ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

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Why We Need Workplace Wellness Programs For Family Caregivers

Monday , October 14 , 2019

Why We Need Workplace Wellness Programs For Family Caregivers

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, approximately 43.5 million caregivers have provided unpaid care to an adult or child in the last 12 months. On average, they spend 24.4 hours a week tending to their loved one. And 73% of those people have other jobs, outside the home.

How does working an extra 20 hours week, in an environment that can be emotionally draining and physically exhausting, affect work performance? 66% of caregivers report that they’ve had to make some sort of adjustment to their professional life, from arriving late to work to quitting entirely.

And caregiving doesn’t just take a toll on the employee – it also affects corporate America. As the number of older adults continues to grow, the number of employees in a caregiving role will also expand. Those workers will be less productive than their non-caregiving counterparts for a variety of reasons, such as stress and unplanned absences from work.

As we come up on November, National Family Caregivers Month, it makes sense for organizations to consider strategies to help support employees who provide caregiving and may need assistance.

A Growing Aging Population Needs Care

The American population is aging quickly and living longer. In 2011, the first of over 78 million baby boomers began turning 65. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 107 million Americans — 31% of the population — will be over 55 in 2030 and that 70 million Americans — 20% of the population — will be 65 and over that same year. By 2060, the number of Americans over the age of 65 will reach nearly 100 million.

Nearly 70% of these older Americans will require assistance at some point in their lives. Often, those responsibilities will fall on a family member. And, most of the time, that family member is a woman, who already has a job and is caring for at least one other person (like a child who lives at home).

Challenges for Employees

Finding work/life balance can be difficult under the best of circumstances. For the millions of Americans who currently care for an older, ill, or disabled loved one, it can be nearly impossible.

Research shows that working caregivers report higher levels of stress than their non-caregiving colleagues. In particular, one survey from the United Health Foundation and the National Alliance for Caregiving found that 88% of caregivers report increased stress or anxiety as a result of caregiving, and 77% state sleep deprivation as an issue.

Further, research shows that this near-constant stress can have grave consequences on a person’s health. According to Caregiver Action, the “stress of family caregiving for persons with dementia has been shown to impact a person’s immune system for up to three years after their caregiving ends thus increasing their chances of developing a chronic illness themselves.”

The Impact on the Workplace

The stress and health difficulties experienced by caregivers can have widespread ramifications in the workplace. Employees who care for their aging parents or other loved ones are more likely to be less productive, take more time off, and arrive to work late on a regular basis. This lower productivity often equates to lower revenue – and a larger workload for non-caregiving employees.

Providing such care while working a full-time job is both physically and mentally taxing for most employees, and studies show that burnout from caregiving responsibilities cost companies nearly $13.4B each year in health care expenses alone. When other factors, such as turnover and absenteeism, are taken into account, caregiving can cost organizations up to $33.6 billion per year.

Workplace Accommodations for Family Caregivers

According to Corporate Wellness Magazine, “Organizations have an opportunity to support employees who provide caregiving for loved ones by offering access to programs and resources that can help make their lives easier.”

A few of their suggestions include:

  • Transition to a Paid Time off (PTO) Program – PTO groups all time off (vacation, sick days, paid holidays) into one program, so employees have more flexibility with how and when they can take days off.
  • Flexible Scheduling and Telecommuting – Flexible scheduling means that employees can adjust their hours as needed, as long as they meet their required minimum. For example, they may choose to work four 10-hour days per week, rather than five 8-hour days. Or they may work through lunch and leave an hour early at the end of the day.
  • Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) – EAPs offer services such as personal and family counseling, crisis intervention, and bereavement and other assistance to help employees cope with personal stressors and create better work/life balance.
    Implement Policies to Protect Caregivers – It’s critical that organizations reinforce and frequently review recommendations from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to ensure compliance with nondiscrimination guidelines.

Final Thoughts

A happy employee is a productive employee! While many employers worry that allowing perks like extra time off or flexible hours may encourage laziness, research shows that just the opposite is true. Providing support to your employees and helping to improve their work/life balance can lead to increased productivity, higher-performing employees, and a better bottom line.

As the aging population continues to grow, now is the time to consider what types of support you can offer employees who are in a caregiving role.

