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In-Home Care: Cerebral Palsy

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 | Comments Off

What is Cerebral Palsy?

Cerebral Palsy is a disorder of the central nervous system. Cerebral Palsy is characterized as a group of disorders affecting one’s ability to coordinate their muscle movements. This chronic condition occurs because of abnormalities in brain development. This condition affects the parts of the brain that control body movement. Cerebral Palsy can develop before birth or during the early stages of a child’s brain development. Typically, a child will be diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy before the age of 3.

Cerebral Palsy is a chronic disorder meaning the patient will most likely suffer from the condition for their entire life. This condition is non-progressive meaning it will not worsen over time. Cerebral Palsy is non-contagious and is not considered a disease.

The four most common types of Cerebral Palsy are Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, Ataxic Cerebral Palsy, and Mixed Cerebral Palsy. Spastic Cerebral Palsy is the most common form of Cerebral Palsy and is characterized by tightness and stiffness in the patient’s muscles. Patients with Spastic Cerebral Palsy often have difficulties relaxing their muscles. Athetoid Cerebral Palsy patients do not typically have  learning disabilities. They have a difficult time controlling their muscles and are often unable to balance. Their motions are involuntary and uncoordinated. Ataxic Cerebral Palsy is characterized by unsteady and shaky muscle movements. Patients will often experience muscle tremors and have difficulties performing precise motor tasks, such as holding a pencil or tying their shoes. Mixed Cerebral Palsy is any combination of Spastic Cerebral Palsy, Athetoid Cerebral Palsy, and Ataxic Cerebral Palsy.

At this moment, a cure for Cerebral Palsy does not exist. There are medications that will provide relief from certain symptoms, but the medications will not eliminate the condition altogether. Although there is no cure for Cerebral Palsy, there are various treatment options that will help a patient maintain their independence and live a productive and enjoyable life.

What are the symptoms of Cerebral Palsy?

  • Hearing, vision, and speech problems
  • Seizures
  • Problems swallowing, eating, digesting, and breathing
  • Dental problems
  • Incontinence, vomiting, and constipation
  • Spasticity: muscle stiffness and abnormal reflexes
  • Irregular muscle tone
  • Tremors
  • Difficulties with body movement and precise motor tasks
  • Difficulties with walking, balancing, and muscle coordination
  • Learning disabilities/ mental retardation
  • Pain

What type of care does a Cerebral Palsy patient need?

Symptoms vary from patient to patient. If the symptoms are mild, a Cerebral Palsy patient may only require help from family members and friends. When the symptoms are more severe, a live-in caregiver will become necessary. Some patients may experience all of the symptoms at once, while others may suffer from a select few. A caregiver’s duties will vary depending on the situation and the patient’s symptoms. Parkinson’s patients may require part-time care, full-time care, or round-the-clock care.

In-Home Care: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Monday, January 11th, 2010 | 12,388 Comments

What is COPD?

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a debilitating respiratory illness that affects 16 million Americans, making it the 4th leading cause of death in the U.S.A. The term COPD refers mainly to emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Each disease causes damage to the lungs resulting in obstructed airways. Emphysema destroys the cells that support the air sacs of the lungs, enlarging the alveoli and in turn collapsing the bronchioles. The result is permanent airflow obstruction. Chronic Bronchitis is an inflammatory illness that produces spasms, excess mucus, and difficulty breathing. Large airways of the lungs are lined with glands, which when infected become enlarged and mucus secretion is increased. Airflow becomes blocked by the secretions as well as muscle spasms caused by the inflamed bronchioles. It is referred to as Chronic Obstructive Bronchitis if airflow obstruction is present. COPD can lead to arrhythmias and smokers have a higher risk of developing lung cancer.

Around 80%-90% of COPD cases are a result of long-term smoking. The disease typically takes hold after 10 years of steady smoking, and the symptoms are hardly noticeable. By age 60 the patient’s quality of life has deteriorated significantly, and the symptoms are greatly increased. At this stage of life humans are more susceptible to illness, and as a result, 95% of COPD deaths are patients over the age of 55. Men are more likely than women to get it, as well as whites over non-whites. Blue-collar workers are more susceptible than their white-collar counterparts because they are more likely to be around harsh chemicals and airborne debris. It is not proven whether or not COPD is hereditary, but some studies show that the disease occurs more often in some families.

Unfortunately, the damage caused by emphysema is irreversible, but muscle spasms, inflammation and increased secretions could possibly be treated. There is no cure at this point in time, but since some symptoms can be controlled it is possible to maintain a balance in the patient’s health.

What are the symptoms of COPD?

  • Chronic cough
  • Chest tightness
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Frequent throat clearing
  • Susceptible to lung infections
  • Increased production of mucus/sputum
  • Severe weight loss
  • Possibility of coughing up blood
  • Swelling of the legs
  • Morning headaches

Symptoms could worsen, possibly leading to acute respiratory failure.

What type of care does a COPD patient need?

Symptoms will be different for each COPD patient, but it is guaranteed that they will have breathing problems, making it harder to do simple daily activities. This means they will need one or more dedicated caregivers in order to function comfortably from day-to-day. Depending on the severity of the situation, a live-in caregiver may be needed. If no one in the patient’s family can do this, then a caregiver will need to be hired.

