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Atlanta Caregiver & Home Care Articles

Is Anxiety Destroying Your Joy?

Posted by Debby Franklin on Apr 28, 2014 2:23:00 PM


 

anxiety in the elderlyFeelings of anxiety and nervousness is a common emotion for people of all ages and a normal reaction to stress.  We all have anxiety...worrying about the future is human nature and helps us plan for whats ahead.  Felling anxious often turns into anxiety and this becomes overwhelming which negatively affects all aspects of life.

Anxiety is becoming an increasingly common illness that now affects as many as 15-30 percent of our senior population. Although it is often undiagnosed, if left untreated, anxiety can lead to cognitive impairment, disability, physical health issues, and a poor quality of life.

Seniors with anxiety disorders often go untreated for a variety of reasons.  The most common reason is because they don’t recognize or acknowledge their symptoms…and when they do, they may be reluctant to discuss their feelings with their loved ones and their physicians. Some senior adults don't seek treatment because they have suffered symptoms of anxiety for most of their lives and believe that these feelings are normal. In some instances physicians can miss a diagnosis of anxiety simply because of other medical conditions and/or prescription drug use, or particular situations that the individual is currently dealing with.

Here are signs to help you recognize anxiety:

  • Feelings of excessive worry or fear
  • Ignoring routine activities OR being overly preoccupied with routine
  • Avoiding social situations
  • Overly concerned about safety
  • Experiencing a racing heart, shallow breathing, trembling, nausea, or sweating 
  • Suffering from poor sleep
  • Feeling muscle tension, weak, and/or shaky
  • Issue with hoarding/collecting
  • Depression
  • Self-medicating with alcohol or other central nervous system depressants

 Follow these Do’s & Don’ts when dealing with a loved one who is faced with anxiety:

DO

  • Spend time talking about what they are experiencing
  • Indicate that you've noticed a change in their behavior / emotions
  • Let them know that you are there to listen WITHOUT being judgmental 
  • Highlight the option of seeing a doctor or health professional and if needed assist with making an appointment
  • Go with the person to the doctor or health professional  
  • Check in with them - ask how their appointment went
  • Assist them in finding information about anxiety or depression  
  • Talk openly about their feelings
  • Encourage them to try to get enough sleep, exercise and to eat well  
  • Encourage them to use self-help strategies (e.g. breathing exercises, aromatherapy, yoga, positive reading material, etc.)
  • Encourage them to face their fears with support from their doctor / psychologist  
  • Contact a doctor or hospital, if they become a threat to themselves or others.

DON'T

  • Pressure them to "just relax" or "calm down"  
  • Stay away or avoid the person
  • Suggest that they manage how they're feeling with drugs or alcohol
  • Assume that you can make them feel less anxious on your own  
  • Assume the problem will just go away.

It is not uncommon or unusual for a family caregiver who cares for a loved one to feel frustrated, angry, guilty, or even fearful while dealing with a loved one who is suffering with anxiety.  Just remember that (1) You are not alone and help is available. Whether it’s from family, friends, a support group, or an agency specializing in providing professional caregivers….you can get help. (2) Avoid burnout.  If you don't take care of you, you can't take care of others.  Many times when caring for a loved one, it’s easy to forget about ourselves.  Take time to make time for the things you enjoy.             

If you are finding it difficult to juggle it all - work, family, errands and other demands that often leave you over taxed.  Where do you turn when a loved ones needs are more than you can manage on your own?  What do you do when some of the care alternatives seem like a complication rather than a solution?  We understand, in fact, we have been there.

Consult Atlanta's most trusted source for quality Home Care, Easy Living Services. Offering flexible care plans designed to guarantee safety, comfort, companionship and personal care and attention to your loved one at home.

Finally, a real solution.  At last, peace of mind.  Call us at 770-442-8664.  

