Our Clearwater home health agency mission is to create an environment where we set our team members up for success empowering them to provide the best in home care to the community.
EasyLiving Home Health Services Blog
Wednesday, November 26th, 2014
At this time of year, we pause to say thank you to our dedicated home caregivers, who do so much to help clients. The holidays can be especially difficult for elder clients who have lost spouses and friends and perhaps live far from other loved ones. Some elders may not be able to celebrate the holidays with the same traditions as in the past, but our home caregivers try to make the time special and incorporate some of the client’s traditions.
Just this week, a professional who works with a client sent us a note expressing her thanks for the caregiver’s efforts: “I’ve been there a few times now when the caregiver is present and I think he is absolutely wonderful with Mr. F. Last visit, he brought Mr. F a slice of strawberry cheesecake. Tomorrow, he is going to surprise him with pumpkin pie and some usual Thanksgiving dinner fixings. Today, he made Mr. F blueberry muffins. I think it’s just heartwarming to see that he truly cares and wants to always do something special for his client. It made me smile.”
We are thankful for caregivers because:
- They show a great generosity of spirit and dedication. They often give up their own personal and family time at the holidays to be with their clients.
- They do little things to put a smile on the elder client’s face.
- They help us out in a pinch! Eldercare crises don’t wait for the holidays and our caregivers often jump in to help during the holidays and other times when a crisis arises.
- They do what they do not for the thanks, but for the knowledge that they might be making a client’s day a little better. But, we still want to make sure to say a big thank you as often as possible!
If you are a family caregiver or working as a home caregiver this holiday season, it is a good time to reflect on some of the reasons to be thankful. Caregiving can be the toughest job in the world, and you don’t always get the thanks you deserve. But, as a caregiver:
- You get to see the smile on your care recipient’s face when you do a little something nice. You get to see the person feeling better that day because of a small comfort you provided, or the light in his/her eyes as you reminisce or share in a favorite tradition or food.
- You get opportunities to grow as a person in ways other jobs don’t provide to people. You may find inner strength at a time when you felt worn out or gain new insight in to life or aging. You have the chance to potentially learn a lot from care recipients’ life experience and wisdom.
- Your time with the person may be short, but is all the more precious for it.
- You may not have the shopping day others have or the time to prepare the same big meal you usually do, but you have the satisfaction of giving the gift of yourself and your time.
Happy Thanksgiving to all of our EasyLiving caregivers and the many family caregivers doing their best to help!
Monday, November 17th, 2014
When someone is helping you with the care of your aging parent or loved one, it is natural to extend your appreciation. You may want to get your senior caregivers a gift during the holidays. You may have friends or neighbors who have helped with your elder Mom’s care and you wish to do something special for them at the holidays. We’re here to share some caregiver gift ideas, as well as guidance about giving gifts to paid senior caregivers.
Professional Senior Caregivers Gift Ideas and Policies
Can my Mom’s caregivers accept gifts?
Generally, caregivers through home care agencies or at senior care facilities may not be permitted to accept gifts from clients or families*. Before purchasing a gift, always check with the agency or facility. Don’t ask the caregiver directly, as this puts him or her in an awkward situation. Instead, contact Human Resources or the administration to ask them about their policy. They also may be able to make alternative suggestions. Many times, the agency or facility will hold a holiday party for their staff. You may be able to send a special dish along or contribute to say your thanks.
* This is another benefit to working with an agency. If you find out your elderly parent has given a generous gift or extra cash to a private caregiver, it can be difficult to find any recourse. An agency should have clearly delineated policies and can assist in remedying the situation if something like this occurs. It can also be a helpful way to prevent the gift-giving in the first place, as you can explain the agency’s policy to your loved one.
What are some alternative caregiver gift ideas to show my appreciation when someone can’t accept presents or cash?
- Send a letter/email to the supervisor about why you think the caregiver deserves special thanks and what he/she does that is so special. At EasyLiving, such “kudos” are not only an important indicator of the caregiver’s quality work, we also give out iCARewards points for them. So, not only does this have a positive impact on their work profile, it also can help them directly earn gift cards and prizes.
- Share a special meal together or treat your loved one and the caregiver to a special holiday meal or activity. This has double impact as a gift for both your loved one and the caregiver. If you are nearby, you might be able to cook some special family favorites and enjoy a nice meal together. If not, you can either get a special meal delivered or treat to a restaurant outing. Many local restaurants will have special holiday menus and it might be a fun chance for your loved one to get out and it potentially gives the caregiver a break from cooking.
- Write a thank you note or nice card to the caregiver (even better, send a copy to his/her supervisor also or ask if you can send it to be read at the agency’s holiday party or caregiver appreciation events).