Quitting Smoking:

The first job as caretaker may be to help the patient quit smoking. Since cigarettes are the biggest cause of COPD, it is wise to cut them out of the patient’s life altogether. There are many treatments that will facilitate this process, and it is best to use several treatments at once to get maximum results. As always, a medical professional should be involved in the decision of what medicines or treatments to take. Some examples:

  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy – gum, inhalers, tablets, patches, and nasal spray. These help reduce cravings, allowing the patient to quit
  • Antidepressant Therapy – used alone or w/ nicotine replacement therapy. Wellbutrin for example, may help quitting
  • Clonidine – used mainly to treat high blood pressure. In this case it may be helpful in treating nicotine withdrawal symptoms

There are several mood-changing practices to help quit smoking as well. The problem can potentially be treated physically (by suppressing the body’s need for nicotine) or psychologically (by reducing the need to smoke by changing behavioral patterns). Giving up this habit will be hard for the patient, so it is best to eliminate any desire to smoke. The caregiver should preferably not smoke, but if they do steps should be taken to keep any temptation away from the patient. They should not take cigarette breaks while providing care and shouldn’t smoke on the way to the job. They should always wear clean clothes that do not have the smell of cigarette smoke in the fabric.

Quitting smoking will bring about a new batch of symptoms. These can include insomnia, anxiety, poor concentration, weight gain or depression. These are common problems for the patient to be facing at this time, but should be monitored closely to see if symptoms get worse. Depression may persist well after the quitting stage, and it should be treated to avoid complications and improve the patient’s quality of life.

Comfort:

The caregiver should ensure the patient’s home environment is comfortable. The patient may wish to remain on the main floor of their house to avoid using stairs or to wear shoes without laces so they don’t have to bend over to tie them. Simply reaching for something stored in a high place may cause unnecessary strain for the patient. Because of this, any objects that are used frequently should be lowered from high shelves to allow for easier access. The caregiver should help with daily activities such as preparing food, helping the patient dress, and any chores, errands or housekeeping. When preparing food, the caregiver should make several small meals a day instead of a large lunch or dinner. Smaller meals are easier to digest, allowing the patient to use less effort. Foods that cause heartburn or gas are to be avoided, as these make it harder for a person to breathe.

Record Keeping for Medical Help:

An organized system should be established to keep things on a schedule and to keep the disease in check. The caregiver must manage medications, coordinate physician visits, maintain fluid intake (to help break down secretions), and moderate simple exercise for the patient. Consult a doctor about which exercise is appropriate for the patient’s condition to ensure they are not overworking themselves. Exercise may improve heart and lung function, so it is not something to be overlooked. Keep routine medications and doctor prescribed oxygen tanks in constant supply.

It is highly recommended that a log be kept of all things relating to the illness. Keep track of all medications taken, including what time of day they are administered and what quantity given. If any side effects are felt, these should be entered into the log and brought up at the next doctor visit. Daily assessments should be made about:

  • Breathing – the level of difficulty/coughing
  • Medications – what is being taken and when
  • Diet and activities
  • Whatever problems/complications arise

This log should also have a section where the most important phone numbers are kept. This can include doctors, hospitals, specialists or anyone else who may need to be contacted in the event of an emergency. The log should be brought to every doctor visit to ensure the proper issues are being addressed. Be sure to ask the doctor lots of questions about how to improve the current situation and what to expect in the future.

Additional Medications:

The doctor will put the COPD patient on any number of medicines or treatments they feel will help the current symptoms. This could include anything from oxygen therapy to medications that cut down on inflammation, reduce muscle spasms and help loosen and expel mucus. Flu and pneumonia shots are a necessity for COPD patients because they are more at risk of contracting these diseases. Since their lungs are not in good shape to begin with, catching either disease could prove life threatening.

Here’s a quick list of some medications/treatments the doctor may recommend:

  • Antibiotics when infection sets in: if prescribed antibiotics, don’t quit taking them if your symptoms get better. Continue to take them until the prescription has run out to avoid a relapse.
  • Bronchodilators – relax the airway wall muscles to allow you to breathe better
  • Corticosteroids: manages COPD when taken orally by improving lung function, decrease possibility of early relapse
  • Aerosol Therapy – a Nebulizer that dispenses medication as a vapor. Primarily uses bronchodilators, relieves spasms in lungs, decreases swelling, makes secretions easier to cough up
  • Pulmonary Rehabilitation: This is for serious cases for people with debilitating symptoms that affect their daily activities. This will be accomplished by a team of medical professionals who treat all aspects of the disease

In-Home Care: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Monday, January 11th, 2010 | Comments Off

In-Home Care: Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

What is MS?

Multiple Sclerosis is one of the most common chronic neurological diseases, inflicting damage to the central nervous system, brain and spinal cord. 400,000 people are affected nationwide, and when viewed globally is somewhere above the 2.5 million mark. It could potentially strike any person of any age, but the onset is more likely to occur between ages 20 and 50. Genetics play a role in determining who gets the disease, but it’s not known to what extent. If someone has a sibling or parent with MS, chances are significantly higher that they will contract the disease. MS is more likely to develop in people who live in colder climates, and women are twice as likely as men to be diagnosed. While studies are still being conducted, it is not certain what is the specific cause of the disease. What is known is that it is a defect within a person’s immune system.

When a person has a functional immune system, certain infection fighting cells will attack foreign bodies to prevent illness. When MS develops, these cells begin to attack healthy nerve cells in the person’s body as through they were an infection. Nerve cells work in a chain-like fashion. When a person touches something hot, the nerves send a signal that travels from one nerve to the next all the way to the brain where the information is processed and returned to the nerves with instructions on how the body should react to this particular stimulus. MS is detrimental because it breaks the connections in the nerves, resulting in “faulty wiring”. Some people compare the effects of MS to a flickering light bulb due to bad circuitry. In the case of MS, the circuitry problem occurs because the infection fighting cells destroy the fatty layer that surrounds the nerve cells, called the myelin. This layer creates a buffer between each nerve cell, allowing for signals to be transmitted throughout the nervous system. With this layer destroyed, the signals are interrupted. This nerve loss is referred to as demyelination. People who loose this type of nerve function typically experience it in many locations throughout their central nervous system. This is the “multiple” part of the disease’s title. “Sclerosis” refers to the scar tissue that blocks messages and signals between nerves and muscles. Unfortunately at this time there is no cure, so treatment focuses on remission and stopping the attacks from occurring.

