Managing the Top 5 Chronic Diseases that Affect Seniors

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

Once 80% of seniors age 65 and older are diagnosed with at least one chronic condition, and nearly 70% living with two or more, it’s important to learn the best ways to manage the chronic diseases that are impacting the older adults in your life. THE MEDICAL TEAM’s in-home care experts are skilled and experienced in helping seniors live life to the fullest, even when chronic conditions are a factor, and offer the following helpful information for the most common ailments.

Hypertension: Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is prevalent among seniors. Hypertension can lead to a heart attack or stroke, so it’s important to closely follow doctors’ orders to stabilize blood pressure levels, including taking medications exactly as prescribed, reducing intake of salt and alcohol, maintaining a healthy weight, and reducing stress.

Arthritis: Aching discomfort in joints caused by the inflammation of arthritis can be minimized through regular exercise (aerobic, strengthening, and stretching) at least five times per week for at least 30 minutes. It’s also important for those with arthritis to quit (or never start) smoking, and to lose excess weight to reduce pressure on the knees.

Heart Disease: Heart disease results from blocked arteries that prevent an adequate supply of oxygen to be delivered to the heart, and affects nearly a third of older adults. Recommendations to maximize heart health include minimizing stress, sleeping at least 7 hours each night, engaging in cardio exercises, and following a diet low in saturated and trans fats, sugar and salt. Additionally, those at risk for or diagnosed with heart disease should never smoke.

Alzheimer’s Disease: While the jury is still out on exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease and the memory and cognitive problems it involves, researchers do believe there are some steps we can take to slow or even prevent the onset of the disease, such as remaining physically and mentally active, sleeping at least 7 hours per night, and following a healthy diet.

COPD: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease is linked to the lung irritation most often caused by smoking. The top recommendation to avoid getting COPD or slowing the progression of the disease is to quit or never start smoking, and avoid secondhand smoke and other lung irritants. Those with COPD should follow doctors’ orders closely, and be sure to get flu and pneumonia vaccines as directed.

Chronic disease management is a key part of improving overall health and wellbeing and reducing hospitalization among older adults. To learn additional coping techniques for these or other chronic conditions of aging, contact the professional home care providers at THE MEDICAL TEAM. We’re always happy to share resources to improve quality of life for seniors, and to offer skilled and customized in-home care services to help older adults live life to the fullest.

Contact us to learn more about our senior care solutions in New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas and the metro DC area.

The Best Ways to Advocate for Hospitalized Seniors

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

The stress of facing a hospitalization, whether planned, such as for a surgical procedure, or unexpected from sickness, a fall, or other injury, can be greatly reduced when a caring advocate is by a senior’s side. The senior care specialists at THE MEDICAL TEAM share the following tips to help hospitalized seniors, and those who care for them, experience a more comfortable hospitalization experience.

Provide Comfort. Equipping the senior with some of the comforts of home can help transform the sterile hospital environment into one that’s soothing and more familiar. Consider bringing along the person’s blanket, robe, and slippers, a portable CD player and some favorite music, books, personal toiletry items, and a framed picture.

Be Informed. Helping to keep track of medications the senior has been prescribed, how often medications should be given, and dosage amounts, can reduce the risk of busy hospital staff missing a dose or overmedicating the senior. If the person is on a restricted diet, it’s also beneficial to monitor meals to ensure they’re in adherence. You can also provide nurses and other medical staff with details on any special needs or concerns the senior may have. All information can be kept in one central location, such as a notebook, for easy access among family caregivers and medical staff.

Be Present. Your presence with the hospitalized senior is one of the best gifts you can offer. The benefits from simply holding the senior’s hand, sharing a meal, reading or watching TV together, are priceless. Your presence can serve as a welcome distraction from the reason behind the hospitalization.

Help at Home. Often a hospitalized senior feels the stress of what’s left undone at home. To alleviate the senior’s concerns, put together a list of tasks to be taken care of by yourself or other family and friends who want to help. Suggested ideas include housework and laundry, preparing some meals in advance that can be easily reheated, tending to yard work, and pet care, just to name a few.