- Ask the caregiver if there is anything that you could purchase for the home/client that would make his/her job easier. Again, this has double the impact as it can also improve your loved one’s life. Maybe the washing machine is no longer working well or the client could use some easy-wear clothing or a shower chair for the tub. Maybe the client and caregiver enjoy reading together or watching movies and you could buy some additional/updated books or DVDs (or a Netflix account).
- As mentioned above, the agency or facility may hold a holiday party or caregiver appreciation event. You could send along a special treat to add to the celebration or maybe even send some flowers, balloons or something else to show your appreciation and make the person feel special while celebrating with colleagues. Check with management staff for ideas and guidance.
Caregiver Gift Ideas for Various Helpers
A friend has helped a lot since I’ve been caring for Mom. What can I get for her this holiday season to show my appreciation?
Any nice gift along with a note about how much you’ve appreciated her help will be a nice way to show her how much her help means. If she’s a person who does a lot for others, the gift of some relaxation time might be good so consider a spa gift certificate or something similar. Think about her interests or just get her a nice little holiday treat. It would be especially nice if it comes from you and Mom. Maybe there’s a homemade treat you can make for her together, or simply write/sign the card together.
One of Mom’s senior neighbors always helps her out. I don’t know her well, but I’d like to give her a gift this holiday. Any ideas?
The ideas listed above may apply. Since you don’t know her well, a homemade treat or gift card might be best. If you can find out any of her hobbies or a place she likes to go, you can get her an appropriate gift card. Ask your Mom if she knows of something she might appreciate. Sometimes you encounter someone who really feels uncomfortable accepting gifts (though usually homemade treats or something festive are accepted). Maybe you can find out if there is a charitable organization or event that this person cares about to make a donation on their behalf. This might also be a good time to ask the neighbor the same question mentioned for professional caregivers. Mom’s neighbor might have noticed something she needs, or maybe offering to pay for a caregiver to assist with certain tasks will help.
What’s a good gift for a friend who is a caregiver for her elderly parents?
The best caregiver gift ideas offer the gift of time. Would it be possible for you to stay with her parents to give her a break? You can do a combo gift, by providing her with a gift certificate for a restaurant or spa (massage can be great for the aches and pains of caregiving) or tickets to the theater, while offering to stay with her parents during that time. If she is able to, it can also be nice to take her out to lunch or for a fun day/evening out to relax and spend some time together. She might need a empathetic listener just to hear her frustrations.
Comfort gifts are also nice, such as slippers or a luxurious blanket or a good book (or gift card to purchase) or music. Preparing a meal or arranging a meal delivery service can be a nice treat. There are also many nice gifts and gift baskets online that are designed around relaxation or pampering. You also might be able to help with other areas, such as doing research for her or offering to come over and do some yard work. You have to know the person to know what is most appropriate, but your kindness will be appreciated.
For more caregiver gift ideas, check out Aging Wisely’s Gifts for Caregivers and Those Facing Serious Illness.
What are your favorite caregiver gift ideas? Do you know a great store for caregiver gift ideas? Let us know!
EasyLiving can help! We offer caregiver respite services, help with meal preparation and holiday tasks, shopping assistance, transportation and more. Give the gift of peace of mind this holiday season! Purchase a block of time, and we can help your caregiving friend make this holiday season more manageable (and enjoyable!). Call us at 727-448-0900 or contact EasyLiving online to find out more.
*Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Monday, November 10th, 2014
Can a person who has Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia travel safely?
The simple answer is yes, with proper planning and precautions. However, this planning is vital and trips might need to be modified. When deciding if it is wise for someone with dementia to travel, it is important to weigh the pros and cons and consider the potential difficulties.
Why is travel problematic for someone with dementia? What should I expect if traveling with a loved one who has Alzheimer’s or planning a trip for him/her?
Travel can be tiring and stressful for any of us. Routine is essential for a person with Alzheimer’s and even the most basic new experiences (or forgotten experiences that feel new and alien) can be overwhelming. Travel is unpredictable, making it full of potential pitfalls for the person with dementia and their caregivers. A person who has dementia is more sensitive to things like hunger, tiredness and discomfort. Communication can be difficult, which also means it might be hard to express this discomfort which then causes agitation or increased confusion. The person with Alzheimer’s has compromised complex thinking and problem-solving, skills needed to deal with travel.
For these reasons, it is most often best for the person with dementia to have a travel companion. A comforting presence can make all the difference and help deal with any problems that arise. In early stages of dementia, it may be possible for the person to travel alone with good planning. However, this should be assessed carefully. You can expect that the person with dementia may experience increased confusion or agitation and will tire easily. He or she will need reassurance and simple explanations of what is happening.
What precautions should I take when planning a trip for my elderly Mom who has Alzheimer’s disease?
Consider escorting her or having a family member or professional caregiver escort her. A professional caregiver for travel escort can be especially useful, even if you’re going along also, to help with physical needs (e.g. toileting) and ensure a smooth trip for everyone.