What are the symptoms of MS?

  • Visual: The Optic Nerve is a common area for inflation. Haziness, blurred vision, serious visual impairment are results. Visual symptoms often lessen or disappear after a period of weeks. Blindness in MS is rare.
  • Movement: Difficulty controlling the strength and precision of movements. Holding things is a problem and balance and coordination my be impaired (ataxia)
  • Sensory problems: Numbness, tingling and sensitivity to heat and cold
  • Bladder/Bowel function: Problems with control, urinary tract infections
  • Cognition issues: May cause problems with memory loss and concentration. Mood swings ranging from depression to euphoria are common. Affects 50% of patients with MS
  • Fatigue: Mild to severe fatigue and weakness

Additionally, patients may experience tremors and slurred speech as a result of blockages.

What type of care does a MS patient need?

Symptoms are different for the varying types of the disease, therefore care practices will depend on the patient’s condition. The three most common types are:

Relapsing Remitting MS: Clearly defined flare-ups (relapses) with some amount of recovery between. Affects 80% of MS patients.

Secondary Progressive MS: Flare-ups and remissions are quite common. More continuous loss of physical and cognitive functions takes over, flare-ups become less common. 50% of people with Relapsing Remitting MS develop this within 10 yrs of diagnosis.

Primary Progressive MS: No flare-ups, but over years there is gradual loss of physical and cognitive functions. 10% of MS patients have this.

Depending on the severity of the situation, a live-in caregiver may be needed. If no one in the patient’s family can do this, then one or more caregivers will need to be hired.

For people with MS, caregivers are very important because they can notice new symptoms or recognize when existing symptoms become worse. Several medications help to reduce the symptoms of MS, so a doctor visit is in order if a relapse has occurred. The caregiver should be sure to ask the doctor which medicines are best for the patient’s symptoms. Medical treatment should begin immediately upon diagnosis because this is when the medicines will benefit the patient the most. There will probably be several doctor trips, so it is a good idea for the caregiver to keep a medical log in order to keep events, lists of medicines taken and treatments in order. This should be brought to every doctor visit to ensure that the patient’s needs are being met.

Most medicines that treat MS must be injected. This can be daunting for both caregiver and patient, so treatments should be discussed with all involved. If the caregiver is not comfortable administering an injection or the patient is squeamish about needles, these problems need to be addressed to the doctor.

In-Home Care: Alzheimer’s Disease

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 | 11,686 Comments

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

Alzheimer’s disease is the most common form of dementia. It is a brain disorder that is characterized by memory loss and cognitive changes. Protein fragments called amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles begin to build up in the brain causing the destruction of nerve cells. The plaques and tangles continue to accumulate and the nerve cells in the brain have a difficult time functioning efficiently and often do not survive.

The exact cause of Alzheimer’s disease is currently unknown. Alzheimer’s disease tends to affect people over the age of 65 and becomes more widespread amongst the elderly population. The most common risk for acquiring Alzheimer’s disease is aging. Alzheimer’s disease is a chronic and progressive disorder meaning it is both long-lasting and will worsen over time.

At this moment, a cure for Alzheimer’s disease does not exist. There are medications that will provide relief from certain symptoms, but the medications will not prevent the disease from worsening. Although there is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, there are various treatment options that will better a patient’s mental and emotional state of being. Medical treatment for Alzheimer’s disease will help a patient maintain their independence for a longer duration. It is important for the patient to develop a treatment schedule with a doctor and maintain healthy eating and exercising habits. It is also valuable for an Alzheimer’s patient to participate in social interactions. Being in a healthy and positive environment will help a patient cope with the stresses of Alzheimer’s disease.

What are the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease?

  • Memory loss
  • Language difficulties
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of muscle coordination and balance
  • Changes in mood/personality
  • Depression
  • Difficulty performing familiar tasks
  • Anxiety
  • Sleeplessness
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of judgment
  • Confusion
  • Problems with abstract thinking

What type of care does an Alzheimer’s patient need?

The type of care needed will depend on the stage of the disease. Because the disease is progressive, there are more complications as the disease matures. As the disease develops and symptoms worsen, more care will be needed. A caregiver’s duties will vary depending on the situation. Alzheimer’s patients may require part-time care, full-time care, or round-the-clock care.

Symptoms vary from patient to patient. If the symptoms are mild, an Alzheimer’s patient may only require help from family members and friends. When the symptoms are more severe, a live-in caregiver will become necessary. Some patients may experience all of the symptoms at once, while others may suffer from a select few. The rate at which symptoms worsen also differs depending on the patient’s situation. One patient may find that their ability to remember things gets worse every day, while another patient may not experience extreme cognitive changes for many years.

Early Stage:

It is often difficult to determine whether a person has developed Alzheimer’s disease or if they are simply experiencing normal characteristics of the aging process. It is normal for the elderly to occasionally forget what day of the week it is or what time it is, but when the forgetfulness occurs on a regular basis, it may be a symptom of early stage Alzheimer’s disease. It is common for elders to have a hard time recalling memories from the distant past, but Alzheimer’s patients typically lose their short-term memory as well as their long-term memory. Alzheimer’s patients often have difficulties remembering the names of new friends or recalling what happened earlier during the same day.

