Category Archives: Aging

Caring for the Caregiver-Preventing Caregiver Burnout

Utah Home Health Care ServicesWe all want to provide the best care possible for our loved ones. Yet, sometimes we need to ask the question: Who is caring for the caregiver? Caregiver burnout is a legitimate concern for any family or person who provides ongoing service to physically or mentally dependent individuals.

WebMD lists a few symptoms of Caregiver Burnout:

  • Irritability
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family
  • Feeling blue, helpless, hopeless
  • Change in sleep patterns
  • Loss of appetite
  • Getting sick more frequently

You might notice these symptoms are similar to symptoms of depression. Counseling and support groups can help lift the emotional burden of a full-time or part-time caregiver who finds herself overwhelmed. And unlike chronic clinical depression, which may require medication in combination with other supportive treatment, caregiver burnout can often be resolved without medication. All we need is a little common sense and willingness to use some of that wonderful, caring energy (that we offer our patients or loved ones) to care for ourselves.

Interestingly, I learned the lesson about how to be a good, healthy caregiver during my years of raising a family as a single parent. I used this knowledge both at home and in my career as a nurse. And I learned the lesson from our family cat. You read that right–a cat.

Midnight was an indoor-outdoor cat, a combination of street cat and diva and I came to love her for this. She was keen, hard-working and a great mom to her kittens. (Stay with me here. I promise you’ll be glad you did.)

One afternoon I retreated to my bedroom to fold laundry on the bed, away from the sounds of TV and whatever else was going on in the house. It must have been a Saturday because it was mid-day and I was at home. Most other days I would have been at work. A few days earlier Midnight had given birth to a litter of kittens in a blanket-lined box in my closet. As I folded towels and matched socks, I watched her caring for her newborn kittens. She nursed them, cleaned them, let them cuddle next to her. Then she did something that surprised me. She left her babies.

She got up from where she was lying, stepped over them, and left those newborn-blind, helpless kittens mewing plaintively in their box. They began feeling around, smelling for her, trembling as they tried to walk on tiny paws. And she just walked away. I stopped what I was doing to watch. I remember feeling sorry for the kittens. But I also felt compelled to follow Midnight to see where she was going.

She went to her food dish. She ate. She drank. She went outside and did her business. Then she came back in the living room, found a spot on the floor where a shaft of light had warmed the carpet and she lay down. She cleaned herself, stretched her legs, laid her head on her paws and closed her eyes.

That’s when it hit me. BAM! This cat instinctively cares for herself. No one has to tell her what to do. She doesn’t buy books about feline co-dependence or how to be a good mommy cat. She doesn’t call her cat sister on her cat telephone to cry about how hard it is to care for her babies by herself. She doesn’t get angry or depressed about the burdens she bears. She leaves her kittens safe and sound and follows her natural instincts to care for herself so she can care for her offspring. Period. End of story. Her cat brain does not allow her to over-ride her instincts like a human brain does.

Midnight’s example of self-care was all I needed to bring more balance to my life of caring for my children. I was doing the best I could. I stopped feeling bad about the time I spent in my garden, which was relaxing and regenerative for me. I made sure to provide regular lunch dates for myself with friends. I joined a writer’s group. I started paying attention to my physical, emotional and spiritual resources and began responding in a more organic, instinctive way to cues of stress and exhaustion. This may be when I began taking routine afternoon naps and saying “no” to some requests for my time. I realized that my own instincts were the landmarks nature gave me to define my mothering and care-giving limits.

We each have our own limits. We can avoid becoming burned out by

  • feeling good about what we CAN do
  • honestly admitting our limits
  • asking for help when we need it
  • being a good caregiver to our self first and foremost – taking time to regenerate

By doing these things, we ensure we will be there to care for our loved ones as long as possible and in the very best possible ways.

If you feel you need help, please call or email us to see if your loved one qualifies for homecare services. We can also help you find community resources that may be available to you.

What has worked for you? What is your greatest challenge as a caregiver?

We’d love to hear from you in the comment section below.

Five Common Concerns About Flu Vaccine

iStock_000027477011XSmallEvery year I give flu vaccines. While working as a hospital Infection Control Nurse I literally gave hundreds of them. Each year I seem to hear the same basic fears expressed by various people in various ways by those who don’t want to be vaccinated.

We all have fears and concerns that keep us from doing things that are good for us, like getting a flu shot. But thanks to the internet, you can easily find well-informed and reassuring sources to answer your questions. Many sites debunk myths about the influenza vaccine. Here are a few of my favorite sites this year:

From a hipster-mom science blog

From Harvard Medical School

From WebMD

Today I’d like to highlight the five myths or concerns that I hear most often, as a nurse who wants to provide good public health information. (And as a nurse who wants to administer your flu shot!)

