The Benefits of Pet Ownership for Seniors

the-benefits-of-pet-ownership-for-seniorsThere’s no question that pet ownership in the United States has taken on a whole new vibe. All you have to do is look at pet-specific clothing and accessory lines, or the number of people bringing pets with them to run errands, to know pets have become official members of the American Family. However, when you’re going through the stress and trauma of finding home healthcare for a senior loved one, or helping them transition from their home to a senior community, their pet(s) may be the last thing on your mind.

How Much Is That Doggy in the Window? Priceless!

You may want to think twice before choosing a living arrangement that doesn’t include pets. Or, if your beloved senior doesn’t have a pet, this might be the time to adopt one for him/her. Scientific findings regarding the benefits of pet ownership on human mental and emotional well-being is astounding. Not only that, the positive emotional impact of connecting with pets translates into improved physical health.

Here are some amazing facts regarding the benefits of pet ownership for seniors. It’s like therapy everyday!

History matters. Did your parent or grandparent own a pet as a child? If so, pet ownership is probably even more important to them at a time in their life where they are being increasingly isolated from others and have lost the daily physical touch that is part of most people’s day to day lives during the “family years”. According to petpartners.org, “Among individuals aged 65 – 87 years, pet owners reported a past history of pet-keeping more frequently than did the non-pet owners. In a study of adults, 88% of the pet owners had owned pets as children…”

Pets decrease emotional outbursts in Alzheimer’s patients. One of the most unfortunate consequences of Alzheimer’s and dementia can be the angry and emotional outbursts that occur. These episodes are traumatizing for everyone involved. Lynette Hart, a professor at the University of California at Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says, “Studies have shown that Alzheimer’s patients have fewer anxious outbursts if there is an animal in the home.”

It’s an excuse to get some exercise. You can’t begrudge your elderly relatives for not getting out more often. We all know that exercise is healthy, but it’s easy to get into a rut. Dogs, however, need their daily exercise everyday. Canadian researchers at the University of Victoria found that dog-owners spent twice as much time walking as those that didn’t own dogs and, more specifically, Johns Hopkins research says the elderly population is the most likely to walk their dog at least three times a week or more. Pets can be a great way to get seniors moving.

They may be the first to know there’s a health problem. There are amazing statistics coming out regarding normal dogs and their ability to sniff out health problems such as low blood sugar. More than 1/3 of diabetic patients with dogs have been alerted to their plummeting blood sugar by their dog’s unusual behaviors. This is important, especially for diabetics who are living alone. Dogs have even been shown to sniff out cancer in its early stages.

Pets can facilitate rehabilitation. Many rehabilitation centers are using professional service dogs to help their patients heal. These dogs encourage mobility, provide unfailing encouragement and love, and improve the mental outlook of patients, which facilitates the overall healing process.

These facts are proof that pets are more than just a cute furry body. They may even be life savers. Do what you can to facilitate pet ownership in your seniors’ lives.

Hospice Care and Caregivers

Do you have a loved one who is about to go on Hospice Care? If so, it can raise many questions as to how your day-to-day life will progress. One of the most regular questions from caregivers is, “what do I do now?”. The best hospice-care-and-caregiversanswers to this question will unfold once Hospice Care is in place and you see how things progress. Caregivers still provide a vital role in their family member’s or client’s lives.

Here are some things to consider in regards to Hospice Care and caregiving.

Hospice Care is NOT a substitute for a caregiver. Many people mistakenly believe that once Hospice Care is initiated, there is no longer a role for the caregiver. Not only is this untrue, Hospice Care will not commence until the family has established that some form of caregiving service will be available 24-hours a day. Hospice is an amazing end-of-life service and will involve a network of people, including healthcare professionals, grief counselors, spiritual advisers, a social worker, etc. But these individuals come in, do their jobs and leave. A caregiver is still required to assist with the normal day-to-day chores and caregiving needs. These services can be provided by a spouse, family members, professional caregivers, or a combination of them all.

