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How home care steps in and steps up in unpredictable times

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By Mark Friedman

When our stability is at risk, we all are fearful.  For seniors, this can be particularly unsettling.  Emotions run the gamut from: Who is to blame? When will stability be regained? Why did it happen?  Is it my fault?  What can I do to prevent it from happening again? I can’t go on, should I give up? These mixed emotions make navigating the process of aging even more complex. The source can be economic, weather, family, public assistance and a myriad of “other.”

People have asked me if the recent shutdown affected what we do.  The short answer is not directly, but it did affect our clients for all the reasons noted above.

To my team at Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore the impact of the shutdown came from clients worried about postponed visits from family because of air travel concerns. Accurate or not, clients were worried about Social Security, Medicare payments, and more.  They wanted to cut back on care and skip important appointments. Meaningful activities and engagements our clients feel deeply about were suddenly thrown out of whack. These are not incidental pursuits for elders, but essential to quality of life.

All of this highlights the role a home care agency plays in being a source of certainty and confidence for our clients – as are all providers.  We have to adapt to changing conditions and learn from each “disruption” to better support our seniors during these periods.

The Unexpected Silver Lining
We are always prepared at Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore – even more so in the winter. This year, we felt even more prepared.  This is not from a big “ah ha” moment, but the confidence from executing and knowing how to tweak detailed care plans developed from our proprietary LiFE Profile. As the comfortable footings of our clients seemed to shift, we realized we had a solid baseline and plan from which we could pivot or change. While individualized, nurse defined care plans have always been a foundation of our care, the detail afforded us by the LiFE Profile created an even greater source of stability and flexibility.  It gave us the detailed view to manage weather, outside circumstances posing potential threats, essential needs, and points of risk across all five critical success factors for successful aging.
With this science behind us, we had an arsenal of data to support good sense and flexibility when needed.

  1. Our game plans include floor plans.When data shows 144 potential safety risks can undermine success at home it makes sense to inventory the environment of elders. This part of the LiFE Profile enables small changes to make big differences. For each client we have a clear understanding of what “home” looks like and how they manage and maneuver within it. We’ve mitigated and removed risks together and know what has to adjust if conditions change.
  2. We know that routines, rule. As seniors age with more complex diagnoses, their compliance to treatments, appointments and medication regimes have become more complicated and at the same time more critical. Home care plans like those informed by the LiFE Profile are data driven, task oriented, and laser focused.  Care plans should provide a 360º First through the lens of the experienced caregiver, then through conversations, reminders around medications, chats about food, chores and laundry, naps, and talks about general wellbeing. This, supported with shift notes and case management visits, provide a continuity of insight for our supervising nurses for case management.
  3. Turning fear into fearlessness.Whether 77 or 97 years old, seniors passionately want to hold onto basic activities associated with autonomy and independence. We take most of these for granted. Many seniors feel threatened at the prospect of losing control of the tasks they consider essential to their independence.

 From the LiFE Profile, we know the 13 everyday activities and the potential risks involved.  Each can be identified and specifically scored. Our plans of care identify which tasks may require additional bracing for unforeseen circumstances. It is easy to revisit plans of care and focus resources in strategic ways during uncertainty.

  1. Living large when days seem small. Uncertainty often leads to “hunkering down”. Near zero-degree weather can shut people off from engaging in life, even if temporarily. When seniors are “engaged” in activities that matter to them, they simply live happier and more fulfilling lives.  This “engagement” is different for every senior. Protecting our clients lives from becoming “smaller” and as a result, more stressful, is a key byproduct we provide.

Because the LiFE Profile scores and qualifies issues surrounding quality of life, our plan for engagement in life activities looks like a giant game board with interchangeable pieces. Even with an unplanned shut-in due to extreme weather, we understand the meaning behindthe engagements on that board.  We understand the right way to make alternative plans. The fact is, anything is possible when you know what is important.

The Eye-Opener for Home Care
In a macro-sense, periods of acute uncertainty tests the resiliency of home care and all providers.
As a provider of critical support, we navigate these periods of uncertainty with our eyes on many details and have contingency plans within easy reach. It is our job to make sure “home” is more than just viable. but is also a platform for stability.
Here are three helpful tips for you as you navigate, or advise others on, the journey of aging:

  1. Understand your risks for aging in place. For us, and our clients, the LiFE Profile assesses helps us mitigate risks. When intelligently interpreted and applied, the result is a strategically focused care plan in which tradeoffs can be made quickly with full information.
  2. Make every dollar count. Understanding how to use your resources to manage the real risks for the right way make you best equipped for avoiding potential potholes on your journey – big ones, permanent ones and, temporary ones.  It ensures that every dollar invested in home care works harder, smarter and longer to keep you safe secure, engaged and successful.
  3. Make sure your risk assessment and plan of care have “what-if” components. These could include short-term weather or longer-term changing economic or medical resources.  Make sure your providers have contingency plans.  Will they guarantee services? How do they stand behind them operationally? Up front discussions on these concerns are very reasonable conversations to have.

There is no doubt, with plans and preparations, the journey of aging can weather the unpredictable.
image001About the Author: Mark Friedman is the Owner of Senior Helpers Boston and South Shore. He is passionate about senior’s ability to age in place. The goal of his agency is to set a new standard in home care in Massachusetts first by delivering an exceptional home care experience in through highly trained caregivers and case managers. He served as the national Chair of the Senior Helpers Owners Council for six years. Please visit www.SeniorHelpers.com/SouthShoreMA or call: 781-421-3123 for more information.

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