Like many organizations, hospice and palliative care facilities are greatly dependent on the help and dedication of their volunteers. Hospice volunteers come from a multitude of cultures and backgrounds, and range in age from teens to senior citizens. Each and every one of them helps provide comfort and care to terminally ill patients and their families during the final stages of life.
National Volunteer Week is celebrated this month from April 21 – 27. Established in 1974, this weeklong recognition gives us an opportunity to honor and thank those individuals who do extraordinary things through community involvement. It focuses national attention on the impact and power of volunteerism so people can see firsthand the importance of volunteering in local communities.
Our organization is honored to have the compassionate care that volunteers provide to patients in each AseraCare Agency. Every hospice volunteer has something special and unique that they’re able to contribute, and we are thankful for that. It is important to have these uplifting individuals share their time and words with those who need it most.
“Too often we underestimate the power of a volunteer. A touch, a smile, a kind word, and a listening ear all help make a difference in the lives they touch,” said Rhonda Drewes, AseraCare Beatrice Volunteer Coordinator. “Hospice Volunteers are special and are our most cherished asset. Their unselfish actions continually help lighten the burdensof patients and their families.” Read More
Alzheimer’s disease is a devastating illness that affects at least 5.4 million Americans, with one in eight older Americans having the disease. Occupational therapists offer treatments that can promote safety and enhance a patient’s quality of life, in addition to providing comfort and care for people with the disease and their families.
Alzheimer’s disease affects people’s personalities, behavior and memory. With occupational therapy, all of these areas can be addressed, depending on the stage of the disease, the setting and the therapy focus.
Occupational therapists are challenged to create a balance between patient safety and maximum independence. As a result of adding occupational therapy to their care plan, Alzheimer’s patients may see an improvement in the ability to use their cognitive skills, activities of daily living and other activities that help them to be more independent and experience a better quality life for a longer period of time.
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For physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech-language pathologists, helping others is a way of life. Day in and day out, these professionals provide compassionate, quality care with dozens of patients on a one-on-one basis. But caring for others can make them vulnerable to depletion, stress and fatigue. So how do these helpers help themselves?
Learning to manage the pressure is key because if they don’t keep themselves strong and in balance, they are not able to be there others. In fact, if therapists are stressed and don’t have a good outlet for that stress, they can potentially put their patients at risk. This is because people are more error-prone when they’re stressed, burned out, fatigued or ill.
Here are ten sure-fire ways to cope effectively with stress:
1. Exercise. This earns a top spot on the list because it’s such a powerful tool for reducing stress and increasing a sense of well-being. Study after study points out this fact. And you don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits—moderate, regular exercise is sufficient, from walking and yoga to gardening and swimming.
2. Keep a gratitude journal. Counting life’s blessings is an ancient practice. Almost 2,000 years ago, Roman poet Ovid said, “Thanks are justly due for boons unbought.” So buy yourself a small journal at your local bookstore, put it in your purse or bag and start keeping track of the wonderful things in your life. Do it every day and don’t repeat yourself. You’ll discover all manner of big and small things that make your heart grateful. Plus, this journal is a comfort when you’re feeling down—it’s a reminder that even in tough times, you are luckier than you think.
3. Identify stressors. The same things don’t stress everybody out. So know your stressors, acknowledge those triggers and develop a plan to deal with them. Some events are out of your control and require acceptance. Others respond to action.
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Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) are “at the heart of caring” in a skilled nursing facility. They help patients and residents with a variety of daily activities and the facility staff with various duties. At Golden Living, we want to thank all nursing assistants for their dedication during National Nursing Assistants’ Week, June 14-21.
At Golden Living, CNAs are a vital part of the services we offer across the country in our LivingCenters and through AseraCare, our home health and hospice company. They are such an important part of what we do that Golden Living has developed a specialized pre-certified nursing assistant program. Not many educational programs are open FREE to the community or require no previous work experience, but that’s what is unique about this program.
The CNAs that pursue and complete this program compassionately perform this special job at our Golden LivingCenters, AseraCare and other skilled nursing providers.
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Nearly 10 million Americans have some form of visual impairment or low vision that affects their everyday life, including 18 percent of the older population and nearly 30 percent of people age 85 and older. Low vision is defined as a visual impairment that is not correctable by standard eyeglasses, contact lenses, medication or surgery and that interferes with the ability to perform everyday activities, according to the National Eye Institute.
Low vision can cause problems in distinguishing detailed letters and numbers when reading, or between similar colors, like red and orange; recognizing physical dangers, like steps or rocks; and identifying facial features. People with low vision may struggle with independence because they find it difficult to complete life maintenance and day-to-day activities.
