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What Is Comfort Care?

Confused about comfort care and what it entails? Let’s clear things up to give you a better understanding of how it works.

What Does It Mean When Someone Is Put On Comfort Care?

Comfort care relieves symptoms and optimizes comfort when a patient is dying. When patients no longer benefit from curative medical treatment, comfort care can improve the quality of life. This ensures a more positive experience that would otherwise be lacking without it.

Unlike almost any other form of medical care, comfort care does not try to actively cure or treat a disease or illness; only on reducing the impact of disease symptoms when the patient reaches the end of life stage. Additionally, this type of service can be provided at home, in nursing homes, or at a hospital.

Who Receives Comfort Care?

Patients who are admitted to the hospital multiple times during treatment are usually more likely to receive comfort care. Once it is clear that additional treatment is unlikely to have a beneficial impact, it can be provided if the patient wishes.

Comfort and palliative care are the same thing and are suitable for patients who wish to focus on quality rather than quantity in the last few days of their lives. In some cases, shifting to comfort care can extend the patient’s lifespan, while aggressive treatment may serve to shorten it.

Moreover, comfort care is typical among patients with cancer, dementia, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, or Alzheimer’s, among others. In addition, it can help reduce symptoms like shortness of breath and breathing trouble, nausea, vomiting, and constipation.

Patients can receive medicine and various forms of treatment to solve these problems, as well as pain, insomnia, or anxiety. Treatments are designed to favor comforts rather than cures. A good example of comfort care treatments is pain relief management.

Comfort of Care

The main purpose of end-of-life care is to ensure the physical and emotional well-being of the patient. Whether in a nursing home, hospital bed, or home residence, it works to reduce discomfort and suffering rather than improve health.

Medications are provided by the overseeing physician to keep the patient as comfortable as possible. The spiritual needs of ill patients are also met to ensure that all needs and services related to terminal care are available.

The NIA (National Institute on Aging) believes that comfort care is an essential part of terminal illness care. As such, there needs to be more focus on training all doctors to provide hospice care. What’s more, physicians need to be capable of providing spiritual and emotional support to dying patients and their family members.

Hospice often comes with physiological concerns, so it’s important for the family to have someone to talk to about what they are feeling. With more attention on hospice training and all that it entails, we can better support those who need it.

This would also allow the patient and their family to have a clearer understanding of what to expect from hospice. It’s not uncommon for loved ones to oppose taking the patient off of aggressive treatment for a symptom and moving to something without the goal of making them better. Medical professionals need to be able to educate everyone involved so that the transition to hospice is easier.

Hospice Care

Hospice and Palliative care are one and the same. Moreover, the care and comfort of both the patients and their families benefit from hospice. This includes support for anyone providing care services, not just the quality of life of the patient.

End-of-life care often involves many caregivers, from those providing emotional support to physical care, such as the doctor and their team. In addition to pain control and comfort, the hospice team can include a social worker, music therapy, chaplain, and other members.

How Long Can Comfort Care Be Provided?

In most cases, the patient must be given a prognosis that they have six months or less to live, according to the NHPCO (National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization). At this juncture, comfort care is typically provided until death.

It’s important to speak with one of our specialists if you need more information. You can also navigate our services menu to help you better understand hospice. Transitioning to comfort care is often much easier for everyone involved when you know what to expect.

Hospice Care at Home

Many families are understandably concerned about someone else looking after a loved one in their home. There is a lot of confusion surrounding home hospice care and all that it entails. We’d like to shed some light on this topic to give you a better understanding of how hospice care works and what you can expect.

What to Expect When Starting Hospice at Home

Hospice care at home consists of 24-hour medical care for the terminally ill. As such, you should expect there to be a trained medical professional on-site at all times. If there are family caregivers involved, hospice can provide respite care to assist through this emotional and spiritual time.

What Does Hospice Do at Home?

Home hospice care brings the medical attention to your or your loved one rather than the opposite. Those suffering from a serious illness or terminal illness require end-of-life care at home. Home hospice care is designed to make the end-of-life transition easier for your loved one.

As such, a hospice team provides health care 24 hours a day in the home of the patient with a terminal illness. The goal is to ensure the quality of life in the final days of the terminally ill. Since hospice care is typically reserved for patients with six months or less to live, special considerations are given.

This involves bringing in a team of trained medical professionals to provide medical care around the clock. The life expectancy of the patient will affect the services provided.

How Do I Prepare My Home for Hospice Care?

white wooden dresser with mirror

When getting a home ready for hospice, families who are prepared help make the process less challenging for themselves. What’s more, they also tend to make the process less stressful for their loved one who is receiving hospice care.

