Happy New Year!

2 Comments

Happy New Year!

Happy new year!

Wow. What a year it has been. 2015 was busy, crazy, amazing, and filled with memories.

We got to work with a ton of amazing individuals who helped shaped what our product would become and then we launched to the public for the first time in the fall.

Since our launch, our team has been all over America learning more about how caregivers work, collaborate, and what types of tools they need to make their lives better. Every time we meet with you amazing people we walk away with better ideas of how to evolve.

It has been an incredible experience to work with clinical teams, patients, and family caregivers on what it means to truly collaborate to make care better and more delightful. 

Together, we can make the most of 2016 and we are super excited to be brining you some awesome stuff this year.

If you ever have any thoughts, feedback, or want to say hey, please email me! I look forward to connecting with you to learn more about how we can change the world together.

Cheers!

- Nicholas Halfhill

CEO, Spectra

Nick@spectrahealth.us

2 Comments

Comment

Spectra launches health communication platform connecting providers, patients and families.

Today, we’re excited to announce that our health communication platform, Spectra Care, is live. Securely connect all members of the care continuum in real-time and focus on solving the break in medical communication efficiencies and lack of treatment plan understanding.

Spectra’s cloud-based communication tool is the first-of-its-kind to focus on building relationships with the entire caregiving team: patients, providers and family caregivers. Spectra Care drives patient engagement, smarter care decisions, and increased understanding of treatment plans.

Due to legislative initiatives including Meaningful Use, the HITECH Act and the IMPACT Act — all focused on outcome-based reimbursements — healthcare providers are faced with a forced shift to quality patient care and having to forge relationships with their patients in ways that they never have before.

Spectra Care has the potential to transform healthcare collaboration by eliminating delays and errors while educating patients and families to extend care beyond the facility.

Get Spectra Care today for your clinical teams — available on any device.


Download Spectra Care for iPhone here.

Get started today on web, Android, or iPad here

 

Comment

Comment

Involving Patients and Families in the Care Process

Healthcare providers face many diverse challenges when providing care for their patients. New healthcare technologies continue to provide unique ways to address some, but not all of these challenges.  One of the best ways to address them is also one of the most overlooked (and simplistic); involving the patient and their family or loved ones in the care process.  

By involving the patient and their family or loved ones in the care process, healthcare providers are able to see greater rates of treatment success with their patients.  Family members can provide unique information about the patient to clinicians, help interpret information for the patient, and provide emotional support.  Family caregivers can communicate critical medical information to physicians and clinical care teams, keep non-local family members informed and help the patients follow their care instructions and adhere to medications.  However, it is not always easy to get this entire team on board. 

Incorporating these people into the care of the patient can help foster patient-centered care, which has shown to be most effective in caring for patients. According to Anthem, “the Institute for Patient and Family-Centered Care defines four core concepts to guide the development of patient-centered interactions: Dignity and respect, information sharing, participation, and collaboration”.  The use of electronic health apps, such as Spectra, provide a platform from where healthcare providers can incorporate a patient’s loved ones and caregivers into the care plan.  

Spectra provides a launching point from which family members, loved ones, and caregivers can stay up to date on the care a patient is receiving.  Spectra also allows these stakeholders to provide their input into the care process and address their concerns.  Since providers have direct access to this app, they are also in a better place to communicate with the involved parties in order to ensure that the patient is getting the most out of his or her care.  

 

Comment

Comment

How Patient/Doctor Communication Apps Boost Patient Experience

As the healthcare industry continues to merge with the tech space, communication between doctors and patients is increasingly evolving as well, boosting the overall care experience.  According to Research Now, a Texas based research group, 46 percent of healthcare professionals plan to introduce mobile apps into their practice in the next five years; 86 percent of professionals believe apps will increase their knowledge of their patients’ conditions, and an astounding 96 percent of health app users believe technology improves their own quality of life.

The patient/doctor relationship and care experience will continue to be improved with the increased development and use of health care apps in the following ways:

1.   Patient information is available to doctors 24/7:

As health apps are able to track everything from diet to exercise to blood pressure and heartbeat, doctors are able to tap into their patients’ information at any given time.  If needed, doctors can quickly and easily provide timely, relevant updates to their patient, and can make better decisions regarding their symptoms, condition and next steps.

2.    Patients become partners with their doctors in their care:

With the use of health apps to record data points around care, medication, and test results, patients essentially become as knowledgeable as their doctor and providers.  This empowers patients to play a larger role in their overall care experience, completely involved in all decisions for their wellbeing.

3.     Apps allow for immediate feedback from patient to doctor:

After receiving care, patients can use health apps to immediately give feedback to doctors about their experience.  Whether it is a quick rating score or a longer, more detailed feedback form, patients will feel valued if their doctor or healthcare company asks for and wants their feedback.  As more patients provide regular feedback, doctors and organizations can utilize this information and data to provide a better long term care experience.

4.     Apps can increase efficiency of patient treatment:

According to the Research Now group survey, nearly half of healthcare professionals believe apps can make treatment for patients more efficient, as they can provide more information, easily monitor patients’ health, and can engage more with their patients.  This, in turn, allows doctors to make better (and more cost efficient) recommendations for immediate or long-term treatment.