Often times, Alzheimer’s patients will forget how to do things that they are normally used to doing. They may have difficulties managing their checkbooks, paying bills, or following directions. It is common for elders to forget where they placed their car keys or a recipe, but Alzheimer’s patients will place their keys in strange locations and forget how to follow recipes all together. Those who suffer from Alzheimer’s will often forget having complete conversations and have a hard time recalling events that have taken place recently.

Alzheimer’s patients will begin to experience personality changes. An early sign of Alzheimer’s disease is when a person begins to withdraw from social situations and interactions. Patients become uninterested in things that would otherwise interest them. It is common for Alzheimer’s patients to experience mood swings, feel depressed, or become irritable. Increased restlessness and irritability tend to occur during the later hours of the day. Sundowning is a term used to characterize the evening mood swings that Alzheimer’s patients experience.

If family members and friends are around to help care for the Alzheimer’s patient, hiring a caregiver may not be absolutely necessary. Part-time care will be needed if there is not anyone living nearby to help out. As the disease progresses, however, more care will be needed.
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Middle Stage:

During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s disease, a patient will acquire new symptoms in addition to the symptoms acquired in the earlier stage. A patient’s symptoms in the earlier stage will worsen in the middle stage. Patients will become more confused as to what the time it is, what day it is, where things are, and how to complete routine activities. A patient’s short-term memory will diminish as well as their long-term memory. Mood swings will become more intense. Changes in personality become extreme and patients will often experience intense depression and apathy. It will be difficult to determine how the patient is feeling because their emotions become more and more unpredictable.

Patients will also begin to experience difficulties with communication and language. They will often have problems with reading, writing, finding the right words as they speak, and understanding things that people say.

In earlier stages of Alzheimer’s, patients tend to only experience cognitive disruptions. In the middle stages, however, patients begin to feel physical changes. Patients experience difficulties with mobility and begin to lose their muscle coordination. The simple tasks of daily living become strenuous on the patient’s body.

During the middle stage of Alzheimer’s, a patient’s safety is often put at risk. Patients begin to wander away from their homes and have difficulties finding their way back. Patients forget necessary safety techniques, such as calling 911 or staying out of busy streets. Getting lost is common for patients in this stage of Alzheimer’s, so it is important that someone else is always around to ensure their safety.

Full-time or round-the-clock care will be needed during this stage of the disease. If family members or friends are not around to help, the patient will require round-the-clock care. Often times, patients in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease will be placed in a nursing facility.

One of the most important things to remember when caring for a person with Alzheimer’s disease is to make sure they have a consistent daily schedule. Patients often become stressed when they have difficulties remembering familiar things. Creating a daily routine will reassure the patient and relieve some of the confusion and stress. The more a patient is surrounded by familiar environments and situations, the better they will be able to cope with their disease.

It is important that caregivers establish a way to communicate effectively with the patient. Caregivers must be patient and expect that communicating with an Alzheimer’s patient will be a difficult task. Caregivers should acknowledge a patient’s request and find a way to accommodate to their needs. Caregivers should try to maintain a positive attitude; this will prove beneficial for both the caregiver and the patient.

Caregivers must expect that an Alzheimer’s patient will forget things. The patient’s safety is often jeopardized because of this, so it is important that family members, friends, or caregivers pay close attention to safety hazards. For example, patients may forget how to lock their door, turn off the stove, or escape a fire. Having someone constantly around is essential for the patient’s safety. Caregivers, family members, and friends should make sure the patient’s house is as safe as possible. Patients should be surrounded by a safe, loving, and familiar environment.

Late Stage:

Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease do not typically survive beyond the middle stage. The late stage is often characterized as the “end-stage” of the disease. Cognitive functions and physical capabilities deteriorate. Patients will no longer be able to recognize people, places, or things. Their memory loss becomes so extreme that they will not recognize their family members or even themselves. Patients will be unable to communicate properly. They will often confuse the past with the present. They will no longer be able to function physically. Patients will experience difficulties swallowing, eating, and breathing. They will experience incontinence and will suffer from dramatic weight loss.

Patients will be unable to care for themselves. They will need round-the-clock care and are typically cared for in a nursing facility. Patients in this stage should be treated with much compassion. It is important that the caregiver allows the patient to enjoy the rest of their life as much as possible.

In-Home Care: Parkinson’s Disease

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 | Comments Off

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease is a disorder of the central nervous system. A patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease will experience a loss of certain mental capabilities. The disease is categorized as a movement disorder; it affects the substantia nigra, the part of the brain that controls movement and muscle coordination. The nerve cells in the substantia nigra either die or become increasingly damaged. The damaged cells become unable to produce Dopamine, a chemical that allows for smooth and coordinated muscle movement.

The cause of Parkinson’s disease is currently unknown and there is no evidence that the disease is hereditary. Parkinson’s disease tends to affect people over the age of 40 and becomes more widespread amongst the elderly population. Women and men are both affected by Parkinson’s disease. People of all ethnicities, racial backgrounds, and geographical locations are vulnerable to this disease. Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive disorder meaning it is both long-lasting and will worsen over time.

At this moment, a cure for Parkinson’s disease does not exist. There are medications that will provide relief from certain symptoms, but the medications will not prevent the disease from worsening. Although there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, there are various treatment options that will better a patient’s mental and emotional state of being. It is important for the patient to develop a treatment schedule with a doctor and maintain healthy eating and exercising habits.

