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Caregiver Stress Awareness in Hospice CareBy: Joelle Jean, FNPCaring for a loved one who is terminally ill and on hospice is emotionally and physically taxing. In 2015, an estimated 39.8 million caregivers provided unpaid care to an adult with a disability or illness. The estimated value of the service supplied by caregivers is up to $470 billion since 2013.Caregivers may deny help from others, perhaps out of guilt or obligation. However, 1 out of 6 caregivers report not being asked what they need to care for themselves. Caregivers can work up to 8.3 hours per day or 66 hours per week during their loved ones last days of life. Often, this is in addition to working a full-time job and caring for their own immediate family.Caregivers are at risk for depression, severe fatigue, or burnout, or even health issues such as hypertension, stroke, obesity, or weight loss due to stress.What is a caregiver?A caregiver, also known as an informal caregiver, is an unpaid individual or group of individuals who provide care to a loved one. Caregivers can be a spouse, family members, partner, friend, neighbor, or combination of these individuals.A caregiver assists their loved ones with activities of daily living which include:BathingDressingEatingToiletingShoppingHousekeepingTransportationMedical tasks such as giving medications, changing wound dressings, and managing painA caregiver can also play a significant role in coordinating care for their loved ones. Many are appointed power of attorney or the primary decision maker for their loved ones, managing finances, property, and most suitable medical care for the individual. What causes caregiver stress or burnout?There is no clear definition of caregiver stress. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines stress as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension and may be a factor in disease causation. Burnout can be a response to stress, defined as extreme emotional exhaustion. According to stress.org, stages of burnout are:EnthusiasmStagnationFrustrationApathy or loss of interestA caregiver with stress or burnout exhibits signs of feeling overloaded, overwhelmed, emotionally drained, tiredness, detachment from the person they are caring for, and a reduced sense of accomplishment.Who is most affected by caregiver stress?Caregiver stress affects the person or people directly caring for their loved one. Stress can also affect caregivers in different ways. For example, one caregiver may find specific tasks stressful or overwhelming while another caregiver may find the task relaxing and rewarding.What are the signs and symptoms of caregiver stress?Often, caregivers are not aware of their stress or feeling of burnout. Signs and symptoms of caregiver stress can be subtle or obvious. It is important to identify caregiver stress so it can be eased.AnxietyAnxiety is a stress response, activating the fight or flight response that happens chemically in the brain. Physically, anxiety can be described as:Increased heart rateFeelings of doom or hopelessnessStomach pain and or spasmsHeadacheSweatingHeavy breathingFeeling weak or tiredWorryFatigueCaregivers suffering from stress may not realize they are fatigued. Fatigue is the bodys response to burnout and can be physical, emotional, or psychological.Weight changesStress can cause weight changes and affect eating patterns. Weight change can occur when dealing with caregiver stress. Rapid weight gain or unexplained weight loss is a warning sign of caregiver stress and should be addressed appropriately.IrritabilityCaregivers may become easily annoyed or short-tempered with loved ones, family members, or friends. Feeling irritable may be a warning sign of caregiver stress.Feelings of being overwhelmedFeeling overwhelmed or anxious is normal. Caregivers may become overwhelmed with the amount of care needed to provide to their loved ones. Trouble concentrating, changes in sleep patterns, and changes in eating habits may occur.DepressionLosing interest in activities can be a sign of depression due to the demanding responsibilities of caregiving. Signs of depression include:Little interest or pleasure in doing thingsFeeling down or hopelessChange in sleep patternsFatigue and tirednessThoughts of death or suicidePotential health risks as a result of caregiver stressChronic stress (or stress lasting for more than six weeks) can have lasting health problems. Caregivers exhibiting signs and symptoms of stress and burnout have a higher chance of developing health risks.High blood pressureCaregivers can suffer from high blood pressure due to the stress of caring for a loved one in hospice. If caregivers have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, stress can make the disease worse. Uncontrolled high blood pressure puts caregivers at higher risk for:StrokeAtherosclerosis or disease of the arteriesHeart attackOrgan damageWeakened immune systemThe immune system is in place to protect the body from illness and disease. Stress can cause a weakened immune system. With a weakened immune system, caregivers can become sick or develop chronic illnesses such as:Inflammation throughout the bodyIncrease in fat in the blood and bodyChronic painFrequent colds and infections Short term memory lossStudies have shown that a symptom of chronic stress is the shrinking of the brain. Shrinking of the brain causes short-term memory loss. Short term memory loss affects learning, judgement, and memory process. Headaches and body painsStress can cause headaches