Comment

Comment

What We're Reading

This week, we’re reading news related to healthcare companies and IT systems, and how important it is for them to work in conjunction with one another, as well as what it’s really like to be a young caregiver today.

Six Steps That Turn Health Care CFOs Into IT Champions, IT Business Edge

According to Logicalis Healthcare Solutions, healthcare CFOs are more concerned than ever with keeping their organizations healthy amidst regulatory changes, decline in reimbursements and mergers and acquisitions.  Due to all of the aforementioned factors, there is enormous pressure on hospitals and healthcare systems to manage costs as effectively as possible while providing an IT infrastructure that adapts to the changing times.  This article points out the ways CFOs can best utilize technology during transition.

Better Information, for a Better Health System, NY Times Opinion

In response to a NY Times Opinion article titled “Why Health Care Tech Is Still So Bad,” Andrew Gettinger, chief medical information officer and acting director of the Office of Clinical Quality and Safety, states we must be aware of health information technology errors that affect care.  As a result, his office created a draft of a roadmap where information flows safely and securely in a health system, echoing the idea that health IT is vital in achieving a system for better overall care.

Number of Younger Caregivers on Rise, Today Online

All around the world, caregivers are becoming younger and younger, stepping away from their roles at work to care for parents with medical conditions.  Even still, young caregivers are in the minority as of now; adults below 40 make up less than 10 percent of caregivers, but this is expected to change as the general population ages.  This article points out ways for young caregivers to maintain their own health and happiness when dealing with family situations at an early age.

Docs Say They’re Wasting Time on Care Coordination Lapses, M Health News

A recent study showed that over 70 percent of doctors say they’ve wasted time trying to contact a patient’s care team, and over 50 percent do not even know which person from a care team to contact in certain situations.  This is because many doctors and facilities are not using the appropriate technology to remedy these issues, causing gaps and lags in communication.  That being said, since care teams change frequently, one of the main problems that needs to be solved is the workflow which will keep everyone up to date regarding scheduling and roles.
 

Comment

Comment

What We're Reading: Friday Edition

This week, we’re reading about healthcare technology and how it impacts patients, providers and legislation.

How EHRs and Telehealth Technology Affect Healthcare, EHR Intelligence

CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield President and CEO Chet Burrell spoke to how technology is changing the healthcare system at the World Healthcare Congress + Exhibition, citing how the majority of claims are now processed via cloud technology.  This allows for easy communication between billers and physicians, and is also an efficient way of sharing updates and information with patients.  As of 2013, 52% implemented telehealth technology, with an additional 10% adopting telemedicine platforms, illustrating how data storage and sharing technology is continuing to grow.

Life in the Clouds – Boosting Haitian Health Care Through Technology, Dimagi

Robin, a rural town in Haiti less than two hours from Port-au-Prince, is receiving health care services from the Government of Haiti via community health workers serving 9,000 residents in the area.  Workers spend hours visiting patients, and the use of an app called CommCare has made it easier for them to track the many details related to their patients.  The app can perform calculations, generate referrals between the community and medical facilities, send audio messages and speed data transmission.  It also does not require Internet connectivity to store data for later input, making it especially helpful in rural areas.  Even in non-developed areas of the world, healthcare technology is playing a role, greatly bettering the quality of care.

New Studies Show Shifting Realities of Caregiving Today, PR Newswire

A study titled Many Faces of Caregiving, released by the national nonprofit Easter Seals, showed that a third of Millennials and GenX-ers already identify themselves as caregivers. 70% of respondents also said they have not had a conversation about families about the future when it comes to care, and only 47% felt satisfied with the care they are currently able to provide.  This study indicated the importance of creating a Life Care Plan early in life in order to be prepared at any time.

Tips for Health and Sanity that Every Caregiver Needs, PBS.org

As the baby boomer generation ages, more and more people require care; that, coupled with the fact that shorter hospital stays and home care technologies send people home earlier, caregivers are tasked with more responsibility than ever.  Long-term caregivers run the risk for sleep deprivation, depression and lack of time to tend to their own needs and health.  This article gives tips to caregivers for reducing stress and promoting their own health needs.

FAMILY Act Will Benefit Workers and Families, Human Rights Campaign Blog

In March, Representatives from Connecticut and New York reintroduced legislation to help working families in the U.S.; the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act intends to establish the first insurance program for paid family and medical leave.  Under the act, employees can take up to 12 weeks off and still receive partial income if they are dealing with their health, or a serious health problem of a child, parent, spouse or domestic partner, the birth or adoption of a child, or military caregiving.  This would especially help lower to middle income families who often forgo health for paid jobs out of necessity.  

Comment

Comment

What We’re Reading

This week, we’re bringing you the best of what we’re reading in the healthcare space; the articles below illustrate the growing connection between health and technology.

