Tips for Being a Better Cancer Caregiver

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

    With more than a million and a half new cancer diagnoses given in 2016 in the U.S. alone, most of us will at some point be impacted by the disease. And in many cases, family members are taking on the role of caregiver for their loved ones with cancer, often without fully understanding the implications: the time commitment, emotional strain, and the hefty toll on the caregiver’s own wellbeing.

    As with any new situation, knowledge is key. THE MEDICAL TEAM recommends that family caregivers learn as much as possible about both the type of cancer an older loved is battling, and the details surrounding his or her treatment plan – and how that will affect the family caregiver as he or she steps into a new role as cancer caregiver. These tips can help.

    What does a cancer patient need from his or her family caregiver? On a practical level, the cancer patient will likely require transportation on an ongoing basis to either an outpatient treatment center or hospital. Depending on the level of treatment side effects and symptoms of the disease itself, the person may also need assistance with day-to-day activities of living: dressing, meals, cleaning, and personal care such as bathing. Additionally – and perhaps most importantly – the person with cancer will need companionship and emotional support.

    How does caring for a cancer patient affect the family caregiver’s life? Caregivers’ lives can be greatly enhanced through the experience of providing care, offering a sense of fulfillment and purpose. Conversely, caregiving can, quite honestly, be draining: physically, emotionally, and mentally. Caregivers should research self-care tips to help keep them mentally, emotionally, and physically strong throughout the caregiving process.

    Where can family caregivers turn for help? It’s crucial that family caregivers seek out a strong support network of friends, family, online or in-person support groups, etc., and be sure to set aside enough time to take care of themselves. Professional in-home care providers, such as THE MEDICAL TEAM, can provide respite care to ensure that family members have sufficient time away to rest and recharge, knowing their loved ones are in safe, reliable hands.

    To learn more about how THE MEDICAL TEAM can assist with cancer care, or for more resources, contact us any time.

Occupational Therapy: A Helpful Role in Dementia Care

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

    Occupational therapy: it’s not just for those overcoming a physical illness or injury. OT can play a big role in helping older adults with chronic conditions like Alzheimer’s disease or dementia in a variety of ways, improving quality of life and maximizing overall level of functioning. As one component of dementia care, it can also effectively alleviate some of these common problematic behaviors:

    • Wandering. Occupational therapists can modify the living environment to allow for safe mobility and incorporate sensory-stimulating activities.
    • Outbursts. Occupational therapists can train family caregivers and share preventative and responsive behavioral modification techniques to help deal with the more challenging behaviors of Alzheimer’s disease.
    • Repetition. Some repetitive actions can be harmful or disruptive. Occupational therapists can recommend productive activities to provide the necessary repetitive stimulation.

    OT can also help patients with Alzheimer’s stay mentally engaged while working to improve functions as well. One particularly beneficial and enjoyable activity many occupational therapists recommend for those with dementia is the use of puzzles. Customized to the particular needs of each senior, puzzle work can assist with:

    • Dexterity
    • Fine and gross motor skills
    • Visual scanning and spatial skills
    • Midline crossing
    • Memory enhancement

    To learn more about how occupational therapy can enhance life for a senior in need of dementia care, call on THE MEDICAL TEAM Our in-home occupational therapy services can be incorporated into a senior’s home health and in-home care services, enabling them to enjoy the highest possible quality of life. Our registered occupational therapists are available in New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas and the metro Washington, DC areas.

How Alzheimer's Is Diagnosed & What You Can Expect

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

It may begin with a slight increase in forgetfulness, a bit of confusion at times, or other signs that something is not quite right. Perhaps a home that was always well maintained is gradually deteriorating into disarray and disorganization. Or there could be warning signs that safety issues are becoming a concern, such as scorch marks on pans that could indicate something overcooked on the stove, or bruises that could have resulted from a fall.

Red flags such as these cause a number of uncertainties for those who care for seniors. Could it be Alzheimer’s disease?

THE MEDICAL TEAM wants to help shed some light on the mysteries surrounding Alzheimer’s disease – what the early symptoms are, how it’s diagnosed, and what to do following a diagnosis.