What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

· Muscle rigidity
· Tremor
· Difficulty swallowing
· Excessive salivation and sweating
· Speech impairment
· Limited facial expression
· Incontinence/constipation
· Slowing or loss of physical movement
· Postural instability
· Changes in sensation, mood, and sleeping patterns
· Dementia
· Paranoia
· Gait

What type of care does a Parkinson’s patient need?

The type of care needed will depend on the stage of the disease. Because the disease is progressive, there are more complications as the disease matures. As the disease develops and symptoms worsen, more care will be needed. A caregiver’s duties will vary depending on the situation. Parkinson’s patients may require part-time care, full-time care, or round-the-clock care.

Symptoms vary from patient to patient. If the symptoms are mild, a Parkinson’s patient may only require help from family members and friends. When the symptoms are more severe, a live-in caregiver will become necessary. Some patients may experience all of the symptoms at once, while others may suffer from a select few. The rate at which symptoms worsen also differs depending on the patient’s situation. One patient may find that their difficulties with muscle coordination get worse every day, while another patient may not notice a change for many years.

Stage One:

Parkinson’s disease typically begins with a tremor or shaking in one limb. Symptoms are generally mild and may only affect one side of the body. People may begin noticing a change in the patient’s movement, posture, facial expressions, and balance. A Parkinson’s patient may experience frustration and difficulties with the tasks of daily living but are still able to maintain their independence.

A patient in stage one of Parkinson’s disease will generally need light assistance from family and friends. Symptoms tend to be mild at the beginning so hiring a caregiver is not entirely necessary. Part-time care may be needed as symptoms become more severe.

Stage Two:

As Parkinson’s disease progresses, both sides of the patient’s body are affected. The changes in the patient’s movement, posture, facial expressions, and balance are more evident. Patients begin to experience greater difficulties completing the tasks of daily living. Physical activities like walking and exercising are more demanding on the patient’s body.

At this stage of Parkinson’s disease, patients may require part-time care from a caregiver. Patients are still relatively independent, but light assistance from a caregiver may be beneficial to the situation. If a patient has family and friends living nearby, hiring a caregiver may not be as necessary.

Moving the furniture around the house is a great idea at this stage of the disease. The furniture should be out of the way so the patient feels comfortable moving throughout the house. Positioning the furniture in a way that allows the patient to have something to hold onto at all times is also helpful. A cane or walker is a great way to assist a patient during this stage of the disease.

Stage Three:

Parkinson’s patients in stage three of the disease will experience a drastic slowing of physical movements. Patients become unable to walk normally and stand up straight. Maintaining posture and balance becomes increasingly difficult because the patient’s equilibrium is severely affected by the disease.

Part-time care is recommended during this stage of the disease because patients will need assistance with completing physical activities. Patients are still able to maintain partial independence, but a caregiver will make the inconveniences of Parkinson’s disease much more manageable. A part-time caregiver will be able to assist with physical and speech therapy, personal grooming, home maintenance, mobility, running errands, and preparing meals. Having an extra pair of hands at this stage of the disease is essential.

Stage Four:

Symptoms are classified as severe during stage four of Parkinson’s disease. Patients will be unable to maintain posture and balance. They will need assistance when walking or standing. Tremors will lesson during this stage, but muscle rigidity and slowness of movement will increase.

Patients are no longer independent and can not live by themselves. Full-time care is recommended because patients will be unable to perform the tasks of daily living alone. If a patient does not have anyone living with them, round-the-clock care is necessary. Patients will need constant nursing care and attention because they will have great difficulties completing physical tasks. A caregiver can also provide emotional support and companionship. A patient will need someone to share their feelings and concerns with. Caregivers can help lift a patient’s spirits and keep them feeling happy and motivated.

Stage Five:

During stage five of the disease, a Parkinson’s patient will be unable to walk or stand. Patients will become dependent on caregivers and will require round-the-clock care. Constant nursing care will be required because patients in this stage will be unable to perform any physical activity independently. Changes in mood and personality will become apparent. Patients may experience depression, confusion, dementia, paranoia, and other personality disturbances. Caregivers must provide physical and emotional support for the patient. Patients will have difficulties coping with their situation so it is important that caregivers provide companionship and compassion.

In-Home Care: Stroke

Posted in Articles, In-home Care: Diseases and Conditions on Wednesday, January 6th, 2010 | 13,139 Comments

What is Stroke?

Stroke affects 750,000 Americans every year and is the third most common cause of death in the U.S.A. It is the leading cause of adult disability, primarily striking the elderly. Almost three quarters of victims are over the age of 65.

There are two types of stroke, the most common being Ischemic Stroke. These account for 80% of strokes and are caused by fatty deposits that have built up in arteries, constricting blood-flow by narrowing the vessel walls and choking-off the flow of blood to the brain. A blood clot in an artery could produce the same effect. If brain tissue does not receive any oxygen, the tissue dies, resulting in many potentially irreversible physical and emotional complications.

The second type is called Hemorrhagic Stroke, and like its name suggests, is caused by hemorrhaging. A blood vessel bursts, leaking blood into the brain. When the brain cells are exposed to the blood, they die off.

Stoke occurs suddenly and causes extensive damage to specific areas of the brain. This is in contrast to other diseases like dementia or Alzheimer’s that damage the brain in several areas and gradually get worse over time. Stroke creates localized paths of devastation.

What are the symptoms of a Stroke?

