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Helpful tips for family caregivers

June/July 2015

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In this issue we share advice from the Mayo Clinic about learning to alter, and when appropriate, avoid life's stressors. We also help you reduce the chance that your loved one will be rehospitalized. And last, in honor of National Cancer Survivors Day (June 7), we offer tips for those first few weeks after a cancer diagnosis. Forward this newsletter to a caregiving friend.

Addressing your stressors

When times are hard, many of us grit our teeth and keep plugging away. While such commitment can be admirable, it can also lead to resentment and burnout.

 

Instead of just toughing it out, think about ways to "work smarter." There may be opportunities to change how you approach situations that could directly reduce your load. The Mayo Clinic suggests looking for ways to "alter or avoid" stressors.

 

  • Speak up. Others may do things in ways that irritate or disappoint you. Let them know your preferences. Use "I" statements so it is clear that you are not criticizing. "I worry that if pill bottles are in sight, Dad will take an extra dose. Let's keep them in the cabinet."
  • Protect your time. Make a plan and aim for efficiency: Instead of dealing with mail daily, pay bills once a week. Group errands so that you're not driving all over town every day. When you are running short on time, let others know ("I have only 10 minutes") and bring things to a close when time is up.
  • Respect your limits. You honestly can't do everything. Nor can everything always go smoothly. "No" is not a bad word. It simply tells others where you stand. Remove from your to-do list the things that aren't essential (even if you believe you "should" do them).
  • Prioritize the positive. You need to replenish your personal well. Avoid topics or people who do not contribute to your well-being. Instead, spend quality time with the people who matter and who renew your spirit.
  • Cultivate flexibility. It's fine to ask others to alter their behavior. By the same token, you can reduce your own stress level if you look for ways to reinterpret their actions. Blessed are the flexible, for they do not get bent out of shape!

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The post-discharge appointment

Newly discharged patients are fragile and need special attention. As many as 20% end up back in the hospital within a month. A follow-up visit with the doctor can greatly reduce the chance of a relapse.

 

Start connecting with your relative's doctor before leaving the hospital.

  • Get the hospitalist involved. Ask the hospitalist to contact and update the primary care provider.
  • Schedule an appointment for the first week. Contact your relative's doctor and explain that your loved one has been hospitalized. Describe the diagnosis and any new medications to discuss. If you are not given a date within a week of discharge, ask to speak to a supervisor.
  • Assert yourself as necessary. Leave a voice or email message directly for the doctor if your appeal to the staff did not yield a timely appointment.
  • Get copies of hospital records. You will want to bring lab results, x-rays, and the discharge summary to the doctor's appointment. Get copies before you leave the hospital.

 

Make sure that your relative has transportation and any assistance needed to get to the appointment.

 

If you plan the appointment ahead of time, you can accomplish a lot. Prepare to discuss

  • what led to the hospitalization. Review the symptoms and events that occurred before the crisis. Perhaps it's time to see a specialist.
  • what you understood happened in the hospital. Review any tests, x-rays, or consultations so you and the doctor can decide the next steps.
  • medication changes. Compare the hospital discharge list with the doctor’s running list and discuss revisions.
  • "red flags" to look out for. Make sure you understand meaningful changes or symptoms. Make a plan for what to do if they occur, especially outside normal office hours.

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When there is a cancer diagnosis

If your parent recently received a diagnosis of cancer, you both may be feeling stunned, anxious, and overwhelmed. Here are tips to help.

 

Lay a foundation for the journey to come.

  • Acknowledge emotions. Anger, sadness, and confusion are among the many normal responses. And, of course, fear. Encourage your parent to talk about these feelings. Listen openly. Consider suggesting a support group with others who have had a cancer diagnosis.
  • Reassure them that you are in their corner. All cancer patients are advised to have a fact-gathering friend at medical appointments. Let your relative know if you can do this, or help find a trusted alternate.
  • Ask how much detail is desired. Your parent may want to know everything. Or may prefer to not know and defer to someone else for decisions. Let the medical team know your parent's preference.

 

Take the first key steps.

  • Get exact information. Ask the doctor what kind of cancer it is, its size, stage, and usual growth pattern.
  • Find the right doctor. You want a sense of teamwork with a doctor who listens and explains in words you and your parent understand. If this isn't the case, switch.
  • Learn treatment options. Get details about side effects and usual outcomes of potential treatments. Whether the desired results are likely or unlikely may determine the course of action.
  • Consider a second opinion. Meet with a doctor specializing in your relative's type of cancer.
  • Be careful with the Internet! There is a lot of false information on the Web. Only visit websites of credible organizations, such as the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society

 

Encourage your loved one to stay connected with friends and engage in enjoyable physical activities and pastimes with personal meaning. Also ask that she or he accept help with routine tasks, such as cleaning and cooking. Similarly, for yourself, be sure to accept help so you can pace yourself and go the distance!

