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Caring for a Loved One — June 2017

Caring for a Loved One — June 2017


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And Caring for Your Owns Needs Too

Tending to the physical and medical needs of a sick or aging loved one can be a rewarding, yet challenging, responsibility. With life expectancy well beyond 70 years, it is common to be caring for parents (or a spouse) and raising children at the same time.

How can you establish a healthy balance between caregiving and managing your work and other commitments? You can start by doing some early planning, which includes discussing the wishes of the sick or aging person and getting the “business” of caregiving in order. Having information organized and people authorized to make decisions makes aspects of caregiving go more smoothly.

Early Planning and More

Thinking about a time when a loved one will be unable to make decisions can be hard; it’s even harder to predict what kinds of decisions may need to be made. Preparing for the future is important for everyone but especially for someone with a disabling condition. Early planning allows the person to communicate what they want so you can act on their behalf. Be sure to discuss preferences about in-home care, adult day care, assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Coordinating medical care for someone is a big task so organizing all important medical information in one place goes a long way when you are asked to provide it to doctor’s offices. You will need to have this information at your fingertips: birthdate and social security number; names, numbers and addresses of doctors, dentist and pharmacy; health insurance details (make copies of cards, front and back); a complete health history, including major illnesses/conditions/surgeries, and dates/results of recent medical testing; and a list of medications (both prescription and over-the-counter), vitamins, herbal remedies and nutritional supplements (include dosage and instructions for when and how each are taken). Use the links below for forms to help assemble all the details.

Gathering Important Information

This form helps you assemble important information about the person under your care. Use this form to keep a complete medication list up-to-date.

Legal Tools and Documents

An important part of taking care of someone with a temporary or permanent disability is making sure that someone (perhaps you, the caregiver) has been appointed to manage the person’s personal business and make healthcare decisions (not always the same person). If your loved one hasn’t already written a will, appointed a power of attorney for finances, and prepared advance directives, you may need to facilitate this.

Advance directives are legal documents that tell healthcare providers what medical treatments are wanted and which are not. The most common forms of advance directives are:

  • Healthcare proxy — a form that allows a person to name someone else (a healthcare agent) to make healthcare decisions on their behalf.
  • Living will — a written descriptions of the medical treatments a person would or would not want in the future.

People may also include a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order in their advance directives to address end-of-life situations. A DNR tells healthcare providers not to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) if a person stops breathing or their heart stops.

Role Reversal

Caring for a parent can seem like an odd turn of events. Even though you may provide emotional, financial and physical care for a parent, it is not the same as raising them. For best results, treat them as individuals and be sensitive to the fact that it is difficult to accept losses, including the ability to care for oneself and the death of old friends.

Another kind of role reversal occurs when a man becomes a caregiver for his female partner. Psychologist and VP at the American Cancer Society, Kevin Stein says that males and females take very different approaches to caregiving, that “men tend to be focused on more pragmatic, less emotional and less psychological issues.” Women tend to be the primary caregivers so when roles are reversed, men sometimes discover that their efforts to help go unappreciated. Role reversals can be rocky at first. It helps to listen carefully to what your loved one needs.

Taking Care of the Caregiver

According to the Administration on Aging, about two-thirds of family caregivers also work outside the home. You are not alone if you care for a loved one and feel overwhelmed by the challenges of juggling your home and work responsibilities with those of caregiving. Stress associated with caregiving can take a toll on your health, relationships and work, and can lead to burnout. You may not think you can add another thing to your list (like taking care of yourself), but getting burned out makes it tough to take care of anyone. Here are some tips for ways to establish a healthy balance:

  • Communicate your needs and ask other family members to pitch in with driving to appointments, bill paying, grocery shopping, errand running, etc.
  • Don’t expect perfection. You can’t do it all so be willing to accept “good enough.”
  • Establish boundaries. Be clear with the person you are caring for and other family members what you will not be able to do. Print out the Caregiver’s Bill of Rights and refer to it often.
  • Research resources. There may be adult day care, meal delivery, financial support, respite care (a break from care-giving) or other services available through your local council on aging or religious/community organizations.
  • Give yourself a break so you can recharge. Find a way to pamper yourself, call a friend who makes you laugh, allow time for activities you enjoy, etc.
  • Stay on top of your own health by keeping up with preventive care, getting exercise and sleep, eating healthy foods, etc.
  • Join a support group, either in person or online, to share your concerns. You’ll get support and help someone else too.
  • Talk with your employer about your caregiving situation. Find out if any accommodations can be made such as tele-commuting, modifying hours, job-sharing, etc.