“Hack” Finds Way to Use Technology to Help Caregivers, Richmond Times Dispatch

Over the course of one weekend, students from seven universities in Virginia participated in the “Caring for the Caregiver Hack,” creating tech tools with the goal of improving caregivers’ health.  From web platforms built to share caregiving information to smartphone apps designed for caregiving volunteers, the students and universities have plans to actually implement the products and put them to good use.  The hack was sponsored by AARP, and the weekend itself demonstrated how caregiving and technology continues to merge, even with a young demographic.

Why Senior Living Can’t Ignore Home Health Care Tech, Senior Housing News

Accenture, a global consulting firm, conducted a survey showing that more than two out of three seniors prefer using self-care technology to manage their health independently, leading to potentially huge savings for senior housing providers.  Currently, 25% of seniors use electronic health records (EHRs) to manage their health (like accessing lab results), and this number is supposed to grow to 42% over the next five years as technology makes independent management of healthcare more available and manageable.  Telehealth solutions, or ways seniors can talk to doctors from their own homes, will also have huge opportunities to grow in this demographic.

Five Ways Tech-Savvy Millennials Alter Health Care Landscape, PR Newswire

According to a consumer survey by PNC Healthcare, technology empowers millennials to change health care delivery and insurance; for example, online shopping for doctors and web-based tools and research are becoming the new norm, quickly replacing primary care physicians.  As millennials overtake baby boomers as the biggest consumer-buying group, insurers and health care providers will be forced to adapt to the most technology-driven generation.  Quick care (like retail and care clinics), word of mouth marketing (websites like Yelp and Healthgrades) and using the Internet to compare healthcare plans are just a few of the ways that millennials are proving that healthcare and technology will have to continue to advance together.

Apple Just Isn’t Satisfied Reinventing Health Care, it’s Targeting Clinical Trials As Well, Washington Post

Between the Apple watch and the new platform ResearchKit, aiming to transform that pharmaceutical industry, Apple is just one company that is tapping into the $3 trillion health care space.  Google, Microsoft, Samsung and hundreds of startups are also in the game, developing sensors, computers, tracking technology and beyond that will be stored, analyzed and hugely important in monitoring and researching health and disease.  The result: we’ll all receive better health care at a much lower cost.

Comment

Comment

What We're Reading: SXSW Edition

This week, we’re taking a look at the top news and health care related updates that came out of SXSW 2015. The SX Health and MedTech Expo took place on March 16th and 17th and promoted creativity, innovation and collaboration in the healthcare space, featuring over 60 companies from around the world creating healthcare technology platforms.

SXSW Brands Are Playing Games With Your Health (in the Good Way), Adweek

At SXSW, brands are creating engaging experiences through gamification, combining technology, wellness and exercise to maximize fitness trends.  Cycling phenomenon SoulCycle was in Austin to give attendees an active break between sessions – and to plug their new app.  Digital fitness program Radius (owned by NBC) hosted fitness classes during the conference to showcase their fitness platform, complete with badges, superstar fitness instructors, and a constant rotation of new routines.  These brands are partnering with the likes of giant tech and fitness companies, like Spotify (with SoulCycle) and Under Armour (with Radius) to further extend their reach, demonstrating how health and tech are merging quickly as of late.

Apple’s ResearchKit is a Big Hit at SXSW, Fortune

Apple is making waves with their new platform, ResearchKit, which is buzzing with potential; everything from cancer research to drug development could be impacted and furthered by the open-source platform.  ResearchKit will tie personal data with medicine to advance public health goals, like tracking the spread of the flu, for example. The only catch?  Companies and consumers must share access to their data to achieve research goals, and similarly, researchers have to figure out how to analyze data from various companies and consumers to accelerate change.

SXSW Pediatric Pitch Event Highlights Pain Points in Children’s Health Care, MedCity News

Ten digital health and medical device companies worked on an initiative with children’s hospitals during SX Health Tech, identifying ways to solve health care challenges.  Examples range from how to deal with night terrors to how to detect kidney stones to how to monitor fetal health through wearables.  The pitching event had two purposes: to help hospitals identify technologies that could be potentially be used and commercialized, and to provide a way for entrepreneurs to bring their ideas to hospitals.

New Medical Devices Steal the Show at SXSW’s First Health Tech Expo, The Street

In 2014, funding for health-related startups was $3.5 billion; by 2017, it is expected to increase to $6.5 billion.  As a result, SXSW created the first ever Health Tech conference to capitalize on the surge in the industry, highlighting apps, services, and devices.  Gadgets like AmpStrip, a small adhesive designed to track heart rate, and Beddit, which tracks sleep via a device planted on a mattress, demonstrate the wide array of new products changing the health and tech space.

Mark Cuban Talks Healthcare Investing: Soon Our Bodies Will Be Big Math Equations, The Street

Mark Cuban, billionaire investor known for his role on the ABC show “Shark Tank,” argues that entrepreneurs have a better shot at reaching consumers, rather than trying to get their platforms into hospitals.  Cuban also voiced a strong opinion about sensors, noting they’re the next big opportunity since companies like Theranos (which partners with Walgreens) make it easier for people to manage and gain insight about their health without going directly to doctors or hospitals.

