April is National Healthcare Decisions Month and April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day. As our loved ones age, and as we age, there are many decisions to be made about health care as well as end-of-life care and they are not comfortable topics of discussion.
What's even less comfortable is having to make decisions when you have not had those discussions with your aging loved ones and every possible relative and friend comes out of the woodwork with a different opinion of what needs to be done, what the loved one said they wanted and carries a strong sense of entitlement to be heard and followed!
Sudden illness and death as well as dealing with a terminal diagnosis are hard enough. Having decisions made ahead of time, allows everyone to relax and enjoy whatever quality time they have left.
Triggers for the Conversation Starting the conversation can be very hard, but the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO) offers some important suggestions and literature to read about conversation triggers and how to find the forms to set your goals and plans. Understand that these can be altered at any time and opted out of. But they provide everyone the opportunity to discover for themselves what kinds of decisions they want made for them if they are unable to decide for themselves.
For example is quality of life a priority over just being alive longer? Religion and spirituality can be a huge influence over this matter and it's something that really must be discussed before a crisis happens.
Advance Directives Advance Directives and Living Wills can spell out very specific parameters of what to do IF..., or they can be a very general guideline as is comfortable. They can be state specific as well. These documents also appoint the spokesperson(s) also known as the Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare (DPOA-HC) who can make the decisions when the loved one is no longer capable of doing so or defers to them to make the decisions. A Durable Power of Attorney for financial matters should also be considered. Free downloadable printable documents available from AARP.
Advance Directives can also designate organ donation options, which even for the elderly can include things such as corneas and skin, or making a donation to science of the whole body or tissue donations for research purposes.
These documents need to be reviewed periodically. April is a good time to remember to do so. What changes have happened in the past year and how do they affect the decisions and documents. Having things in writing makes everything go smoother.
Discuss with the MD- sign a POLST Having a talk with healthcare providers and giving them a current copy of the documents is encouraged so that everyone is on the same page. Again, the decisions can be revoked by your loved one at any time, so keep the conversation going. This is especially important if as a healthy individual they opt for being a full code (wanting CPR performed) with everything possible to be done for them. But after an illness or watching a friend or family member suffer through something, they may want to reconsider. The decisions don't have to be black or white. There are many options in the middle. Some states also encourage a POLST document be completed with your healthcare provider.
Burial or Cremation? Perhaps one of the most important decisions to be made is whether to bury or cremate. Making arrangements in advance can also be a cost savings. And can relieve some of the burdens for the grieving family and friends.
Consider Hospice Early Another consideration is where would they prefer to spend their last days? Would they want to be at home or prefer to be in a hospital or nursing home setting? Many people will have very strong feelings about one or the other and others may just want to go with the flow and see how things unfold.
Hospice care can be provided in most settings to help manage symptoms and allow the patient to live out their final months in comfort. Hospice in a hospital setting may be limited in your area so investigate options. Talk to your healthcare provider early on. Hospice care started in the last days or week of life doesn't always have time to capture all of the benefits available. Hospice care initiated when the prognosis is 6 months or less can help improve the patient's quality of life and prepare the family and friends for a peaceful experience.
photo from pixabay https://pixabay.com/en/users/unclelkt-2411480/
Night shifts are a polarizing thing for nurses. Some nurses love them, some nurses hate them, and others are simply paying their dues on the night shift until they can switch to the day shift. It’s a rite of passage for nurses; there’s a lot to learn at night in the hospital. Unfortunately, one of the most difficult parts of working the night shift is managing to get quality sleep during the day. Our brains are not programmed to sleep during the day and be awake at night. The circadian rhythm is our sleep/wake cycle; it controls the production of melatonin which makes us sleepy at night. The melatonin recedes during the day, allowing for awake time. Below you will find 6 tips to maximize your melatonin and get high-quality, restful sleep during the day.
1. Go easy on the caffeine. A good sleep starts well before your head hits the pillow. As hard as it is, stop your caffeine intake hours before the end of your shift. A study found that consuming caffeine six hours prior to bedtime can give you one less hour of sleep. Switch to water about halfway through your shift; chances are, you’re not getting enough water anyway.
2. Limit your exposure to blue light. Blue light refers to the light that comes from the sun that causes circulating melatonin levels to decrease, which is why you’re awake during the day and feel sleepy at night. Smartphones, TVs, and computer screens all emit blue light leading to decreased melatonin levels and difficulty sleeping. It’s impossible to avoid blue light completely with all the charting nurses do on computers. However, try to cut down exposure to other sources. When you leave work, be sure to wear quality sunglasses. Don’t spend any more time outside than absolutely necessary. Use the blue light filter on your smart phone so checking Facebook doesn’t keep you awake.
3. Invest in blackout curtains. Limiting sunlight is crucial to sleeping well for more than avoiding blue light. Psychologically, it’s easier to feel sleepy when it’s dark than when the sun is streaming through the windows. Blackout curtains will also block the sound of your neighbors mowing their grass in the middle of the day and keep it a little cooler as well.
4. White noise is good noise. There are a myriad of ways to get white noise in your bedroom. Fans, white noise machines, and special earbuds can go a long way towards blocking out the dog barking. Additionally, there are endless apps for your smartphone that can transport to the ocean, a mountain stream, or to the middle of a storm.
5. Keep your cool. Studies have shown that better sleep is attained when the ambient temperature is lower. Exposure to heat increases awake time. Crank down the thermostat, put up blackout curtains, and fire up your fan to optimize your sleeping environment.
6. Take a little help from the store. Another great option to help you get a good day’s sleep is medicine. A multitude of supplements including melatonin, valerian root, chamomile, and others are available over the counter to make you sleepy. If you’ve tried the drugstore route but are still struggling to get the sleep you need, speak with your primary care provider to get something stronger. It’s vital you get a good night’s sleep - your health and the lives of your patients depend on it.
Aaron Alstrom is the Director of Operations for HealthCare Pros a Nurse staffing and management company with 25 years of industry-specific knowledge, experience, and care. We pride ourselves on delivering exceptional service and producing positive results for our clients. Direct (310) 350-6944
Whatever your politics are you need to be aware that the current version of the GOP Tax Bill includes a number of points that have Nothing to do with taxes.
Medicare Cuts and Repeal of Obamacare One will cut Medicare which is going to affect your aging loved ones and another includes a Repeal of Obamacare (that has already failed in the Senate because the American People said NO!)
Time is running short. These cuts will take place January 1, 2018 if this bill passes. Please call your Senators today and ask them to vote NO on this bill. It only take a couple of minutes and you'll probably get to leave a voicemail.
All you have to say is: " I'm [your name] and I'm your constituent in [Zip Code]. Please vote NO on the Tax Bill. Thank you."
Safety is one of the most important issues in all of our lives, but with our elderly family and loved ones, safety is an absolute priority. Even those over 65 years of age become more prone to falls as they age and if they've fallen once, the probability increases exponentially. Getting assistance quickly can be of the utmost urgency. Changes in balance and gait due to aches, pain, chronic illnesses etc., all affect the gait and safety and the predictability of a fall. Falls can be deadly!
Removing trip hazards from the home such as throw rugs is one of the first things any health professional will instruct you on. Clear and open pathways are essential. On the other hand, bear in mind that your loved one may actually need the clutter, the furniture and walls for support while leaving their cane or walker behind. Many thrive on the clutter to help stabilize them as the maneuver through their home from one room to another.
Observe How Mom Maneuvers with the Clutter So before you start clearing everything away, observe how they maneuver and see how you can make it a safer situation by reducing and rearranging. Work WITH them and be sure the remember the changes you have made. Encourage them to keep their cane or walker at their side always and use it instead of relying on furniture, walls and piles of newspapers for support.
Have a System in Place If your loved one does fall, having a reliable device available to summon help quickly if they are alone will not only help give you peace of mind, but improve their odds for a quick and healthy recovery. There are a variety of devices and services available and you should investigate them thoroughly to find the one that fits your finances and needs.
A new system from MobileHelp.com offers several options for medical alert. One of the best options is that it does not require a landline phone system for operation. This is optimum as we are moving away from being tethered to landlines.
The MobileHelp.com system also offers the ability to travel with the user either as they leave the home for a walk, shopping etc. or even to travel. The system utilizes GPS tracking services and cellular services. No contracts are required. They come with a waterproof pendant or a wristwatch.
Remember, no device can replace a caregiver! Make sure you have the appropriate level of care in place for your loved ones and utilize these devices as directed.