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About Us

Senior Solutions: Providing Healthcare Guidance To Families For Over 24 Years

 

Navigating the complex maze of lifestyle and health care options and decisions facing seniors today can be overwhelming. Where do you turn when an aging parent, spouse, or loved one is in need of assistance? There is a multitude of options out there but which one is the most appropriate and affordable?  And how do you know which choice is the right one for you and your family?

 

According to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) families require guidance that leads to actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress and time off work for family caregivers. In addition families require assistance with the two most common causes of senior hospitalizations; Falling and Medication Mismanagement.

 

How does a family know that they need the services of a Professionally Certified Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) and how does the family find a GCM to guide their loved one that resides in the    Lehigh Valley?  The answer; when caring for an aging family member becomes overwhelming or if:

  • The person you are caring for has limited or no family support

  • You have recently become involved with helping the person & you need direction about services

  • The person you are caring for has multiple medical or psychological issues

  • The person you are assisting is unable to live safely in their current environment

  • Your family is either “burned out” or confused about care solutions

  • Your family has limited time and/or expertise in dealing with your loved ones chronic care needs

  • Your family is fighting about what care decisions should be chosen

  • Your loved one is not pleased with the current care provider and requires advocacy & advice

  • Your loved one is confused about their own financial and/or legal documentation

  • Your family needs education and/or direction dealing with behaviors associated with dementia

Finding a GCM is as easy as going to www.caremanager.org and typing in your loved ones zip code and when you do, your search will reveal that Senior Solutions of Allentown and Palmer Township PA not only has the most and the most experienced GCM’s but Senior Solutions introduced the Lehigh Valley to the concept of Geriatric Care Management in 1990.. Wanting only to be associated with the highest level of competency in elder care, Senior Solutions became early members of the then newly established NAPGCM. Senior Solutions 4 GCM’s hold themselves to that same standard to this day with 2 Registered Nurse GCM’s and 2 Master Level Certified GCM’s, including an MSW. As such the Senior Solutions GCM’s are continuing their tradition of excellence as NAPGCM members.

 

So what exactly can one expect from a Senior Solutions GCM or care manager? Senior Solutions founders’  would  described themselves as “surrogate daughters” qualified to provide services for beloved seniors such as ASSESSMENTS– evaluating them in their home environment – CRISIS INTERVENTION – responding to unexpected crisis situations – MONITORING – visiting seniors in their home or their community to maintain ongoing contact and medication management – TRANSPORTATION & ADVOCACY – arranging and accompanying seniors to doctors’ appointments, etc. - CARE PLAN DEVELOPMENT & PLACEMENT – providing a plan to provide the highest possible quality of life and evaluating alternative living options such as independent living, etc. HOME CARE ASISTANCE – assessing needs for homecare and assisting seniors in finding the right personal or companion care.

 

And although it is not always the case, many times Senior Solutions GCM’s do not have to look very far to find a non-medical home care provider as Senior Solutions has been providing home care since 1992. Non-medical home care is care provided in ones’ home or a senior living community, where the caregiver is not required to do medical procedures such as giving injections, treating an open wound, or administering intravenous medications, etc. however a Senior Solutions a caregiver can provide companionship, assistance with bathing, dressing, walking, wheelchair assistance, cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping, and transportation to friends, family, church, shopping, hair dresser, and physician appointments. In addition Senior Solutions caregivers are specially trained in doing activities with loved ones who are dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other specific diagnosis.  Also Senior Solutions employees are fully bonded and insured and pass a physical, criminal, and drug test.

 

What separates Senior Solutions from other non-medical providers are a number of very important factors: 1. Senior Solutions provides FREE in home assessments by a Registered Nurse (RN)

               2. Senior Solutions caregivers are trained and supervised by an RN

               3. Senior Solutions has been providing home care to families in the Lehigh Valley for over 22 yrs

               4. Senior Solutions can serve the entire Lehigh Valley with locations in Allentown and Easton, PA

 

 Therefore if you are looking for a healthcare professional who can act as a points of contact for out-of-town relatives, team with physicians, attorneys and facilities for coordinated care, assist with discharge planning after a hospitalization, provide nutritional assistance, facilitate socialization programs, act as mediators and even arrange for financial and legal planning, or are simply looking for companionship and assistance for your loved one in their home Senior Solutions Certified Care Managers and Home Care Services is your # 1 choice in the Lehigh Valley as we are your partner in caring for those you care about.

 

 

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Please Note: Senior Solutions does not specifically endorse the activities of any organizations mentioned here, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.

 

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"Sometimes we can't control life's curve balls. But we do have choices in how we react to them."


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