Low vision can greatly decrease a person’s functional ability and independence, but with the help of an occupational therapist, it is possible to be independent and live an active life. An occupational therapist can help a person with low vision to stay in his or her own home and complete daily life tasks, which can range from grocery shopping and preparing food to managing finances, cleaning the house and getting out and about in the neighborhood and community.
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In the world of medicine, there’s a new kid on the block who’s making a difference in hospitals and patient care. Hospitalists, who are physicians who specialize in the practice of hospital medicine, are gaining popularity. From a two-year-old’s ear infection to the cancer pain of a 90-year-old, a hospitalist is ready and trained for these illnesses and everything in between.
The term “hospitalist” was first coined in 1996 by co-authors, Robert Wachter and Lee Goldman in a New England Journal of Medicine article. This medical specialty has grown since that time to include scores of men and women, many of whom are board-certified in internal medicine, general pediatrics or family practice. They undergo the same training as other doctors, including medical school, residency training and board certification examination. The only difference is that they have chosen to practice in a hospital as opposed to a private setting.
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The ability to communicate with others through language is so fundamental to most of us that we don’t even think about life without it. But for a person with aphasia, the ability to speak and understand others is impaired. Communication becomes difficult and every word can be a struggle.
In my years as a speech-language pathologist, I have worked with scores of people affected by either their own aphasia or that of a loved one. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, aphasia affects at least one million people in the United States alone. During National Aphasia Awareness Month this June, I want to share a little bit about this communication disorder and how to most effectively cope if you are a family member or friend of someone fighting to recover.
While aphasia impairs a person’s ability to process language, it does not affect intelligence. It is an acquired communication disorder most often brought on by stroke. In fact, about 25-40 percent of stroke survivors have aphasia. It can also result from head injury, brain tumor or other neurological causes. It is most common among older adults, but can occur at any age.
Sometimes aphasia is temporary, lasting only a few hours or days after a stroke, for example. But for most people, language recovery does not come as quickly or as completely as that. They usually see partial recovery within a month or so, but some aphasia remains. For these folks, speech-language therapy can help with continued improvement over the next two-year period.
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One of the greatest fears many people have is dying in pain. Those of us who work in hospice understand this fear and make pain management a top priority. In fact, people who choose hospice care are far more likely to get adequate pain relief and die peacefully than those who do not.
There are several reasons for this. First, the focus of hospice care is on pain and symptom management. It’s at the heart of what we do.
Second, federal guidelines regulating hospice care require that we make a concerted effort to control patient pain. This is reflected in most state laws, too.
Another reason is the interdisciplinary team approach employed by hospice. Patients may have an attending physician, specialists, social workers, nutritionists, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, a spiritual leader and volunteers who are working with them at any one time. By taking a team approach, the quality of life for both the patient and the family may be better improved.
Many pain treatment regimens begin with over-the-counter medications. Severe pain, however, often calls for narcotic pain relief. It is important to note that different types of pain call for different kinds of medication. Bone pain, for example, might require something different for pain management than a muscle spasm. A hospice doctor or specialist is trained to know the subtleties of pain and prescribe appropriately and adequately.
In the past, I’ve heard some concern about creating “addicts” with narcotic pain therapy. Understandably, people don’t want to “use drugs,” but they mistake legitimate medical care for illegal drug-seeking behavior. Proper pain relief for the terminally ill is entirely appropriate and I’ve never seen a problem with addiction created in this population.
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When tablet computers first arrived on the scene a few years ago, few could have predicted their usefulness to speech-language pathologists. But tablets—like the Apple iPad, Blackberry Playbook, Google Android, Kindle Fire and HP Touchpad—are transforming the way these therapists practice every day. They’ve raised the bar on usability and function.
First, they’re fun. A tablet motivates patients to keep on practicing, even when exercises become repetitious. Clients want to use the tablet, and a motivated client is an improving client. The versatility of tablets allows a speech-language pathologist to use them with people who have a wide range of diagnoses and needs.
Second, they’re portable. Generally, they weigh from half a pound to two pounds, so a therapist can easily pack his or her tablet in a shoulder bag and take it from client to client. Speech-language pathologists who required a lot of materials on a large cart can now just bring this one device.
Third, they’re affordable. Even Apple’s iPad, which is one of the more expensive tablets, starts at $499, and applications or apps are often under $50 each. For a technology that can be used with every patient, this is cost efficient.
Finally, there are dozens of useful apps available for therapists. Here are a few of our favorites.
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