Contact medical help if you or a loved one experiences any of these signs:

• Sudden numbness of the face/arm/leg. If all of these occur on one side of the body, the problem could be worse
• Sudden loss of vision or trouble seeing
• Sudden speech or comprehension problems
• Sudden severe headache with unknown cause
• Sudden trouble walking
• Sudden dizziness or loss of balance and coordination

Sometimes people are not experiencing a full-blown stroke, but rather a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA). This causes temporary impairment of brain function caused by insufficient blood supply to part of brain. Patients are unable to speak, have slurred speech, are weak, paralyzed, dizzy or nauseated. This will last only a few minutes or hours, and then they recover. TIA’s should be regarded as warnings of stroke, and reported immediately to a doctor. The doctor may be able to use a “clot-busting” drug and take steps to reduce the risk of a future stroke. 1/3 of TIA sufferers have a stroke in the following 5 years.

What complications arise after a stroke?

Physical Complications:

• Sudden paralysis of one side of the body
• Drooping of one side of the face
• Language/Speech problems
• Problems breathing
• Problems swallowing
• Loss of balance/coordination
• Problems with hearing
• Problems with bladder/bowel function
• Possibility of causing dementia.

Emotional Complications:

• Change of emotions, personality and the ability to reason
• Mood changes and depression
• Possibility of emotional episodes (for example, crying or laughter that is not connected to anything going on in the moment)

Rehabilitation begins when the patient stabilizes. This process may be tough and frustrating, but 80% of complications can be helped with rehab. It is possible that the body will “fix itself” in some regards. For example, if swelling in the brain damaged brain cells, they may recover once the swelling goes down. Also, other areas of the brain can step in to gradually learn to do the jobs of the damaged sectors. Rehabilitation is highly recommended because complications can be lessened significantly if the patient is put through treatment.

What type of care does a Stroke patient need?

Each stroke case is unique because it is not certain which areas of the brain will be damaged and to what extent. Damage to the right half of the brain could have effects on the left side of the body, and vice versa. The type of care needed will depend on the severity of the stroke and what complications the patient now suffers from. A caregiver’s duties will vary depending on the situation. Stroke patients may require part-time care, full-time care, or round-the-clock care.

If the complications are mild, then typically a family member or part-time caregiver can step in to help out. If complications are more severe then it may be time to hire a live-in caregiver. When providing care to a stroke patient it is important to allow them to do activities of which they are capable. This enables them to maintain a sense of independence and frees the caregiver up to help in areas that are needed.

Speech/Language Problems:

When language problems arise as a result of injury to the brain, it is referred to as Aphasia. Aphasia affects 25% of stroke cases. These patients may become more profane if damage was done to the language center of the brain. Generally, this behavior is involuntary so the caregiver should try to look past the issue. These obscenities offend the speaker just as much as the listener. It is normal in some cases to witness the stroke survivor repeating phrases, crying out intermittently or mumbling unintelligible phrases.

Sometimes when someone has suffered a stroke they cannot think of appropriate words while attempting to converse. If this happens, the caregiver should supply the forgotten word rather than sitting back and letting the patient struggle. If they dislike correction, the caregiver should try to jog their memory by asking them to describe the forgotten word or to point to it.

If the patient can’t communicate, then a routine must be created that ensures they are as comfortable as they can be. Make sure they are wearing clean clothing, that they are taking plenty of bathroom trips, that the rooms are warm enough, and that they are well fed and rested.

Avoid talking down to them like they are a child, because this makes them feel insulted. They can still understand what is said, they just have trouble vocalizing their thoughts. Try not to speak too loud unless they have hearing problems and give them plenty of time to respond. Keep language simple, using shorter sentences and sticking to one point of conversation at a time. One on one interaction is best because multiple people talking at the same time creates confusion. Avoid excess noise by turning down televisions and radios before speaking to the patient. Be sure to use facial expressions and hand gestures to ensure that words are understood. If additional language help is needed, contact the doctor and they will provide a referral for a speech therapist.

Mobility Problems:

After a stroke, a patient may be left fully or partially paralyzed resulting in difficulty maneuvering around their home. To combat this, a wheelchair or perhaps even a mechanical lift may be needed. If the patient is using a wheelchair, then steps must be taken to ensure the house is orderly and free of clutter. Hallways and rooms should contain no obstructions to allow for maximum mobility of the wheelchair. Installing some ramps and making sure the home is wheelchair friendly is recommended under these circumstances.

If the patient is bedridden it is necessary to keep items they need close at hand. Boxes of tissues and clean bedpans should be within reach, and the patient should be turned over frequently to prevent bedsores. Diapers or catheters may be needed for immobile patients. If incontinence is an issue, make sure to change sheets frequently and always have clean bedding on hand.

Bathing the patient every day is a necessity. Make sure the bathroom is large enough for both patient and caregiver, and it is smart to install a handrail in the shower/bathtub to make it easier to get in or out.

Spasticity is a condition that causes tightening of the muscles, making movement difficult or impossible. Painful muscle spasms are sometimes associated as well. This condition can be helped with therapy and medicine, so go to the doctor to receive the proper injections and a list of appropriate exercises. Exercise is beneficial and could include such activities as short walks or stretching.

Mental Stability:

It is important for the caregiver to always keep a level head. Always stay in a positive frame of mind and avoid being angry at things the patient has done that they cannot help. The caregiver’s mood affects the patient’s. Remain passive when cleaning up messes and frequently engage the patient in conversation. Talk about things that interest them. This not only puts them in a positive frame of mind, but they may forget any pain they are currently experiencing and be able to focus on something that makes them happy.

