Taking Care of YOU: Tips for caregivers

caregiver stress

Caregiver stress can affect sleep, relationships — even your health.

If you’ve spent time taking care of a newborn, disabled child, incapacitated adult or aging parent, you know that it’s a big challenge. But were you aware that caregivers are more likely to experience symptoms of physical, emotional and psychological stress? That’s why it’s important to take care of yourself so you can continue taking care of your loved ones.

A Growing Need

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are more than 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. Of these, nearly 9 in 10 are caring for a relative, and 60 percent provide care for an aging parent or grandparent.

The current national trend shows an increasing number of older adults opting to “age in place.”  People are choosing to remain in the home throughout their senior years, instead of a retirement community or nursing facility. All of this is leading to a greater overall demand for every type of in-home care.

A Tough Job

A caregiver – sometimes called an informal caregiver – is an unpaid individual (a spouse, partner, family member, friend, or neighbor) who assists others with routine daily activities and/or health-related medical tasks. By contrast, formal caregivers – such as our professionals at Oxford – are paid care providers who deliver care in a patient’s home or in a care setting (day care, residential facility, long-term care facility).

Caregiving tasks may range from simple companionship and wellness checks, to basic medical tasks, including some medications. These varied demands are especially challenging for untrained caregivers, compared to home care professionals at Oxford. Stress is often compounded by unpredictable behavior of children with developmental delays, or seniors with dementia-related conditions.

The all-hours nature of informal caregiving often leads to unmanageable stress for the caregiver, particularly if the patient is a loved one or family member. This stress can leave caregivers feeling burned out and isolated. This is especially true if you are “on duty” for long stretches of time without respite or assistance. It can also increase your risk for everything from anxiety to depression, as well as physical impacts such as fatigue and decreased immune resistance.

Coping Strategies

Oxford offers a variety of information and resources for caregivers. Consider taking steps to reduce your stress before it becomes an issue that could impact care, or your family relationships. The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN offers the following tips:

  • –  Accept help
  • –  Focus on what you CAN do
  • –  Set realistic goals
  • –  Connect to resources
  • –  Seek family/friend support
  • –  Set personal health goals
  • –  Join a support group
  • –  See your doctor

If you are able to continue providing care, we salute you. If you feel you cannot continue to provide a safe, healthy environment by yourself, Oxford understands. We have helped thousands of caregivers just like you with respite care resources, part-time assistance or other support. Contact one of our Care Coordinators and they will be happy to provide resources and options to help.

Mobile Technology Allows More Seniors to Stay Safe and Healthy at Home

senior technology has many faces

More seniors are embracing in-home health technology.

Seniors have been historically slow to join the digital revolution. But over the past several years, technology adoption rates for seniors have strongly outpaced the overall adult population, according to a Pew Research Center study.

And there’s no better time to jump on the digital bandwagon. Phones, tablets and computers have never been easier to use, and the latest advances in home technology include voice-directed digital assistants, like Google Home and Amazon Echo. These small tabletop units can place phone calls, send text messages, change TV channels, browse the internet and even shop online – all without the user lifting a finger or touching a device.

But some of the biggest impacts of senior technology are in the area of healthcare. As the movement toward aging in place continues, more people are expected to use electronic communications to access their healthcare provider network. Many geriatricians and other senior care providers are beginning to conduct tele-health check-ups via Skype or other teleconference platform.

Wearable senior technology

wearable senior technology

Wearable technology devices can help keep seniors safe, healthy and living independently.

Wrist-bound devices like FitBit health trackers and Apple’s iWatch are opening up new channels for patient health. These devices can monitor motion, heart rate, and even sleep patterns – all of which can alert healthcare providers to warning signs or developing medical issues.

Today, this type of mobile technology allows patients to extend their independence and remain safe at home, while providing peace of mind for themselves and loved ones. Our Oxford Healthcare solution is called LifeLine, and we have three service options to fit your needs;

HomeSafe

This service provides at-home coverage that uses either a landline or wireless technology to connect the patient with caregivers. Our 24-hour Response Center, is staffed 365 days/year, and the waterproof wearable pendant can summon help with a simple push of the button.

HomeSafe with AutoAlert

AutoAlert adds automatic fall detection and reporting to the above benefits. The system utilizes predictive CareSage analytics, and can not only report falls, but can also help prevent them.