and body pains. On a hormonal level, the increase of cortisol causes headaches even at rest. The physical nature of caring for a loved one on hospice- lifting, standing, walking, and rotating- can cause severe body pain or injury. How to relieve or prevent caregiver stress and burnoutSelf-care is imperative for caregivers caring for their loved ones in hospice. Self-care means caring for yourself, so you can improve your health to care for others.Exercise regularlyFinding the time and the energy to exercise might sound difficult. However, even carving out 30 minutes a day has positive effects on your health. Exercising whether it is running, walking, swimming, or doing yoga will lower blood pressure, increase energy, and improve mood.Asking and accepting help from othersAccepting help can be difficult for some caregivers. It is important to ask and accept help so that you are available for your loved one mentally and physically.Under most insurances and Medicare, respite care is available to relieve the burden of caregiver stress. Respite care will give short term caregiver relief to those who are in need.Eat and sleep wellEating and sleeping well are fundamental in protecting your physical and mental health. A well-balanced meal of fruits, vegetables, and plant-based foods is important for physical and mental well-being. Adding vitamins such as a multivitamin, vitamin D, or vitamin B-12 can also help improve your mood and energy.Having a good nights sleep has many health benefits. Feeling well-rested and energized will only benefit you, as the caregiver, and your loved one. Improved memory, mood, and overall well-being are all benefits of quality sleep.Seek out support groupsSupport groups add immense value to caregivers who are caring for loved ones in hospice. Joining support groups reassures caregivers that they arent alone. Support groups:Allow you to talk about your feelingsHelp you realize others are going through the same situationReduces stress and depressionTeaches coping skills and ways to divert stressMaintain personal relationshipsMaintaining personal relationships is as important as joining support groups. Meeting up with friends or family members allows you to relax. It also allows you to take time for yourself and time away from your loved one. Awareness of caregivers stress and burnout must be addressed and acknowledged for caregivers to feel supported and recognized for their challenging work. The hospice team and its services are a fundamental part of bringing this awareness to the forefront.
Most seniors today prefer to remain in their own home for as long as possible. They dont want to give up their independence by moving in with family or into an independent living facility. This is known as aging in place and can be a viable option for seniors who need little to no assistance with activities of daily living.In-home senior care services from Gentle Shepherd Home Care in Colorado Springs can make this possible. Our caregivers are trained to handle an array of elderly care services from companionship to meal prep to medication reminders to transportation and more.In this article, well explain some of the benefits of in-home care for independent seniors.Who Needs In-Home Care Services?Gentle Shepherd Home Care offers a variety of in-home care services for all ages and needs. However, most of the time, patients who need home care are elderly. If youre unsure if your loved one needs in-home care, consider the following questions:Does your elderly loved one hear the phone when it rings?Do they understand how to safely store food and toss it when it has gone bad?Are they able to cook and clean up after eating?Are they attending social/family gatherings?Can they do their own laundry?If the answer to any of these is no, your loved one may benefit from in-home care.4 Benefits of In-Home Senior CareWhile it can be difficult to accept, nearly everyone will require some type of assistance after the age of 65. If the thought of moving in with relatives or a nursing home/assisted living facility is unappealing for your loved one, in-home senior care can help them age in place.Four benefits of in-home senior care include:Household MaintenanceThere is a lot of work that goes into keeping a household running smoothly. Caregivers can help stay on top of household chores such as laundry, handyman services, housekeeping, and more. They may also help with financial and healthcare management, as well as appointments and financials.TransportationFor many seniors, transportation is an issue, especially at night. Unfortunately, public transportation is not always safe- especially for elderly people. However, one of the services offered by caregivers includes transportation.Personal CareMany seniors need assistance with activities of daily living including meal prep, bathing, dressing, and more. In-home senior care providers can be in the home to help with these activities.Health CareAging usually brings a variety of health concerns as well. Some caregivers are trained to help with these concerns including taking blood pressure, blood glucose readings, medication reminders, and more. Many times, health insurance will cover a portion of these services.Schedule Your Care Assessment TodayIf you believe that you or your loved one may benefit from elderly care services, schedule a no-obligation care assessment. Gentle Shepherd Home Care offers care services for all ages and needs. We can offer companionship for your loved one, and many of our caregivers are able to provide medical care as needed.
