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HOME BASED CARE FOR VETERANS

Home and Community Based Services.    The Veterans Administration provides a variety of home based care for Veterans to help chronically ill or disabled Veterans of any age remain in their own homes.  The Home and Community Based programs range from Adult Day Health Care and Respite to Home-based Primary and Palliative Care; from Homemaker/Home Health Aides and Skilled Home Health to Hospice services. A Homemaker or Home Health Aide is a trained person who can come to a Veteran’s home and help the Veteran take care of him/herself and his/her daily activities. Homemaker/Home Health Aides work for an organization that has a contract with the VA.  Advocates In-Home Care is contracted with the Veterans Administration to provide Respite as well as Homemaker and Home Health Aid care. A Homemaker or Home Health Aide can be used as part of an alternative to nursing home care, and to get Respite Care at home for Veterans and their family caregiver.   Respite Care allows a primary caregiver to attend to his/her own needs without having to worry about the person in need of care.  Primary caregivers need to take care of themselves if they are going to be able to continue to provide good care for their loved one.   The Respite Care program recognizes that need and provides care coverage for time away – or time for a nap! Homemaker Home Health Aide services are part of a service within the VHA Standard Medical Benefits Package.  Home based care for veterans is available to all enrolled Veterans if they meet the clinical need for the service.  It will be necessary to be evaluated by a...

Beating the Winter Blues – 10 Tips

10 Tips for Beating the Winter Blues For those of us who live in northern climates, winter can be long and dreary.   To avoid feeling depressed, try some of the following ideas for beating the winter blues. Exercise! Yes, it’s often listed as a cure for whatever ails you.  And with good reason.  Along with many physical benefits, exercise can improve mood and mental health.  A brisk walk or some simple stretches may bring a boost to your outlook. Get outside as much as possible. Sure, it’s cold, but with proper outdoor gear, greeting the fresh air will improve sleep and mood.  Just a few minutes a day outside can help to alleviate “cabin fever”. Get some Vitamin D. It’s especially good to get outside when (if!!) the sun is shining to soak up some Vitamin D.  Low levels of Vitamin D have been linked to depression.  Taking a Vitamin D supplement during winter may help to improve mood.  If you can swing it, head south for a few days to a place where the sun is shining Light up your life! Our short, gloomy days deprive us of light, causing some people to develop seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  Even those who don’t have SAD may still feel down after a stretch of cloudy, gray days.  So, open your shades, turn on your lights, and consider buying a full-spectrum light.  Be sure to get a light box specifically made to combat SAD. Start a project. Clean a closet, sort & shred old papers, refinish a coffee table, or write down memories for your kids and grandkids.  Having something purposeful...

Keys for Aging Slowly

Aging Slowly Key One: The best thing you can do to slow down aging is to move every day. Yes, every day! The old use it or lose it mantra is absolutely on target. Our bodies are made for activity. Exercise does not need to be strenuous to be beneficial. Moderate activity such as walking and swimming have low likelihood of injury. This means your body is getting an anti-aging boost doing something you are more likely to turn into a healthy habit. Aerobic exercise can change your blood chemistry to make it more anti-inflammatory. This is good news for those with pain from arthritis. Regular exercise can actually reduce that pain. Strength training helps to keep the muscles and bones strong. As we age, muscle and bone loss accelerate with every decade unless we intervene. You don’t need to join a gym or purchase fancy equipment. Free weights, elastic bands and even your own body can be used to improve strength, stability and balance. Aging Slowly Key Two: The next most important key for aging slowly is to eat well. That means focus on vegetables and fruit for half of your daily intake. Whole grains and meat/fish/poultry each get a quarter of the plate. Avoid highly processed pre-packaged foods and make as many home-cooked meals as you can. Replace sugary drinks with water and a slice of fruit. Avoid solid fats and fast food places. Trade out white rice & bread for brown rice and whole grains. Stop eating before you feel “full”. Limit alcohol to 1-2 drinks per day. Lose the excess weight. Not only does carrying around...