 Atlanta Caregivers          

Topics: Caregiver Information, caring for a loved one, Cardiovascular Disease, anxiety, senior anxiety

Dealing With End Stage Congestive Heart Failure

Posted by Jill Troman on Aug 26, 2013 4:13:00 PM

Caring for a loved one with CHF 

Congestive Heart Failure is a complex disease process that places enormous strain and suffering on patient and family caregivers.  Essentially, CHF presents multiple symptoms that are related to the heart's inability to pump out blood quickly enough. As blood flow from the heart slows down, blood backs up causing fluid to build up in the tissues.  The resulting symptoms are progressive and debilitating.  Shortness of breath, coughing and wheezing are common complaints due to fluid leaking into the lungs.  Swelling in ankles, legs, feet, and abdomen are also typical.  CHF patients will also typically complain of weakness and fatigue because the heart is no longer able to pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body's tissues.  As the disease moves into its final stages, confusion, memory loss, disorientation and impaired thinking may set in.

 

 

 

Patients and their family members learn that it can be a real struggle to manage the "ups and downs' of this disease.  One day the CHF patient can appear to be doing well and the next, excess fluid build up has him wheezing and exhausted.  As the disease progresses, frequent hospitalizations can become the new norm.  Becoming educated and prepared to deal with these "ups and downs" is vital for the family caregiver.  

What are the signs that the disease has moved into end stage?  

Symptoms may  include: 

* Shortness of breath, even while at rest

* More frequent and severe edema.

* Weakness and severe fatigue. Patient may lose interest in anything beyond basic needs.

* Chest pain and irregular heart rhythm.

* Sweating.

* Profound weight loss despite fluid overload in the body.  

* Loss of appetite as fluid accumulates in the abdominal area leading to nausea.

* Distended neck veins.

* Enlarged liver.

* Ejection fraction less than 20% (heart's pumping mechanism is severely impaired.)

Helping a Loved One Manage Difficult Symptoms

For most patients facing end-stage CHF, the goal is to remain home and stay out of the hospital as much as possible.  Family caregivers play an important role in helping patients recognize and treat symptoms before they reach crisis stage.  Caregivers also play a key role in helping their loved ones stick to positive life style choices and reduce anxiety levels. Planning is critical in tracking symptoms and responding appropriately.     

* Keep a daily log.  On a daily basis, record weight, medications taken, diet, activities, quality of breathing, and degree of swelling.  Relying on memory may prove difficult during periods of stress so daily note keeping will take the pressure off you and your loved one.  Your physician will be able to make important decisions about treatment more efficiently with key data readily available.  

* Decide in advance when to call the doctor.  In general, the following symptoms warrant an immediate call...

  • A gain of 3 pounds or more within a few days or a week. 
  • Increased swelling in hands, ankles, feet or abdomen
  • Difficulty breathing or night time coughing.
  • Decreased urination.
  • Confusion, dizziness, faintness
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Increased fatigue
  • Muscle cramps or weakness
  • Any distressing symptom
* Discuss appropriate relief measures in advance with physician. In some cases, certain medications may be kept on hand and added as needed to alleviate common symptoms, like edema. Also, "self-care"  actions like 
elevating legs, wearing special stockings, lightly massaging legs, reducing salt intake or other dietary changes may be recommended as 1st response options. 

 Dealing with the Fatigue Factor

A CHF patient will frequently complain of fatigue which will increase with disease progression. Helping your loved one better manage this symptom can go a long way in increasing quality of life.  Encouraging him to conserve physical energy on routine tasks in order to save fuel for the important things like exercise and special activities. 

Plan for the entire day and pace activities. Encourage your loved one to:

  • Allow ample time for what needs to get done. Rushing wastes energy.
  • Alternate activity with rest. Divide large chores into smaller tasks spread across the day or week.
  • Work smarter. Minimize trips up/down stairs. Shop with a list and in as few stores as possible. Cook in quantity and freeze the extra; soak dishes first for less scrubbing later. After a bath, slip on a terrycloth bathrobe instead of drying with a towel.
  • Get help when you can. Have medications and groceries delivered.