Comment

Comment

Expressive Writing: Dealing With Emotions and Stress Through Written Words

In 1992, Ronni Miller had an idea that would change the course of her life, as well as the lives of many others.  Inspired by her love of writing, as well as her background in advertising and teaching, she started Write It Out, a motivational expressive writing program for people of all ages designed to achieve inner happiness through writing.  Over the past 23 years, Ronni taught thousands of people how to connect with themselves in order to understand their own stories, using a variety of techniques: warm up exercises, writing activities, positive feedback from peers and projects ranging from memoirs to fiction to poetry to plays.

After 10 years of working with individuals of all ages, Ronni moved into the health care space, teaching workshops at hospitals in Sarasota, Florida.  Four years ago, she started working with the Center for Building Hope, a non-profit offering free information, programs and services to cancer patients and their family members and caregivers.  At the Center for Building Hope, her expressive writing programs have proven an excellent match for people dealing with cancer, as well as loved ones caring for family members or friends undergoing treatments.

In these classes, people often write about their feelings and frustrations, sometimes touching on their diagnosis, but also their memories, hopes, and dreams.  Ronni’s mission is to make the program as positive as possible; many patients and caregivers’ attitudes have changed tremendously as they use writing as an outlet for their emotions.  One woman, coping with her husband’s cancer diagnosis and resulting anger and depression, used fiction as a way to come to terms with everything happening in their marriage.  Another, a breast cancer patient who was initially unenthusiastic about the concept of expressive writing, ultimately found that poetry helped her express herself; now, her poems and illustrations are published, a testament to what she achieved through Ronni’s class.

The success of the Write It Out program is immense, and Ronni truly believes it’s her mission in life: to help people find their place in their journey and to show how positivity makes a huge difference in coming to grips or terms with where you are, physically, emotionally, and mentally.  The act of expression through writing has positively impacted patients and caregivers alike, giving them an outlet and means of expressing themselves during trying times.


 

Comment

Comment

What We’re Reading

From technology to legislation to health trends, there is always a lot to discuss around the future of healthcare and caregiving. Here is this week’s roundup of articles we’re reading at Spectra Health.

The Future of Healthcare: On Your Phone And On Your Body, Huffington Post

Healthcare is changing thanks to technology, both in the emerging and developing worlds.  In emerging areas, SMS texts will remind patients about prescriptions, collect data, and help educate about health issues.  In developed countries, doctors are literally becoming virtual providers; everything from eye exams to EKGs will be administered with smart phones, and doctors will be able to “see” patients through cameras or apps, no matter where or when.  Bottom line: technology is playing a huge role in the advancement of healthcare from a global perspective.

8 Tech Trends Changing Health Care, Enterprise Apps Today

While the healthcare industry is known for being slow to adopt technology trends, things are changing thanks to the federal HITECH act and Affordable Care Act.  From security measures to prevent data breaches to advanced wearable health technology to telehealth, or teleconferencing with doctors, technology is making a huge impact in the health space in 2015 and here are 8 of the top trends.

Helping the Helpers, Insurance News Net

There are 42.1 million Americans who make up the long-term care system for family members in the U.S., valued at $450 billion.  As a result, state laws, like in New Jersey and Oklahoma, are enacting versions of the CARE Act to support family caregivers.  By law, hospitals must record caregivers’ names, send them notifications, and provide them with information for care at home; this is to avoid potential costly readmissions.  While some states argue that these measures are still not enough help for non-professional caregivers, the fact that states are looking at caregiving legislation is a huge step in the right direction for family members.

Sharing Patient Records is Still a Digital Dilemma for Doctors, NPR

The healthcare industry, while making many technological strides, still has ways to go with Electronic Medical Records.  Since 2009, taxpayers have put $30 billion towards installing and implementing electronic systems in doctors’ offices and hospitals, but the main problem is that many of these systems don’t work with one another.  As a result, IT companies are eager to come up with software to help fix these problems and meet demands – and make billions off the industry as a result.

Bayer HealthCare Contributes $1 Million to Support Cancer Care Technology Platform, PR Newswire

Bayer announced on March 5, 2015 that it would invest $1 million to support CancerLinQ™, a platform from the Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology collecting information on cancer patients’ experiences dealing with life with cancer.  This will capture valuable information from nearly every patient undergoing treatment with an oncologist, and demonstrates how pharmaceutical companies have a stake in health care technology.

Comment

Comment

Being the Caregiver: Endometrial Cancer

Last week, we profiled Assunta, who has dealt with endometrial cancer since 2011. Her husband, Phil, who was also affected by her diagnosis, thrust into the role of caregiver when she was undergoing treatments and recovering from surgery.  This is his experience with suddenly becoming a caregiver.

How did you adapt to life as a caregiver when Assunta was sick? Once you take on some of the daily living it's easier to adapt to the life as a caregiver and everything pretty smoothly. Sometimes it's only small things like making the bed, emptying the dishwasher but a household that runs as close to normal as possible helps not only the patient but also the caregiver.

What was the most challenging part of care giving? The most challenging part of care giving when you were sick was not getting overwhelmed by seeing your discomfort from chemo, radiation and other side effects.  It's hard to see someone you love sick.  You can't minimize what they are going through, yet you don't want to inflict on them your own fears.  It's important to be realistic but also optimistic.  All and all you should try to stay balanced emotionally when helping a loved one fight cancer, but it isn't an easy task.

