If there was only one thing you could give to those you love most in life, what would that be? Advance care planning should be on your list of considerations. It may sound strange to say this, but many family feuds and fights could be avoided by having planned for the inevitable end.
Discussing and planning your medical future is crucial.
There’s no greater gift than deciding in advance what your goals, values, and preferences would be for your future medical care. This step will allow you to plan for unexpected consequences. It will be the last gift you can give.
What You Will Learn:
- Why do families need advance care planning?
- What are the consequences of procrastinating for advance care planning?
- Where do I start exploring care options?
Discussing and documenting your wishes, and appointing a representative to make those decisions if you cannot, is a priceless gift. But, unfortunately, family members often face the difficult position of deciding what medical course to follow for a loved one. Why? Because organized planning never happened.
Why Advance Care Planning Matters
Regardless of the outcome, agonizing over whether they made the right decisions occurs. In some cases, a family bitterly divides over what course to follow. It might be one of the most challenging discussions you’ll ever have but by far one of the most important.
It’s never too soon to appoint a representative if you can’t voice your wishes. Everyone over the age of 18 should do so regardless of their medical status. In Massachusetts, this person is a Health Care Proxy (HCP), while in New Hampshire, the label is Power of Attorney for Health Care (POA for Health Care).
We highly advise appointing a backup decision-maker if your initial contact becomes unavailable. Your HCP/POA should be someone you not only trust but someone familiar with advanced care planning.
No plan is future-proof, so we recommend an ongoing check-up of your parent’s goals, values, and preferences. It’s all about communicating what health care decisions you would like in your end-of-life care plan.
Advance Care Planning Options
As healthcare providers, our collective responsibility is to educate the patients we care for and their families. With the recent gains in public awareness, there are many tools to help facilitate the conversation. The thought process behind making these plans includes several government resources. Three of those tools are Five Wishes, The Conversation Project, and the POLST/MOLST.
The POLST (Massachusetts uses their version, the MOLST) is a tool for healthcare providers to use with their patients with one or more severe illnesses. It will ideally pass within a year if their disease is without aggressive treatment took its natural trajectory. The discussion focuses on the patient’s condition, treatment options, benefits, and alternatives. Furthermore, you’ll want to address what to expect as the disease progresses, your goals, and your values. Once the health care provider completes the form and signs it, it becomes a medical order.
Discussing your parent’s medical future may be a challenging conversation right now, but it will make decisions very clear when the need arises. In addition, participating in advance care planning will allow you and your parents to face end-of-life care with the dignity and respect you deserve.
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Richard Branson says he values his employees first – even before his customers. His view is happy employees equal happy customers. So his focus is on making his employee service outstanding, so it has a trickle-down effect for his customers.
You can’t provide excellent customer service if your employee service is lacking.
We’ve seen this first-hand in our business, where situations have either stabilized or spiraled out of control based on the employee service we provide.
It may sound cliche, but simple acts such as saying “thank you” go a long way. Expressing gratitude and supporting your staff in tangible ways goes a long way for office morale.
We often hear about word-of-mouth marketing in our industry. Well, there’s also word-of-mouth recruiting. It’s a lot easier to attract caregivers when you have a good reputation in their community rather than a wrong first impression.
Providing exceptional employee service and support to your caregivers will never backfire, yet there are so many agencies that treat their caregivers as expendable.
We’ve learned that a successful caregiver team needs to work side by side with our office staff. Our supervisor’s job is to fill the gaps that allow our office to do their jobs more efficiently.
Currently, there is a high demand for caregivers. Our hiring managers are in charge of reaching out to potential candidates to collect employment documentation.
Every day our supervisors ask our office staff, “How can I help you?”
Being a scheduler, a recruiter, or managing care quality is not an easy job. It takes a rare type of person to handle those stressful situations.
A big part of our management team’s responsibilities is providing outstanding employee service to our colleagues to make their jobs a little easier.
So think about what type of organization you want to run or encourage. You don’t need to be a CEO to improve employee service in your workplace.
Start by recognizing the staff that helps you do your job. Then pay it forward by asking others how you can help them.
Say “thank you” and occasionally be the subordinate by asking how you can help.
Are your parents having trouble hearing you? Hearing loss in seniors can have significant consequences if not diagnosed early.
Over 36 million Americans suffer from hearing loss. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, only a fifth of individuals who would benefit from help for hearing trouble get it.
Sound exposure, whether at concerts, loud workplaces, or power tools, adds up over time. It is even possible to begin losing some hearing in early adulthood. Smoking and chronic diseases can change the blood supply to the ear, leading to damage.
The damage tends to be gradual, so you might not notice it. But as someone ages, it gets worse and worse, without the person realizing it. One-third of adults from 45-65 have hearing loss and so do half of those over 75, according to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders. So how do you catch it before it starts affecting your loved one’s quality of life?
Here are six early warning signs of hearing loss in seniors.
1) Your parents are getting frustrated that women and kids don’t speak loudly enough.
High-pitched voices and sounds are where initial problems begin. High-pitched sounds reach the cochlea’s most outer part, where little hair cells pick up sound vibrations and convert them to sound. This area of the ear is the most vulnerable to chronic noise or ear problems.
Other Signs: Trouble heading cymbals, the flute, babies crying, squeals, and birdsongs.
2) Your parents aren’t sure how to track the direction of sounds.
