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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 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.

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.

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!