What started as a normal day for one family ended with a serious scare when an elderly aunt who was 96 years old blacked out and fell in the bathroom at an assisted living facility. She was rushed to a nearby hospital in pain and with bruises. Her legal guardian, a niece, drove over 100 miles to meet her, and came almost every day for many weeks. The aunt had cuts all over her arms, which required daily dressing changes. She needed around the clock care, something that wasn’t necessary before the fall. After a few days, she was moved to a rehab nursing home with 24/7 therapeutic support. The aunt will not return to the life she was living just a few weeks prior.
This story is very common across the United States. One in three people over the age of 65 will fall at least once a year, and falls are the leading cause of injuries for this demographic. The emergency room treats an older adult for a fall every 14 seconds. Even if the first fall is not serious, older people become fearful of another fall. This can lead to their limiting their activity, which can also lead to depression. However, with the right knowledge and precautions, we can help prevent our elders’ falls.
Falls often happen due to multiple factors. They can be caused by the person’s home environment or their physical condition. If the elderly person takes medication, their attention or balance may be compromised. More than half of falls among the elderly happen due to slipping, tripping or stumbling inside their home. The biggest problem areas are the bathroom and stairs.
Many falls can be prevented with a few simple modifications to a person’s home or lifestyle. Removing loose throw rugs (or taping down the edges), removing cords from areas where people walk, adding sturdy hand bars by the toilet and shower, adding anti-slip tile and proper lighting can all help keep older people on steady footing in their homes.
Here are other measures that family members can take to help prevent their loved ones from falling:
- Because the aging process affects sight and hearing, make sure your loved one meets regularly with an eye doctor. Eyeglasses and hearing aid prescriptions should be updated regularly to allow your loved one to see both up-close and distance, and to hear others clearly.
- Monitor alcohol consumption and limit your elders’ intake as much as possible. If they are taking medications that have dangerous side effects when combined with alcohol, make sure they are not consuming any alcohol at all!
- Less than 40% of older Americans exercise, resulting in an elevated risk of falling. Taking a Tai Chi or yoga class, walking, dancing, or similar activities are all healthy options. Physical therapists can teach patients how to exercise safely to improve muscle strength, balance, and go through daily movements without straining themselves.
- Investing in a pair of shoes with good traction and low, rubber heels can be a big help in making a senior feel more confident and secure.
- Taking multiple medications can result in drug interactions that can cause dizziness, loss of equilibrium, and falls. Elders and their families should talk to their doctors about any potential side effects and interactions between medications. Remember to let the doctor know about any over the counter medications that the elderly person may also take, such as pain relief or sleep aids.
- Canes and walkers are helpful, but only if used correctly. When buying a cane, get one that is properly fitted (not too tall or too short) and work with a therapist to learn the proper techniques for using it.
While falls are not usually fatal, they can be very harmful for seniors. Typical outcomes can be broken bones or serious bruising. If it’s serious enough, a fall can prevent a loved one from having normal life. The outcome from trauma like this puts stress on family members who must become caregivers.
Prevention is key for older relatives when it comes to falling to keep a loved one safe and in their home for years to come. Family members who retain a home care agency to help their loved one manage tasks around the house gain a sense of security that their loved one is being kept safe when they can’t be there.
By Stephen Smith, CEO, Best of Care Inc.
Within every family, there’s The Chosen One. I’m not talking about the first-born son. Or mama’s favorite. Or daddy’s little girl. Or the brainiac. Or the troublemaker.
The Chosen One is the sibling who has a gift that’s taken for granted until a crisis happens. That’s when The Chosen One’s calm demeanor, practical mindset and warm heart shine in her or his service to others.
The Chosen One in our family? My sister Debbie, whose straight-talking, wise-cracking yet gentle approach helped her thrive as part-time professional caregiver here at Best of Care, while working full-time in a management position at a regional hospital.
In 2005, our mother was diagnosed with breast and lymph node cancer. As a home care agency owner, I knew that to remain in her home through her illness, mom would require a very high level of support.
We all helped. As her legal proxy, I helped Mom pay the bills and manage her affairs. Our sister Patty, a nurse at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was her healthcare proxy, taking her to frequent visits to the doctor and for cancer treatments.
