Extreme Cold Poses Serious Health Risks to Elderly

Extreme Cold Health RisksFrigid Arctic Blasts and record-setting lows have been seizing many parts of the nation this winter, leaving millions of people vulnerable to winter’s harsh elements.

People of all ages are advised to exercise extreme caution in such dangerous conditions, but the elderly are especially susceptible to serious, and in some cases life-threatening, health risks when exposed to the extreme cold.

Dianna Costa, a registered nurse with Home Helpers of Drexel Hill, PA, told CBS Philly it can take only a second for an elderly loved one to make his or her way outside, and then it might be too late.

“They don’t have the shivering response that we have sometimes, and they don’t react to the cold as we do,” Costa said.

“A lot of times it’s not neglect on the part of the people who they live with, it’s more just the elderly and [those with] Alzheimer’s do not remember that they’re not supposed to go outside.”

Tips to Stay Safe and Warm in Frigid Temps

  • Exposure to negative digits can put you at risk for frostbite within minutes, so stay indoors as much as possible. If you have an elderly neighbor or loved one, check on them often.
  • If you have to go outside, mittens are better than gloves because of the body heat created by your fingers. Be sure to wear lots of dry clothing, and if you get wet, get inside as quickly as possible.
  • If possible, keep your car in a garage, and keep your gas tank at least a quarter full at all times. Check your car battery regularly. Older batteries often can’t be jump-started if they’ve been exposed to negative digits for an extended period of time.
  • Be extra vigilant when using supplemental heating devices (e.g., space heaters, stoves, ovens, candles, etc.). These can pose fire hazards if not used properly.
  • Protect your pipes by letting the water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Even a trickle of running water can help prevent your pipes from freezing.

From all of us here at Home Helpers, stay safe and warm this winter!

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6 Ways to Love Your Heart this Valentine’s Day!


Heart Health

Valentine’s Day will be here before you know it, but instead of chocolates and candies, show your heart some love by committing to making healthier choices starting today!

Why is heart health so important?

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • Someone has a heart attack every 34 seconds.
  • Each minute, someone in the U.S. dies from a heart disease-related event.
  • 19% of people age 45+, and 30% of people 65+ have circulatory disease.

Hard-working heart

  • The heart muscle beats about 100,000 times per day.
  • A normal adult heart circulates over 1 gallon of oxygenated blood throughout the body every minute.
  • On average, a person’s heart beats 60-100 times per minute.

If a person’s heart rate is too fast or too slow, or blood is pumped with too much force (hypertension) or not enough force (hypotension), a person may experience heart-related problems.

Likewise, anything that reduces blood flow (e.g., plaque buildup in the arteries) is a potential problem as a person’s body may not get the oxygenated blood it needs to function.

High blood pressure is often referred to as the “silent killer” because one may not show any symptoms until it’s too late. Schedule a physical exam with your doctor to access any unseen risk factors.

Preventative measures

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, research shows lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels can reduce the risk of developing a heart condition, having a heart attack, needing bypass surgery and dying from heart disease. While it may sound like a broken record, the most effective preventative measures to reduce your risk of circulatory diseases are:

  • Exercise
  • Eat healthy
  • Quit smoking
  • Cut back on alcohol
  • Reduce stress
  • Sleep well

To determine how much physical activity you need, check out the CDC’s website. For menu planners and healthy eating guidelines visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov.

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6 Ways to Maintain an Active Lifestyle this Winter


Winter Activities

As Old Man Winter settles in with his long nights and cold days, it’s common for people to experience the “winter blahs.”

Boredom is often a complaint, especially from older people and those facing health challenges, but there are many ways to maintain an active lifestyle through the cold winter months! These 6 tips will keep you engaged and energized all winter long!

