Regaining Control: How Consumer Directed Services Ease the Burden of Care

Easing the Burden of Care

Confronting a Challenge Head On

Caring for a disabled family member is a challenge people face more and more as lives grow longer and disabilities are dealt with more effectively. More than 40 million Americans are caring for a disabled or aged person at home, and, nine out of 10 times, it is a family member.

For the patient, getting your home care from a family member can be the best combination of competence and comfort. Yet, as anyone who has undertaken this responsibility as the caregiver can tell you, the breadth of the demands, the stress of constant attention, and the financial strain – which can include giving up one’s own employment to be the caregiver – can add up to a burden that’s hard to bear for long.

Still, the advantages of care within the circle of family or friends can outweigh these challenges, if the caregiver can learn the necessary skills and balance the duties of care with the demands of their own lives. Few, if any, people come to the situation with all these skills in place.

Getting Help to Put the Right Arrangements in Place

Now there’s help for securing the kind of care that allows people to stay in their home, attended by people they know. The Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services offers a program to do just that. Consumer Directed Services provides for the kind of help you need to set up home care with a family member, neighbor or friend as your caregiver. These services include:

  • Training you to hire and supervise attendants
  • Performing background checks on attendants
  • Processing payroll and billing
  • Helping complete paperwork
  • Assisting with problems that may arise

Knowing the Help You Need

With Consumer Directed Services (CDS), Oxford HealthCare can train you to hire and supervise attendants – whether family, friends, or neighbors – help complete paperwork, background checks, and handle payroll and billing for getting qualified care at home.

We can help you get services like these at no cost to you, if you qualify for CDS:

  • Bathing and personal care
  • Transportation and shopping
  • Meal preparation and help with feeding
  • Maintenance and help with equipment, aids and prostheses
  • Ambulation, housekeeping and other functions of daily living

If you’re 65 or older, or disabled, qualify for Medicaid, and can direct your own care, then you may qualify for Consumer Directed Services. Oxford HealthCare can help you find out. Just Contact one of our Care Coordinators.

Help for the Sandwich Generation

Help for The Sandwich Generation

Balancing Family Life with Children and Aged Parents

It’s probably not the sort of sandwich we had in mind. As we gratefully see generations of our family living longer, many families feel crushed by the duties of caring for parents and children at the same time. In fact, a Pew Research Center study finds that one out of every eight adults age 40 to 60 is both raising a child and caring for a parent. And the number of older persons to care for is estimated to grow to more than 72 million by 2030.

It’s not just demanding. The nature of these demands is unique. Constant awareness and attention is called for, and this takes a kind of energy that most people never experience until they become parents. You’re always “on.”

Unexpected Occurrences Enter the Picture

Yet, with an aged family member in the household, too, some of the events that come with aging – and often with disability – can be unpredictable. Accidents and sudden changes in the family member’s condition can prompt doctor calls and emergency room visits that upend the most well-planned household. Even small children have a more predictable rhythm.

Add to this picture the effort involved in a person’s own career and work obligations, and we see a very difficult way of life by any standard. So, when the duties and demands of caregiving go in both directions, people sometimes feel they are on the brink of exhaustion much of the time.

Financial Burden Grows Faster Than the Family

Because the cost of prescriptions often rises, and because medical attention usually increases with age, the cost of caring for parents can grow faster than the cost for children. Sandwich households have an extra hard time planning, budgeting, and keeping up with costs unless they put experienced help on their side.

Relief Is a Family Necessity

Taking care of yourself is a key ingredient in the sandwich generation household. The people depending on you are equally dependent on your staying well and happy, and so a whole sector of healthcare, known as respite care, is taking shape to provide the relief that home caregivers need.

With our rich background in home care and our wide array of services, Oxford HealthCare is uniquely qualified to offer you the selection of support that’s right for you, your home and your family.

The Oxford HealthCare Spectrum of Services

The kinds of services Oxford HealthCare can provide are so extensive and detailed that perhaps the best way to describe them is this: If it happens, we can help you with it. From a few hours or a day a week to round-the-clock care, Oxford HealthCare is committed to providing you the support that enables you to regain a sense of control and confidence.

With a planned program of care designed particularly for the needs of the family member you’re caring for, unexpected events are often avoided. Costs become more predictable, so you can plan more effectively. And people tell us that the sense that they’re not alone in this commitment is worth a great deal.

Contact one of our Care Coordinators and let’s begin talking about the kind of care that may be right for you and your family. Restoring your sense of balance and security as you care for your loved ones is a mission that’s a privilege for us to join.

The Meaning of Hospice: The Opposite of Giving Up

The Meaning of Hospice

A difficult aspect of hospice care is recognizing when to begin. Perhaps the biggest obstacle is realizing that hospice care has nothing to do with “throwing in the towel.” Simply put, hospice is not the end of life, but rather the beginning of a style of care that is appropriate to the situation.

It’s true that insurance definitions of hospice include a six-month prognosis of a terminal condition. Yet, in many cases, people get better and return to other forms of care or have to extend their six-month outlook. The purpose of making this point is not to paint false hope, but to open wider the possibilities of comfort, learning, and framing the outlook of the patient and the family.

Most important, a timely transition to hospice care can improve quality of life, even and especially when we are faced with difficult news.

The Best Time to Talk is Before

Just as “the time to make friends is before you need them,” the most productive time to have a family conversation about how we prefer to navigate the last chapters of life is before we are facing them. It may not be an easy conversation to start. In fact, people have  the tendency to put off this talk. That postponement can continue right up to the day when decisions cannot be put off any longer and care is needed.

Families can overcome this hesitation. Good chances to begin the dialogue come along frequently – if only we can recognize them. The funeral or life celebration of a friend or loved one can be the seamless backdrop for beginning to talk without alarm about one’s own preferences for care when life begins drawing to a close.

And these openings include happy times, too. Family reunions, holidays, or any time we are together can be an opportunity. Talking about the lives of those who came before us – as we do sometimes in these gatherings – can be a good time to begin.

Later Can Be Good, Too

But if the prospect of a terminal diagnosis comes before we’ve had the opportunity to discuss our preferences of care, then it is never too late to talk about it. The urgency of this decision can prompt a discussion, but it will be important to understand the hesitance felt by everyone involved.

For the patient, everything we’ve learned about persistence and tenacity in life may stand in the way of accepting the diagnosis we have been given. The truth is clouded by ideas like “fighting for life,” or “beating this.” These perceptions can be admirable and even beneficial sometimes, but too often they cause more suffering not only for the patient but also for families and loved ones.

For the family, acceptance may be easier or harder, but it certainly will be complicated. Life events and history come forward, and the roles we took as children in the family can be difficult to overcome when it comes to advising and decision-making.

For the attending physician, the recognition that it is time for hospice may not be as clear-cut as it sounds. Even with thorough medical knowledge and compassionate intent, doctors, too, might see hospice as a form of “giving up.”

Knowing these different perspectives can help us better understand and move forward with a discussion despite all this natural hesitation.

Resources for Support and Understanding

Because Oxford HealthCare is experienced in the broadest range of needs – not just hospice – our perspectives on how to discuss hospice and when to consider it can be very helpful and bring greater comfort.

Contact one of our Care Coordinators, and we will be happy to provide resources and options to help, wherever you may be on the journey.

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.