What did you learn about yourself through the process? I never thought of myself as a caregiving-type person but found it came fairly easy for me.  I was surprised that when Assunta was diagnosed I was able to, so to speak, roll with the punches and there was no panic on my end. 

What did you learn about Assunta? She put herself in survival mode and didn't become pessimistic. She’s so strong!

Comment

Comment

What We're Reading

It's no secret that the healthcare industry is advancing at a rapid pace. With new technology and legislative news daily, we’ve pulled together a list of top stories we’re reading this week.

 

New AARP Poll Supports Bipartisan Congressional Family Caregiving Caucus Launched Today, AARP

Across political parties, more than 7 in 10 registered voters age 40 and older say Congress should improve resources for family caregivers who help their parents, spouses, children with disabilities and other loved ones to live independently.
— AARP

Self Care: An Essential Element of CaregivingHuffington Post

Taking care of others is stressful and depleting, both from an emotional and physical perspective.  This article emphasizes the importance of self-care when helping others, deeming it essential for caregivers’ survival.

Youth Caregivers Need More of Our SupportJournal Sentinel

There is an estimated 1.3-1.4 million youth between the ages of 8 and 18 caring for a parent – and 50% of them say they spend a significant amount of time doing so.  This opinion piece calls for society to support these kids, emotionally and economically, and shed more light on the issue.

Most People Want to Go Digital For Health – Especially the UnwellHealth Populi

A recent Makovsky digital health survey shows that 2 in 3 people in the U.S. are open to using a mobile app to track and manage their health (from anything ranging from diet and nutrition to medication reminders to tracking symptoms and physical activity).  This article illustrates how patients, who are typically underutilized in the healthcare system, have a huge opportunity to go into “healthcareDIY mode” to create health outcomes for themselves and in their community.

Behavioral Analysis Could Have Prevented The Anthem BreachForbes

Forbes explores the abnormal behavior behind cyber attacks, highlighting the recent Anthem breach where attackers posted as administrative insiders to access databases.  This is a wake up call; technology companies must implement tools to monitor abnormal activity in order to int to detect and prevent attacks early on.

Defense Department Narrows Field for EHR ContractModern Healthcare

The Defense Department is in the process of selecting who will build the new Electronic Health-Record system, locking in a 10-year, multibillion-dollar contract.  Opponents of the EHR system argue that the Defense Department should utilize the Department of Veterans Affairs’ record-keeping system instead, since locking in one contractor may lead to an inability to be flexible as technology changes.

Comment

4 Comments

Experience In Care: Endometrial Cancer

After being diagnosed with endometrial cancer in 2011, Assunta went through it all: surgery, chemotherapy, and brachytherapy, a form of radiation that still has lingering side effects to this day.  After a disappointing experience while receiving care at one hospital, she switched oncologists, choosing to undergo treatments and check ups at Mt. Sinai in New York City.  During this time, most of her family did not live nearby, aside from her husband Phil.  

As a result, Assunta’s friends and husband stepped up to the plate; her experience in receiving care illustrates the power of a small army of people making an extraordinary impact.  

What was your main caregiving system and support team like?

I think all and all I managed well.  My support system was a bit different. Since I live far away from family, friends took up the slack.  My friend Dolores was my go-to for wig shopping and things like that.  Amy, who was a casual friend and someone I hadn't known well, generously stepped up to the plate and called almost every day to see how I was, or if I needed something. When Phil was unable to take me to surgery, she kindly did and got me back home afterwards.  She also helped me get through a challenging day – my first day of chemo.

My brothers visited as much as possible, and called every week.  When we had to go back to our house upstate, our nephews helped open the house, offered their help if we needed it.  Best of all: they brought pizza and laughs.  My niece sent me a card at a vulnerable time, telling me to call on her if I needed her. Notes and cards should never be minimized.

How did your husband help step into the role as caregiver?

 Phil went to all of the important visits to the doctors, which were a little more intimate than I would have liked, and asked all the necessary questions. He learned to help around the house, and I had to learn to accept his help. What was most important was that he adjusted his life to mine while I was sick and never complained.

I frankly am not the kind of person that likes lots and lots of people around when I'm unwell, but I felt loved and care for throughout the whole process.

What were the biggest takeaways after going through this whole experience?

First, I know I should have pursued the pain I felt after my first surgery that went on for far too long, and had that taken care of immediately.  In retrospect, I do think a cancer group therapy would have helped as well.  It would have been good to share some of my feelings; it's a very confusing, scary time when you face an illness like cancer, and it’s a bit of a lonely road. I'm sure talking about it helps.

4 Comments

Comment

Caring for a Loved One: Dealing with Resistance

    Just as it’s challenging for caregivers to provide the best assistance possible for their loved ones, it’s often hard for many people to suddenly find themselves on the receiving end on the care equation.  Dealing with resistance to care is reality that many caregivers face.