  • Adapt – The older we get, the more we realize the only constant is change. A new season is a great time to reflect on the past and on our hopes and dreams for the future. It’s never too late to pursue a new dream or revisit an old one. Dreams offer hope, and hope brings energy and enthusiasm to make the most of each new day.
  • Companionship – Often due to disability, divorce and death, many older people are alone. Connecting with others can be quite beneficial, especially for people who are lonely, bored, or isolated. A warm greeting, a friendly face, a hand to hold, an ear to listen, and a heart to understand—there is such value in interacting with others.
  • Talents – From photography and gardening to crafts and scrapbooking, everyone has unique skills and abilities. What are your talents and favorite pastimes? Whether pursuing a lifelong hobby or trying something new, chances are there may be a club or group within your community for people with similar interests to gather, participate in activities, socialize, and encourage one another.
  • Internet – Over the past few years, social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Pintrest, Twitter, FaceTime and Skype have revolutionized the way people communicate. If you don’t consider yourself computer savvy, consider looking into classes offered by local community centers. Learning a new skill is a great way to keep your mind sharp and get the creative juices flowing.
  • Volunteer – Giving back to the community and helping others can be a very rewarding experience. It’s also a great way to say connected, physically active and mentally stimulated. From tutoring students to mentoring small business owners, lending at hand at a local food bank or soup kitchen, to helping at a non-profit or faith-based organization, there are many ways to share your time and talents. Explore community service opportunities though USA.gov.
  • Exercise – What list of ways to be active would be complete without mentioning exercising? Participating in an exercise routine can be a great way to maintain your health and independence. When considering what type of exercise may be best, consider the benefits. For example, yoga can be great for balance and flexibility. Jogging or cycling can be great to build endurance. You don’t have to join a gym or health club to reap the benefits of exercise. Just look for ways to kick your routine up a notch, like walking the shopping mall or grocery store.

Regardless of your age, it’s important to recognize your personal limitations and not overdo it. If you have any questions or concerns about over extending or exerting yourself, speak with a healthcare professional to devise a plan that is best for you.

Whatever you or your loved ones do to keep active, be safe, and of course, have fun. From all of us at Home Helpers, we wish you a happy, healthy and active 2014!

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4 Simple Questions for a Happier Life


New Year, New You

Studies show over 90% of people abandon their New Year’s resolutions and revert to their old ways within the first two months of the year!

This year, rather than setting overly ambitious goals that fizzle fast, take some time to determine what’s really important to you.

Then, make a plan and write it down on your calendar. Goals are much more achievable when they’ve been committed to pen and paper.

Start by asking yourself these four simple questions:

1.What aspects of aging are most important to you and your family?

  • Examples: Being physically active and mobile; keeping your mind sharp; maintaining your independence; remaining in your own home; attending your grandchild’s weddings.
  • Importance: Determining what you value most can help you set long-term health goals and priorities and help you stay motivated.

2. Who are the most important people in your life?

  • Examples: Spouse/significant other, parents, children, friends and neighbors.
  • Importance: Decide which relationships you want to invest more time and energy into, and make plans to spend more time with one another (e.g., date nights, vacations, etc.).

3. What do you want to accomplish in life?

  • Examples: Learn a new language; play a musical instrument; skydive; volunteer your time to causes that are important to you; travel to a special place you’ve dreamed of visiting.
  • Importance: Making time for the things that are important to you gives you a reason to get up in the morning and brings you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment.

4. What are things you’ve put off doing but really want to address?

  • Examples: Organizing and labeling old photos; remodeling a room in your home; purging clutter; getting your personal and healthcare affairs in order (e.g., advance directives, such as Power of Attorney, Living Will).
  • Importance: Maintaining a desirable quality of life and being in control are things that matter most and are often given little consideration until they are at risk. Find tips on organization and planning advance care directives on our website.

Invest the time today to make for a better tomorrow (and many more)! Happy New Year, and Happy New You!

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Happy Holidays from the Home Helpers Family to Yours!


Happy Holidays from Home Helpers

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Music Sparks Memories in Alzheimer’s, Dementia Patients


Music Sparks Memories in Alzheimer's, Dementia Patients

This blog courtesy of Debra Kostiw, Alzheimer’s expert and owner of Home Helpers & Direct Link of Rochester, NY

How does music make you feel? Think about some of your favorite songs. What are some special times that you associate with certain songs?

Music can shape our emotions and provoke our memories because it is embedded deep in our brains.

Because music is so deeply ingrained, sometimes singing can be easier than talking for a person with dementia.

Studies show that music can help persons with dementia in many cognitive areas and help alleviate agitation and behavioral issues. Listening to music is a terrific way to socialize and offers people with Alzheimer’s disease opportunities to express their emotions. It can help them to reminisce about the past and draw out those retained memories.

