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Senior Agenda airs live every Thursday morning at 10 am. Podcasts are also available.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to Choose a Home Health Care Provider


With so many Medicare-certified home health care providers, it’s no wonder choosing one can seem like a chore.

The key is to plan ahead and ask the right questions.

Let’s start with the importance of planning.  We often talk about the importance of planning when it comes to advance directives, financial and legal considerations, and funeral services, but we seldom talk about the importance of selecting preferred medical providers before you find yourself in need of them.  This is especially important for those living with chronic diseases and conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, and many lung diseases.  You owe it to yourself or your loved one to at least become familiar with the various hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living communities and home health care providers in your community and what you should expect from each of them before you or someone you love needs care. 

Selecting a home health care provider is an important health care decision.  Interviewing providers to determine which one is right for you is recommended.  Consider asking all or some of the following questions when shopping for an in-home provider: 

1.       Who owns the company? 
Find out who owns the company and weigh out how the various type of ownership might play a role in the care, service, and reliability you experience.  Is the provider a part of a large national firm, medium-sized corporation or a smaller boutique-type of provider?  Do you expect to be treated like a number or an individual?  Has the company changed hands moving from one owner to the next during its history?

2.        How long has the company been in business?
The number of years a home health care provider has been in business is not always relevant to quality of care, but it will give some idea about stability and experience. 

3.        How are employees screened, trained and insured? 
All Medicare-certified providers are required to conduct rigorous background checks on licensed clinicians and staff members, but ask about company policy on drug testing, references, on-going training, and hiring experienced clinicians.  Ask how employees are insured and bonded. 

4.        Will a nurse or therapist be assigned to my care or will I see multiple clinicians? 
A reputable home health care provider will work to ensure that the same clinicians see the same patients visit to visit.  It promotes continuity of care and makes for a better customer experience. 

5.        What are the most recently reported star ratings for the provider? 

  CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) recently began ranking Medicare-certified home health care providers using a 5-Star system.  Providers earn one to five stars, the more stars the better, for quality care based on clinical outcomes and patient satisfacton. The idea of the new Star-rating system is to make it easier for consumers to choose a home health care provider and also to motivate providers to make improvements.  

To shop for a home health care provider visit Home Health Compare The site allows consumers to do side by side comparisons for quality of care for all Medicare-certified home health care providers.  

Friday, September 9, 2016

Caregiver Considerations

We’ve talked so much about caregiver stress that the phrase barely packs a punch anymore. You’ve heard all the “cliché advice” from make time for yourself to share the load. It all sounds so reasonable and within reach, unless, of course, you’re the caregiver.

Caregivers are well-acquainted with guilt, self-doubt, conflict, and exhaustion. Their days are characterized with highs and lows, dilemmas and predicaments, anxiety and resolve. It’s an emotional roller coaster that requires tremendous strength of character and devotion. It’s not all doom and gloom, but there is a reason we spend so much time talking about it. The stress is real. The experience is consuming. The path is unpredictable.

1. LEARN about your loved one’s condition
Being in the know will help to reduce stress and fear. Learn everything you can by consulting with physicians, visiting your local library and becoming acquainted with community resources.

2. PLAN ahead
Once you have educated yourself about your loved one’s condition, devise a plan that includes choosing potential healthcare providers in advance, preparing advance directives, and getting financial and legal affairs in order.

3. PRACTICE self-care
Taking care of yourself makes it possible for you to continue to be a caregiver to your loved one. Capable caregivers find the time to eat right, exercise, sleep and even schedule daily quiet time for relaxation, mediation or prayer.

4. CELEBRATE moments & make memories
Embrace the chance to live in the moment and enjoy your loved one when opportunities for laughter and intimacy present.  Allowing yourself to enjoy those moments as they unfold can go a long away in alleviating stress.

5. KNOW that you will make mistakes 
Making mistakes opens up the possibility of finding a better way to do things. At the end of the day, it won’t be the mistakes that matter. What matters is your willingness to keep putting one step in front of the other as you continue to care for your loved one.

6. TRY NOT to be a control freak
Trying to control every aspect of care will prove impossible for you and also work to alienate those willing to help. Folks will be less likely to help if you micromanage or bark orders.

7. ASK for help
You can do anything, but not everything. The next time a well-meaning neighbor, friend or family member asked what they can do to help, tell them. Make a list of chores that you could use help with and share the load.

8. RESPITE care
Adult day care, private duty home care, or even a brief stay at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility for your loved one may be helpful and/or necessary. Taking a break when you need one is another way of practicing self-care.

