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Helping seniors avoid return trips to the ER

Posted October 15, 2014 in Advice Column, Windsor Heights

A study at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, published in Gerontology, found that seniors who live alone have a 50 percent greater chance of early hospital readmission (within 60 days of discharge) and those with unmet functional needs, a 48 percent greater chance.

Home health agencies can help reduce odds like these.

Specially-trained caregivers help seniors make a smooth transition back home after a trip to the ER or inpatient hospital stay. They provide a wide variety of in-home care services that can help seniors follow doctor’s orders. And, if needed, they can provide these services in conjunction with skilled home healthcare providers, who help clients manage their illnesses.

Here are examples of how specially trained caregivers assist recently discharged clients:

•    Medication reminders. Caregivers can help make sure clients take their medicine on schedule. Noncompliance with prescriptions contributes to 10 percent of all hospital admissions.

•    Meal planning and preparation. Caregivers can plan and prepare meals to promote clients’ good health. This is especially important for clients who must stay on a specific diet to control conditions, such as diabetes.

•    Transportation to doctors appointment. Caregivers provide transportation to ensure clients see their doctors as scheduled for follow-up care.

•    Companionship and conversation. In the course of conversing with clients, as well as providing other services, caregivers watch for signs of health changes. This way they can help clients get medical attention early on, before it becomes a crisis.

•    Interactive CaregivingTM. This is a very distinctive approach to in-home care, providing clients activities that engage them physically, mentally, socially and emotionally. This care philosophy can enhance a client’s quality of life. Research shows that seniors who stay actively engaged retain better cognitive function, stay healthier and live independently longer. And specifically, exercise has been shown to help prevent falls — a leading cause of hospitalization among the elderly.

•    Technology solutions. In place of, or to supplement, person-to-person caregiving, some home health agencies offer in-home safety technology solutions. These help seniors live independently at home, safely and securely, when a caregiver isn’t present. Technology solutions include a personal emergency response system (PERS), Web-based monitoring devices, a portable GPS location device and an automated medication management system that simplifies the sometimes complicated process of organizing and dispensing prescriptions.

Home health agencies, through a combination of caregiving services and technology solutions, work with families to help elderly clients continue living independently and safely at home for as long as possible — and to promote quality of life and good health. That includes preventing the need for hospital admissions.

Information provided by Clint Rogers, Comfort Keepers, 1300 Metro East Drive, Suite 128, Pleasant Hill, 515-243-0011.

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