Screen Visitors. The senior may or may not feel up to entertaining visitors while hospitalized. Serve as a liaison between concerned family members and friends, advising them when the best time might be to visit and sharing their well wishes with the senior.

When the senior is ready to be discharged, there are additional steps to help the person recover and avoid a re-hospitalization. Nearly half of all older adults experience medication errors after leaving the hospital, which can be avoided with effective post-hospitalization care. Modifying the home for fall prevention is also essential. Remove throw rugs and any other tripping hazards, ensure grab bars and handrails are in place, and clear clutter away from walking paths.

Caring for hospitalized seniors and providing seamless, consistent care through the transition back home and during recovery, can be made easier by partnering with a professional in-home care agency like THE MEDICAL TEAM. Our respite care services ensure that someone is always available to both advocate for a senior and monitor for any potential health concerns in order to bring them to the attention of the physician and reduce the chance of a rehospitalization.

Our skilled, compassionate care team is on hand throughout New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas, and the metro DC area to provide a full range of home health care services including skilled nursing, coordination of home medical equipment needs, social worker services, physical, occupational and speech therapy, home health aide and homemaker assistance, and much more. Contact us with any questions or to arrange for senior care services.

Advice for Avoiding Overmedication in Older Adults

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

With the majority of older adults taking multiple prescriptions – on average, as many as 14 different medications – it’s important to understand the potential side effects and interactions, and to reduce the risk of overmedication in seniors.

While prescriptions are meant to improve health, without close monitoring, they can have the opposite effect. According to the CDC, older adults (65 years or older) are twice as likely as others to visit emergency rooms because of a drug related complication or overmedication and nearly seven times more likely to be hospitalized after an emergency visit.

To help keep seniors safe, these tips from the American Geriatrics Society’s Health in Aging Foundation can help:

  • Make (and regularly update) a list of all medications. Keep a current list of all medications – prescribed, over-the-counter, supplements, vitamins, etc. – including dosage amounts, and share with all of the senior’s medical providers. It’s a good idea to keep a copy with you as well, in the event of an emergency.
  • Follow doctors’ orders. For a variety of reasons, older adults may steer away from taking medications exactly as prescribed. Some may crush up medications due to an inability to swallow pills, which can lower the effectiveness of the medication. Or cost may be an issue, leading them to cut back on the amount of the medication taken. It’s imperative to adhere closely to what the doctor has prescribed, and to talk with the doctor about any issues that may make that difficult.
  • Review regularly, and ask questions. Review with the physician at least annually, or more often if desired, all medications being taken, the need to continue them, and the potential for modifying the regimen. Bring a list of questions for the doctor, such as:
    • What are the long-term benefits or effects of taking each medication?
    • What interactions between these medications might be encountered?
    • How long will each prescription need to be taken?
    • Is it ok to take over-the-counter meds, vitamins, etc. with these prescriptions?
    • Are there alternative, drug-free treatment options available?

Keeping these tips in mind, and maintaining ongoing, consistent communication between the senior, physician, and other medical personnel about any medication concerns, can go a long way in reducing the possibility of senior overmedication complications.

If the seniors you know could use a helping hand with implementing these tips and enhancing their health and wellbeing both physical and emotional, contact THE MEDICAL TEAM. We’ll provide a free in-home assessment to determine the most appropriate private duty services. From home health and homemaker services, to physical, occupational or speech therapy, to social worker services and more, we customize care plans specific to each senior’s needs, and are here to meet your needs as well, any time.

For more assistance in keeping seniors healthy and well, contact the in-home care experts at THE MEDICAL TEAM. We can provide a wide range of customized senior care services right in the comfort of home, to help ensure seniors take medications as prescribed, follow a balanced diet, remain physically active and socially engaged, along with a full range of skilled nursing, therapy, and social work services.

Serving New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas, and the metro DC area, contact us to learn more from our professional in-home care specialists about avoiding senior overmedication and other complications.

