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home health physical therapyIf a loved one will be discharged from a hospital or other care facility and require home health services, there are some things to look into in advance.  Home health services typically include skilled nursing services and rehabilitation services such as physical therapy, occupational therapy or speech therapy. Generally, the person who needs the services will be referred to a specific home health provider by their doctor who determines what type of services they will require.

In terms of necessary preparations, doctors, social workers, discharge planners and other health care professionals are a tremendous resource for determining how to prepare.  There are many things to consider and once the person requiring care is at home, it may be more difficult to find the time to take care of these details.  Therefore, consulting with these experts in home health care in advance can be helpful and can help ensure that care is well coordinated with the home healthcare providers.

Some things to find out and address in advance are:

  • Are any special types of equipment or supplies needed?  Who orders them and when should they be delivered?
  • Should a medical alert system be ordered?
  • Is 24 hour care necessary?  Who can help provide coverage?  Is it necessary to find a separate home care agency to fill in any gaps in coverage?
  • Should a handicapped parking sticker be obtained?
  • Does the furniture need to be rearranged?  Will the person be able to use stairs and do accommodations need to be made if bedrooms and bathrooms are not on the main floor?
  • Do any home modifications need to be made such as allowing for wheelchair accessibility, ramps, handrails, or alarm systems to address potential wandering issues, etc.?
  • Are there any special dietary considerations that need to be addressed or supplies needed such as a food processer, blender, grinder or liquid thickener?
  • Are there any local programs that can assist with respite care or transportation, or should the senior be registered with any programs for seniors who may have issues with wandering due to dementia or other conditions?

By asking the right questions and preparing in advance, seniors can improve their recovery and be on their way to better health and quality of life.

home health providers cataract recoveryCataract surgery is a relatively short and uncomplicated procedure.  Although there are some inconveniences and things to get used to during the immediate recovery, the actual surgery and time spent in recovery following surgery usually only lasts about an hour. 

Home health providers recommend the following in preparation for cataract surgery:

  • Make sure someone can drive you home afterwards.  You should not drive on the first day.
  • Have sunglasses to wear home to protect your eye from glare and bright light.
  • Do not have anything planned that day, as you may want to rest for a few hours.
  • Once the doctor gives you permission to remove the protective shield that was placed over your eyes, be prepared to put it back on while resting or sleeping according to the instructions given by your doctor.
  • Be prepared to avoid strenuous activity and heavy lifting for several weeks.
  • Immediately following the procedure, if possible, you will want to avoid bending over (which puts pressure on your eye), sneezing and vomiting.
  • For several weeks you will want to avoid getting dust and grime in your eye.  Avoiding wind and rubbing your eye is also extremely important for these reasons.
  • Avoid hot tubs and swimming pools for the first week to minimize the risk of infection.
  • You will likely need to use antibiotic eye drops for the first week, as per your doctor’s instructions.  Some people could need them significantly longer depending on circumstances. Always follow the instructions provided by your doctor.
  • Have acetaminophen on hand for pain, if needed, though in most cases it will not be necessary as discomfort is typically minimal.

Home health providers note the following positive aspects of cataract surgery:

  • The operation is extremely effective in restoring vision to much clearer levels.
  • Although there can be some initial issues including blurry or distorted vision, bloodshot eyes, or bruising, most of these clear up in a matter of hours or days.
  • Most people feel very well and many can resume normal activities by the day after surgery.  Within a few hours of surgery most people can do some work on the computer, spend short amounts of time watching TV, shower etc.
  • Recovery time is short and most individuals are fully recovered within a month.
  • With the quick recovery time, it is possible to have the second eye operated on – if necessary – within a few weeks of the first.   This allows most individuals to maintain vision in the other eye and not be entirely without vision at any point.

Your doctor will provide you with specific detailed instructions applicable to your situation. Home health providers believe that by preparing for and following your doctor’s specific instructions, as well as the more general information above, you will be well on your way to restored vision and an improved quality of life.