    When people find themselves in need of care, especially for the first time, they’re likely dealing with a multitude of emotions that may make it difficult for them to accept help.  In many cases, these life changes and the emotions that accompany them make them feel vulnerable, frightened or angry. Many people worry about becoming a burden on their family or relinquishing their privacy, making them to resistant to the help that they need.  Understand what's causing this resistance is key in determining how you can encourage cooperation.

Below are tips to help loved ones become more accepting of care.

  1. Assess the situation and create a plan together (if possible).  Giving your family member input will help them feel empowered in their care.  Asking for their preferences will make them feel respected, even if all of their wishes cannot be put into place.

  2. Ask for help from family.  Joining forces with siblings or others may help people accept care, knowing that their entire family has their best interests at heart.

  3. Think about the big picture.  Avoid getting into small arguments about a loved one’s behavior, and try to understand their concerns from their point of view.  Empathy goes a long way!  Make sure they feel heard, even if they are fighting care.

  4. Be honest.  Caregivers should be open with family members who they are assisting, letting them know that resistance is stressful and upsetting.  If they realize that they are causing problems, they may be more likely to help caregivers help them in the process of receiving care.

  5. Stay calm, but be firm.  Ultimately, caregivers must do what’s best for their loved one, even if they don’t want help. Remaining calm but sticking to the plan about what’s best is key to ensuring family members will be safe and provided for, which is the number one goal.

What other tips do you have for encouraging people to accept care?  Share in the comments!

 

Sources:

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/caregivers/in-depth/caring-for-the-elderly/art-20048403
http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-07-2013/caregiving-aging-parents-jacobs.html

Comment

Comment

Tips for Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities

Being a caregiver is never easy, even with the support of siblings or other family members to share responsibilities.  Families typically do not have a set plan in place when the time comes to determine who will do what for an aging parent or loved one in need of care.  There are many factors that go into deciding how caregiving duties will be divvied up, including the number of people involved, their talents and interests (such as handling finances vs. spending time visiting), their ability to contribute time and money, and their location.

To avoid conflict or tension surrounding caregiving duties, here are some things to keep in mind as you begin caring for a loved one:

  1. Keep communication lines open: sharing information is crucial when multiple people are involved with the care of a loved one.  All people should be on the same page about the diagnosis and action plan moving forward, and communication should be regular via email, phone calls or family meetings.

  2. Take time to get on the same page: if there is no emergency, it’s wise to take time to address any concerns or issues with family members, making sure everyone is ready to move forward with the same plan together.

  3. Put aside family differences: the stress of caregiving can often resurface old family issues.  If siblings can coordinate caregiving efforts, the better the outcome for their parent or loved one; if they’re busy arguing or bringing up past problems, however, it’s much harder to be an effective caregiver.  The main goal should always be taking care of the family member in need, not trying to outdo or upstage anyone else in the support system.

  4. Fine-tune the plan: as the situation evolves over time, the caregiving plan should change as well.  Ensuring that everyone is still on board with the current action plan is important for the long-term health and happiness of all involved.  Make it a point to have quarterly meetings to discuss everything that is working (and what isn’t).

  5. Recognize that everyone is different:  when it comes to caregiving and tough times, everyone handles situations in a different way.  Be mindful that what may be easy for one person may be more difficult for another, and it’s up to each person to decide what they feel comfortable doing and how they can help.  The bottom is line is that everyone is in it together – remember that during the tough times!

What are your top tips for sharing caregiving duties with loved ones?

 

Sources:

https://caregiver.org/caregiving-with-your-siblings

http://www.aarp.org/home-family/caregiving/info-07-2013/family-siblings-aging-parents-jacobs.html

http://www.cancer.net/coping-and-emotions/caregiver-support/sharing-responsibilities

 

Comment

Comment

Balancing Caregiving and a Career

     Being a caregiver means devoting yourself, your time and your energy to another person – which can have a significant impact on time and energy spent elsewhere, particularly at work.  According to AARP aging and family expert Amy Goyer, 42 million Americans balance full or part-time work with caregiving, and many do not ask for help.  This leads to approximately seven in 10 caregivers making changes to their work schedule, having to cut back on hours, change jobs, take a leave of absence or stop work entirely.  What most caregivers do not realize, however, is that they do have options and opportunities when it comes to balancing life and caregiving.

    First and foremost, caregivers should speak to their Human Resources department regarding any circumstances around caregiving, and how it may potentially impact performance.  While many people do not take advantage of flexible working hours or work from home policies, HR teams can usually accommodate within the means of company policy to keep employees on board. Caregivers should be as upfront as possible and communicate exactly what they need, as well as how invested they are in the company, to take advantage of these opportunities.

    Second, caregivers should know that they are protected under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), a law allowing individuals at companies with at least 50 employees to care for a family member for up to 12 weeks (of unpaid leave) without losing their job or benefits.  States have similar laws, and caregivers should look into how they’re protected before quitting their jobs.

    Third, caregivers should investigate Eldercare programs at work, which typically include resources and referrals to community caregivers, on-site support groups and discounts for backup home care.  If there is no formal Eldercare program in place, caregivers should ask about paid sick day and family leave options instead.