9. LEARN about signs & symptoms 
You are at increased risk for physical and mental health problems including depression. Once you burnout, care-giving is no longer a healthy solution for you or your loved one. That’s why it is so important to watch for warning signs and seek professional help when needed.

Being a caregiver is truly a labor of love. If you find yourself becoming too overwhelmed to continue being the sole caregiver, consider hiring a reputable private duty home care agency to help alleviate some of the burden.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Ohio Home Care Provider Sponsors an Intergenerational Learning Program

“Connections between generations are essential for the mental health and stability of a nation.”

              Margaret Mead

Capital Health Home Care in Ashtabula, Ohio is facilitating and sponsoring intergenerational learning between seniors residing in long term care settings and students at River Gate High School, a charter school in Warren, Ohio.  It is one component of a larger community outreach initiative on behalf of Capital Health Care Network known as the Capital Intergenerational Learning Program. 

The program is based on the idea that intergenerational learning is beneficial to seniors and students alike. According to Capital Health Home Care, both generations benefit in the following ways:
·         Improved sense of community and connectedness
·         Greater awareness and understanding
·         Opportunity to bridge the generation gap
·         Opportunity to break down age-based stereotypes 
·         Improved interpersonal skills and communication

“Intergenerational learning compliments our mission to provide seniors with opportunities for social and intellectual engagement,” said Lisa Stockdale, Vice President at Capital Health Care Network.  Stockdale said, “We believe our communities are improved anytime seniors and the elderly are valued, celebrated and acknowledged.  This program gives us the chance to promote intergenerational connections which is a win-win for seniors and students.” 

Erin Williams, Community Liaison at Capital Health Home Care in Ashtabula, spearheaded the Capital Intergenerational Learning Program when she connected students at River Gate High School with older adults via a letter writing campaign. “I thought we should match up seniors who have so much to offer with students looking for learning opportunities outside the classroom by encouraging them to become pen pals as a start,” said Williams.  River Gate High School, like many charter schools in Ohio, has little to no funding for extracurricular activities. 
Williams said Capital Health Home Care in Ashtabula is currently working on setting up other intergenerational learning opportunities including arranging for students at River Gate High School interested in healthcare to shadow nurses at local assisted living communities and skilled nursing facilities. 

Assisted living communities, skilled nursing facilities and charter schools in the Ashtabula, Dayton, Steubenville or Columbus areas of Ohio can call 614-357-2965 to learn more or to inquire about participating in the program.  

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Volunteer for Purpose

Many of the seniors interviewed on Senior Agenda have reported a fading sense of purpose.  They often share feelings of frustration and disconnectedness. Some have said they feel forgotten while others report feeling useless or invisible.  They aren’t alone.  An accumulating body of research examining purpose across the lifespan has discovered a pattern indicating that a sense of purpose tends to peak during late adolescence and early adulthood and begins to decline throughout adulthood and then drops sharply through late adulthood. 

Why the decline in sense of purpose?  Maybe it’s because we all know what we want to be when we grow up, but we don’t know what we want to be after we grow?  We assume our “want to be” will be done once we grow up.  But that just isn’t the way it plays out. 

Living a purposeful life means continuing to participate, learn, experience and share. The truth is many of us find purpose in the doing and have no desire to rest on what we now know or what we have already accomplished.  Words like growth, potential and opportunity still apply. 

Volunteerism offers a pathway back to purpose for those feeling secluded or out of touch.  It is a wonderful way to stay involved in the community, make new friends, choose meaningful work, share expertise, stay active and help others.  In addition to all that, it feels good and it’s fun.  It is well-documented that volunteering has mental and physical health benefits for the volunteer.  According to the Corporation for National and Community Services, volunteers experience greater life satisfaction, an increased sense of accomplishment, more stress resilience and lower rates of depression.  The National Institute on Aging has reported that volunteering lowers age-related health problems and promotes longevity.  Being a volunteer helps keep the brain and the body active and it provides a sense of purpose along the way. 

Wondering where to sign up?  Contact a community agency doing work that matters to you from boys and girls clubs to animal shelters to religious organizations.  Don’t forget about your local schools.  They are often looking for volunteers to read to the children and more.  You might also consider your local assisted living community, senior center, hospice, or nursing home.  Seniors helping seniors is a beautiful thing!

Remember to listen to Senior Agenda for local opportunities thru- out the year.  As I often say on the radio, you don’t have to go it alone.