 

home health care agencies sleep tipsSleep is important to the overall health and wellbeing of people of all ages, and seniors are no exception. Home health care agencies have found that sleep is vitally important to seniors, especially those recovering from illness or injury, and offer the following information to seniors regarding getting enough sleep.

Sleep is important for many reasons including refreshing and reenergizing, allowing healing and recovery from health problems, forming long term memory, and processing the events of the day.   Sleep decreases the likelihood of falls and wards off depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.  Home health care agencies warn that there are grave repercussions for seniors who are routinely failing to get enough sleep.

As people age, it is more difficult for them to get enough sleep.  Many factors can contribute to this difficulty including pain from various medical conditions, increased anxiety and depression, and development of new medical conditions – like sleep apnea.  Sleep apnea causes an actual interruption to sleep when the affected individual stops breathing resulting in a corresponding lack of oxygen to the brain.  This stresses the body and can affect mental function, preventing the individual from getting restful sleep.

Failing to get enough sleep can make it difficult to recover from illness and manage chronic conditions, home health care agencies note.  Seniors who do not get enough sleep are at greater risk of falls, anxiety, dementia and other mental disorders.  Failure to get sufficient sleep can also lead to weight gain by increasing appetite and decreasing energy used throughout the day.

Experts from home health care agencies indicate that eight hours of sleep per night is optimal for avoiding these issues, though the most important thing is getting the amount of sleep that a particular person needs, likely no less than six hours.  A senior who is sleeping excessively could be ill or depressed and should contact a doctor or other health care provider. A health care professional should also evaluate daytime sleepiness, as this is a sign that a senior is usually not getting enough sleep.

Having the right sleeping conditions is important to getting to sleep and sleeping well. Electronic devices and television should not be used before bed so as to avoid staying up too late due to distraction and because the artificial light can affect one’s natural body rhythms, making sleep more difficult. Reading a book or relaxing in a dimly lit area is a better way to prepare for a good night’s sleep.

If the right conditions are present and it is still difficult to fall or stay asleep, it is important to figure out the reasons why this may be occurring. Pain or worry are common reasons.  If a senior is sleeping through the night but still waking up exhausted, there may be an underlying medical condition.  These issues should be discussed with a doctor to determine if pain or anxiety medications would help, if other techniques could be used, or if there is a sleep disorder present that can be treated.

Getting sufficient sleep is critical to health and wellbeing, and identifying and treating anything interfering with sleep is extremely important.

home health companies combat malnutritionThis is the third article in a series on senior malnutrition. The first article focused on factors which make seniors at risk for malnutrition, and the second article offered information on how to spot malnutrition in seniors. Below home health companies advise on what to do when malnutrition is suspected.

Depending on the reasons contributing to a senior’s malnutrition, different approaches may be necessary to combat it. Home health companies offer a number of recommendations for addressing issues of malnutrition once they are identified.

Work with health care providers: Family members or friends who accompany loved ones to health care appointments can work with doctors and dentists to address any contributing factors including adjusting medications that may interfere with appetite, easing dietary restrictions temporarily to stimulate their interest in eating or treating any mouth pain or chewing issues.  If family members cannot attend appointments, the senior can give their doctor permission to release information to family members who may be able to follow-up with them by phone or even email.  Family members can also bring issues to the doctor’s attention and request routine screenings for nutritional issues.  Health care professionals may also recommend the services of a dietician to improve nutrition and health.

Help the senior find ways to add nutrient-dense foods to food they enjoy:  Peanut butter or almond butter can be tasty and nutritious additions to crackers, breads, raw vegetables and even fruits.  Nuts, wheat germ or other nutrient dense grains can be added to yogurt, cereal and fruit.  Cheese can be included in rice and pasta dishes or added to vegetables, sandwiches or soups.

Help the senior find ways to make food more flavorful: For seniors who have to avoid salt or other flavor enhancers or who have a diminished sense of taste and smell, experiment with alternative flavors by using a variety of different spices, lemon juice and fresh herbs to find ones the senior enjoys.