Throughout the day, consider opportunities to reduce standing, walking, lifting, and bending:

  • Sit down whenever possible. When cooking, cleaning, bathing, dressing, or grooming face and hair, have a stool or seat handy.
  • Create task stations. Lay out supplies at waist height so everything is within easy reach before you start cooking, cleaning, bathing, or dressing.
  • Wheel or wear; don’t go looking for supplies. Use a cart on wheels, a walker with a basket, a pocketed apron, or a fisherman's vest to keep supplies at hand.
  • Use extensions. To avoid bending and reaching, use an elevated toilet seat, a grabber for objects, and elongated handles on shoehorns, brushes, and dustpans.

These simple, energy saving tactics may help your loved one conserve the energy needed to enjoy life to its fullest. 

  *Excerpts from "Living with Congestive Heart Failure", a publication of Delaware Hospice.

This article is dedicated in memory of my father, Donald Cooke who lost his decade long fight with CHF on June 12, 2013.  

End Stage CHF

Topics: Caregiver Information, Home Care, senior care, aging, caring for a loved one, Atlanta Caregivers, Cardiovascular Disease, chronic disease, Chronic Medical Condition

Caregiver Resources: Palliative Care at Home

Posted by Jill Troman on May 16, 2013 1:33:00 PM

What comes to mind when you hear the term "Palliative Care"?  If you are like me, it's synonomous with Hospice Services.  In fact, when a nurse practitioner recently recommended it for my father, I became alarmed.  I knew Dad's COPD, Congestive Heart Failure, and Diabetes conditions were serious but felt unprepared to hear a recommendation for "Palliative Care".  That's because my understanding of the term was flawed. I believed that Pallative care  was designed to keep terminal patients "comfortable" at life's end.  Dad's conditions were serious and definitely difficult to manage but no one had labeled them as terminal.  I came to learn that Palliative care can be a vital addition to an active treatment plan for many serious and chronic diseases.  

Care at home

Are you or a loved one missing out on the benefits of Palliative Care?

With medical advances, Americans in general, are living longer.  However, many find themselves also living with chronic disease conditions.  The burden these diseases place on patient and family members can be enormous.  Where can a family turn for assistance when the chronic medical needs of a loved one are becoming difficult to manage?  For many, Palliative Care can offer patients and their families another layer of support.  

Unfortunately, many people do not take advantage of this resource due to misunderstanding of Palliative Care and its goals.  In fact, research indicates that many physicians often equate Palliative Care with Hospice and therefore, are unlikely to recommend it to patients unless they have a terminal/end stage illness.  The reality is that Palliative Care is beneficial for many patients with serious or chronic illnesses along with curative treatment. 

Palliative Care:  The Definition

"...is specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses.  This type of care is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness, whatever the diagnosis.  The goal is to improve quality of life for the both the patient and family.  Palliative care is provided by a team of doctors, nurses, and other specialists who work with a patients primary doctors to provide an extra layer of support.  This care is appropriate at any age and at any stage in a serious illness, and can be provided together with curative treatment."  

In short, Palliative care is NOT end of life care.  It's designed to enhance the care a patient is already receiving by improving care coordination, better managing and controlling symptoms, and helping families navigate the complexities of living with chronic disease. 

Is Palliative Care Right for Your Loved One?

Consider turning to Palliative Care for extra support if you or a family member are dealing with any of the following issues:

  • Serious illness such as Cancer, Congestive Heart Failure, COPD, Emphysema, Lung Disease, Kidney Failure, Liver Failure, Neurological Disease (ALS, Parkinson's, MS...), Dementia.
  • Unmanaged symptoms like pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, anxiety, depression, poor appetite, nausea, constitpation.
  • Difficult side effects from treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation.
  • Frequent ER visits or hospitalizations for the same symptoms or conditions. 
  • Indecision regarding treatment options...needs assistance evaluating medical choices and finding necessary resources.
  • In need of assistance coping with the stress of a chronic disease and emotional or spiritual support.   

