture offerings are available in your area and if there are discounted pricing for seniors - the clinic near me does offer senior discounts.

 

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Look Good to Feel Good

The American Cancer Society provides a health tip to patients with terminal illnesses - take the time each day for personal care because research shows when you look good, you feel better.  I think we all have probably always known this as everyone feels a little better when they are dressed up and ready to head out to a party.

Doctors usually urge seniors to stay active and engaged each day and this is a reminder to Caregivers to make sure to assist loved ones and clients to shower daily, dress in clean clothes, put on makeup and style their hair.

It is also essential for seniors to get some form of exercise each day, as long as thier doctor approves.  If able, a special treat of a massage, manicure and pedicure also does wonders to make a person feel better.

Caregivers can even arrange for these services to be performed in the home if a senior is unable to go out.  Call your local salon or massage spa and ask for referrals to massage therapists and cosmetologists who visit the home - many do.

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A Caregiver

The number of people aged 65 and older who have moved from one state to another in the last decade has increased by 65%, accrording to a national survey by one of the leading long-term care insurance providers.  Retirement brings many choices for living options, from relocating to a warmer climate to moving to be closer to family.  At the same time, with many advancements in medical care and the availability of more medications to treat age-related ailments, we are living better longer.

As the new year begins, it is a good time to talk about what type of living situation your senior family members would like if their care needs change.  Medical emergencies can always arise and it is added peace of mind to already have had the conversation with your loved ones about where they would like to receive care.  Do they wish to have care provided in the home and do they want to move to assisted living?  My mother's parents were more progressive and made the move to downsize and sell their home and move to be near my Aunt as they began to experience more health problems.  This was a welcome move as they lived hours away from the nearest family member.  Especially if you do not live in the same city as your senior relatives, you should discuss the plan for care and make sure everyone understands the senior's wishes.

My Grandma ended up being a caregiver to my Grandfather, who suffered from memory loss, for several years and she set the example for the rest of us to plan ahead, and, to be there in sickness and in health.

Happy New Year!

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