Consider lullabies or “our song” that was shared with a loved one. Carols can bring back memories of past holidays and traditions. Hymns or religious songs may play an important role to someone with dementia. Music can help them to access and recall those past memories.

When selecting music for an individual, choose music that was popular when they were in their late teens or early 20’s – this is typically the time frame they are currently living in.

Make sure if they wear hearing aids that they are in and working properly. Monitor the person closely to be sure that the music is not creating too much stimulation, or try using headphones to alleviate background noise. Remember that music can evoke good and bad memories.

Physical Advantages of Listening to Music

  • Lower blood pressure
  • Lower respirations
  • Decreased pain levels
  • Positively affect gait
  • Increase range of motion

Repetitive movements in people with dementia now become purposeful when we add the beat of the music. Did you know that dancing to music is the only thing that stimulates every part of the brain?

Many individuals in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease will become completely nonverbal, but can still sing songs from the past such as Happy Birthday, Amazing Grace, The Star Spangled Banner or Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree and so on.

Music is unique to each person and is a part of our personal history and culture. It is a means of self-expression. Music helps define who we are. With music we are now able to communicate and connect on common ground without using words.

Posted in Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia care, Health Wellness | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

No-Shave November Raises Awareness for Men’s Health Issues


No-Shave November to Raise Cancer Awareness

If you’ve noticed that the men in your life are looking a bit scruffier these days, commend them!

That new mangy look isn’t due to laziness – it’s part of a national campaign to raise awareness for men’s health, specifically testicular and prostate cancers.

No-Shave November was established in 2009 with less than 50 participants.

Today, thousands of men and women around the world, including Home Helpers very own Mark Skinner, Manager of Digital Marketing, are putting down their razors for the entire month to raise awareness and donations for this great cause.

The idea is to embrace the natural growth of your hair, which many cancer patients lose during treatment, and donate the money you usually spend on shaving supplies to help educate people about cancer prevention, aid those fighting the battle and save lives.

Talk to Your Doctor & Educate Yourself

The signs and symptoms of testicular cancer include:

  • A lump or enlargement in either testicle
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum
  • A dull ache in the abdomen or groin
  • A sudden collection of fluid in the scrotum
  • Pain or discomfort in a testicle or the scrotum
  • Enlargement or tenderness of the breasts

Prostate cancer may not cause signs or symptoms in its early stages, so it’s important to talk with your doctor about the best options for screening. Prostate cancer that is more advanced may cause signs and symptoms such as:

  • Trouble urinating
  • Blood in the urine or semen
  • General pain in the lower back, hips or thighs
  • Discomfort in the pelvic area
  • Bone pain

Although the month is almost over, it is never too late to support this great cause by spreading the word and making a donation to the American Cancer Society!

Together, we can make a difference!

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Summer Gig Inspires College Student to Switch Majors


Sara Herrmann Caregiver of the Quarter

It’s inevitable that our experiences and relationships help to shape who we are. But it’s rare that an encounter has such a profound effect on our lives that we change course – or college majors.

But that’s exactly what happened when Sara Herrmann took a part-time summer gig as a Home Helpers caregiver with Mike St. Clair’s Home Helpers & Direct Link office in Scottsburg, IN.

As a full-time college student, Sara began working for Home Helpers two summers ago. While working part-time, she took on a 21-year-old client with Cerebral Palsy and a developmental disability.

Being the same age, Sara developed a close relationship with the client not only as his caregiver, but as a true friend that he had wanted and needed in his life.

They took long walks around the neighborhood and started going to the local library for story times. On special story days, like “Pirate Day,” Sara would even help him dress the part.

She also cared for an older client with a developmental disability and a form of autism.

He would spend hours talking to Sara about the Cincinnati Bengals, Cincinnati Reds and Paul Brown Stadium, so she asked him if he’d like to go to a game some time.

The client was thrilled at the idea, so Sara coordinated with his mother to determine the best time to go and purchased the tickets. When she arrived to pick him up, he was sitting on his front porch, dressed completely in Reds gear from head to toe!

While at the game, it began to rain. But Sara was not about to let it ruin their outing. They bought ponchos, and continued to cheer on the Reds!