Stroke Prevention:

Noticing these warning signs can prevent a future stroke, or can be used to lower the possibility of a stroke ever occurring in the first place. Look out for and properly maintain:

• High Blood Pressure – it is the leading cause of stroke
• Atherosclerosis- arteries narrow or are partially blocked
• Heart Disease – a previous heart attack, heart infection, or irregular heartbeats
• Diabetes – this makes it harder for the body to break down blood clots
• Stress – blood clots can be caused when people are stressed

Success as a Private Caregiver

Posted in Articles, Finding a Caregiving Job on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 | 177,252 Comments

As a private caregiver, you should have a formal conversation with the patient every week to discuss what is going well and what needs improvement. Frequently communicating with the patient is a great way to ensure the success of your relationship. You and your patient will feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing any concerns to each other. If a problem does not get addressed, it will probably continue and could possibly get worse. Open communication with the patient will prevent any unnecessary stress. You should only agree to things that you are comfortable with. For example, if you do not want to work overnight shifts, be honest with the patient. During the weekly conversations, write down what is being discussed and make sure you understand what is expected of you.

Give yourself a trial period. If you feel that the line of communication you have with the patient is not effective after the trial period, you may wish to start looking for a different job. Make sure you give the patient notice before making any decisions.

Success as an Agency Caregiver

Posted in Articles, Finding a Caregiving Job on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 | 12,468 Comments

It is essential that you establish a line of communication with the agency’s management. If you experience any problems with the patient, you will need to communicate the problems with the agency’s management. Management will then make the changes where necessary. If there is a problem, do not wait to address your concerns to the agency’s management. If a problem does not get addressed, it will probably continue and could possibly get worse. Open communication with the agency’s management will prevent any unnecessary stress.

You also need to establish a line of communication with the patient. You should have a formal conversation with the patient every week to discuss what is going well and what needs improvement. Frequently communicating with the patient is a great way to ensure the success of your relationship. You and your patient will feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing any concerns to each other. You should only agree to things that you are comfortable with. For example, if you do not want to work overnight shifts, be honest with the patient.

During each weekly conversation, you should take notes and send them to the agency. This way, everyone involved will be entirely aware of any worries you may have. If you feel that the line of communication you have with the patient is not effective, you should ask the agency to reassign you to another patient.

Interviewing for Caregiving Jobs

Posted in Articles, Finding a Caregiving Job on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 | Comments Off

In order to obtain a job as a caregiver, you must prepare yourself for success. First, you must develop your resume. A resume, in essence, is a summary of you. It will show what you have to offer. Here are a few tips for creating the perfect resume:

• List your contact information. Include your name, telephone number, address, and e-mail.
• State your objective. This is the most important part of your resume because it will tell the interviewer exactly what you are trying to achieve. The rest of the information on your resume will support your objective.
• List your education, work history, and other relevant experience. You should list these in reverse chronological order with the most recent experience listed first.
• List your certifications, licenses, skills, and abilities. Only list those that are relevant to your objective.
• List references. Make sure to include your references’ names, job titles, and telephone numbers.
• Edit your resume. You should extensively proofread your resume and make any necessary changes. It is also a great idea to have someone else proofread your resume.
• Limit your resume to one page.

After completing your resume, you should mentally and physically prepare yourself for an interview. You should be mentally prepared to describe yourself, answer questions, and ask questions. You should also be physically prepared by dressing appropriately and presenting yourself in a confident manner. Here are some tips to ensure your success at an interview:

• Research the job position. You should completely understand all aspects of the job you are interviewing for. This will both impress the interviewer and contribute to your confidence during the interview.
• Know your resume. You should be able talk extensively about yourself and your qualifications. Be prepared to answer any questions regarding the information on your resume.
• Leave early. Make sure you give yourself plenty of time to find the location of the interview. Showing up early is also a great way to show your enthusiasm for the job.
• Bring multiple copies of your resume.
• Relax yourself and maintain eye contact throughout the interview.
• When answering questions, avoid saying “we.” You want the interviewer to hear what you personally are responsible for.
• Dress appropriately. You should wear appropriate business-like attire, be aware of your personal hygiene, wear light cologne/perfume, and avoid chewing gum.
• Turn off your cellular phone before the interview.
• Show enthusiasm for the job.
• Practice answering questions about yourself before the interview. Give yourself a dress rehearsal. Dress for the part and have someone formally interview you.
• Develop questions for the interviewer. Especially when working as a private caregiver, asking detailed questions about the patient’s situation is necessary. You will want to fully understand all of the job requirements, so it is important that you come to the interview with questions in mind.
• Avoid using “um,” “like,” and “ya know.” These types of words do not portray professionalism or confidence.

After the interview, make sure you follow-up with your potential employers. Send a thank-you note reiterating your appreciation for the opportunity to apply for the position. You may also call for any updates on their hiring decisions.

Hiring a Private Caregiver

Posted in Articles, Hiring a Private Caregiver on Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009 | Comments Off

When choosing to hire a private caregiver, it is essential that you fully comprehend your specific duties and responsibilities. Without a home care agency to manage the hiring process, it is entirely up to you. You are required to:

1. Screen the private caregiver:

After you have thoroughly assessed you or your loved one’s situation and determined that a private caregiver is the right choice for you, you can begin looking for possible candidates for the job. You should begin by making a job description of what you are specifically looking for in a caregiver. This will help when you are reviewing resumes and eliminating those that are not pertinent to your situation.

Screening a private caregiver begins by looking carefully at his or her resume. Does the caregiver meet all of your needs depicted in your job description? Do you have a good feeling about the level of experience portrayed on the resume? Do they have appropriate health care training? After reviewing a multitude of resumes, choose the applicants that seem like they would be a perfect fit for you or your loved one.

The next part of the screening process is to call the numbers given on the applicants’ resumes. Speak with each applicant and agree upon an interview time that would be convenient for the both of you. If you do not feel that the applicant is a perfect fit for you based on the telephone conversation alone, simply tell them you will further review their resume and then move on to the next applicant. You are now ready to interview your potential private caregivers.