Posted in: Caregivers

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New Jersey Home Care Standards & Accreditation Explained

Monday , September 23 , 2019

New Jersey Home Care Standards & Accreditation Explained

As a licensed agency providing care for seniors and the disabled in their homes, my agency has a lot of “masters.” Foremost among them are our clients. We respond to their needs in all that we do, and we answer to them for the quality of our services. That much is straightforward.

What is less obvious to most people is that we also answer to the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs (who grants us our license), the NJ Board of Nursing (who writes detailed best practices governing our standards and day-to-day practices), and an accrediting agency approved by the state to inspect and review every aspect of our business.

As of 2019, accreditation is now a requirement for any home care agency in the state, and the Division of Consumer Affairs has committed to shutting down those agencies who don’t comply.

Certification in New Jersey

New Jersey has some of the most stringent regulations in the nation governing the provision of care services to seniors in their homes.

On March 18, 2019, Governor Murphy signed and enacted Senate Bill Number 2773, which clarifies the definitions of Health Care Service Firms and Homemaker/Home Health Aides. The bill ensures that “all firms acting as health care agencies for our elderly, including the ones using the Internet to arrange and provide companies or health care services, are properly registered.”

While most other states do not require that an employee who provides personal care be certified or show proof of any training. In New Jersey, any aide who touches a client, whether it is to help them into a wheelchair or to give them a sponge bath, must be “certified.”

To receive certification, the aide must successfully complete a training course approved by the Board of Nursing. Once they have passed, they may call themselves a CHHA (a Certified Homemaker Home Health Aide.)

And that’s only the first step!

CHHAs must renew their licenses every two years, and the state will not grant that renewal unless the aide can prove that he or she is working under the supervision of a registered nurse. In other words, they must work for a licensed agency like ComForCare who employs RNs to assess patients, write detailed care plans, and supervise the home care aides.

Home Care Best Practices – It’s the Law!

Clients are sometimes surprised (and sometimes annoyed!) at how in-depth our initial assessments and bi-monthly reassessments are. It generally takes our nurses at least two hours in the home every 60 days to review and document according to state regulations and our accreditation standards. This thoroughness can seem excessive to clients, but the NJ best practices were written to safeguard the health and safety of home care clients.

Our nurses can (and do) catch problems that doctors and families are unaware of—everything from flagging fall risks in the home to addressing the potential for skin breakdown that can lead to life-threatening pressure ulcers. They connect clients who have balance and strength problems to physical therapy, catch medication errors such as duplicate prescriptions under different medication names, and flag cognitive decline that would indicate a need for more safety supervision.

In addition, the RNs are regularly supervising and evaluating our HHAs to make sure they adhere to nursing standards and understand what is required under the patient’s plan of care.

Final Thoughts

Over the past couple of decades, the home care industry was wide open to just about anyone who wanted to set up shop. Some agencies followed best practices in hiring and supervising aides, but others simply operated as “matchmakers,” much as current online registries operate.

When it comes to providing care for vulnerable seniors in private homes, choosing an accredited agency is the safest way of ensuring quality of care and accountability.

Posted in: Home Care

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Adaptive Homes Allow Seniors to Age in Place

Tuesday , September 17 , 2019

Adaptive Homes Allow Seniors to Age in Place

If you ask an older adult what they fear most about aging, it’s often the loss of independence. Given the choice, most Americans would stay in their own homes for the duration of their lives, rather than move to alternative retirement accommodations.

Most houses, however, are not built with seniors in mind. Staying in the “standard” American home can be risky for an older adult as their physical and mental abilities change.  In fact, more than 95% of US homes lack aging-in-place features to make them safe and accessible for wheelchair users and seniors with other mobility challenges.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), environmental factors, such as tripping hazards and poor lighting, lead to about half of all injuries that occur at home. In addition, a lack of modifications, such as stair railings and ramps, can create further in-home danger.

Luckily, older adults have options, from adapting their existing home to finding a new standalone home that meets their needs.

Adapting your existing home

Adapting your home can be as easy as removing throw rugs and installing grab bars in the bathroom, or as costly as an entire remodel including wheelchair ramps and wider doorways. To ensure best results and protect your home’s value, it’s a good idea to work with a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist affiliated with the National Association of Home Builders.