GoSafe

Our mobile version of the HomeSafe solution includes the AutoAlert features. For active seniors, it adds GPS-enabled location services and two-way mobile communication. These features provide safety and security, wherever life’s journey takes you.

Gerijoy tablet for seniors

Gerijoy tablets offer senior users important reminders and encourage social interaction.

Seniors can also stay connected through a user-friendly GeriJoy tablet, which provides 24/7 access to a team of caregivers and enables two-way communication via touchscreen. This better connects care processes and provides a human connection that improves both medical outcomes and quality of life. The GeriJoy tablet also provides important alerts and reminders for the patient, as well as stimulating social interaction.

If you already use a smartphone, check out AARP’s list of helpful health-related apps. If you are interested in one of our Oxford solutions mentioned above, reach out to one of our Care Coordinators. They’ll be happy to help choose the senior technology solution that best suits YOU.

 

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

Most strokes can be prevented

Can you spot the warning signs of a stroke? Learn them and you could save a life — maybe even your own!

Why is stroke prevention and recognition important? Because it’s the 5th-leading cause of death in the U.S., occurring in 800,000 individuals annually. It is also the leading cause of long-term adult disability, with half of all global stroke survivors being permanently disabled, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Women carry a 7% higher risk, mainly because they live longer and overall risk doubles every decade past the age of 65. Additionally, some form of reduced mobility occurs in half of all patients over age 65 who experience a stroke.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur in the brain, when a blood clot blocks an artery (ischemic stroke) or a blood vessel breaks (hemorrhagic stroke), both of which interrupt blood flow. As that part of the brain loses circulation, the lack of oxygen from the blood causes the brain cells surrounding the affected area to die. The severity and impact depends on which part of the brain it occurs in, and can include physical/mobility problems, loss of speech and/or memory, and emotional changes. And the costs are high – even beyond the lost quality of life, $33 billion is spent annually for treatment in our country, according to the American Heart association.

Take Steps to Prevent

But the most startling statistic is how many strokes are preventable – 80 percent. Many risk factors can be reduced or minimized with simple, common-sense lifestyle choices. To reduce your chances, as well as improve your overall health, Oxford recommends several basic steps;

  • Choose a Nutritious Diet
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight
  • Make time for Physical Activity
  • Quit Smoking Now
  • Limit Alcohol Consumption

Strokes are classified as a result of heart disease, so patients should also address any other coexisting conditions to further reduce their risk. These include regular cholesterol checks, controlling blood pressure, managing diabetes, treating other heart diseases, taking all prescribed medications and working with your doctor and health care team.

Recognize the Signs

How do you know if you’re having a stroke? Symptoms can be anything from a sudden, severe headache in a specific area, to a loss of vision or balance. The American Stroke Association and the American Heart Association have developed a list of four warning signs to determine a person is potentially having a stroke.

  • FACEFAST - Stroke warning signs
    An eye, mouth or cheek appears to sag on only one side of the face
  • ARM
    Weakness on one side of the body that has no other apparent cause
  • SPEECH
    Speech suddenly becomes jumbled, slurry, or slow
  • TIME
    If a person has one or more symptoms, act quickly and call 911 to get emergency medical help.

Make sure to note what time the symptoms began, since early treatment is critical to minimizing long-term damage and impairment. Patients who arrive at the emergency room within three hours of their first stroke symptoms have less disability 90 days afterward than someone who receives delayed care, according to the CDC.

Even More Resources

There is still life to be lived after a stroke, even if you have experienced permanent damage. Physical, occupational and speech therapy can help you regain the maximum possible mobility and minimize the negative impacts. Additionally, a qualified home care team like Oxford HealthCare can help stroke patients maintain their independence during and after treatment. For additional resources on maximizing your recovery from a stroke, visit the American Stroke Association online.

National Nurses Week Starts Today!

National Nurses Week is May 6-12

National Nurses Week is May 6 – 12 – Make sure you let your caregivers know you appreciate them! 

Has your life been improved by a member of the nursing profession? You have a great opportunity coming up this week to say “Thanks!” and let them know they have made a positive impact on you.

National Nurses Week

Since 1990, the week of May 6–12 has officially been the national observance of Nurses Week. However, the movement for greater nurse recognition had been in progress since the 1950’s, according to the American Nurses Association (ANA).

The focus of this year’s celebration will be “Nursing: the Balance of Mind, Body and Spirit,” and will pay special attention to Health & Wellness nurses. Additionally, the ANA is offering resources giving nurses tools to battle the fatigue, moral distress and burnout – all of which are common across  caregiver professions.