Offer snacks between meals: A fruit smoothie can be a nice treat and can be loaded with nutrients and calories.  Cheese, fruit and peanut butter can offer similar benefits.

Eat together: For seniors who may have lost interest in eating because they often eat alone, find ways for them to eat together with others.  Family members and friends can drop by at meal times, invite the senior over to eat, or find programs that offer seniors meals in a social setting, such as at a senior community center or church program.

Encourage exercise: Even moderate or light physical activity can stimulate a senior’s appetite, and it offers other health benefits as well.

Help the senior find ways to save on food costs: Helping the senior learn the basics of comparison shopping, reviewing store fliers for sales, using coupons and selecting store brands instead of more expensive name brands can help.  Perhaps they have a friend or neighbor who they can buy in bulk with and split costs.  Some restaurants also offer special discounts for seniors.

Take advantage of community programs: Programs like Meals on Wheels provide meals to seniors who are home-bound.  While some programs require a senior to be low-income, others do not, so it is important to check with the specific program if that is a consideration. Local governments may also have special programs and services designed to help combat senior malnutrition.

Find professional help: For seniors who would benefit from direct care and interaction, home health companies recommend finding a home health care provider to help with preparation of meals and ongoing monitoring of senior health.

Home health companies recommend taking steps to identify and treat malnutrition early in order to promote independence, health and longevity in seniors.

senior home health care malnutritionThis is the second article in a series on senior malnutrition. Last week’s article focused on factors which make seniors at risk for malnutrition, and next week’s will focus on recommendations from senior home health care experts on steps to take if malnutrition is suspected.

Due to the complicated factors which can lead to malnutrition in seniors, senior home health care experts note that it can be tricky to identify seniors who are suffering from it.  Yet early detection is important to correcting the situation and helping prevent complications from developing before it is too advanced.

For family members with elderly loved ones, especially those who may be at risk, senior home health care providers indicate that it is important to be attuned to the following in order to detect potential issues with a loved one’s nutrition.

Eating Habits

The best way to know what a loved one is eating on a regular basis is to spend time at their home, or the assisted living facility or nursing home where they live.  Visiting at meal time is a good way to find out what they are actually consuming, or if they are skipping meals entirely.  A sudden or drastic change in a senior’s long established eating patterns can indicate that they may not be able to access the same foods they have been eating all their life.

Food Supply

Family members who stop by for a visit can also observe what is in the refrigerator or pantry during their visits.  If the cupboard is bare or seems to contain only unhealthy foods, there may be reason for concern.  For seniors who are on a fixed monthly income, checking the pantry at the end of the month or just before their next social security or retirement payment is due may indicate they are struggling to have enough food to last until the end of month.

Weight Loss

While it may not always be easy to notice if a loved one has lost weight, try to observe any changes between visits.  Do they seem noticeably thinner?  Do their clothes seem a lot looser, or do they otherwise fit differently?  Family members who accompany loved ones to doctor’s appointments may be able to obtain information about weight loss between appointments, or if the senior is willing to provide proper authorization, a doctor may be able to provide information about the senior’s health including any concerns about weight and nutrition.

Health Symptoms

While weight loss is something that is logically connected to nutrition, senior home health care providers indicate that there are actually other physical signs that can signal malnutrition.  Frequent bruises, having cuts and other wounds take a long time to heal, and dental health problems can also indicate that a senior is malnourished. Although it may not seem logical, weight gain can actually be a sign of malnutrition as well.

Medications

Certain medications can affect a senior’s appetite and their body’s ability to digest and absorb certain nutrients.  Being aware of the medications a loved one is on and possible side effects related to nutrition can raise family members’ awareness, triggering them to look for possible signs of malnutrition.

If a family member or friend suspects that their loved one is suffering from inadequate nutrition, there are several steps that can be taken and resources that can help, according to senior home health care experts.   These options will be addressed in the final part of this series on senior malnutrition.