Determine the easiest way to travel and minimize layovers and length of the trip.
Pack more than the necessities. Bring along layers of clothing for temperature changes. Bring snacks and plenty of fluids (for flying, this may mean buying them at the airport after security, but buy extra). Bring medications and copies of a medication list. Have all your loved one’s doctors and other vital contact information handy. Bring activities/comfort items (music, games and movies, cards, knitting, blanket, neck pillow, slippers).
Know where to go for help (while traveling and when in your destination).
Talk to airlines about travel needs and accommodations (even if your loved one can walk, perhaps a wheelchair is necessary due to the length of walking and extra exhaustion from traveling).
Think through the details (and expect things may be worse than on a typical day). Will you need to help Mom to the toilet? What will happen if she has an unexpected episode of incontinence? How will you handle flight delays? Read more tips in our Senior Travel Tips article.
I’ve always wanted to take Dad on a trip to Europe (or we have a family reunion coming up). Is it wise given his dementia?
As we said, a person with dementia CAN travel. The question is SHOULD your loved one go on this particular trip? Assess the situation carefully and think about what he/she (or others) will get out of it versus the potential concerns. Maybe a modified version of the trip is better at this point. A long flight and overseas travel, especially where accessibility might be an issue, might not be the dream trip you want. Maybe a shorter cruise or a long weekend trip would be more appropriate. For family gatherings, consider the person’s current abilities and memory along with your desire to have him/her there. Could the family reunion be planned in Dad’s hometown this year? Could loved ones come and visit Mom since it will be difficult for her to get to the family event?
If you need help assessing whether travel is wise or planning how to make the trip go smoothly, our Senior Care Consultant is here to help! We can assess the situation and offer ideas, as well as arrange travel and a senior travel escort. Call us at 727-447-5845 or contact us online for help with your senior travel needs, dementia care services and caregiver assistance!
Monday, November 3rd, 2014
As dementia care experts, we get asked a lot of questions about dementia and how to care for elders with memory loss. But, the most common questions start with the most basic. It is still quite common for people to be completely at a loss about what these terms mean. Others will express confidance that their loved one “does not have Alzheimer’s, just some dementia” because they are confused by the terms and naturally terrified of the dreaded “A” word. Few people have a clear picture of the normal age-related changes to cognition and those that indicate a disease state like Alzheimer’s.
We’re here today to help clarify some of these FAQS about dementia and memory loss.
What is the difference between Alzheimer’s and dementia?
Dementia is simply a broad term for the symptoms associated with Alzheimer’s and related diseases. It is NOT a diagnosis, or some less serious/early form of Alzheimer’s. Sometimes it is listed as a diagnosis, as in “Dementia-Unspecified”, in other words the specific disease being unknown. However, there is always some disease/cause underlying this set of symptoms and this broad usage causes many individuals and families (and even healthcare providers) to be confused. Dementia symptoms can be caused by an array of progressive diseases such as:
Alzheimer’s Disease (the most common)
Vascular Dementia (caused by impaired supply of blood to the brain such as caused by small strokes; 2nd most common)
Lewy Body Disease
Parkinson’s or Huntington’s Disease
Possible reversible causes of dementia include alcohol and drug use, side effects of medication, metabolic problems and vitamin/nutrient deficiencies.
Are the different diseases that cause dementia treated differently (i.e. does it matter which one my loved one has)?
Many of the treatments for symptoms are similar. A good diagnosis is useful for a few reasons: to ensure there is not a reversible cause, to understand what to expect and to tailor treatment as much as possible. A good diagnostic workup will check for reversible causes and do a general health assessment, as well as a comprehensive history and review of symptoms. Though definitive differential diagnosis only happens via viewing the brain at autopsy, an experienced practitioner can determine the cause with better than 90% accuracy. Some of the progressive forms of dementia will be treated quite differently overall, because they are part of a more broad disease with specific treatment regimens (such as Parkinson’s or treating vascular disease to reduce the likelihood of future strokes).
Many of the memory and behavioral symptoms will be treated with similar medications and management methods. It is important that you work with a specialist who understands the disease and is experienced in dementia treatment.
How do I know if my memory problems are just part of getting old?
Nine out of 10 times when someone asks, it’s because there are noticeable concerns. Alzheimer’s and impaired memory is not a normal part of aging, though our cognition changes slightly as we age and we may have more trouble remembering small things or learning new things the way we once did. However, these changes do not affect functioning. Serious gaps in memory or difficulty carrying out regular tasks are not normal.
You can read a quick synopsis of 10 Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease (versus what’s normal) here or consider a memory screening (done by most medical practitioners or visit the Alzheimer’s Association Memory Mobile or events for free screenings).
What causes Alzheimer’s disease? (If my grandma has it, will I get it?)