Moreover, research shows that homes that don’t get prepared for hospice care have a greater risk of anxiety, depression, and grief for both the loved ones and the hospice caregivers.

Speak with the Hospice Team

Since it is so important to be prepared, it’s also worth noting that you should take the time to consult with the hospice care provider, as well as the care team. In preparing your home for hospice, it’s a good idea to start by making a to-do list. Have family members chip in and help with preparing the home.

When you are ready to proceed with hospice care, the hospice provider and the members of the hospice medical team will probably ask you for an overview concerning the house and what its environment is like.

This allows the hospice health team to get a better understanding of what to expect so that they can adequately prepare themselves for it. In doing so, they can be sure to provide the best care for your loved one during their stay.

Preparing a home for hospice and palliative care typically comes down to two areas: preparation for the caregiver and comfort of the patient.

Preparation for the Caregiver

Even though hospice services are being given in the home, it is vital for you to consider whether the environment of the home is conducive for caregivers to assist your loved one. Obviously, you don’t need to worry about going through the trouble of converting the home into a hospital room.

It just needs to be set up in a way that makes it easy for caregivers to do what they need to do while also being safe for the patient. Consider the following tips when preparing a home for hospice.

Make Sure the Home Is Accessible to All

One of the best ways to look at the home environment is as if it is a workspace. Again, you don’t need to worry about doing a complete makeover or retrofitting of the home. Instead, you want it to be ideal for hospice care, just as you find in a hospital or long-term care facility.

This means the convenient layout of furniture and items. Living areas need to be safe and easy for everyone involved to navigate. As such, the home should have significant space to move around. After all, you want your loved one to be able to walk around their home safely.

Remove Potential Hazards

Oftentimes, the patient needs assistance with walking. Therefore, you should make sure that the home is free of anything that has the potential to be a hazard. This includes areas like walkways doorways. If at all possible, consider installing safety bars to help prevent falls.

The bathroom, in particular, should be given special consideration to ensure that there are no slip-and-fall hazards. If your loved one has trouble getting around on their own, you should do all that you can to provide them with a safe living environment.

In addition to a safe environment, it’s important to consider any medical equipment that is likely to be brought into the home. This is why you should speak with the hospice team well beforehand to ensure that you know what’s coming.

Once you have an understanding of this, you can accommodate and make changes to the home accordingly. Do all that you can to rid each usable room of obstructions to ensure a safe environment for the hospice team and the patient.

With Hospice, You Are in Control

With most hospice care, you are the one in control. Typically speaking, your hospice team is comprised of:

  • Bereavement manager
  • Social worker
  • Hospice aide
  • Volunteer
  • Physician
  • Chaplain
  • Nurse

Everyone assigned to your hospice care arrives and adheres to a schedule that you have picked out. It’s important to keep in mind that they are there to care for your loved one, not to take over the home. As such, they will often turn to you for guidance and direction.

Hospice Gets Easier

Additionally, they will have answers to your questions and provide equal guidance for you. Hospice teams are confident about their abilities and gentle with the patient. With every hospice visit, you will find that things tend to get easier.

What’s more, you and your loved one will find yourselves looking forward to when the hospice team arrives. Hospice care is often a spiritual and emotional journey. A such, you need assistance to help you get through this difficult and generally unique time in your life – whether you are the one receiving hospice care or a family member.

Caring for an Elderly Parent

Watching your parents age can bring up a whole host of different emotions. It’s difficult to go from being cared for to being the caregiver, and it’s a role reversal that most of us will face at one time or another. Being a caregiver means different things to different people. It doesn’t matter if your elderly parents are aging in place, living in your home, an assisted living facility, or a nursing home. There will be things you’ll have to deal with that are outside of what you have done in the past. But how do you go about caring for an elderly parent? How do you turn the vague feeling of “My parents need help” into an actionable plan? Try not to be overwhelmed. Take things a step at a time and use the resources available to help you along.

Who is responsible for taking care of aging parents?

For some of us, the answer to this question is simple. It’s the responsibility of the adult children, right? Not necessarily. Relationships are complicated, and sometimes making the decision to become a caregiver can be very difficult. From a legal standpoint, whether or not adult children are responsible for their parents’ caregiving varies from state to state. 27 states have what are called Filial Responsibility Laws that require family members to take at least minimal responsibility for aging parents. In other states, children are under no legal requirement to provide senior care. But in general, most of us want to make sure our loved ones are cared for in some fashion.

How do you take care of elderly parents?

Caregiving comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes. It doesn’t mean that you have to allow your parents to move in with you and your family, although you may absolutely choose to do so. Caregiving simply means making sure the long-term care needs of your loved one are met. Seniors need support in many different ways. Some have health issues that need to be addressed. Some need help finding programs and services that can keep them in their own homes as long as possible. Others may require in-home care or even 24-hour supervision. How you choose to care for your aging parents is a deeply personal decision. What is right for one person may not be feasible for another.