ELDER ABUSE PROTECTION

Sadly, too many of our elders find themselves victims of some form of elder abuse. Whether the abuse is physical, emotional or financial, some elder abuse protection is possible with a few simple steps. Stay connected! Keep in touch regularly with others; isolation can make you vulnerable to abuse. Build a network of family, friends, neighbors, and groups to interact with. Creating a buddy system with other elders who call or visit each other daily will provide additional eyes and ears to keep you safe. Keep active, stay busy. Get involved with your senior center or other groups. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging office to identify programs and support, such as Meals on Wheels. These programs help elders to maintain health, well-being, and independence — a good defense against abuse. Be cautious! Some scams target seniors and will take advantage of them. To protect yourself, learn about the types of elder abuse and neglect and their warning signs (see our previous blog or go to the National Center on Elder Abuse website to learn more. Get on the National Do Not Call Registry to reduce telemarketing calls. Visit www.donotcall.gov or call 888-382-1222 to register your phone number. A prize, loan or investment that sounds too good to be true, probably is too good to be true. Ask someone you trust before making a large purchase or investment. Don’t be pressured into making immediate decisions. Don’t sign anything you don’t completely understand without first consulting an attorney or trusted family member. Do not provide personal information such as a social security or credit card number over the phone...

ELDER ABUSE

ELDER ABUSE – A SERIOUS PROBLEM Each year as many as one in ten older persons are abused, neglected, and/or exploited. Many victims are people who are frail, vulnerable and depend on others to meet their basic needs. Abusers of older adults may be family members, staff at nursing homes or assisted living facilities, and even strangers.  The National Center on Elder Abuse estimates that 90% of elder abuse cases involve family members. Elder abuse can occur anywhere. It affects seniors across all income levels, cultures, and races. Women and “older” elders are more likely to be victimized. Dementia is a significant risk factor, as is isolation. In general, elder abuse refers to intentional or neglectful acts by a caregiver or other trusted individual that lead to harm of a vulnerable elder. This can include physical abuse, emotional or psychological abuse, sexual abuse, financial exploitation, neglect, and abandonment. • Physical abuse means inflicting physical pain or injury upon an older adult. • Sexual abuse means touching, fondling, intercourse, or any other sexual activity with an older adult, when the older adult is unable to understand, unwilling to consent, threatened, or physically forced. • Emotional abuse means verbal assaults, threats of abuse, harassment, humiliation or intimidation. • Neglect is a failure by those responsible to provide an older adult with life’s necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, medical care or basic protection. • Financial exploitation means the misuse, concealment or withholding of an older adult’s assets for someone else’s benefit. • Abandonment is desertion of a vulnerable elder by anyone who has assumed the responsibility for care or custody of...

SAFE LIFTING FOR CAREGIVERS

It’s important to use good technique to perform safe lifting and avoid injury. According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration, lower back injuries are the most common work-related injury. Many caregivers acquire a back injury when trying to lift or move a client.   Safe lifting helps to protect the back while keeping the client and caregiver free of injury. There are important lifting techniques that take strain off the lower back. Safe Lifting Basics • Look over the situation carefully. Decide if you are able to handle the lift or transfer on your own, or if you need assistance. Trying to move someone who is too heavy for you to handle can result in injury to both parties. • Tell the client what you plan to do and how he/she may assist you. • Clear away any potential obstacles that may be in your path. • Moving, or supporting someone will change your balance. Keep the client close to your body and your normal center of gravity. Reaching out too far puts greater strain on the back and may cause you to tip over. • Use good foot position. Your feet should be shoulder width apart, with one foot slightly in front of the other. This allows full use of the powerful leg muscles, taking strain off the back. Make sure one foot is pointed in the direction of the move. • Bend your knees. Bending over at the waist puts strain on the back, neck & shoulder muscles. • Keep your arms and elbows as close to your body as possible while lifting. • Use your...

STROKE PREVENTION

The incidence of stroke increases with age, but up to 80% of strokes are preventable! While about one-third of stroke victims recover completely, the rest may have to deal with some long-term disability. There is no cure for stroke, but there are steps you can take to help prevent having one, or at least minimize the damage. A stroke occurs when there is a blockage in or a rupture of a blood vessel that cuts off blood flow to the brain. Stroke can happen to anyone, at any age, and at any time. What happens after a stroke depends on how much of the brain was damaged and where in the brain the stroke occurred.   Strokes can be treated with clot-busting drugs and medical devices, but seconds count! The faster the treatment, the more likely one is to recover without permanent damage. Learn the signs of stroke to help you act FAST. The signs are Face drooping, Arm weakness, & Speech difficulty. If these signs are present, it’s Time to call 911! While some risk factors for stroke are beyond your control (age, race & heredity), there are things you can do to reduce your risk. At the top of the list are maintaining a healthy weight, keeping alcohol use moderate and not smoking.   Being overweight can cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of diabetes. Both high blood pressure and diabetes are risk factors for stroke.   If you enjoy having a drink in the evening, consider drinking red wine. The resveratrol in red wine has been shown to help protect both the brain and...