A Valued Profession

This year’s celebration comes on the heels of 2016 survey results released by Gallup, a company that internationally conducts economic, business, political, and social polls. For the 15th year in a row, nurses ranked as the “Most Trusted Professionals.”  Of particular note, the study results showed that;

  • One in six people (84 percent) surveyed rated the honesty and ethical standards of nurses as “High” or “Very High”
  • Nurses ratings were 25 percent higher than the next closest profession (pharmacists), which scored 67 percent
  • Doctors, engineers, dentists and police officers were the next group of most-trusted, with insurance and car salespeople on extreme low end of the list, and members of Congress occupying the least-trusted spot

Celebrate Your Favorite Nurse

We also encourage YOU to let a nurse know how they’ve positively impacted your life. If a particular nurse has made a real difference for you or a family member, let us know by sending a short “Thank You” note on our contact page. We’ll make sure that they get the message!

 

The Skin You’re In: Preventing Pressure Ulcers

Good skin health is important to living a full and active lifestyle

By Corrie Dinwiddie, RN
Oxford HealthCare Wound Coordinator

The skin is the largest organ of the human body. According to the online journal LiveScience.com, the average person’s skin counts for 16 percent of their total weight, and spans a surface area of 22 square feet. It is also one of the most important organs for our general health, helping to:

  • Maintain your body temperature
  • Protect you from germs
  • Gather information for your nervous system
  • Assess and react to your surroundings (e.g. heat, cold, pain, sensory touch)

To function properly, your skin needs adequate attention and proper care. A break-down in your overall skin health can put you at risk for injury and disease.

Possible Skin Problems

Even if you have healthy skin, problems may occur if you are immobile for long periods of time, especially in a lying or sitting position. When this happens, pressure from your body weight on the bed or chair surface cuts off the blood supply to skin. As a result, those skin cells don’t get the oxygen and nutrients they need to survive, and a pressure ulcer may result.

Pressure ulcers occur from prolonged sitting or laying

The condition mainly occurs on skin areas that cover a bone or bulge, such as heels, shoulders, hips, and upper buttocks. Pressure ulcers have many names, including:

  • Bedsore Decubitus (de-KU-bi-tus) ulcers
  • Dermal wounds
  • Pressure sores

Risk Factors for a Pressure Ulcer

You may be at risk for a pressure ulcer if you are experiencing:

  • Limited activity or confined to bed
  • Reduced tactile sensation (sense of touch)
  • Chronic, complicated medical problems such as diabetes, obesity, smoking, poor circulation, and spinal cord injury
  • Increased skin moisture from bladder or bowel control issues
  • Poor diet or nutrition Low protein intake, especially if nutrition is already poor

Older adults are more at risk for a pressure ulcer, as are patients who slide down in the bed. Sliding down can cause friction that may tear delicate or already damaged skin.

Symptoms of a Pressure Ulcer

If you have a pressure ulcer, you may have burning, aching, or itching at the site. The injured skin may be red or bruised, or have a purplish discoloration that continues even after you shift position. People with darker skin tones may not show redness or discoloration, and some may need to compare the injured area with uninjured skin tissue.

A pressure ulcer may feel firm or mushy, and may be warm to the touch. Swelling and tenderness are common, and a blister or shallow sore may develop. Sometimes a clear or blood-tinged fluid may drain from the ulcer area. If un-noticed or un-treated, the wound may deepen and extend into the fat layer or adipose (ADD-ih-pose) tissue, or even down to the bone. Pressure ulcers are sometimes categorized in stages (Stage I, Stage II, etc.), based on how deeply the tissue is injured.

Stages of bedsores and pressure ulcers

What Can You Do to Help Prevent a Pressure Ulcer?

You and your family members are important to the prevention and care of a pressure ulcer. Your skin health can be improved when general steps are taken, including:

  • Not smoking
  • Daily exercise (even bedridden patients need activity)
  • Good nutrition
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Adequate hygiene
  • Moving and turning
  • Asking your family or caregiver to help you move and turn if you are confined to a bed or chair

How Do Hospitals and Nursing Homes Prevent Pressure Ulcers?

Your nurses and doctors will begin a plan of care to help keep your skin healthy. If you are not able to move yourself, the hospital or nursing home staff will help you move and turn. They may use special skin care products to protect your skin, and connect you with a dietitian to help you improve your diet. If your nurse or doctor suspects an ulcer, he or she will work to relieve pressure on the area. In some cases, a special mattress or bed may be used to help redistribute pressure.

