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home healthcare agency nurseFor seniors who have a medical condition or recently suffered an injury, a home healthcare agency can mean the difference between staying in their own home for many years or having to turn to long term nursing home care.

The services offered by a home healthcare agency will vary depending on the specific home health provider.  Services offered may include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy and skilled nursing.  These services are provided on-site in the comfort of the senior’s own home.

Home health care is different from home care. Home health care is medical health care, whereas home care typically includes housekeeping, companionship and personal care assistance services to seniors. Many seniors who require home care assistance with cooking, cleaning or getting dressed do not require the specialized services of a home health care provider. In contrast to a home care agency that will provide services to seniors as they age or are simply in need of additional assistance, a home healthcare agency usually helps seniors recover from an illness or injury. Home healthcare agencies will generally have licensed practical nurses, occupational therapists, physical therapists, speech therapists or home health aides on staff.

Depending on the variety of services offered, a particular home healthcare agency may also offer services that are generally considered home care services, including assistance with bathing, dressing, eating and other activities of daily living.  Other home care type services that a home healthcare agency may offer include cooking, cleaning, housekeeping and medication monitoring.

If both home health and home care services are needed, it is important to determine if the agencies you are considering offer both services, or if two agencies will need to provide the different types of services.  Obtaining the right kind of assistance for a senior can help keep a senior in their home for many additional months, or even years, which usually leads to greater happiness and better health.

health care providers healthy resolutionsEvery year, many new year’s resolutions are made as midnight approaches on January 1st. Here are a few New Year’s resolution suggestions for seniors geared toward having a healthy year in 2015 and beyond.

Increase Daily Physical Activity Levels 

OK, exercising is a pretty obvious resolution and a common one for people of all ages, but that is because it is an important one.  If you want to be healthy, you have to keep active.  Health care providers recommend setting a realistic goal.  If you’ve never exercised before, running a marathon is not a realistic goal.  Taking a 30 minute walk 4 or 5 times a week may be more realistic. Or check out the class offerings for active older adults at the local YMCA.  Make a goal to do something active outside of your regular routine at least a few times a week.  Then stick to your goal, and if you miss a week, make the resolution all over again.

Eat Healthier

Again, set realistic goals.  Health care providers recommend a diet that you can stay on for life, so do not set yourself up for the impossible. If you say everything you eat has to be 100% healthy, you are likely to fail by January 2nd.  Choose one unhealthy thing to eliminate, like refined sugars or trans fats.  Another option is to choose to eat healthy things first, like 5 servings of fresh vegetables daily, before letting yourself indulge in a sweet or dessert.   Or try a change in the types of foods you eat – try eating mostly fresh whole foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, lean meats and poultry, and fish and eliminate highly processed foods as much as possible.  Every little change helps and the more realistic it is the more sustainable it will be for the long term.

Engage In Mental Fitness Activities

Learn a language, play trivia or brain games, join a book discussion group, take a class.  Keeping your brain active and engaged will keep you mentally astute and healthy.

Take Care Of Your Health 

Health care providers advise preventative checkups on a regular basis to prevent common conditions from getting out of control.  Get routine health screenings for cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, bone density, thyroid levels and other routine health screenings.  Have health screenings for prostate or other cancers.  Get your mammogram scheduled. If you’ve been avoiding the eye doctor, dentist, primary care physician or other health care providers, it’s time to make an appointment.  Have you been neglecting to start your cholesterol medication or get your new glasses prescription?  Resolve to take the actions you know you need to improve your health. 

Improve Your Home’s Safety

To prevent falls, add new lighting, move cords out of hallways and walkways, make sure the edges of carpets and rugs are securely fastened.  Replace the batteries in your smoke detectors and consider adding a carbon monoxide detector.  Consider having someone do repairs to loose floorboards or faulty wiring.  Have the heating system checked for safety if you didn’t get around to it before the holidays. 

Expand Your Social Network

Good mental health is as important as good physical health in many ways.  Maintaining relationships is an important part of keeping seniors mentally healthy and avoiding isolation which can lead to depression.  If a senior is becoming increasingly isolated, consider ways to connect: join a senior center, get active with a church or community group, or consider volunteering with a community organization.  If it is difficult to get out, consider inviting friends or family members over for visits more frequently, and use the phone or letters to keep connected.

By making health and wellness resolutions like these, seniors can be on their way to a healthy, happy New Year!

home heath care provider exerciseAccording to home health care provider experts, seniors should participate in mobility exercises on a regular basis.  A home health care provider can assist seniors with performing mobility exercises, which can lead to an improvement in overall functioning.