What assistance does Palliative Care include?

Patients and their families gain access to a team of professionals including physician, nurse practitioners and social workers all working together in support of the patient. The team works in concert with the patient's primary medical care team to provide assistance in reducing pain, minimizing side effects and symptoms, connecting patients with complimentary services like acupuncture or massage therapy for stress reduction, disease education and more.  While primary care physicians and specialists are typically focused on treating the disease condition, a palliative care team will devote their efforts to enhancing quality of life.  

Is Palliative Care covered under insurance plans?

With a physician's referral, pallative care is often paid under Medicare Part B, Medicaid and most private insurance plans.  Check with your plan for coverage details and applicable co-insurance fees before initiating care.   

What benefits does Palliative Care Offer?

In my Dad's case, the Palliative care team offered a great deal of education and advice for minimizing his primary concern, frequent trips to the ER and hospitalizations for CHF symptoms and complications.   The team helped us develop a detailed  "Action Plan" to better manage his symptoms.  The plan was presented as a flow chart and detailed the actions we were to take with progressive symptoms.  It really helped reduce anxiety levels for all parties and restored a feeling of control over the process.  

Additionally, Dad had so many specialists who operated independently.  It was often frustrating because there was virtually no coordination between the different physicians. Information frequently wasn't shared between offices and family members were constantly having to follow up.  It was a real relief when the Palliative Care team stepped in to coordinate medical care between the different specialities.  They assisted us in making care choices by educating us on the "pros and cons" of options.  

The team also recommended some complimentary therapies which helped alleviate some of my father's symptoms and discomfort.  Specially trained massage therapists worked to reduce swelling in extremities through lymphatic drainage.  This greatly reduced pain and improved dad's mobility.  Dad was also connected with a social worker who helped him deal with some of the anxiety associated with health conditions.  Most of these services were provided in the comfort of Dad's own residence which was a "plus" for the family.

After gaining a new understanding of Palliative care, I am now able to recommend these services to our agency's clients.   Often, Easy Living caregivers work in conjunction with Palliative Care providers to maximize the quality of life for clients with dealing with serious disease conditions.  

Interested in learning more?   Call Easy Living Services today at
770-442-8664.  We're pleased to help in any way possible. 

Topics: aging, homecare, dementia, cancer care, Diabetes, Atlanta Caregivers, Cardiovascular Disease, chronic disease, Hearing Impaired Seniors, terminal illness, COPD

What Happens When You Need Open Heart Surgery?

Posted by Debby Franklin on Apr 25, 2013 3:11:00 PM

open heart surgery, heart attack, heart disease, cardiovascular disease, chronic diseaseYou have just been told by your doctor that you need open heart surgery, what happens now? It may have started with nausea, arm pain or a tingle in the jaw, or a crushing chest pain that landed you in the emergency room.  It's even possible that it could be an EKG reading at the doctors office that alerts you to your heart problem.

As the leading cause of death for Americans, heart disease can show up in many ways.  Not every person who has heart disease will require open heart surgery, however your cardiologist may recommend it for you.  

Open heart surgery is used to correct various heart conditions that might otherwise kill you. The procedures to correct defective heart valves are; repair aneurysms, bypass arteries, implant stents and in most critical cases replace the heart with a new on.  