Even though your skin is one of the most complex and important organs in your body, caring for it is not complicated. Follow these simple steps, and ask your doctor if you have further concerns about potential pressure ulcers.

How to Protect Yourself from Phishing (pronounced: fishing) Scams

By Bryan Bardwell, Oxford’s Security and Privacy Officer

Don’t get hooked by crooks! Our latest blog post outlines several ways to avoid online scams.

Even in the relative safety of our homes, the world can be a dangerous place. Scammers will attempt to trick you and steal your personal information through various means, such as deceptive phone calls, going through your trash, or with fake emails, just to name a few.

In the digital age, one of the most dubious online scams is known a “Phishing”. Thieves send an email to target victims, often to thousands of people at a time. On the surface, the email appears to be a legitimate contact attempt, but is really a fraudulent message. When links within the e-mail are clicked or an attachment is opened, it triggers computer scripts that automatically download a virus or malware onto your computer. These viruses can capture personal information, such as your User ID and Password logins, bank details, Social Security numbers and credit card account information.

Phishing is a huge threat to homes and businesses because of the vast amount of important information most users store on their computer(s). They may have different messages, but ALL Phishing scams will have some sort of urgency involved in the message, such as: If you do not confirm your User ID and Password by 4pm, we will be forced to lock you out of your computer.

How To Avoid Phishing Scams 

  1. Scan your e-mails carefully and look for grammar mistakes and other inconsistencies.
  2. Verify the email sender’s address to confirm it was sent from a legitimate source. Most phishing scams will try to fool you with similar email addresses, but the email domain name (e.g. Bob@xyzbank.com) should match the web address of a real company.
  3. In addition, secure websites that require a login will all begin with https:// – That “s” indicates the site is Secure. (For example, Gmail’s email server is https://mail.google.com/mail).  Always look for https:// if you’re asked to enter a User ID and Password to access a website.  Legitimate secure sites will include all banks, credit card companies, and other email providers (such as Outlook, Yahoo, and Hotmail), as well as shopping websites like Amazon, Target, Walmart, EBay etc.
  4. Email fraud can be the easiest of all thefts – by simply adding Click Here somewhere in the email text, many victims are enticed to click on the link, and are then directed to a website that is not legitimate. The fake website may have similar graphics or logos to a real company, and will ask for your User ID, Password or to verify personal details. If you comply, it could compromise your computer. But there is an easy way to see through this type of click-through scam: To view the web address behind a “Click Here” link, hover over the link with your mouse without clicking it. A small window will pop up with a URL, such as https://www.xyzbank.com, as shown below.
  5. If you suspect that an email is a phishing attempt, play it safe – DO NOT open any attachments or click any links.

Hover your pointer over a link to see the destination website address.

What to Look For

Here is an example of a Phishing email:

Example of a Phishing email

What are the RED flags in this Phishing email?

  • Look for inconsistencies in the From: – is it a legitimate email address?
  • Check for an attachment. It will appear under the Subject: DO NOT open if you are unsure of who is sending you this information. Be very careful of .zip file attachments in any email.
  • Hover over Click Here to see the website where the link will take you. If you see a number or “http:” instead of “https:”, DO NOT click links or go to the site.
  • Note that there is no personal sender information (name, address, phone, email) signature in the email.

Failure to notice these telltale signs could result in “Phishers” gaining access to your private account information or other personal data.

Other Resources

To help combat Identity Theft, the Internal Revenue Service offers “Seven Steps for Making Identity Protection Part of Your Routine”.

  1. Review your credit card and baking statements carefully and often. Neither your credit card, bank or the IRS will send you emails asking for sensitive personal and financial information, such as asking you for updates to your account.
  2. Review and respond to all notices and correspondence from the Internal Revenue Service.
  3. Review each of your three credit reports at least once a year. Visit annualcreditreport.com to get your free reports.
  4. Review your annual Social Security income statement for excessive income reported. You can sign up for an electronic account at SSA.gov
  5. Shred any documents with personal and financial information.
  6. Review your health insurance statements; look for claims you never filed or care you never received.
  7. If you receive any routine federal deposits such as Social Security of VA benefits, you probably receive those electronically. You can use the same direct deposit for your federal and state tax refund which is safe and secure.