Hospice does not provide 24-hour medical care. In most cases, a home health nurse will be checking in daily once an individual is placed on Hospice. However, the nurse will train family members to take care of any daily medical tasks, certain injections, dressing changes, geriatric massage, etc., that may be required throughout the day or night. Hospice can also train family members on how to help your loved one turn over in bed, move from the bed to a chair or wheel chair, bathe, etc. If any of these tasks are too physically demanding, Hospice requires you to have a caregiver on hand who can help you with these tasks.

Caregiving tasks can be many and varied. Many of the services provided by caregivers during Hospice are dedicated to companionship, errand running, housekeeping, meal preparation and other tasks that may be too difficult for family members to tend to around their other family and work responsibilities. Hiring a professional caregiver, even if it is only a few days a week, allows loved ones to spend as much quality time as possible with each other, without having to divide themselves between the patient and mundane daily tasks.

You may decide caregiving services are required at night. Often, our clients have family members who take turns in shifts during the day, and use caregiving services for the later evening and nighttime hours. This can be of benefit for patients who require medications at night, or who suffer from insomnia and want to have company or be read to without disturbing their sleeping partners or family members. Overnight home care services can be invaluable because it allows you and other caregivers to get the rest you need without having to worry about the well-being of your loved one.

Respite caregiving services can be a lifesaver. Respite care services are one of the most underused services available from professional home care services. You can hire a caregiver to fill in for an hour, a day, a week or a month. This allows the regular caregivers to have time off to tend to their own needs, take a vacation, or to attend appointments and social gatherings.

Interested in learning more about how Hospice Care affects caregiving?Contact HomeAid Home Care.

What is Hospice Care?

Hospice care is a bit of a mystery to many, but it is an underused – and undervalued – part of our healthcare system. It is not a place where people go, rather, it is a service that combines a multitude of different forms of care. In the case of senior hospice care, the overarching goal of hospice is to provide the highest level of comfort, basic medical care, and support as a loved one passes from life into death, allowing him/her to live their remaining days with as much dignity as possible.

In this blog, we will discuss some of the common questions and concerns surrounding hospice care for seniors.

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What qualifies a senior for hospice care and how is it paid for?

In most cases, a doctor must certify that a patient has an end-of-life diagnosis and the prognosis is usually 6-months or less. When patients meet the qualifying criteria, hospice is covered by Medicare, Medi-cal, and most private health insurance policies. Once hospice care begins, the services run indefinitely, or until a doctor no longer feels the situation is terminal. If you or a loved one is considering enrolling in a hospice care program, contact your insurance providers to discuss the financial details so there are no surprises.

Please note: Hospice does not provide full-time care. It does provide daily check-ins from a medical professional and access to 24/7 hotlines. However, the bulk of the caregiving is expected to come from a spouse, family members or professional caregivers. In some cases, hospice programs will not enroll a patient without proof of full-time care provision.

Isn’t hospice care a death sentence, or a form of giving up?

No and no. Firstly, hospice care isn’t the cause of death. The conditions leading up to the end of one’s life can be very simple or very complex, ranging from an acute illness or a slow decline from Alzheimer’s disease. There are a multitude of treatments, medications, procedures and machines that can prolong an individual’s life, but there comes a point where the individual and/or family members must determine that the quality of life is now more valuable than the number of days remaining.

As soon as this point is reached, hospice is a wonderful option because it alleviates much of the stress of the clinical medical world, and prioritizes the comfort and desires of the patient. Although hospice usually is considered a form of palliative (end of life) care, there are situations where patients improve so much with hospice care that they are removed from hospice. However, this is less common in the case of senior hospice care.

Is hospice care always provided at home?

Hospice care is most commonly provided at home, as this is usually the patient’s preferred place to be. Seniors usually want to be surrounded by the ones they love, in the home they know,  with their favorite belongings, scenery and their beloved pets. However, senior hospice care can also be provided in a nursing home, retirement community, or the hospital.