The immediate cause is a particular pattern of brain cell damage (the pattern which can be seen at autopsy). The underlying causes, however, are not completely understood. We know some of the risk factors involved, but this area is constantly evolving.
There is some genetic linkage, and a family history does put you at greater risk. Early-onset Alzheimer’s disease (typically presenting between ages 30-60) may have a stronger genetic link (or even a direct link in some cases).
Get help with your Alzheimer’s disease concerns or dementia care needs. Call us at 727-447-5845 for answers!
Monday, October 27th, 2014
The EasyLiving CarePlan™ is our proprietary process for providing customized care for our home care clients. Our team is here today to explain what a care plan is, what makes EasyLiving’s proprietary care plan special and how the care plan drives quality home care service delivery.
What is a care plan?
A care plan is, simply, a written outline of care being provided, most often in various healthcare settings. A nursing home, for example, must have a specific care plan for each resident and regulations strictly guide what must be in the care plan, how often it is updated and who is involved in the process. Any care plan should start from the point of view of an assessment (understanding the person’s situation and identifying areas of concern, in order to determine the plan that is right for that individual). Most healthcare professionals today would agree that patient input (or that of a substitute decision-maker such as healthcare surrogate or guardian) plays an important role in the care plan as well, though the extent to which this truly happens varies.
As Holly F. Sox, RN, BSN, RAC-CT, shares on careplans.com, “Care planning is an essential part of healthcare, but is often misunderstood or regarded as a waste of time. Without a specific document delineating the plan of care, important issues are likely to be neglected. Care planning provides a ‘road map’ of sorts, to guide all who are involved with a patient/resident’s care.” This is a very accurate description, and as she shares, one that is not always appreciated by providers. Too often a care plan is seen as paperwork that needs to be completed by care providers who feel they know what they’re doing and don’t need a document to tell them what to do. However, as we know from a lot of experience as elder advocates in many settings, without this road map mistakes are more likely to occur and care often does not achieve intended goals (those involved may not even understand the goals for care).
As we have shared before, private duty home care is often less regulated than other entities (varies by state; here’s info for Florida home healthcare regulations) and may not have requirements or oversight on care planning (or anything!). Make sure you find out about this when researching care options.
What is the EasyLiving CarePlan™?
The EasyLiving proprietary careplan was developed based on our many years of experience as eldercare advocates. Having started Aging Wisely professional care management many years prior, we had worked with hundreds of families setting up and monitoring care. We had seen the good, the bad and the ugly. We felt compelled to create a service that would provide quality results for elders and their families. We knew the only way to do this was to focus on having the best, most prepared caregivers and to do everything we could to support them. Our systems are essential to this. We don’t ever want to send a caregiver out to a client unprepared. The care plan is the map that helps guide that caregiver.
Our care plan starts, as all good care plans should, with the assessment.
We created a unique questionnaire to make this process even better for clients. Our Life History & Daily Routines Questionnaire™ helps us explore the personal pieces of good care that are too often neglected. We want to know the client. When someone is coming in to your home, you don’t want them to suddenly change your whole routine. The little things are the things that will make home care successful. How do you like your laundry done? When do you prefer to eat? What foods do you like (or hate)? What irritates you? What are your interests/what do you like to talk about?
The assessment process also includes gathering the vital medical and personal information, discussing needs and desires and a professional assessment to explore the concerns and solutions needed.
From this information, our team creates the written plan. We use an electronic care management system, so the information can be easily shared among your care team (caregivers, supervisors, family members, client and permitted providers).
How does the care plan work?
Creating a care plan is only step one. We use our electronic system to share the careplan with your care team. We also provide quality assurance to make sure the careplan is working, done by our Client Care and Safety Coordinator who makes home visits and provides coaching to your caregivers and observes and asks about anything that is not working. Our Director of Operations also does QA on client files to update care plans and conducts coaching sessions with caregivers to help them improve on any care or service issues.
The care plan is a working document, meant to change as your needs do. We do a regular review, but we also take input from clients, families, caregivers and other providers when a change needs to be made. When you have a transition (hospitalization, post-rehab, surgery, etc.) we re-evaluate and update the care plan.
The EasyLiving Difference
Our caregivers, who typically have worked at many other home care companies and care facilities, regularly comment on how different the EasyLiving process and careplan is. During orientation we talk about our mission and why we take such a different approach. The caregivers have rarely been given all the information and tools they need, even while they tried to do the best job for their clients. Our clients and families make similar comments if they have experienced other care in the past. They often remark that no one asked for their input before and are surprised we will tailor care to their wishes. The EasyLiving careplan™ is just one piece of the EasyLiving difference, our unique methods of ensuring the best possible care for you.
Want to experience the EasyLiving difference yourself? Contact us at 727-447-5845 to learn more!
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