2. Interview the private caregiver:

To begin the interview process, you must develop an interview format that you will use for each applicant you will be interviewing. Using the same format for all of the applicants will make it much easier to compare and contrast their answers. First, you will need to ask basic questions about work expectations and requirements. Here are a few examples:

• What type of qualifications do you have?
• Do you have a driver’s license, registration, and car?
• What types of diagnoses are you familiar with?
• What types of medications have you administered?
• What hours are you available?
• Are you available to spend the night?
• How many patients have you cared for?
• What other commitments do you have at this moment?
• Are you a legal resident?
• Have you ever been convicted of a felony?
• Is anything on your criminal record that would affect my decision to hire you?
• Do I have your permission to conduct a background check on you?
• Do I have your permissions to contact your references?
• What do you charge per hour?

After asking basic questions, you will then need to develop questions that will give you a better understanding of the applicants’ character and work ethic. These questions should prompt the applicant to provide specific examples and explanations. Examples of these types of questions include:

• Tell me a time you had to deal with a stressful situation and explain how you dealt with it.
• What are your strengths and weaknesses in a work environment? Give me examples.
• What do you like most/least about caregiving? Why?
• Why should I hire you?
• Tell me a time when you had to make a judgment call that did not coincide with the rules. How did this make you feel?
• What would you do in case of an emergency?
• Tell me a time when your emotions got the best of you.
• Do you have any questions that will help clarify the specific job requirements?

You will want to make sure that your potential private caregiver is entirely clear on what the job requires. There should be no surprises later on. You may want to have a second opinion before hiring a private caregiver. If it makes you feel more comfortable, ask a family member or friend to be a part of the interview process with you.

3. Perform reference checks:

In order to ensure that private caregivers are not misrepresenting themselves, you must check their references carefully. Checking references is imperative to the hiring process. It will reaffirm that the caregiver you are hiring is reliable, dependable, honest, and most importantly, the perfect fit for you or your loved one. Speaking with others who know the applicant is a great way to determine whether or not they are entirely qualified for the job. Although it may take more time and energy to contact references, it will prove beneficial in the long run. You should check an applicant’s references only after you have completed an interview and determined that the applicant has hiring potential. This will make the reference checking process more efficient and less time consuming.

Once you have determined that a private caregiver may be a perfect match for you or your loved one, the first step is telling them that you are going to contact the references that they have provided. Ask each applicant to sign a release form stating that you are permitted to contact their references and gather information about their past qualifications and experiences. This release form will ensure that you are not held responsible for the information you obtain and will prevent an applicant from taking legal action against you or any previous employers. Without a release form, you may only be able to obtain surface level information. If you experience any problems gathering the detailed information you need, you will have the release form available. Employers will be more likely to give you the information you desire if they feel comfortable sharing it with you.

After you acquire both a verbal and written agreement from your potential caregiver, you can now develop a reference checking format. Using the same format to check all of your applicants’ references will make it much easier to compare information across applicants. The reference checking format should begin with surface level information. For example:

• The name of the applicant
• The name of the reference
• The company’s name, address, and telephone number
• The applicant’s employment dates, starting and ending rate of pay, and starting and ending position.

You should then develop questions that delve further into the applicant’s qualifications, experiences, and character. You should ask questions that require a specific and detailed answer. Examples of these types of questions include:

• Describe how the applicant handled stressful situations?
• Describe a time when the applicant showed dependability?
• What was the applicant’s attendance record?
• What are the applicant’s strengths and weaknesses?
• Describe the applicant’s attitude toward their work environment.
• Describe the relationship you have with the applicant.
• Would you recommend the applicant for this specific position? Why or why not?
• What were the applicant’s specific duties and responsibilities?
• Would you rehire the applicant? Why or why not?
• Why did the applicant leave?
• Describe your general evaluation of the applicant.

You may also ask the reference to give any alternative information they think will help represent the applicant. After checking all the references your applicants have provided, you will have acquired vital information to help you make the perfect decision.

4. Perform background checks:

A background check is entirely different from a reference check, but it is equally as important. A private caregiver’s record must be checked thoroughly because you must verify that the caregiver you are hiring is honest, dependable, responsible, and most importantly, safe. There are many different aspects of background checks to consider when determining whether or not you should hire a private caregiver. Before conducting a background check, you should make certain that it includes a variety of factors.

The background check you choose should match the applicant’s name to their social security number. You will need to make sure that the background check includes a criminal background check. This will ensure that you or your loved one’s safety will not be at risk. A criminal background check will reveal any convictions for offenses that may be a cause for concern, such as theft, drug offences, assault charges, and more. The criminal background check should verify the court records in every location the applicant has ever lived. Make sure that the applicant provides you with each and every one of their previous addresses. Also make sure that you ask the applicant if they have ever been convicted of a felony or anything that would affect your decision in hiring them.

You should also ensure that the background check includes both a sex offender check and a driving record check. A driving record check will determine whether or not the applicant has a Department of Motor Vehicles driver’s license, vehicle registration, automobile insurance, and a driving record. Make sure that the background check includes financial information that will reveal credit records. Background checks may also include additional personal references, neighbor interviews, character references, and information regarding past employers.

Most background checks require a fee, so if you see an opportunity to conduct a free background check, take it. Background checks must follow the guidelines of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). The FCRA states that information may only be provided from the past seven years. When it comes to hiring a caregiver, it is important to check the laws within your state to determine whether you can obtain any information that goes further than seven years. After conducting a background check, you can compare the results to the information the applicant has already provided. This is a great way to ensure that your potential private caregiver is being entirely honest with you.