Mobility exercises should be part of every senior’s physical activity regimen.  Doing mobility exercises on a regular basis can help seniors maintain joint flexibility, decrease their risk of falling, reduce pain, increase self-confidence.  In addition, these exercises allow seniors to remain independent longer by enabling them to continue everyday activities that involve bending, lifting, walking and tasks like opening jars. Before beginning any exercise program, it is always best to check with a doctor or home health care provider about appropriate activities given the specifics of one’s health and mobility.

There are several different types of activities that can improve senior mobility.  Seniors may wish to consider the following:

Water Activities

Exercising in the water is a gentle form of exercise that is usually easier and less painful for people with joint pain or inflammation due to arthritis or fibromyalgia. Since water makes individuals naturally buoyant, there is less chance of falling, and weight and pressure is taken off the joints. If the water is warm, water exercise can improve blood circulation by dilating blood vessels and raising the senior’s body temperature.  The water level can be adjusted according to fitness level, with chest deep water offering a more strenuous work out than waist deep water.   Start by walking across the pool or around the perimeter, increasing repetitions as strength increases.

Chair Activities

Excising while seated in a chair can help mobility impaired or wheelchair bound seniors improve their mobility and can also be used as a warm up for individuals with greater mobility. In addition to activities done while seated, more able-bodied individuals can do exercises using the chair for balance or stability. Different types of chair exercises can be guided by specifically designed videos or TV programs, during classes for older adults provided at facilities like the YMCA, or by a home health care provider.

Stay Safe

It is important to be cautious when beginning an exercise program.  Begin gradually and increase the intensity and duration after building up stamina and skill. Dress in clothing that allows for unrestricted movement, with properly fitted shoes. Drink lots of water while exercising to avoid dehydration.  If exercising outside, beware of hazards like uneven surfaces, traffic, and obstacles like rocks and branches.  Make sure to exercise in a safe area and do not exercise outside if temperatures are extreme. In addition, all individuals – and particularly those with conditions including shortness of breath, irregular heartbeat or heart palpitations, rapid unexplained weight loss, blood clots, hernia, pneumonia or other infections, or joint inflammation or pain should consult with a doctor or home health care provider before beginning an exercise program.  In addition, seniors should use extreme caution while exercising and individuals who experience dizziness, nausea, sudden pain or break out in a cold sweat while exercising should stop immediately.

By integrating mobility exercises into seniors’ regular routines, senior adults can expect to see improvement in their mobility and overall quality of life.

diabetes home health providerFor people struggling to manage and control their diabetes, dealing with all the sweet temptations of the holidays can be very stressful.  However, by taking several simple steps to prepare, holiday meals and parties can be enjoyable and not derail diabetes control.  .

Home health provider and health care experts recommend the following:

Know your needs and risks

Before the holidays, establish guidelines of what foods you need, and what foods to avoid entirely or limit.  Diabetics need to keep track of the amount of carbohydrates they consume.  Carbohydrates include sweets, rice, pasta, bread and starchy vegetables. When counting carbohydrates, make sure to know what a portion is, reading the label if necessary. Combining a protein with any carbohydrates can help to keep blood sugar levels in check.  Proteins include eggs, cheese, milk, beans, nuts, fish and meat.  Check with a doctor or home health provider if you have questions as to proper diet for your condition.

Plan your menu

Try to determine what is on the menu at a restaurant or holiday party before you go so you can plan your day’s eating, medication and activity schedule accordingly. Before you go, make sure you fill up on low carb and nutritious food and know your blood sugar level.  If you are not sure there will be healthy alternatives, bring your own low carb foods to snack on so you are not tempted by unhealthy choices. During the party or event, drink plenty of calorie free and carbohydrate free drinks.  If you are going to consume alcohol, make sure to have no more than 1 drink for women and 2 drinks for men and avoid high calorie mixers like margarita mix, soda, tonic or juice.  For dessert, limit your portion to a small cookie or small piece of cake instead of a full piece.  

Stay active

Although it is easy to have exercise routines go by the wayside during the holidays, physical activity helps your body use insulin, which is important to controlling blood sugar.  Even if you have to cut back your activity during the holidays, make sure to keep as much activity as possible throughout the holiday season.