    Finally, caregivers should set a plan in place with both their employer and coworkers if any emergency arises and they need to leave work early, or for a stretch of time.  This way, everyone is on the same page, reducing stress for caregivers at work during a time of crisis.

 

Sources:

http://www.aarp.org/content/dam/aarp/research/public_policy_institute/ltc/2012/understanding-impact-family-caregiving-work-AARP-ppi-ltc.pdf

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nextavenue/2013/12/02/what-our-42-million-working-caregivers-need-most/2/

http://www.lifehealthpro.com/2015/01/14/caregiving-and-work-leave?t=employee-benefits&page=3

 

Comment

3 Comments

Caregiver Series: From Afar

Post by Lauryn D'Angelo     

     I’ll never forget May 29th, 2014 – the day I learned that my mom, my rock, and my best friend, was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I sat at home, stunned, unable to think or work or do anything but worry about what the future would hold, questions storming through my mind, torturing me.  All I wanted to do was to give her a hug, and tell her everything would be okay and we would get through this together, but living over 3,000 miles away from home literally made that impossible.  It was in that very moment, on that very day, that my life changed forever.

    While my mom was already receiving some of the best treatment out there thanks to a fantastic team in Philadelphia, I spent hours on the phone with family and friends in San Francisco, desperate to figure out what I should do next.  Hop the next flight?  Move back home?  Stay put until a plan was in place?  I felt completely alone and afraid, and couldn’t help but feel like I wasn’t a good enough daughter because I physically wasn’t there.

    I did go home that next weekend, and spent the majority of my summer traveling back and forth across the country, doing whatever I could to help my aunt and uncle, my mom’s main caregivers, and elderly grandparents, who were an amazing support system as well, with anything I possibly could.  I researched nutrition plans, and set up appointments with her hospital’s registered dietician to get my mom on a healthy, cancer-fighting meal plan.  I attended doctor’s appointments when I could, and got a full report from my aunt when I couldn’t physically be there.  I updated friends and family and my mom’s colleagues on how she was doing and feeling, and tried to take on as much as possible…from three time zones away.  It never felt like enough.

    Trying to be a caregiver from afar is never easy; while I couldn’t physically help my mom move around or lend a hand with errands or household chores, I slowly came to realize there was so much that I could do in terms of providing emotional support during a very tough time.  I knocked all fear aside and committed to being the most upbeat, optimistic person possible, vowing to be my mom’s personal cheerleader through it all.  Never once did I waver, or break down, or miss a chance to call and say good luck at your appointment, or goodnight, I love you.  I found ways to support my aunt and uncle and grandparents, checking in with them regularly to say hello and ask how they were doing and feeling too.  And despite the many challenges and ups and downs, our system worked.


    Now months later, my mom is doing so well – she’s feeling great, happy, confident and ready to tackle anything that comes her way.  Her doctors are extremely pleased with her progress, and my aunt and grandparents are able to step back a bit, knowing my mom is safe and capable.  

     While I still call my mom every single day (some things will never change), I feel assured that I was able to be an amazing caregiver for her, even from across the country.  Despite how I felt on that day in May, I feel so thankful for this experience – and confident that we can handle anything that comes our way.


3 Comments

Comment

Caregiver Tips: How to Find Balance and Reduce Your Stress

Being a caregiver is one of the most rewarding yet challenging responsibilities for millions of Americans.  While every situation is different, the act of caregiving presents physical, emotional and financial stressors; many caregivers work full time and raise a family while also dealing with medical tasks, coordinating appointments and making difficult health care and legal decisions for a loved one.  According to the AARP, there are more than 61 million family caregivers in the U.S. providing $450 billion in unpaid care.  Needless to say, it can get quite overwhelming for people trying to manage their own lives in addition to caring for another.

While the person receiving care is a top priority, it’s extremely important for the caregivers themselves to do things to find balance in order to be their best for someone else.  Below are recommendations for caregivers to help reduce the stress that comes along with caregiving.

  1. Take breaks – Caregivers who never take a break from the demands of caring for someone else run the risk of suffering physiologically, emotionally and even financially.  Caregivers should schedule time for themselves, and make arrangements another person to step in if need be.  Taking time to get out of the house or focus energy elsewhere is important.

  2. Seek resources and support – There are many community programs and support groups that caregivers can take advantage of.  For example, the Caregiver Action Network (CAN), consisting of volunteers in over 40 states, supports family caregivers, as do many faith-based organizations.  Caregivers can turn to these kinds of groups for assistance, helpful information, and emotional support.

  3. Set up regular check-ins – Caregivers should ask others (friends, family members, or volunteers) to check-in at a designated time each day or week.  Then, they can share any updates that should be addressed or how they’re feeling.

  4. Practice self-care – If caregivers aren’t eating well, sleeping well, and attending their own doctor’s appointments, they won’t be able to assist others for long.

  5. Stay organized and positive – Use calendars and other tools to prioritize responsibilities, and focus on being as optimistic as possible, knowing that everything that needs to get done will get done.