Debbie took on the lion’s share of Mom’s day-to-day care. Her professional healthcare experience had taught her to also be a competent family caregiver.
But juggling two demanding jobs with Mom became overwhelming. After much thought, Debbie made the difficult decision to resign from both and take care of mom full-time. She also took on the caregiving role for mom’s brother (our uncle) full-time.
Debbie’s relationship with Mom during her decline was loud, sometimes profane and often comical. But through it all, Mom knew and accepted that Debbie was the one best suited to be at her side.
Mom passed away in 2007. With a heavy heart and newfound time on her hands, Debbie decided that instead of going back to her hospital position, she wanted to shift her career from hospital manager to professional home caregiver.
That’s how our family’s Chosen One became one of the most in-demand caregivers that I’ve ever hired.
Debbie’s clients love what we love about her: Her no-nonsense approach. Her warmth and humor. Jokes Debbie, “The ladies I help in their homes love me. Why? They’re hard of hearing. And I’ve always been LOUD!”
Debbie also helps bring our homebound male clients “out of their shells” with gentle assertion, coaxing them to do what’s needed to maintain their personal health and well-being. As a social person herself, she actively listens to client’s stories of their lives and families. And for those who must get their medications and food on time, she’s punctual as a clock.
It’s a fact, and not surprising, that the vast majority of our Chosen Ones are women. If they have siblings located in other states, they may the only one near enough to provide care to mom and dad. Like my sister Debbie, they may willingly choose to be their parent’s caregiver. Like Debbie, they’re often putting their own careers at risk and their own families’ lives on hold to fulfill this commitment.
So Debbie’s work, both when Mom was alive and now as a professional caregiver at Best of Care, is a blessing for our family.
The home aides we hire also possess “The Debbie Factor”. Our training programs help new hires embrace their talent for empathy, humor and caring…while ensuring that their clients are safe, and that they receive the health and personal care services that are essential for them to remain in their homes.
Of course, not everyone has the aptitude, attitude and desire to be a Chosen One. The Chosen One can easily become resentful in her role, especially if her siblings don’t carry their weight.
Regardless of whether you’re The Chosen One, or The Chosen One’s brother or sister, you don’t have to go it alone. Support is out there. More than 300,000 home care agencies with more than 1.4 million employees now serve those who don’t have the time, skills or emotional fortitude to intensely care for their loved ones.
From the services of a home aide who spends a few hours per day to do cooking and laundry, to 24/7 nursing care support, our country’s Chosen Ones (family members and professional caregivers alike) are supporting our elders in their homes while giving their families peace of mind.
Inspired by the growing societal need to provide affordable, quality care for elders, Stephen Smith founded Best of Care Inc. in 1981, which is now recognized as one of Massachusetts most respected private home care companies. Today, Best of Care’s 200+ employees deliver home care to more than 75 towns and cities to the Greater Boston area, the South Shore, Southern Massachusetts and Cape Cod. The agency has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
The agency I founded in 1981 was based on a concept — caring for seniors in their own homes as an alternative to nursing care — that was, quite frankly, not very well understood at the time.
I learned that building a viable home care business meant being flexible, offering services that might range from simply doing errands to full service 24/7 nursing care.
As a finalist for the 2014 Family Business Association Awards in Massachusetts, Kevin and I recently were honored to participate in an interview with the Radio Entrepreneurs Network on how we built our business, the principles we live by, and the advice we give to any family member who is caring for an elderly loved one.
Give our interview a watch and a listen. And as always, we welcome your feedback!
In any service business, your company’s reputation is only as good as your customers’ experiences. Here at Best of Care, our reputation depends on the dedication and expertise of our caregiver team.
These are the most important elements in our approach for providing quality home health care.
Punctuality and attention to detail.
Mr. X gets his bath at 9 a.m. Mrs. Y must have her insulin at 8 a.m. If these services happen late, it’s not only the client who suffers: Their families, who have careers and lives of their own, would need to re-prioritize their day to attend to mom or dad.
That’s totally unacceptable.