When someone starts talking, people with adequate hearing know instantly where the sound is coming from in the room. Out in the woods, a sharp listener can hear the source of a birdsong. For those with hearing loss, the ability to understand where a noise is coming from becomes much more challenging.
Other Signs: Twisting your neck to see where a sound or a speaker is sitting. Hearing loss can affect one ear more than the other, so getting different sound signals can make it more challenging to understand the noise.
3) Your parents ask you to turn the TV up.
Do your parents ask to turn the volume up on your TV? Turning up the TV is one of the most common signs of hearing loss. When we set the TV’s audio to a comfortable level, that doesn’t mean it’s comfortable for others around us. If one viewer has normal hearing and another does not, it’s obvious who has hearing loss and does not.
Other Signs: Playing an MP3 player so loud that others nearby can hear it as well.
4) Your parents ask people to repeat themselves.
One of the earliest signs of hearing loss comes from asking for clarifications or repetition. Even if you do ‘t notice this problem, your friends and family will.
People may say, “I always have to repeat myself.” “You don’t seem to know what’s going on.” Or they may be more blunt, accusing your parents of being deaf and that they can’t hear.
Spouses often become human hearing aids for those who experience hearing loss. They repeat everything, and they tend to grow frustrated over time.
Other Signs: Mishearing what was said and replying with the wrong response makes a person look sloppy, inattentive, and embarrassing.
5) Your parents lean in closely to hear companions.
When you’re in a restaurant or at a party, you frequently lean in to hear your tablemate or party guest over the laughter, clinking glasses, and music. It can be a frustrating environment to be in for everyone. In extreme cases, the problem could be your parent’s hearing.
It can be tricky to focus on the sounds they want to hear when there’s a lot of background noise. Quieter rooms become more appreciated by the individual. Someone with hearing loss may look more intently at the speaker because of focus. They may try to focus on reading lips or interpreting body language.
6) Avoiding Favorite Activities or Places
People who have trouble hearing often find that they don’t want to go out as much as they become frustrated or embarrassed.
Many people are quick to get glasses when they experience loss of sight, but we’re so much less willing to help when we lose our hearing. Hearing aids have evolved to tune your specific hearing patterns, and newer models are lightweight and inconspicuous.
Now that you know many warning signs of hearing loss in seniors, you can look out for it. Many seniors will nod yes when they have no idea what you said, to be polite. If you see some of these warning signs, talk with your parent about it, and work with doctors and senior care solution providers to fix the issue.
Keep an eye out (or an ear) and talk with your loved one about hearing aids. If things worsen, they may need additional private home care.
An Epidemic of Forgotten Seniors
Orphaned seniors are a rarely discussed problem in the U.S.
There are two types of seniors in this risk group:
Firstly, some face neglect from their families.
Secondly, some do not have a family nearby.
In the healthcare industry, you quickly realize that many family dynamics play a role in determining the outcome and quality of care a senior receives.
It can be rather shocking to experience the callousness with which some adult children ignore their parents. There are several case studies of how much strain this behavior places on local healthcare systems.
In Denver, local hospitals ask family members to drop off seniors who have dementia. A few years ago, an article details how a male senior citizen appeared at an airport after a one-way flight from Florida to Denver. When he arrived, with no company, he had to fend for himself.
After the senior wandered the airport for many hours, airline front desk personnel realized he was alone and called the police. Police finally reached the adult daughter, who refused to accept any responsibility for her father’s care whatsoever.
The Consequences of Abandoning Seniors
Although police could send the demented senior to the hospital, he would become a permanent resident of that facility. When there is nowhere else for seniors to go, many end up in hospitals indefinitely. A study of 19 Metro-Area Denver hospitals revealed 113 at-risk adults in their system beyond medical necessity on a single day in September. The longest day among them was 577 days – all at taxpayer cost.
The final twist in the story is that local TV news tracked down the adult daughter to Florida and found out she worked for a home healthcare company that provides senior care. It’s safe to assume that if you’re abandoning your father at an airport 2000 miles away, some dysfunctional family dynamics are at play. Likewise, the demented senior was not likely winning ‘father of the year’ awards for raising his daughter.
When adult children who resent or outright disdain their parents become guardians, too often they refuse responsibility for their parents. As the baby boomer generation ages, this situation is going to become increasingly common.
The Challenges of Relocating Orphaned Seniors
The other type of orphaned senior does not have a nearby family to provide care. Again, baby boomers are the first generation in serious jeopardy of relocation challenges. This issue is often the result of their adult children moving away.
Firstly, this trend provides difficulties when someone needs one-on-one assistance. For example, transportation and chores require a social circle willing to respond.
Secondly, these seniors rely on paid services to bridge the gap between what they can do and what they need. Many seniors fall into this dilemma. They make too much money to qualify for state services but not enough to afford out-of-pocket care.
Lastly, Facebook groups exist to help orphaned seniors. Some suggestions endorse the idea of adopting a family of their own. Providing mentorship with other younger individuals in return and developing bonds are critical to sustainable care. Granted, something like this doesn’t happen overnight and requires planning for many years, and sometimes it happens spontaneously.
The Facebook group is more of a way for orphaned seniors to communicate with other seniors in their situations. It is in the community in which younger adults are reaching out to find older deaths to help. Above all, they exist to make isolated seniors feel more connected.
Heather Hersee, a life aging care manager, spoke to us about orphaned seniors in our latest podcast. You can watch it on YouTube or listen on all major podcast platforms.
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