 

Sources

http://www.aarp.org/relationships/caregiving/info-06-2010/crc-10-caregiver-stress-managment-tips.1.html

http://www.caregiving.org/pdf/resources/CFC.pdf

http://www.helpguide.org/articles/stress/caregiving-stress-and-burnout.htm

Comment

Comment

Q&A: The transition to a caregiver

The transition from child to caregiver is never easy – especially when the situation involves both parents. Today we’re sharing a Q&A from Andrew - whose father, a successful lawyer, former collegiate athlete, and the family patriarch, was diagnosed with dementia in February 2014.  

As the leader of their healthy, wholesome family of four, he earned the income, took care of finances, and dealt with taxes. As he became unable to do take care of such things, Andrew’s mother, who never had to take on these responsibilities, became completely overwhelmed. The stress and the slow loss of her companion of 50 years sent her into a nervous breakdown. Instead of dealing with one slowly deteriorating parent, Andrew and his sister and suddenly found themselves in a complete free fall dealing with both. While Andrew’s sister lives near their parents, Andrew is much further away, and has tried to handle everything from afar.

We spoke to Andrew about his responsibilities and challenges during his transitioning role to caregiver:

What have your caregiving responsibilities entailed?

When the bottom had completely fallen out, we needed to find them (my parents) a safe place to live. We contacted the VNA and other local caregivers (in Cleveland, Ohio) and began a search for a retirement home where the situation would be more stable. Aside from that, I've tried to take on everything that can be addressed without being local. I've taken on paying the bills, taxes, investments, and buying a car for my mother. It is challenging.

What's the most challenging part about being a caregiver? 

Not knowing. You get a crash course in everything you avoided thinking about and it can be very overwhelming.

What do you think your experience would be like if you lived closer?

It seems very disruptive for my sister. She gets most of phone calls, entertains my parents and is constantly taking them both to various appointments.

How do you split up caregiving duties with your sister?

As I mentioned, I take care of anything that can be taken care of remotely and I try to get home often so that I can take some of the heat off of her.

Do you feel like you've had support/resources to turn to during this experience?

Yes and no. Many people have reached out, which is great, but there's only so much even the most caring person can do.  It is good to know that others have shared similar experiences, and maybe I should try some of the groups that exist, but in a way I'm sort of afraid to know how bad things get. And there we are back to not knowing.

 

If you find yourself in a similar scenario, remember that there are many resources out there to help guide you. Contact your local hospital system to learn about support groups or join an online fourm to hear about others in similar situations. 

If you've been through a challenge like Andrew, we'd love to hear your story. Write to us at info (at) spectrahealth (dot) us with the subject "Caregiver story" to share your experience.

 

Comment

Comment

Tips for easing your loved one's transition into a care facility

The decision to move a loved one into a long-term care facility comes in a twisted series of fate. Perhaps, a slip of the mind or a slip on the ice.  It begins with a series of mishaps and becomes a story of transition. A story of change. One that affects the entire family. A story of obstacles, emotion, devotion and confusion.

This is how the choice to move to long-term care usually unfolds. It just happens. For this reason, family decisions tend to be based on reaction, rather than action. And because we are all so different, as sons, as daughters, as extended family, it can be an emotional, chaotic and explosive time. Because some can contribute more than others due to work, family obligation or just plain human nature, it can be a sensitive time.

We think differently about stuff. Literally. Some of us think we should pitch everything. Some of us cherish every worldly possession. Most of us overlook the wishes of the loved one. In the confusion, we overlook their fears, their vulnerabilities and their right to have a voice.

Many may handle the situation very differently, so it is important to communicate with your loved one beforehand. Below are a few tips from our personal experience that have eased the transition working with individuals transitioning into facilities such as skilled nursing and assisted living:

  • Ask questions like: What do you want from home? How do you want your place to look? Do you want visitors, when? Do you like the activities or would you rather relax? Is there anything new you would like to learn (paint, play an instrument, computers, knit, etc.)?

  • When packing, ask which items they feel strongly about. Whether it is a family heirloom or favorite piece of furniture, set it aside to find a place for it in their new home. The space will be limited, so if possible, offer to keep items that won’t fit. It may make it easier for them to leave it behind.

  • When decorating their home, remember to treat it as such. Family photos and memorabilia will surround them with familiar faces. Setting up a television or radio will allow them to watch their favorite shows or listen to music when it gets quiet.

One of the hardest parts during the transition is being away from family, feeling out of the loop, and sometimes feeling forgotten. Remind family of your loved one’s birthday or favorite holidays, and have them send cards and well wishes. The outpouring of love and support will show them they are surrounded by people who care about them and care for them.

Each family member plays a different role in the transition. Some are the great caregivers and some are great company. When it’s company, your loved one may want them to feel at home too. Have a small refrigerator tucked away so they can offer you food or drink. Have a couch or other furniture ready for visitors. Your loved one may feel good to know that everyone is comfortable, especially if there is a jar of candy on the nightstand.

If your family is faced with transitioning your own loved one into a long-term facility, involve them in the planning, don't take away their voice, listen and always remember that everyone adjusts differently.


*All facilities have different requirements for bringing in personal belongings from an individuals home so make sure to check with the staff at the facility prior to bringing larger items.

Comment