  • The flu shot gave me the flu once, so I don’t want to have it again.

Sorry, but this is not true. The flu shot contains no living influenza virus. You simply can’t catch the flu from it. Sometimes you may have flu-like symptoms related to your immune response as it creates antibodies to influenza. But, if you truly contracted influenza, it was because you were exposed to it before you had the vaccine, or during the time your body was producing immunity.

  • It has harmful chemicals and preservatives. I’m more of a “natural medicine” person.

If you’re concerned about these issues, please talk with your healthcare provider.  Influenza vaccine is available in a preservative-free form and exposure to this tiny amount of vaccine serum is relatively free from risks. The benefits to you, your family and community far outweigh the risks.

  • I’m healthy enough that I don’t need the vaccine.

It is impossible to know if or when you will contract influenza. Even the healthiest people have periods of stress that can weaken their immune system. Healthy people can and should protect themselves by being vaccinated. This in turn protects your loved ones and community from exposure to the virus. [Also, if you do happen to catch the flu, you will have a far milder case than your non-vaccinated friends. Many people may not realize that flu vaccine does not guarantee you will not contract influenza virus. It does guarantee a milder case and most people who are vaccinated will be spared the disease entirely.]

  • I’m pregnant. It might harm my baby.

Wrong. In fact, pregnancy is a good reason to be vaccinated. Your unborn child will be able to fight influenza in her early weeks of life via passive immunity from you. [You really should click that link. It’s a short, fun and informative.] If you breastfeed, she’ll be protected even longer!

  • I don’t like shots.

This is a tough one. Some people have legitimate phobias about needles. Your healthcare provider can help you cope with anxiety and fears about getting a shot. And remember: many nurses and doctors use tried-and-true methods to help make injections less painful. We can also help distract you from the source of your fear long enough to give the shot. We care about your fears and we’ll do anything we can to help you get through those few moments it takes to receive an injection. Give us a chance, okay?

Let’s all be brave this year. Protect yourself and your loved ones by being vaccinated.

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Are you or your parent or grandparent home-bound? Do you need a flu shot? Call Envision Home Health and Hospice for a free flu shot today. 1-866-471-5733. We’ll send a nurse to administer the vaccine right in your home!

Visit this Envision blog post for more fun and fascinating flu facts!

Common Health Conditions Among Aging Adults

iStock_000003672431XSmallIn 2010, Americans 65 or older represented nearly 13 percent of the population, numbering around 40 million. In the next 20 years, the Department of Health and Human Resources  expects that number to skyrocket to more than 72 million.

Aging Americans face specific health conditions – including incontinence, joint problems and diabetes — which means health care providers are likely to see more of these cases as the years go by. 

Stress Urinary Incontinence

Aging adults commonly experience stress urinary incontinence (SUI). This condition occurs when someone loses strength of the bladder muscles and experiences involuntary urine leakage during activities like coughing, sneezing, laughing and exercise. SUI affects far more women than men, and commonly affects people with Parkinson’s disease and various forms of dementia.

There are several methods of treating SUI. Doctors may ask patients to make lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking or drinking less. Medication and surgery are other treatment options.

In women, doctors often choose to insert a bladder sling to support the bladder. Patients need to be aware, however, that there are risks that come with these mesh implants.

Hip Problems

Hip deterioration also commonly occurs in older adults. The hip is a very stable part of the body, but wear and tear over the years and diseases like arthritis and osteoporosis can take their toll, making daily tasks extremely difficult and painful. Hip problems often occur as the result of a fall.

Hip problems often are treated with medication, physical therapy or hip replacement surgery. Hip replacement is considered safe and successful, however, patients should be aware that there are risks .

In recent years, several companies that manufacture hip implants have been sued by people who received their products and experienced serious complications. Just DePuy alone has about 8,000 lawsuits that are pending.

Diabetes

More than a quarter of the estimated 26 million Americans with diabetes are 65 or older.

Diabetes occurs when the pancreas fails to make enough insulin to regulate blood sugar or the body fails to use the insulin efficiently. Most people with the condition have type 2 diabetes. Type 2 is caused by family history, lack of exercise and obesity.

Diabetes can lead to serious complications and health problems, including blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage and problems with the heart.

Seniors need to do everything possible to manage their diabetes. That can be done by losing weight, eating healthy foods and getting regular physical exercise.

There are also medications that help regulate insulin production. Patients and doctors should be aware of the side effects of certain diabetes medications, including Januvia and Byetta.

We would love to hear your comments about this post. Let us know what you think–or share your experiences in the comments section! 

About Jennifer Mesko:

Jennifer Mesko is the managing editor of Drugwatch.com, a consumer advocacy website. She aims to keep the public informed about dangerous prescription drugs and defective medical devices.