The diagnosis of open heart surgery can be terrifying and you may experience depression, stress, anxiety and anger.  If you need open heart surgery here are some things to expect and prepare for:

  • Before surgery you will undergo a preoperative interview and testing.
  • The anesthesiologist will visit with you to discuss the anesthesia process.
  • You will most likely meet with the cardiothoracis surgeon to discuss the plan and the risks.
During surgery, you are connected to cardiopulmonary bypass, or a heart-lung machine.  This machine keeps your blood circulating.  Your anesthesiologist starts an IV, puts you to sleep, places a breathing tube in and then monitors your heart's function by viewing images of your heart from inside your esophagus.  
After surgery you will awaken in the cardiovascular intensive care unit.  You will have tubes and wires attached to you and you will be heavily medicated.  Conversations with family members may not be remembered due to the anesthesia.  There will be tubes coming from your chest draining excess fluid from around the heart and lungs.  
As you progress in your recovery, you will begin preparing for discharge with walking goals, breathing tests and education provided by your health care team.  This is where much of the self motivated work begins to ensure a successful at-home recovery.  Recovery time is usually 6-12 weeks but it varies by each individual.  A good support team which include family and Home Care professionals are a critical part of the open heart surgery journey.  
Chances are good that you will need assistance once you are home.  In Home Care is a great option to consider when family and friends are not available to help, or to incorporate as back up and relief support to those who will be assisting you.  Here are some of the things you may need help with.
  • Getting in & out of the bed/chair
  • Ambulating
  • Bathing & dressing
  • Preparing meals
  • Opening jars, bottles, medicine
  • Putting on & tying shoes
  • Making trips to the grocery store, pharmacy, other errands & accompaniment to the doctor.
  • Toilet needs
  • Medication reminders
  • Light housekeeping
  • Passive exercises
  • Safety 
To get more information on caregiver and Home Care assistance after heart surgery call us today 770-442-8664 and click the link below for additional savings.
In Home Care For Seniors

Topics: Heart Disease, Cardiovascular Disease, chronic disease, Heart Attack, open heart surgery

Reducing the Risk for a Stroke After Having A TIA

Posted by Debby Franklin on May 24, 2012 12:51:00 PM

TIA, stroke, heart disease,

 

A TIA is a warning sign that your're at increased risk for having a full-blown stroke, according to the spokesman for the American Heart and American Stroke Association.  Recent studies have shown that the risk of having a stroke after a TIA is as high as 10% over the following three months and about half will occur in the first 48 hours after the TIA.  Lifestyle changes can help reduce the risk of a stroke.  Here are important steps to take:

MONITOR & MANAGE YOUR BLOOD PRESSURE - Regular monitoring of blood pressure is important.  Your doctor may need to prescribe medication.  High blood pressure is the #1 risk factor for a TIA and stroke.

REVIEW FAMILY HISTORY - If a close relative has had a stroke, your odds of having one are increase.  Your doctor many want you to take extra precautions to reduce other risk factors.

CONTROL WHAT YOU EAT - It's important to have a diet low in fat, cholesterol and sodium and one that is high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein.  A good rule to follow is to reduce all processed and prepackaged food as well as monitor portion size and sugar intake.  Maintaining a healthy weight is critical in reducing the risk of a TIA and stroke.

STRESS & EXERCISE - Reducing stress and physical activity go hand in hand.  Exercise helps to manage and keep stress in tack and only 30 minutes of exercise every other day has been shown to reduce the risk of stroke.  Yoga is excellent for stress reduction and if the gym is not for you, there is a wide assortment of fitness and weight training DVDs that can get you moving.

NO SMOKING - Not only will it substantially reduce the risk of a stroke your overall health benefits by not smoking are too many to name!

KNOW THE SYMPTOMS OF A TIA - TIME IS OF ESSENCE IN SEEKING MEDICAL HELP

  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Muscle weakness of the face, arm or leg, usually on one side
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body
  • Loss of vision or other vision disturbances
  • Trouble speaking, writing or reading
  • Confusion or loss of memory
  • Difficulty recognizing objects or people
  • Changes in senses such as hearing or touch
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control

Even if your symptoms seem to go away, a TIA is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.  If someone you know is recovering from a stroke and could benefit by light housekeeping, meals, laundry, escort to or from doctor appointments or may have more personal care assistance needs, call us today 770-442-8664.

 

Topics: senior care, Heart Disease, stroke, Cardiovascular Disease, TIA