Caring for yourself when you are caregiving may sound like a luxury but it’s really a necessity to manage your stress level and ensure balance. For more information about caring for the caregiver, see our newsletter.

Let Us Help

Your KnovaSolutions clinician can help you as you provide care. Whether it’s with providing information about your loved one’s conditions or helping you find the support services you need. We’ll help in any way possible and offer an empathetic ear too! Call us at 800/355-0885, Monday through Friday, 8 am-5 pm, Mountain Time.

Click here to view/download the full newsletter. We encourage you to leave a comment or question below and a KnovaSolutions nurse or pharmacist will reply.

The information contained in this newsletter is for general, educational purposes. It should not be considered a replacement for consultation with your healthcare provider.  If you have concerns about your health, please contact your healthcare provider.


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The Opioid Epidemic — May 2017

The Opioid Epidemic — May 2017


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Taking Ownership and Being Part of the Solution

You’ve heard the news reports about the dangers of opioid medications such as codeine, morphine, methadone, fentanyl, hydrocodone and oxycodone. While opioids can be an appropriate and effective treatment for pain, the U.S. has the highest rates of opioid use in the world. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, about 80% of the world’s prescribed opioids are used in the U.S. Great risk comes with such widespread use. From 2010 to 2015, more than 500,000 people died from opioid overdoses.

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Shared Healthcare Decision-Making — April 2017

Shared Healthcare Decision-Making — April 2017


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How to Improve Outcomes and Decrease Costs

Numerous studies performed in the last 10 years suggest that patients who actively participate in making healthcare decisions with their doctors report greater satisfaction with their care, better outcomes and lower costs. For example, a study reported in Health Affairs of 33,163 patients at a large healthcare facility in Minnesota showed that better informed patients cost less to treat. In the first year of the study, knowledgeable patients had 8% lower treatment costs, and, in the first half of the following year, 21% lower costs, than less involved patients.

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How Short Are Your Doctor Visits? — March 2017

How Short Are Your Doctor Visits? — March 2017


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Getting the Most Out of Your Appointments

Depending upon which source you read, the average length of time a doctor spends with each patient ranges from 5 minutes to 23 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to discuss your health history, medications, symptoms and concerns — much less talk about complicated information or a new serious condition. So how can you get what you need — and deserve —during each doctor visit? All arrows point first to having a primary care provider (PCP) with whom you develop a trusting relationship.

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Medication Errors at Home  — February 2017

Medication Errors at Home — February 2017


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How to Reduce Risk and Prevent Mistakes

Prescription and over-the-counter medications provide major health improvements for people, but they also pose potential risks. Adverse drug events — harm as a result of exposure to a medication — are associated with hundreds of thousands of emergency room visits and hospitalizations each year.

Home medication errors happen all too often. In a study at the New York University School of Medicine-Bellevue Hospital, it was found that one out of five parents who measured liquid medication for their children gave them twice the directed dose. Also, nearly all the parents measured the dose incorrectly to some degree.

Confusing ear drops and eye drops, chewing non-chewable pills, and splitting pills not designed to be split are other types of errors that happen at home.

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Wasteful Medical Spending — January 2017

Wasteful Medical Spending — January 2017


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Is There Anything You Can Do?

It is widely documented that the U.S. spends more on healthcare per person than any other country, yet much research shows that Americans are not healthier as a result. Wasteful spending accounts for 30 percent of the $3.2 trillion spent on healthcare each year. That’s $9.6 billion of waste per year! While this may seem like a challenge too large, there are ways to do your part to reduce wasteful spending.