Some commonly recommended modifications include:

Bathroom:

  • Replace the standard tub with a walk-in shower or tub
  • Install grab bars for toilets and tubs
  • Replace your standard toilet seat with an elevated model (with armrests, if you have problems getting up)
  • Consider open shelves to keep essentials easily accessible
  • Replace ceramic tile floors with hardwood or vinyl for safe standing (this applies to other rooms as well!)

Kitchen:

  • Replace the cabinets with drawers and pull-out shelves
  • Move commonly used items to lower areas to avoid the need for a step stool
  • If possible, lower counter and sink heights
  • Install an elevated dishwasher or one with drawers for easy access
  • Replace old stoves with induction cooktops to help prevent burns
  • Consider adding seated workspaces to avoid a lot of standing

Bedroom:

  • Install bed rails to make getting into and out of bed easier
  • Consider an adjustable bed that can be raised and lowered at the head and foot for the most comfortable sleep position
  • Make sure the bed is not too high
  • Have a sturdy chair handy for sitting while dressing

Living room:

  • Remove unnecessary throw rugs and fasten down rugs or floor runners to prevent slipping
  • Move furniture to create clear walking paths
  • Replace your recliner with a lift chair, which will enable you to sit down or stand up with ease

General spaces:

  • Consider a lightweight aluminum walker to make getting around the house easier (choose one that folds vertically for easy storage)
  • Keep objects off the floor and coil or secure cords to the wall to prevent tripping
  • Replace doorknobs with lever door handles
  • Apply non-slip tape on uncarpeted indoor and outdoor steps
  • Replace standard light switches with rocker-style switches
  • Increase the width of doorways and hallways to accommodate wheelchairs
  • Repair or replace loose handrails and install adequate lighting in stairways
  • Install threshold ramps when you can no longer walk safely up or down the steps
  • Provide proper lighting (seniors need two to three times more lighting than younger adults!)

Financing your remodel with Medicare

Medicare will provide coverage for a lot of upgrades and equipment – but not everything. Here’s what’s covered and what’s not.

According to PHC Online, Medicare will cover:

  • Manual wheelchairs (capped rental)
  • Power wheelchairs
  • Some positioning devices
  • Walkers
  • Scooters
  • Seat-lift mechanisms for lift-chairs
  • Mattress over-lays (capped rental)
  • Hospital beds, semi-electric type only (capped rental)
  • Patient lifts (capped rental)
  • Oxygen equipment (capped rental)
  • Durable medical equipment, such as wheelchairs, if it has been prescribed by a doctor and the coverage criteria is met

Medicare will NOT cover adaptive daily living aids, such as:

  • Ramps
  • Reachers
  • Sock-aids
  • Utensils
  • Transfer benches
  • Shower chairs
  • Raised toilet seats
  • Grab bars

 

Other finance options

Caregiver Homes lists several other finance options on their website, such as:

  • PACE (Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly): “An innovative Medicare program that provides frail individuals age 55 and older comprehensive medical and social services coordinated and provided by an interdisciplinary team of professionals in a community-based center and in their homes, helping program participants delay or avoid long-term nursing home care.”

  • Reverse mortgage: A loan that allows qualified homeowners aged 62 plus to take part of their home’s equity as cash, either as a line of credit, a monthly or lump sum payment, or a combo line of credit and payments.

  • SHA Grants: Veterans with certain service-connected disabilities can use a SHA grant to adapt of purchase a home to accommodate the disability.

  • A 203K loan: If you don’t have enough equity in your home to borrow against, you may qualify for a 203K loan. A borrower with good credit and a stable mortgage payment history can apply for the loan when certain requirements are met.

  • Charitable organizations: “Many organizations organize repair projects for elderly persons or persons with disabilities. Organizations may include your neighborhood association or community groups, churches, synagogues, Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities, Little Brothers of the Poor, Jaycees, Agency on Aging, senior centers, building trade unions, Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of America, Kiwanis Clubs, sororities, fraternities, high school volunteerism, YMCA, Knights of Columbus, Rotary Clubs, Lion’s Clubs, B’nai B’rith, Masons, or 4H Clubs. Inquire about interest in a community project or see if you can propose one.”

Nothing is more important to successful aging than preventing unnecessary injury. And few things are more important to happiness and quality of life than having an environment that supports the activities you enjoy.

Fortunately, for a relatively modest invest, the safety of most homes can be significantly improved to provide the best of all possible worlds: a safe, comfortable environment for aging that feels just like home because it is home.

Posted in: Aging, Home Care

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