After the holidays

Make sure to get back into your routine after the holidays. Once the holiday festivities have come to an end, make sure to get back to your regular levels physical activity.  If you went a bit overboard with sweets or other treats, make the New Year a time to return to healthy practices.  If you got entirely off track or have serious concerns, you should check with a doctor or home health provider about how to best improve your health.

By taking care of your health during the holidays, you can have a more enjoyable holiday and celebrate your health in the New Year.

Home Health Aide AssistanceAlthough there are many things to get done before having hip or knee surgery, an important aspect of getting ready is preparing the house where recovery will occur. Far in advance of going to the hospital for surgery, it is crucial to prepare the home to make recovery and life easier afterwards.

Consulting with a doctor, nurse, physical therapist or home health aide that knows the specifics of the individual’s situation and can make recommendations about home preparations in advance is critical.  Generally, there are a number of important preparations to consider:

Accessibility:

If possible, plan to have everything needed for recovery on the same floor.  While it is preferable not to use stairs at all initially, their use will need to be limited to once a day if they cannot be avoided entirely. In addition:

  • The bed used during recovery should have a firm mattress and be low enough that one’s feet touch the floor while sitting on the edge of the bed. Ideally, the bed will be on the first floor of the house.
  • A bathroom or a portable commode should be located on the same floor where most of the day will be spent.
  • Food and other supplies should be in a cupboard between waist and shoulder level.
  • Phone and charger should be easily accessible.
  • Frequently used items should be placed on the kitchen counter or another location that is between waist and shoulder level.
  • Chairs with a firm back should be located in each frequently used room, including kitchen, bedroom and bathroom, to enable sitting while doing daily tasks.

Supplies

There should be sufficient supplies at home to last several weeks, or as long as the doctor recommends.  In addition to regular supplies, there may be other items to consider purchasing with can be particularly helpful during recovery.  Items to consider include:

  • Canned or frozen food
  • Shampoo, toilet paper and other personal items
  • Medications
  • Crutches, a cane or a walker
  • A shower sponge with a long handle
  • A long-handled shoehorn
  • A sock aid to help put on socks
  • A reacher to help pick up things from the floor and assist with putting on pants and taking off socks

Bathroom Preparation

The bathroom presents many hazards so it is important to consider the following preparations:

  • Raised Toilet Seat: There are several ways to raise the toilet seat to help prevent excessive flexing of the knee.  Options include adding a seat cover or an elevated toilet seat, utilizing a toilet safety frame or using a commode chair instead of a toilet.
  • Safety Mats: Non-slip suction mats or rubber silicone decals should be put on the floor of the tub to help prevent falls.  A non-skid bath mat should also be placed outside the tub.
  • Bath or Shower Chair: A bath or shower chair with rubber tips on the bottom should be used for bathing. A seat without arms should be used in a bathtub.
  • Safety Bars: The doctor may recommend installing safety grab bars in the bathroom.  It is important to remember that towel racks cannot substitute as grab bars as they are not designed to withstand the weight of a person.
  • Placement of Essential Items: Items like soap and shampoo should be easily accessible and should not require twisting, standing up or straining to reach.  Towels and wash cloths should also be within easy reach.

Home Safety Preparation

To minimize the risk of tripping the following precautions should be taken:

  • Remove loose wires or cords in walking areas.
  • Remove loose throw rugs.
  • Fix any uneven flooring, especially in doorways.
  • Make sure there is good lighting in place.
  • Place night lights in hallways, bathrooms and other dark rooms.
  • Arrange for fast-moving or small pets that can cause falls to stay elsewhere during the first few weeks.

Other preparation

Other preparations to consider are:

  • Prepare or purchase single serving meals that can be frozen and reheated later.
  • If a health care professional recommends using a walker, attach a small basket or strong bag to it to hold important items such as a cell phone, notepad, pen, eyeglasses etc. Alternatively, a fanny pack may be used.  Nothing should be carried in one’s hands when walking after surgery as they may be needed to provide balance.
  • Practice using a cane, walker, crutches, or a wheelchair to correctly sit down to use the toilet and stand up afterwards, get in and out of the shower, use the shower chair and go up and down stairs.

Arrange for Home Care Assistance during Recovery

Unless someone lives at home and can help for the first 1 or 2 weeks after surgery, it is important to arrange to have someone come in who can assist with bathing, using the toilet, cooking, running errands, shopping, doctor visits, and exercising as needed. If a family member or friend cannot help, a health care professional may recommend having a trained caregiver or home health aide come to the home to help.  A home health aide or trained caregiver can also check the safety of the home and help with daily activities.