Is It Time for Hospice Care?

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

The term hospice care is one most families would rather not hear, and many people firmly decline this type of assistance until the need is imminent. However, the real benefit of hospice care comes through early intervention – in fact, the sooner hospice care is initiated, the more services the person will be able to access, resulting in a higher quality of later life.

So exactly when should hospice care be considered, and what does it entail? The in-home care experts at THE MEDICAL TEAM have some answers.

What Is Hospice Care?

Hospice care enhances comfort for patients in the final stages of life. Care can and should begin as soon as the doctor provides certification that an individual’s particular condition generally results in a life expectancy of six months or less.

Hospice allows the person to remain at home, if desired, under the care of a professional team that includes a physician, nurse, social worker, chaplain, therapists, pharmacist, bereavement counselor, and volunteers. Each member of the hospice care team works together to provide personalized, holistic care to cover the person’s full range of needs.

One of the many benefits of hospice care includes specialized pain management, ensuring that the care recipient remains comfortable at all times and can quickly receive adjustments to medications as needed. In-home accessibility supplies are also provided as needed to enhance quality of life, such as a hospital bed, wheelchair, or portable oxygen tank. And, hospice staff are available on-call at all times, giving both the patient and family members peace of mind.

When Is the Right Time for Hospice Care?

At THE MEDICAL TEAM, we firmly believe that hospice care should begin as early as possible to be most effective. Although the guideline is to provide services for individuals with a life expectancy of six months or less, services will continue as long as needed following that six-month period, with a simple re-certification from the physician to confirm the person’s continued eligibility.

Families who put off calling in hospice until the very final stage of life miss out on the opportunity for the hospice care team to provide the full range of assistance that makes such a difference in the patient and family’s end of life experience.

THE MEDICAL TEAM provides professional hospice care services from our Northern Virginia, and Michigan locations to support individuals nearing the end of life as well as the families who care for them. Services can begin immediately – usually within two hours of receiving the doctor’s referral – and we collaborate closely with the patient’s health care team to ensure seamless care at all times. Contact us to arrange for a free in-home consultation to learn more.

How to Identify and Ease Caregiver Depression

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

The rewards family caregivers receive for their selfless acts of service are priceless: feelings of making a real difference in another person’s life; the joy in bringing a smile to the face of a loved one; and the satisfaction in realizing a loved one is able to continue to live and thrive where it’s most comfortable – at home.

However a number of challenges come with the benefits of care at home. It’s not easy to balance meeting the needs of a senior loved one with meeting the many needs of our own lives. Sometimes the stress of feeling out of balance and overwhelmed can lead to caregiver depression.

It’s important to be able to recognize the signs of clinical depression in yourself or others who are providing care, and to know what to do if depression is suspected. THE MEDICAL TEAM’s care specialists offer the following information to help.

Risk Factors

Family caregivers are at a greater risk for depression if they are:

  • Caring for a loved one for at least 36 hours each week
  • Caring for a spouse
  • Caring for a parent

These factors also increase the likelihood of caregiver depression:

  • Limited social and emotional support
  • Challenging behaviors displayed by the care recipient
  • Issues of conflict with health care providers

Signs of Depression

  • Change in sleep patterns – either too much sleep or too little
  • Trouble with concentration and decision-making
  • Feeling hopeless, helpless, or worthless
  • Loss or gain of weight or appetite
  • Reduced interest in formerly enjoyed activities
  • Suicidal thoughts

Family caregivers should seek immediate attention from a medical professional for assistance in both diagnosis and treatment of depression. Help and respite is available, and necessary, both for the caregiver herself and the senior for whom he or she is providing care.

THE MEDICAL TEAM can help family caregivers, and those they love, by providing the safe, dependable, in-home care services that allow family members to take a much-needed respite and time for self-care while knowing their loved one is in the best of hands at all times.

Contact us to learn more about how we can help restore balance and quality of life. We’re helping families throughout New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas, and the metro DC area, and would love to assist you as well.