Consider Their Needs

The best way to start caring for aging parents is to take a step back and see what they need help with. Consider what they do on a daily basis. Can they prepare their meals safely? How is their mobility? Do they have a good social support network? Do they have any health care issues that require assistance? Can they take care of their personal hygiene? Make sure to engage them in the conversation about how they feel about living on their own. Pay attention to how their home looks when you visit. You may discover that for the time being, your parents can take care of themselves and stay at home with some added safety precautions and additional care from you or someone else in the family. You can also tap into programs and services that provide some type of home care such as cleaning services or Meals-on-Wheels.

When it’s Time for the Next Step

However, you may find that your parents aren’t able to safely live on their own. If you and your aging parents agree that it’s time to find some extra support, take stock of what you are able and willing to provide. Your first instinct might be to bring them into your home, but caring for elderly parents takes time and commitment. You may find that you can’t provide your seniors with the help and support they need to be safe and healthy. In that case, finding another solution, such as an assisted living facility or a nursing home, may be the only option that will work for all involved.

How do you care for elderly parents at home?

A Teenage Girl with Mother and Grandmother at HomeCaregiving for aging loved ones in your home is a big decision that should be discussed openly and honestly with all involved. Once you have everyone on board, you can get down to the business of actually caregiving. Make sure you know what needs you have to meet to keep your Mom or Dad healthy and safe. Keep a notebook handy to jot down notes of things that you notice during the first few weeks you’re caring for them at home. Create a list of caregiving tasks that need to be completed on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. Level of home care may change based on time of day, or on weekends. Decide how much you are able to handle on your own, and find help if you need it.

Taking care of a parent is often made easier by enlisting other family members for assistance, but there are also respite programs, cleaning services and more that can help out when time is a problem. If you work outside the home, try looking into adult daycare services that can watch your parent while at the office. Living with an aging parent has its own set of challenges, so it’s important not to get overwhelmed. Don’t be afraid to step back and reassess the situation if need be.

Is there government assistance for caring for elderly parents?

Caregivers may not be aware that there are many government programs available that can help if you are charged with taking care of an aging parent. You probably know that Medicare is available to cover the health care of seniors. Medicare Part A covers hospital care and is usually provided for free. Medicare Part B is additional health coverage and Part D covers prescriptions. Caregivers that discover they can’t meet the needs of their aging parents can get their seniors approved for Medicaid to help pay for a long-term care facility. Another option Medicaid provides is paying for in-home caregivers, and the person who provides that care can often be a family member, or even a spouse. Some states also offer financial assistance to caregivers of aging seniors.

The Administration of Aging has agencies located in each state to help families navigate health insurance questions, legal assistance and help with long-term care if that is something your senior needs. They are a great source of information and can point caregivers in the right direction to help resolve many of the challenges put forth when caregiving.

How do you deal with the stress of caring for an elderly parent?

Caring for aging parents can be a very rewarding experience, but it is also one of the most stressful things you may ever do. Oftentimes, a caregiver is so focused on the care they’re giving that they fail to provide care for themselves. This can lead to caregivers becoming overwhelmed and resentful. It can also have a negative effect on your own health, making you incapable of caring for anyone at all! So how do you deal with the stress?

For one thing, it’s extremely important for you to check in with yourself on a daily basis. Be sure you get enough sleep, exercise and downtime. Lean on family members to help with certain tasks. Make time for activities that you enjoyed prior to taking on your caregiving duties. There are caregiver support groups available in-person or online to help you navigate the new emotions and challenges that come with caregiving. Most important, try to remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. At the end of the day, you will know that you did the best you could to support your loved one as they take on their senior years.

If you’re looking for senior care and senior living options in Minnesota, our staff at Mary T will be happy to help. Contact us when you’re ready.

Fall Facts: The Importance of Fall Protection for Seniors

Did you know that almost 3 million older adults suffer fall-related injuries every year? According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention fall facts, nearly 1 million of those falls results in hospitalization, while over 25,000 are fatal.

Other fall facts tell us that physical harm isn’t the only thing that comes from falling. There are high monetary costs, as well. For example, in 2015, $50 billion went toward fall injuries, with Medicaid and Medicare covering 75% of that amount.

Fast-forward to today, and we see the cost of falls continuing to rise. As a matter of public health and safety, and due to the rising statistics related to falls, seniors need more protection than ever. If you are an older adult or you have a loved one who is elderly, this guide will help you reduce fall risk, so you can prevent injuries.

