Home Care and Hoarding

Home care professionals are in a unique position. A physician can examine a patient and see physical manifestations of an illness, but a physician won’t see the patient’s surroundings. Home care workers, on the other hand, will go into the patient’s house and see what the patient’s environment looks like and how that environment might be impacting the patient’s health.

Hoarding affects an untold number of people, as it is a hidden problem that often goes undiscovered. A home care worker who is sent to the home of a hoarder might be the first person to discover the problem. But how can you tell the difference between a “hoard” and a disorganized space?

Here are a few signs to watch out for:

1. Belongings start blocking critical places needed for ADLs – sink, bathtub, doors, toilet

2. The patient refuses to let anyone into the house.

3. Rooms cannot be used for their intended functions because they are too cluttered.

What is your relationship with vegetables?

My good friends at the Visiting Nurse Service of New York alerted me to the fact that March is National Nutrition Month, which is great because it gives me a chance to blog about one of my favorite things: cooking. I really enjoy cooking, and I think learning how to cook can change your relationship with food.

It’s no secret that most people in this country don’t eat the right amount of vegetables. I can’t help but think that the shift to convenience foods that was made in the middle of the 20th century is responsible for this. When I was growing up, vegetables were usually steamed from frozen and served as side dishes. We rarely ate anything fresh, except for corn during the summer, and that too was steamed in the microwave. More often than not, we ate those mixtures of corn, peas and orange cubes that are supposed to be carrots.

Now that I’m all grown up, I hardly ever buy frozen vegetables. Instead, I buy fresh kale and slow-cook it with garlic and olive oil. I roast Brussels sprouts in the oven until the outer leaves get crispy. I brighten up just about any dish with red, yellow and orange bell peppers. We never had kale at home when I was a kid; now I crave it. Kale has a very high nutritional value as it contains beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, lutein, zeaxanthin and calcium. It also contains sulforaphane  which is known to fight cancer. I get all these things on a regular basis, all because the way I view vegetables has changed.

So what’s your relationship with things that are green? And how do you help other people change the way they view food, so that that they learn not only to eat healthier but to enjoy it?

(Note: if you need some advice on how you, as a caregiver, can cook healthy meals for your caree, read these tips from VNSNY, 10 Cooking Tips for Caregivers).

 

4 Steps to Proper Contact Lens Care

Do you have patients who wear contact lenses? Do they use butter to clean them? Evidently some people do. According to a story on NPR, most contact lens wearers don’t take proper care of the lenses, which is problematic because it can lead to ulcers and infections–and even blindness. I myself am a contact lens wearer, and I learned a few things from this article about proper lens care, and I resolve to make sure I do these things from now on. Help prevent eye infections in your home care patients by making sure they follow these steps:

  1. Change the solution. Many people don’t remember to change the solution that their contacts soak in over night; instead, they simply add more solution. It is important to change the solution, as last night’s solution is already full of bacteria. Imagine it’s your kitchen sink. You wash your dishes in the sink and the water gets dirty. Would you let that water sit all day, and wash your dishes again in the same dirty water? No? Then don’t do the same thing with contact lenses.
  2. Let the case air dry. The case needs to dry out so that bacteria don’t grow in it. Get a new lens case every month.
  3. Use solution–not beer, not lemonade, not butter–to clean your lenses. Do I really need to explain this one? Make sure your home care patients know to only use solution to clean their contacts. Full stop.
  4. Don’t sleep in your lenses. Sleeping in your lenses increases the likelihood of infection. Don’t do it.

When you’re in the patient’s home, you will have the opportunity to see how the patient takes care of his or her lenses, and you will be able to intervene if you see problems. The bright side is that these problems are relatively easy to correct. Make sure your patients know that proper lens care can save them a lot of pain and money.

Finally, are you taking good care of your lenses? As a home care worker, you work long hours. Sometimes you get home after a long day and you want to go straight to bed–you’re too tired to take your contacts out. Even though proper care can seem time consuming (particularly when you’re exhausted), but proper lens care will save you pain and money in future as well.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

I don’t like blogging about monthly awareness campaigns. It always sounds the same: “________ is ___________ month! Wear _______-colored ribbons and inform yourself about ___________!” See? Boring. Plus, there are so many awareness months. Every month has at least five awareness campaigns stitched to it.  Did you know that February is National National Awareness Month Awareness Month?

My slight irritation with the whole notion of awareness months aside, August is National Immunization Awareness Month, which is an important topic. Flu season is right around the corner, and health professionals need to be vaccinated. Vaccination against the flu not only protects your staff, it protects your clients–many of whom are very frail. It is absolutely necessary for home care agencies to encourage their staff to get vaccinated.

Want an easy way to remind them? Send this handy e-card, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control.

Also, one more thing about awareness months–November is home care month. Be ready.

They’re not old, they’re just sweaty

Evidently, elderly people are ignoring the excessive heat warnings because they don’t consider themselves to be old. So how can you make sure that your elderly home care clients take care of themselves during this heat wave?

Impress upon them that everyone needs to be cautious when it’s hot out. It’s not just an issue of heat–here in Minnesota it is positively tropical, with dew points in the 80s. This causes problems because the water-saturated air means you’ll sweat, but your sweat won’t evaporate. The evaporation of your sweat is what cools your body. So without the evaporation, your body can’t cool down, and this makes you vulnerable to heat related illnesses. Children and elderly are especially vulnerable, but everyone is vulnerable and everyone needs to take precautions. Even those of us who feel like we’re not a day over 18.

Make sure your patients drink plenty of water this week. Also, make sure you drink plenty of water. We all need to stay hydrated and stay cool.

July is UV Safety month!

It’s also UV-Rays-Are-Out-to-Get-You month. That is why it is important to remember to take precautions by putting on sunblock, wearing long sleeves and hats, and avoiding sun during its peak hours.

As providers of home health care, we must also make sure that our home care patients take these same precautions. We don’t want our home care patients suffering from nasty sunburns or skin cancers. Also, it is supposed to be very hot in the Twin Cities this weekend–above 90 all three days–so please make sure to check in on elderly patients, especially those who do not have air conditioning. Make sure they stay in the shade, drink plenty of water, and take cool showers if they get too hot.

And do the same for yourself! Remember, we can’t take care of others without first taking care of ourselves.

Stay cool!

Driving up to a curbside mail box to order a cheeseburger and fries

Hello again, dear readers! I have to admit I’m not quite ready to be back at work after the long weekend. To that end, I want to pass along this wonderful video. Listen for such key phrases as “random hair growth,” “wrong end of the car wash”, and “Oh, Archbishop, I’m so sorry.” The very funny lady in the video is Mary Maxwell.

August is Cataract Awareness Month!

One great thing about starting a new month (August–aack! One day I’ll wake up in the throes of January, and I won’t be happy) is that flipping the calendar means that a new Awareness Month has dawned, and I don’t have to scratch my head in vain attempts to think of something to blog about. August is Cataract Awareness Month, and as far as awareness months go, this one probably has more relevance to us as home care nurses than most other awareness months.

Cataracts are a major risk factor for falls. Your patients should be screened for cataracts on a yearly basis. Cataracts are also a leading cause of blindness.

I remember learning in school that the reason Monet painted the way he did was because he had cataracts. The reddish hues of his weeping willows and the near undecipherability of his Japanese bridge were due to cataracts. Monet had his cataracts removed and was able to go on painting–just imagine if he’d let them go untreated! He would have spent his later life unable to paint. That would have undoubtedly caused him a great deal of pain. Remind your patients of this if they are reticent to have cataract surgery–cataracts and blindness especially can make it impossible to do some of the things we enjoy most!

July is UV safety month!

Yesterday, I thought the weather forecasters were licked–they had predicted rain in the morning, and it was sunny and clear. Then, in the afternoon, it rained hard enough to cause surging rivulets of water to run from the curbs, and I got caught in a deluge.

But today it’s sunny again, and that leads me to today’s topic: July is UV safety month. Check out these UV safety tips: http://www.healthfinder.gov/nho/jultoolkit.aspx

Brain Injury Awareness Month

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month. A Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) can drastically alter a person’s life. Sustaining a brain injury can mean having to relearn how to walk. It can mean having to leave yourself notes to remind you to do basic things, like brush your teeth or wash your hands. A brain injury can also result in aphasia, a disorder that interrupts your ability to process language and can make communication extremely difficult.

Take some time this month to learn about brain injury and how to prevent it. The Brain Injury Association of Minnesota hosts a series of courses titled “Brain Injury Basics” that are designed to educate the public on the basics of Brain Injury and how to prevent it. “Brain Injury Basics: Caregiving” would be very worthwhile for home care professionals to attend. To see a full list of Brain Injury Basics courses, click here: http://www.braininjurymn.org/education/BIBasics.php. CEUs are available.

The state of Minnesota does not require the use of helmets for riding bicycles or motorcycles, but that doesn’t make riding without a helmet any less risky. So please remember to wear a helmet when you’re biking, skating, or engaging in any other activity that can increase your risk of falling.

I plan on posting more about brain injury throughout the month, so please stay tuned!

To learn more about brain injury, visit http://www.braininjurymn.org/index.php.