Research shows that seniors are common targets of scammers. One of the most common ways that criminals try to get information is through Medicare scam calls. In fact, your Medicare number is often more valuable for criminals than your social security number or credit card numbers/banking information.The caregivers at Gentle Shepherd Home Care in Colorado Springs can help you identify these scams. We offer a variety of in-home senior care services from companionship to medical care.In this article, well explain what you need to know about common Medicare scams.Does Medicare Ever Call Recipients?There are only two reasons that Medicare will ever call you, according to the Medicare website:Health/drug plan provider may call if you are already a member or the agent who helped you join may contact youCustomer service representative may contact you if youve left a message or received a letter stating that you will receive a phone callTop 7 Medicare ScamsFraudsters are getting smart with their scams. However, if someone calls you claiming to be from Medicare with the following pitches, its a scam.Your old Medicare card is invalid- you will be getting a new cardThis is one of the most common Medicare scams. The fraudster will inform you that in order to issue a new card, they will need your social security number and/or your Medicare card number.Truth: Medicare will not call you if there is an issue with your card. They will send a letter to arrange a phone interview.Your Medicare plan is about to be canceledThe caller will claim that in order to prevent your Medicare from being canceled, you will need to verify your current Medicare number, full name, address, banking information, birthdate, and social security number. This is also a common Social Security scam.Truth: Medicare representatives have your Medicare number on file- they will never ask for it. Additionally, Medicare representatives never ask for details such as your social security number to verity your identity.You are eligible for early access to vaccinationsThe COVID-19 pandemic spawned many pandemic-related scams such as being sent at-home testing kits or special access to vaccinations. These offers require that you provide information such as your Medicare number, social security number, and other personal details. Most of these start out as text messages or robocalls. The caller will offer you special access if you pay out of pocket.Truth: Medicare will never ask for you to pay out of pocket to get special treatment.You must confirm your appointment for genetic testingIn some cases, scammers will call offering free genetic testing to screen for a variety of health conditions. When you agree, they will steal your information and will bill Medicare for the test. In some cases, you may be sent an at-home test to complete along with a request for your information.Truth: Medicare will not call or send an at-home kit to offer you testing that you have not requested.You are eligible for free medical suppliesIf a scammer is aware of a specific health condition, such as diabetes, they may offer you free medical supplies or medications. They use this offer to get your Medicare number and other personal information as well as your credit card number so that you can pay for shipping. Your information will be used to over-bill Medicare.Truth: Medicare is not likely to call you to offer free medical supplies/medications. They will never ask for you to pay for shipping or provide financial information. Never pay for anything without seeing an invoice that can be confirmed with Medicare.You overpaid and are due a refundOne of the most common scams fraudsters use is to contact you via a phone call or text offering a refund on overpayment.Truth: Medicare will not call you to verify your personal financial information before issuing a refund. If you are due for a refund, a paper check will be sent out or it will be sent to the bank account on file.Youve been pre-approved for a cheaper/better planSome scammers will try to convince you that you are eligible for a cheaper/better plan than you are currently on. These are most common during open enrollment.Truth: Medicare will not call you without sending a letter first. You should never follow up on any unsolicited calls, visits from people claiming to be Medicare reps, or brochures.What to Do if You Are ContactedScammers can be persuasive, aggressive, and even threatening. However, its important to stay calm- they wont be able to do anything if you dont give them your information.Also, keep in mind that Medicare will not cold-call you. They will contact you via postal mail first to set up a phone interview.If you or a loved one is contacted by a fraudster:Never give out personal informationHang upReport the scam to MedicareWarn loved onesIf you or a loved one is in need of in-home elderly care, contact Gentle Shepherd Home Care in Colorado Springs. We offer a variety of services from simple companionship to medical care.
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