Fall Facts: How common are falls in the elderly?

Studies show that falls are quite common among the older adult community. In fact, every one in four adults aged 65 and older experience a fall each year. What’s more, seniors are treated in emergency departments every 11 seconds as a result of falls.

Falls are responsible for fatal injuries in older Americans every 19 minutes, making the risk of falling potentially deadly. With falls being so common among older adults, the need for prevention is an absolute must.

How many falls happen at home?

For every 10 falls that occur, six of them happen at home, meaning a third of older adults living at home will fall at least once a year. This number increases among elderly adults living in nursing homes, which is nearly half.

Even more compelling is the fact that once a person has a fall, they are more likely to do it again. As the leading cause of accidental death in the United States, there is a serious need for fall prevention and improved safety for the elderly.

What is the most common cause of falls in the elderly?

There are many reasons why falls occur among elderly adults. The leading cause is aging and the conditions that accompany it, such as poor eyesight and hearing. Additional common causes include illnesses or anything that affects a person’s physical condition.

Moreover, the layout of an older adult’s home and how they have it set up can also play a role in falls. Inefficient lighting can interfere with balance or cause accidental tripping and falling.

Even medication affects the number of falls among elderly adults. Some drugs, both prescription and over-the-counter, can cause drowsiness, thus increasing the likelihood of falls each year in adults. Studies have also revealed that older people taking four or more medications is more likely to suffer a fall.

Why is falling so dangerous for the elderly?

Due to the fragility of older adults’ bones, a fall could result in a hip fracture or other breakage. If an elderly person suffers broken bones in the right places, it could prevent them from moving to get help. As we age, our health deteriorates and our bones become fragile. This is why many older adults fear falling.

What percentage of falls result in fracture?

Fortunately, the majority of fall are non fatal. What’s more, they don’t even result in injury. That said, 31% of all falls do result in injury that requires medical care. Of all fall injuries, most necessitate restricted activity for at least one day.

These types of falls are typically injuries affecting minor tissue. However, between 10 and 15% of falls result in fracture. As mentioned, falls are the leading cause of accidental death. While severe trauma certainly comes into play, we can’t rule out other factors, like a hip injury.

If a senior breaks a hip, for example, it could prevent them from seeking help and getting the medical care they need. As such, broken bones caused by falling sometimes contributes to fatal injuries.

How can we prevent falls?

One of the best things older people can do is fall-proof their homes. Because such a large percentage of falls occur in the home each year, reducing the risk of falls can go a long way in preventing injury among older people.

Adding handrails throughout the house will help reduce the risk of falls among older adults. Extra caution must be taken on and around stairs. If you have trouble with mobility, don’t try carrying things while walking up and down steps. People with balance issues should use their hands to hold tightly to the handrails at all times.

Reduce Falls With Lighting

Since prevention starts at home, be sure to improve your lighting conditions. In doing so, you will be able to better see where you’re going and what kind of obstacles are in your way. Again, always make use of handrails any time they are available.

You may want to consider having handrails installed throughout your home, such as in hallways and in the bathroom. It’s also a good idea to do away with throw rugs if you currently have any in your house. These put you at risk of falling and are one of the many factors that contribute to falls at home each year.

Work to eliminate any tripping hazards throughout your residence. These include things like electrical cords and clothing. You may have to make some changes to your decor, but it will go a long way in preventing falls and unnecessary visits to your doctor.

Invest in an Emergency Response System

Depending on your age and health, you may need a medical emergency response system, such as those that are worn around the neck. If you have an accidental fall, you can simply press a button on your emergency response necklace to send a call to the national 911 hotline.

Don’t risk suffering from falls. Practice routine prevention in your daily activities to ensure your health and safety. You should also speak with your doctor and request any available resources to improve the prevention of falls. If the risk of falling is still high, there are plenty of senior living and in-home care options that can help you feel more secure than living alone.

What Are the Four Levels of Hospice Care?

Level 1: Routine Home Care

Routine home care is the basic level of hospice care under the hospice benefit. It is covered for homebound people with Medicare Part A and B, and who are under the medical care of a doctor who has established this service.

Level 2: Continuous Home Care

Continuous home care serves to get the patient care during times when their symptoms are peaking. This is done to make sure that the health of a person is improved as best as it can. Cancer patients with degrading health often require continuous hospice home care support.

Level 3: General Inpatient Care

People who have acute symptoms that cannot be reasonably treated at home may get better care at a medical facility. People related to poor health may choose the safety of a hospital over their home.

Level 4: Respite Care

Designed to give a family member relief between caring for a loved one. This care gives the family time to collect themselves and take care of personal matters. In some cases, a related member of the family might stay with the dying person and require a break on occasion.