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All in a Night’s Sleep — December 2016


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Recognizing and Treating Insomnia

Does it take more than 30 minutes to fall asleep? Do you wake more than 3 times a night? Do you get less than 6 hours of sleep? If you answered yes to these questions, you may suffer from insomnia.

Having trouble sleeping can happen to anyone but it is more common among women, middle-aged or older adults, shift workers, and those with medical conditions.

Insomnia can be acute or chronic. Lasting up to a month, acute insomnia is usually related to a stressful situation, such as an upcoming presentation or the start of a new job. Once the presentation has been given and the new job becomes more familiar, the insomnia often resolves. Chronic insomnia, occurring more than 3 nights a week for at least 3 months, can be caused by:

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Prediabetes Diagnosis is a ‘Gift’ — November 2016


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Taking Measures to Reduce Risk for Diabetes

More than 29 million Americans live with diabetes — a serious condition in which blood glucose (sugar in the blood) builds to dangerously high levels. What’s more, another 86 million live with prediabetes, that is, have strong risk factors for developing type 2 diabetes. The Center for Disease Control states that 90% of people with prediabetes don’t know they have it!

“A diagnosis of prediabetes is a gift and a wake-up call,” says Marilyn Novosel, MPH, RN, CDE, the Certified Diabetes Educator for KnovaSolutions. “Learning that you have risk factors for developing diabetes is an opportunity to do something about it sooner rather than later.” She adds that making lifestyle changes can slow the progress, reduce the possibility of long-term complications, and for some, return blood sugar levels to normal.
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Flu Season Starts Now — October 2016


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Who Should Have Flu and Pneumonia Shots?

Getting the flu can leave you feeling lousy and unable to attend school or work for as long as 2 weeks, and longer if complications develop. Further, having the flu can put you at higher risk for developing pneumonia and other serious conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), getting the flu shot is “the first and best way to protect yourself and your family.”

The more people who get vaccinated, the more people will be protected from the flu. In 2010, the CDC recommended that everyone over the age of 6 months get a flu shot every year unless they have a severe, life-threatening allergy to the flu vaccine or its ingredients. People who should talk with their provider before getting the flu shot include those:
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Proton Pump Inhibitors — September 2016


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Understand the Potential Risk of Long-Term Use

Stomach acids work miracles to digest the foods we eat. But when there is too much acid, and in the wrong place, it can cause heartburn and reflux (when acid moves from the stomach back up the esophagus). It can also contribute to the development of ulcers (holes in the protective lining of the stomach, small intestine or esophagus). These conditions can cause very uncomfortable burning sensations in the chest, stomach, and even, throat. Fortunately, a variety of treatment options — over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription medications and lifestyle changes — can offer relief.

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Does Alcohol Trigger AFib? — August 2016


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Atrial Fibrillation: A Growing Concern

Atrial fibrillation (AFib or AF) is sometimes called the quivering heart. It is the most common type of irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. Fibrillation refers to the heart contracting very fast and irregularly.

To understand AF, it helps to think of the heart as the body’s electrical system. Each time our heart beats, an electrical signal is sent from the top of the heart to the bottom, causing it to contract and pump blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.

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Activity and Fitness Trackers: Studies Show They Get People Moving — July 2016

Activity and Fitness Trackers: Studies Show They Get People Moving — July 2016


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Have you noticed people wearing stylish wrist ware or other devices, and talking about how many steps they’ve taken? Activity and fitness trackers like FitBit, Garmin, Mi Band, Jawbones and pedometers represent a burgeoning business projected to reach $19 billion by 2018. These devices are used to monitor and measure physical activity, heart rate, sleep patterns and more. A review of studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded that use of a pedometer — a device that records steps taken and distance —is associated with significant increases in physical activity and decreases in body mass index and blood pressure.

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Avoiding the Bulge After 50 — June 2016


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How to Maintain a Healthy Weight

As we age, it becomes harder to drop pounds and maintain a healthy weight. That’s because our metabolism slows down, we burn fewer calories and we lose lean muscle mass. It can be discouraging and for some, dangerous. But there are ways to maintain a healthy weight after 50, and it’s never too soon — or too late — to start.