Our home care clients and their families rely on us to adhere to schedules and instructions focused on their specific health and daily living needs. Our caregivers understand the importance of showing up prepared, and showing up on time. They are dedicated, reliable, and responsible for taking care of a loved one.
Observation and communication.
Our nursing and administrative staff closely monitor how we care for clients in their homes. They’re in constant touch with clients and their families, case managers and caregivers. Our team of registered nurses conducts a supervisory evaluation with each of our home caregivers to determine how our clients are doing, how they’re interacting with the caregiver, any feedback the family is providing and what additional support the client may need. We base salary increases, caseload considerations and potential client-caregiver matches on feedback from our supervisors. They allow us to better predict the compatibility of clients and caregivers, reinforcing our concierge approach.
Training, education and advancement.
Home caregiving is physically and emotionally demanding, but also rewarding. Our home health aides work with clients with varying conditions, diagnoses, and mental and/or physical illnesses. They work with clients of all different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. This type of experience is vital to anyone who wants to pursue an advanced degree in healthcare and another level in their career.
To better equip our home care aides, Best of Care offers regular staff education and training. By delivering safe, efficient care to homebound clients, they become respected members of the family’s caregiver team, which in turn enhances their job security and work opportunities.
Many of our home health aides are actively working towards their RN or LPN licensure or are going to a college to become a physician’s assistant. We actively encourage our team to pursue these additional credentials, which supports both their career goals and our clients’ needs.
Whether you’re looking to begin a career in home care, take your nursing degree into a home care setting or accelerate your career, you’ll find opportunities in the home care market. Interested in supporting Best of Care’s clients in Greater Boston, Southeastern Massachusetts or Cape Cod? Give me a call or send me an email!
When our elderly parents are hospitalized, or enter a rehab facility, we’re naturally focused on the here and now: are they getting what they need to mend? What we really need to be doing is looking ahead: Are we equipped to provide a much higher level of day-to-day care when they return home? Have we researched options for bringing in a part or full-time caregiver?
Rhonda Caudell, a coach to adults who are managing the care of their elderly parents, gives great advice to sons, daughters (and grandchildren) whose parents are in a hospital or rehab facility.The proactive approaches and the questions she counsels families to get answers to are music to the ears of home care agencies like ours.
In our experience at Best of Care, many times healthcare facilities will not discharge a client unless 24/7 support has already been arranged and waiting when they arrive home. What this means is that you must begin communicating with your loved one’s physicians, and with the facility’s discharge managers, the day your loved one enters the facility…not when they’re about to leave.
When your loved one arrives at the hospital, nursing home or rehab facility, that is also the time to research, select and reach out to several home care agencies or Visiting Nurse Associations that serve the community your loved one lives in.
Taking these steps early will give you time to make an informed decision about the home care agency will best suit your loved one’s needs in terms of cost, staffing, and accessibility. Not sure how to go about this? Click here for a list of questions to ask as you’re researching and interviewing prospective home care agencies.
This is an article, written by Kevin Smith, President and COO of Best of Care, Inc., Quincy, MA. The article is in the current issue of Health & Wealth, The Essential Baby Boomer Guide for the South Shore Plymouth, and Cape Cod.
When you click the image below it will take you to Kevin’s article. The health care industry is finally realizing that Baby Boomers are in charge and that health care providers adapt or go out of business.