SAFE TRAVEL with SENIORS

Travel with older adults can be a safe & pleasurable experience if you plan ahead to avoid the typical headaches that can spoil a trip. Many seniors are expert travelers with thousands of miles under their shoes. Below are some things to consider when planning your trip. 1. Talk to the Doctor a. Make a list of all prescriptions & over-the-counter medications. Having a list of meds & medical problems will make it easier to get through customs if flying or get replacement meds if lost. b. Be sure to include both trade and generic names of the drugs as well as dosage and frequency. 2. Request & Reserve Special Services a. Travelers with disabilities may request designated seats. b. When flying you can request free wheelchair service between departing, connecting & arriving locations within the airport terminal. This will make it easier to make a connecting flight with a short layover and long distance between gates. c. No matter how you are traveling, be sure to check ahead for meal alternatives if your senior traveler has dietary restrictions. d. Be sure to make & confirm all special arrangements when you book your reservations. Travel companies have no obligation to meet your needs if they were not told about them up front. 3. Dealing with Medication a. Keeping medication in the original containers will make it easier to take them through customs. b. Put medications in the senior traveler’s carry on c. Pack extra medication in case something happens on the trip and you are delayed in returning 4. Understand that Seniors may be more Sensitive to New Environments...

Arthritis Pain Relief

Arthritis cannot be cured but that doesn’t mean you have to tolerate the severe pain & diminished quality of life it can cause. Movement was once thought to be bad for arthritic joints, but just the opposite is true. Exercise helps ease pain & stiffness. In fact, exercise can be crucial for increasing strength and flexibility,  reducing joint pain, and helping combat fatigue Here are a few tips to help relieve arthritis pain when it flares up in different areas of the body. Always check with your physician for the best treatment for your individual condition. Wrists & Hands Each hand contains 27 bones and each wrist 8 bones. Over time, arthritis causes people to lose cartilage – the connective tissue between joints. When the buffer between the bones is gone, the bones rub against each other, causing simple, everyday tasks to become painful. Wearing a wrist splint at night can help support joints while you sleep. Range of motion exercises can be done a few times each day to enhance strength & mobility. Clasp and unclasp your fingers, rotate your wrists, & touch the tips of each finger to your thumb. Google “hand arthritis exercises” for a wealth of examples. Feet According to the Arthritis Foundation, close to half of the people in their sixties and seventies suffer from arthritis foot pain. Our feet take a lot of abuse. The base of the big toe is a common site for arthritis pain. Wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. Low heels and good arch support will help ease pain. Stretch your Achilles tendon (the cord at the back of your heel) as...

Caregiving: Long Distance

Caregiving is often triggered by crisis.  It usually starts with a call or a visit. Phone conversations become repetitive and confusing. Mom calls to note that Dad has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure. A sibling calls to note that Mom is not very steady on her feet. You arrive for your twice a year visit to find the house is not being kept up, bills are not getting paid and food is spoiling in the fridge. It is not uncommon for children to live far away from their parents. Suddenly an adult child is forced to handle a new role as a long-distance caregiver. Caregivers can take steps to help ease the stress of the task. Collecting valuable information on a loved one, assembling a support team, and staying in touch with the people involved are a few ways to take charge of the situation. Do your homework. Find out who you can count on to take care of mom on a regular basis, and who you can turn to for questions, support and help in an emergency. Start a file and try to keep all of the information in one place. Making regular visits is probably the best way to assess your parent’s condition, but you can ask other family members, friends, or paid caregivers to provide feedback for you. Research the services available in your area. Possibilities include: meal delivery, transportation, in-home care for personal needs, help with household chores, and medication monitoring. Assemble your care team. Think of all the people who may be able to help you monitor the situation or provide direct support. Those...