What types of services does hospice provide?

Hospice care is provided by a team of professionals including:

  • Your primary physicians and medical specialists
  • Family, friends, and volunteer caregivers
  • Professional caregivers
  • Social worker
  • Spiritual/religious counsel
  • Bereavement counselors
  • Palliative care specialists
  • Physical therapists

Together, they form a strong support network for both the patient and the patient’s immediate family.

One of the largest complaints we hear from seniors and their families is that they didn’t enroll in hospice care soon enough. Contact HomeAide Home Care, Inc. to learn more about our home care services.

The Benefits of Geriatric Massage

Who doesn’t love a massage? It’s a way to step out of the world-as-we-know-it, free the mind of its ceaseless chatter, and enjoy the soothing and pleasurable feeling of having your tension erased from your physical body. However, massage is not just about the general satisfaction of physical pleasure, studies have shown that there are significant medical and health benefits to having a massage on a regular basis. This is especially true for the senior population.

Geriatric massage is a special niche, designed to provide a relaxing therapeutic treatment that has residual health benefits specifically targeting the physical and emotional ailments that can plague seniors.

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What is geriatric massage?

The principles of geriatric massage – laying down and having a trained masseuse use lotion or oils to manipulate the muscles, connective tissues, and even the skeleton itself – are the same as traditional massage therapy. However, geriatric massage usually involves a lighter touch, to be sensitive to the thin skin and physical sensitivities that often increase with age.

If the client is wheelchair bound, or finds the massage chair uncomfortable, a geriatric massage can be performed while the patient is seated. Geriatric massage often spends a longer time on the hands and feet, in order to increase circulation, but can be adapted to meet the specific needs of the client. This may also include reflexology techniques, which stimulates specific pressure points on the hands and feet that coordinate to specific parts of the body. Reflexology has also been shown to provide natural pain relief.

What are some of the benefits of geriatric massage?

Similar to Yoga and other healing practices that focus on clearing the mind, relaxing the body, and gentle motion, massage has been shown to alleviate depression, improve circulation, and reduce pain and stiffness in the muscles and joints. Also, it can just plain feel good to be touched. Consider that many seniors, especially those whose spouses have died or whose loved ones live far away are without the regular comfort of human touch, hugs, or kisses that most of us enjoy on a semi-daily basis.

Massage enhances emotional well-being. At the bio-chemical level, massage stimulates the release of multiple “feel good” hormones, such as adrenaline and oxytocin. This is one of the reasons many people feel a sense of relaxed euphoria for a day or two following their massage. These chemicals help to relieve anxiety and depression. In fact, massage has been shown to help bereaved relatives cope with their grief

Improved circulation. This is a biggie. Our heart pumps blood for a reason – to feed our bodies cells with much needed oxygen, water, and nutrients. It is also required to eliminate the CO2 and toxins out of our cells and out of the body. When the circulatory system is ailing, the rest of the body is too. Massage can be especially helpful for seniors who have diabetes, certain heart conditions, or whose mobility limitations prevent them from being able to move comfortably or safely; all of these conditions contribute to poor circulation, which can snowball into other undesirable side effects.

Reduced pain and stiffness. It’s hard to find a senior citizen that doesn’t suffer from some amount of pain or stiffness. The same chemicals mentioned above, adrenaline, oxytocin and other “feel good” hormones also help to combat pain. As your lymph system is stimulated, inflammation will begin to decrease, which helps the joints move more comfortably.

So go ahead, treat yourself to a geriatric massage. You might even find it’s partially or fully covered by your healthcare insurance.

Home is the Best Place to Be

For people with advanced cancer, dying at home rather than the hospital results in higher quality-of-life scores at the end of life, and may be easier on the patients’ caregivers as well.

See this article from today’s Bloomberg BusinesWeek