Our metabolism slows as we age due to falling hormone levels. As testosterone levels drop, men tend to add body fat to their abdominal area. As estrogen levels fall, women often see a shifting of weight from their hips and buttocks to their mid-section. Our bodies also begin losing lean muscle mass starting around age 30, which may be a result of less active lifestyles. Being less active usually leads to burning fewer calories, and that often increases weight and fat mass, and decreases muscle mass.

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New CDC Guidelines for Opioid Use — May 2016

New CDC Guidelines for Opioid Use — May 2016


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Safe Use Saves Lives and Reduces Complications

Opioids, or narcotic medications, are powerful pain killers. They can be an appropriate and effective part of managing pain, but the overuse and misuse of these prescription drugs has become a public health crisis. Since 1999, the use of opioids has quadrupled and more than 165,000 people have died from their use. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 40 Americans die from opioid overdoses every day. To improve the safety of opioids, the CDC released new guidelines in March for how these medications should be prescribed.

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Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016

Telehealth: Remote Healthcare — April 2016


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Transforming Modern Medical Care

While healthcare has traditionally been delivered in a doctor’s office, hospital or outpatient clinic, technology continues to transform modern medical care. Telehealth is a broad term to describe remote healthcare services using video-conferencing equipment, mobile devices, internet access, remote monitoring devices and other tools. Telehealth promises to increase the contact between a patient and his or her providers, especially for those who live in rural areas or for whom travel to a medical facility is difficult (or even for busy working parents).

Because it can save travel time and expense for providers and patients, telehealth can improve the chances that people will receive preventive care and better management of chronic conditions. Telehealth can facilitate specialist consultations, whether the provider is across the state or across the world.

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The Shingles Vaccine: Your Risk for Shingles As You Age — March 2016

The Shingles Vaccine: Your Risk for Shingles As You Age — March 2016


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Shingles is a viral infection caused by varicella zoster, the same virus that causes chicken pox. Anyone who has had chicken pox can get shingles since the virus stays inactive in the body’s nerve tissue and can re-emerge later. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that about 1 million Americans get shingles each year, and that half of all shingles cases occur in people 60 years or older.

While anyone with a history of chickenpox can get shingles (even children), it is most common among people over 50 and those with weakened immune systems due to cancer, HIV/AIDS and other conditions. Taking certain medications, such as chemotherapy for cancer, steroids, and those drugs used to prevent rejection of transplanted organs, can increase the risk of developing shingles. Asthma is under study as a potential risk factor for developing shingles.

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Screening for Cancer. Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening — February 2016

Screening for Cancer. Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening — February 2016


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Breast and Colorectal Cancer Screening

The American Cancer Society (ACS) estimates there will be nearly 1.7 million new cancer diagnoses, and nearly 600,000 cancer deaths, in 2016. While there are several risk factors for cancer you can’t control (gender, race, age, family history), there are lifestyle actions that have been associated with the prevention of cancer. Experts recommend living a healthy lifestyle, including not smoking, eating a well-balanced diet (more vegetables, fruits and whole grains/less processed food and red meat), protecting against sunburn, exercising regularly, keeping a healthy work/family balance, and having preventive screening tests that are right for you. Identifying cancer at its earlier stages increases the possibility of successful treatment.

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Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs — January 2016

Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs — January 2016


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Know Your Out-of-Pocket Costs
With Your High-Deductible Health Plan.

A growing number of people are covered by high-deductible health plans (HDHPs). As the name implies, these plans have higher deductibles than traditional insurance plans in exchange for lower monthly premiums. HDHPs are designed to make health insurance more affordable and to provide for coverage for catastrophic illness. The deductible amount specified by the insurance plan is the amount that the insured person must pay out-of-pocket until eligible healthcare expenses are covered in a given year.