Symptoms: Although each individual experiences Alzheimer’s disease in his or her own unique way, there are several typical warning signs:

  • Short-term memory loss that gradually worsens
  • Cognitive decline, displayed as poor judgment and a decline in reasoning and decision-making abilities
  • Personality and mood changes including irritability, anger, and disinterest in previously enjoyed interests
  • Language difficulties, such as being unable to think of a correct word or to understand a word’s meaning
  • Motor skill deficiencies
  • Troublesome behaviors
  • Extreme emotional responses
  • Hallucinations or delusions

Diagnosis: While there’s still no definitive way to test for and diagnose Alzheimer’s, a physician with experience in the disease will perform a thorough evaluation to include neurological testing. If Alzheimer’s is diagnosed, it’s important to seek out a physician equipped to provide long-term care.

Next Steps: It’s important to pull together a cohesive team to create and implement a plan of care. This could include a specialized medical team, geriatric social worker, and a professional home care agency such as THE MEDICAL TEAM. For assistance in the areas of New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas or Washington, DC, reach out to us. We’re here to help make life safer and more comfortable and fulfilling for those with Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, and those who care for them.

It's Social Workers Month & We're Lucky to Have Them!

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

With the complex and changing needs of older adults, it can be overwhelming ensuring that they’re thriving at their fullest potential and taking advantage of all the available resources which can improve quality of life. But who has the knowledge and expertise to stay on top of so many intricate details? Social workers!

Social workers serve as an invaluable lifeline to seniors, maximizing seniors’ safety, wellness, and engagement in the community around them. Here are just a few of the many ways social workers are making a difference:

  • Connecting: Social workers are adept at determining which resources seniors and their families can utilize to allow life to continue on as smoothly and seamlessly as possible throughout the aging process. They can provide a wealth of information on programs and services available that many are unaware even exist.
  • Listening: Sometimes, just knowing there’s a knowledgeable, listening ear available to whom concerns can be voiced provides a much-needed level of comfort in an otherwise tumultuous stage of life.
  • Collaborating: Serving as one integral part of a cohesive team, social workers can advocate for seniors with medical personnel, family members, home care providers, and others to ensure that the senior’s best interests are always at the forefront.

Additionally, research has shown marked benefits to including social workers in chronic disease management, in terms of lowering depression and anxiety, improving adjustment to and adherence with treatment plans, and overall enhancement of quality of life, cognitive functioning, and social engagement in seniors with chronic illnesses.

For additional information about how social workers can help and other in-home care services for seniors, contact THE MEDICAL TEAM. We’re always happy to provide resources and tips to make life safer and enjoyable for older adults, and to provide high quality home care services to allow them to age in place where they’re most comfortable – at home. Serving New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas, and the metro Washington, DC areas, we look forward to helping the seniors in your life!

Fall in Love with a Healthy Heart

By THE MEDICAL TEAM

Love is in the air this time of year, and if there's something that all seniors should love, it's a healthy heart! The American Heart Association offers some great resources to help older adults take care of their hearts, including the following tips:

Keep moving. Although some conditions can make it more difficult to stay active as we age, the benefits of physical and aerobic exercise on the heart are immeasurable. Seniors should get either 20 minutes of vigorous activity three times per week, or 30 minutes of less intense activity five times per week. Muscle and endurance building exercises are also key – at least twice per week. Suggestions to meet these requirements include:

  • Walking: Begin with a simple walk for a few minutes, and gradually build up. Walking with a friend or pet is also great motivation.
  • Dancing: Sign up for a dance class, or simply turn up a favorite song, grab a partner (or a broom!) and have fun!
  • Swimming: Water workouts are incredibly beneficial, and have the added benefit of being low impact.

Improve the diet. Metabolism changes as we age, and it can be harder to make sure we get all the nutrients we need. Good dietary choices for older adults include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein and low-fat dairy products, while limiting foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat.

Quit smoking. In addition to heart damage, smokers are at a heightened risk for a variety of diseases and serious chronic conditions, like cancer, cardiovascular diseases, hardened arteries, and aneurysms. Seek help from a physician to effectively break a smoking addiction.

For those who’ve experienced a heart attack or stroke, it’s important to have a strong emotional support network. Support groups are a great resource to connect with others walking a similar path.

THE MEDICAL TEAM can also help with support for seniors post-heart attack or stroke, as well as those who are seeking to lower their risk for heart complications. Our senior care experts are available throughout New Orleans, Detroit, Austin, Dallas and the Washington, DC metro areas with a full range of cardiac care services from registered nurses who are fully trained in heart disease and cardiovascular conditions. Contact us to learn more!