Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Red Cross Family Caregiving Class Gets an A at Mid-Term

So far so good. That's my take on the American Red Cross Family Caregiving Program, being held at Evergreen Court Retirement Community, where I work. With the first three segments behind us--Home Safety, General Caregiving Skills and Positioning and Helping Your Loved One Move--the program rates an A in my book.

If you care for your aging parent either full or part-time, this free nationwide program is for you. Facilitated by Red Cross-certified leaders, the series has eight modules in all--we're using six. Mike Davis, of Always Best Care-Eastside, leads our discussion. Videos and booklets bring the content to life. Another plus: caregivers can choose the segment or segments they'd like to attend.

Things I learned from the Home Safety module:

It's important to check the water temperature with a bath thermometer or the back of your hand before your loved one enters the tub or shower. The temperature should not exceed 105 degrees.

Set the hot water heater to low or set no higher than 120 degrees.

During "Positioning and Helping Your Loved One Move," I watched with interest caregivers use correct body mechanics and work with their loved one on performing range of motion exercises.

I look forward to the next three segments: Assisting With Personal Care, June 1; Healthy Eating, June 8 and Caregiving for the Caregiver, June 15, all beginning at 7 pm.

I'll tell you what I think. For more information on the program and locations near you, contact the Red Cross Family Caregiving Directory.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fall Prevention: Steps You & Your Parent Can Take

"I'm falling and I can't get up."

Remember that silly commercial? It brought belly laughs 20 years ago. But not today. Especially when it's your parent who's at risk.

"A fall is the number one reason for a senior's illness or death," said Kerry Hopkins, Care Manager for HomeWell Senior Care in Seattle. "Our bodies can handle the impact of a fall, but for seniors, it's another story."

We can't follow our parents around all day long, but we can work with them to reduce the risk of falls. Here are a few of Hopkins' pointers.

1. Most falls occur at night.Upon waking, either low or high blood pressure can trigger dizziness and/or disorientation. If your parent feels lightheaded, encourage him or her to sit for a moment before trying to stand.

2. A corollary to the above: Place nightlights in both your parent's bedroom and in the bathroom. Seniors rely on light--both in the room they're leaving and in their destination--to help with balance.

3. In the evening, encourage your parent to limit, not only liquids, but also sugary foods. The energy rush can spark shakiness, possibly resulting in a fall.

4. Fluids in the daytime are great! They help prevent dehydration and urinary track infections, both potential causes of falls.

5. Check the house, especially stairs. "Falls happen most on the bottom two stairs or the top two stairs," Hopkins says. Marking those stairs with tape or fabric may encourage safety. Another home safety tip: clear walkways of toys, books, etc.

6. Most important? "Learn to slow down and think before you move," says Hopkins. It's good advice for our aging parents--and ourselves.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Advocating for an Aging Parent? Choose Your Words Wisely

The eldercare field would do well to learn from hotels.

In a well-run hotel, staff bend over backwards to anticipate needs. A forgotten toothbrush? No problem. A special birthday? A birthday cake arrives at the door. But in your parent's physician's office, hospital, nursing home or other care setting, you're on your own. At their dizzying pace, health care staff can't read your mind to see what you or your parent needs.

To combat frustration, try these simple words: "Could you tell me...?"

As in "Could you tell me approximately how long we'll wait to see the doctor?" Or "Could you tell me when my parent has a change in his or her medical condition?" Or "Could you tell me the signs a person exhibits when death is imminent?"

When you ask in a direct, yet friendly way, "Could you tell me why I've seen the call lights flash more lately?" or "Could you tell me why my mother's bed was wet this morning?" it's obvious you want an answer. You're not whining, or complaining; you're asking.

Even if the answer isn't what you want, your friendliness will cause the other person to take notice of your concern and address you with respect. Your positive attitude will pay off in many ways, including making life better for your aging parent.

"Could you tell me...?" has worked in addressing medical professionals involved in my own aging parents' care. I've also seen my clients use these words with me, with remarkable success.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Seeking Eldercare for Your Parent? Look for Happy Employees

Searching for health care for your aging parent? Consider this phrase: "The Customer Comes Second."

In 1993 Hal Rosenbluth coined this phrase for the title of his best seller aimed at business management. The book was revised in 2003. But does "The Customer Comes Second," apply to eldercare? Especially when the primary customers--you and your parents--need lots of attention and care?

For 16 years I've seen Rosenbluth's premise play out in the senior care field. I agree with his words: "Hire people who have the right personality, and then train them to have the right skill." If employees feel valued and have opportunities to grow and enjoy their work, their enthusiasm will rub off on the customers and result in excellent service, he says.

When you're looking for eldercare for your parent, ask questions of management about "employee care." Do caregivers, food servers and housekeepers have vehicles for public recognition and for encouraging each other? Are they given opportunities for in-service training? Does the organization encourage entry level workers to move up the ranks or to finish nurse's training? Does the organization hire for the right personalities and then train employees for the tasks? Are employees encouraged to have fun with their elderly clients?

Ask about staff retention. In the senior care field, turnover for caregivers is extremely high--averaging 70% or more. That means that at the beginning of a year, if 100 employees were hired the previous year, only 30 would remain. Some health care settings are able to keep their staff longer, promoting consistent care.

Carol, a daughter of a resident of our retirement community, said she moved her mother out of another local retirement community because of high turnover. "Employees were coming and going all the time. That lack of continuity was unsettling to the residents," she said.

Besides speaking with management, visit the community or care setting and observe employees in action. Watch for smiles on the faces of workers and elderly like. Listen for jokes. These will tell you whether the organization puts their people first.

Bottom line: Happy employees are more likely to treat your mom or dad like royalty. Remember Queen for a Day? That's the goal.

Note: I first read "The Customer Comes Second" when I entered the senior care field in 1994. It's well worth reading.
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