The word concierge has come a long way from its sole affiliation with the hotel industry. Today, it’s used to promote all kinds of services that provide a high level of personalized attention to customers’ needs. Last month, I spoke to the nation’s largest gathering of home care providers about the concept of concierge home care services to our clients. And while the Affordable Care Act has our entire industry focused on quality and outcome-based care, linking customization to outcomes is both good business and the right thing to do. It’s a no-brainer that each client — whether they’re recovering from surgery, suffering from dementia, have a terminal illness or simply aren’t mobile enough to cook or clean for themselves anymore — will require their own unique mix of services and levels of care. But it’s more than just the client. His or her family, friends or other involved caregivers need the same kind of concierge-level support that can help them make the right decisions for their loved ones and get much-needed respite time. What are the core elements of a ‘concierge’ level home care service? And what do you need to ask, understand and do before choosing the agency that can best meet your needs? Findability. If you or a loved one needs care in the home, you need to be able to easily find a home care agency that provides services in their area. Nowadays, that search process happens online. How easily are you finding these agencies’ web sites through a search on Google, Yahoo or Bing?? How quickly do they respond to your email or call? Inquiry Tools. Your loved one requires help with cleaning, cooking, laundry and errands. You call an agency you found online, but their web site isn’t specific about their services. During the call, you discover that the agency only offers private duty nursing, but your loved one doesn’t need that level of help. You’ve just wasted valuable time. As you shop for an agency online, ask yourself: How do their web sites help you determine if the services offered are a good fit? Do they give you the facts you need to make an informed phone call? Do they offer a needs assessment form you can fill out in advance of a call or visit? Detailed Assessment. Does the agency ask for an in-person meeting to really listen to your needs? Do they visit the home of the person requiring care? Do they offer to develop a plan of care as part of their services? Condition-Specific Services. If your loved one has a terminal illness, does the agency offer Hospice? If he/she has dementia or Alzheimer’s or a brain injury, does the agency have specially trained and certified staff that can manage these conditions? If your loved one is being discharged from a hospital to their home, how will the agency manage the transition? If they have specific conditions, you need to know the agency has the right people with the right training and expertise. Flexibility. If your loved one needs 24/7/365 support, does the agency have a deep enough bench of caregivers to provide continuity? How about one-hour-at-a-time services? If there’s an emergency or your loved one suddenly needs a higher level of care, how fast can the agency respond? Understand how the agency manages its caregivers’ schedules for both planned and unplanned visits. Communication. How often, and by what methods, do you expect that the agency’s caregivers and management provide you with updates on your loved one? For example, if he or she falls ill or if their condition deteriorates, will the caregiver call you immediately? How often do they provide formal reports? Costs and Payment. Does the agency help you determine what your payment options are? Connect you to government programs you may qualify for? How do they work with employee insurance plans and long-term care insurance programs? Community Connections. How does the agency coordinate with other complimentary supports, e.g. meal services, that are available in your community? Once a home care agency has answered the above questions to your satisfaction, it’s important to provide them with all the information they need to develop a concierge-level care plan. It’s this attention to detail, along with your frequent communication with the agency, that will help ensure your loved one’s well-being and your peace of mind. Connect with Kevin Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org, (617) 773-5800×17 or @BestofCare. This article written by Kevin Smith, Vice President, Best of Care
Time to brace for New England’s unpredictable weather. What’s on the meteorologic menu this season? Some predict a milder-than-normal winter. But anyone who has lived here for long knows we’ll likely get snowed in at least once.
During last February’s Winter Storm Nemo, Governor Deval Patrick took heat for imposing severe penalties to keep non-essential personnel off the road. But if you’re not able to reach the bathroom or prepare a meal without outside help, how would you have felt about the Governor’s sweeping mandate?
Here’s the problem: the usual definition of ‘essential personnel’ usually omits a huge (and growing) category of workers: those who must travel to the homes of elderly or disabled residents who are physically or mentally not able to care for themselves.
For years, the 15,000+ home health and hospice care agencies across the U.S., who employ more than 1.8 million home care workers, have taken the U.S. Postal Service slogan one better. It’s not mail they’re delivering though – it’s the safety, health, comfort and peace of mind of those who depend on their caregiver’s daily visit.
Fortunately, laws that govern emergencies are beginning to catch up with the reality that our homebound residents can’t wait for help. Last month, New York State introduced a bill to declare home care workers ‘essential personnel’ during disasters such as Superstorm Sandy. The legislation would extend their reach to vulnerable patients with services, supplies or to help with evacuation.
Winter’s almost here. If you’re with me on this issue, take action. Talk to your local and state elected representatives. Let’s adapt our crisis plans to provide home caregivers easier access to those who desperately need support.
You can also do your part to support elderly and disabled residents in your neighborhood and community. If you suspect a homebound neighbor is in trouble, don’t wait to act. Your visit, or emergency call, may save their life.
Kevin Smith is the President of Best of Care, Inc., a home health care and hospice agency that serves 115 towns in Massachusetts’, Greater Boston, South Shore, and North Shore communities.