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The Problem With Antibiotics — December 2015

The Problem With Antibiotics — December 2015


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Too Much of a Good Thing Puts Us at Risk

When penicillin, the first antibiotic, was introduced in the 1940s, it began an important era of treating bacterial infections, preventing the spread of illness and reducing serious complications. Penicillin and the many other antibiotics that have been developed since have played a very important public health role throughout the world. They have successfully treated all kinds of infections caused by bacteria, such as urinary tract infections, strep throat, pneumonia, some types of ear infections, scarlet fever, Lyme disease, and skin infections.
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Special Edition: All About Health Scores — November 2015

Special Edition: All About Health Scores — November 2015


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Your KnovaSolutions Health Score

What it is and how you can use it.

We’re all defined by numbers. Social Security number, age, height, weight, bank account, credit score. As a KnovaSolutions member, you also have a health score.

What’s that good for? Well, just as you can clean up your credit score to improve your finances, you can also work on the things that go into your health score and blaze a trail to better health.

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Living With Chronic Pain: A Focus on Inflammatory and Compressive Pain — November 2015

Living With Chronic Pain: A Focus on Inflammatory and Compressive Pain — November 2015


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Chronic Pain Series

This is the last in a three-part series on chronic pain. Click here to see the first part, Chronic Pain: An Overview.  Click here for part two, Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined.

 

Millions grapple with chronic pain every day. While everyone’s pain is unique, chronic pain sufferers agree that it can affect your ability to sleep, work, perform routine activities, and enjoy life. Developing a pain management strategy often involves a process of trial and error, starting with understanding the type and source of the pain. This month KnovaSolutions focuses on inflammatory and compressive pain.
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Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined–October 2015

Two Types of Chronic Pain: Neuropathic and Musculoskeletal Examined–October 2015


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Chronic Pain Series

This is the second in a three-part series on chronic pain. Click here to see the first part, Chronic Pain: An Overview. Click here for November’s focus on inflammatory pain and mechanical/compressive pain.

If you have chronic pain, you’ve probably scored it from 1 to 10 on the happy-sad face continuum. Is your pain mild, moderate or excruciating? Is it inconvenient or incapacitating? While not all pain can be cured, most pain can be managed so it interferes less with daily life. Read on to learn more about neuropathic and musculoskeletal pain.

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Chronic Pain: An Overview–September 2015

Chronic Pain: An Overview–September 2015


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A Growing Public Health Concern

Chronic pain affects 100 million Americans according to the American Academy of Pain Medicine (AAPM). That’s more than those with diabetes (25.8 million), heart disease (16.3 million), stroke (7 million) and cancer (11.9 million) combined.

Experiencing pain can take a toll on everyday life. The AAPM reports that about four in 10 Americans have pain that interferes with their mood, activities, sleep, ability to work or enjoyment of life.

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Text Neck… Cell Phone Elbow – Our Gadgets are Causing Repetitive Injuries — August 2015

Text Neck… Cell Phone Elbow – Our Gadgets are Causing Repetitive Injuries — August 2015


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Text neck, cell phone elbow and texting thumb are repetitive strain injuries that didn’t exist a decade ago. Widespread use of smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices have connected us globally but increased use has people complaining of strain and pain.

Text (or tech) neck refers to the strain on the neck and shoulder muscles as people tip their chin down to view their mobile devices. Looking down for long periods of time changes the natural curvature of the spine, pulling the neck out of alignment with the rest of the body. Cleveland Clinic pain specialist Robert Bolash MD explained that three things happen when you drop your head: Your neck moves forward, your shoulders round forward or lift toward your ears, and your neck and shoulder muscles tighten.  The neck is designed to support the weight of the head (10-12 pounds) when held upright. Dr. Bolash said, “For every inch you drop your head forward, you double the load on those muscles.” In a recent study published in Surgical Technology International, Kenneth K Hansraj MD calculated the alarming weights our neck muscles bear at various angles (see left).

This can cause neck, shoulder, back and arm pain, as well as headaches. While neck pain is fairly common among people as they age, adolescents who spend many hours texting or playing games on hand-held devices are joining the ranks of those complaining of such pain.

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