Sara is back at college now, but her experience as a Home Helpers caregiver changed her life forever. She recently switched her major to nursing, and she plans to become a nurse practitioner specializing in geriatrics.

Sara still spends her breaks, days off and weekends caring for clients when needed and is always happy to fill in.

She is an amazing role model who shows true compassion and concern for the well-being of her clients while making their lives happier and healthier, one day at a time.

We are honored to have her as part of the Home Helpers family, and to recognize her as the Home Helpers Caregiver of the 3rd Quarter 2013!

Our caregivers are the heart and soul of our business, and their compassion and dedication are truly inspiring to us all!

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Helping Veterans Get Health Care They Need, Deserve


Veterans Day Aid and Attendance Benefit

Today, we honor the millions of veterans, past and present, who have dedicated their lives to serving our country and protecting others.

But too often, these men and women go without the health care they need because of a lack of information or assistance.

What many veterans and their spouses don’t realize is they may be eligible for up to $24,648 per year of tax-free money to help pay for home care services.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Pension with Aid and Attendance Benefit helps to cover medical expenses, including home care services, such as bathing, dressing, feeding and personal hygiene.

In addition to a lack of awareness, many potentially eligible candidates are deterred by the complexity of the application process. Mark Thommarson, owner of Home Helpers & Direct Link of Corsicana, Tex., experienced this when trying to obtain the benefit for his own parents.

“The mountain of paperwork for the application process was overwhelming,” Thommarson said. “Although the local VA office tried to be helpful, the paperwork seemed complicated, and I understood the process could take 18 months to two years for approval. So at that point, I gave up and continued to pay for their care out of my own pocket.”

Then two years ago, Home Helpers locations nationwide aligned with St. Louis-based Veterans Care Coordination (VCC), an organization dedicated to helping veterans apply for and obtain the benefit.

Despite his initial skepticism, Thommarson gave the process another try with VCC’s assistance.

“I began the application process for Mom and Dad in April 2013. On June 1, we received our authorization for the start of their services through VCC, and in August, we received the award of benefit from the VA,” Thommarson said. “VCC made the process easy and understandable, and they were there to answer my questions every step of the way. The $2,000 worth of care that was previously being paid for by me and my siblings is now being paid for by the VA.”

Today, Thommarson is currently providing home care for eight clients, including his own parents, who qualify for the benefit, and another seven who are pending approval.

To learn more about the benefit and eligibility requirements:

Today, and every day, take a moment to thank our nation’s veterans and their loved ones. They truly are America’s heroes!

Posted in Home Care, Senior Care, Veterans Aid and Attendance Benefit | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Caregiver Inspires Clients to Live Happier, Healthier Lives


home caregiver Michele Romano

Emanuel James “Jim” Rohn, an American entrepreneur, author and motivational speaker, once said, “One person caring about another represents life’s greatest value.”

All too often, we get so caught up in our endless “to do” lists, that we lose sight of what matters the most – the love and appreciation of our friends and family.

Granted, crossing off those “to do’s” definitely gives us a sense of satisfaction, but when we really think about it, true happiness comes when we’re spending quality time with those we hold dear.

Michele Romano, a caregiver with Lynn Gardini’s Home Helpers & Direct Link office, recognizes this, and we take great pride in honoring her as the Home Helpers Caregiver of the 2nd Quarter 2013!

“Michele pays attention to what her clients are saying,” said Lynn. “One client told her how much she used to love going to lunch with her friends. Michele encouraged her to continue doing so. The client became much happier and grateful to Michele for these outings.”

Michele’s loyalty to her clients shines through even once they’re no longer a client.

“She takes time to pay them a visit when possible to let them know she still cares about them. That’s the kind of caregiver everyone deserves,” said Lynn.

Michele is certainly well-deserving of this honor, and we thank her for all her contributions to Home Helpers. We would also like to take this opportunity to recognize some other nominees for the Caregiver of the 2nd Quarter 2013, including:

Congratulations to all the nominees for the Caregiver of the 2nd Quarter 2013 – their compassion and dedication are truly inspiring to the entire Home Helpers family.

Posted in Family Caregiving, Health Wellness, Home Care | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment