Above and Beyond

Sheila

Sheila winning a door prize at the Alzheimer’s conference last year.

It’s important to highlight what makes Capability Caregivers so special. When you’re choosing someone to care for your elderly parents, it helps to know this person will go above and beyond what’s expected.

 

Take for instance our amazing caregiver Sheila.

Sheila has been caring for the same couple for over a year and a half. She provides live in care– meaning she spends 4 full days living in their home- helping them with day to day tasks (ADL’s) such as making meals, helping with bathing and dressing, personal care (assisting with toileting and catheter care) providing companionship and keeping them safe in their home.

She also takes them for walks, drives to doctor’s appointments, runs errands, takes out the trash, gets the newspaper each day, takes care of light housekeeping, keeps the kitchen stocked and more… all the tasks that we take for granted, but have to be done to keep our homes running smoothly.

Sheila has been a caregiver for 8 years- she is a trained CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) and on her own time takes extra CEU classes to further her education and skill set. Last year I remember running into her at the Alzheimer’s conference- she had attended on her own so that she could learn more about caring for her clients.

Sheila says she loves working with Mr and Mrs S because she learns so much from them- they are interesting to talk to- and more importantly, they are still so in love with one another. Their love for one another brings a smile to Sheila’s face because she knows that she is helping them stay together in their home to live out their old age.

The hardest part of Sheila’s work day is recognizing that Mr and Mrs S both have dementia- and they are slowly slipping away from their former selves which makes Sheila sad.

Sheila’s passion is cooking- as was evident the day I went over to visit and interview her for this article. The house smelled delicious! She had prepared an omelet with green peppers, fresh cottage cheese with berries, sausage links, toast, coffee and juice (keep in mind she had no idea I was coming by, she cooks like that every day!).

What I noticed more than the amazing food- was that on the table were decorations for St Patty’s day. She had 4 leaf clovers scattered around, confetti strewn on the table, pictures of leprechaun and other little nick knacks on display. On a white board next to the table was written the day of the week, the schedule for the day and a little note reminding them that St. Patty’s day was coming up.

I asked Sheila about this- and she replied that she does this each month as a reminder to Mr and Mrs S about whatever holiday is coming up. It helps them stay in touch with the outside world and brings them a little joy. It also adds a festive element to their home- making it seem like a party every day!

I was so touched by this- because to me- it goes above and beyond what would be expected. She truly cares about Mr and Mrs S and treats them as if they were her own parents.  Her devotion to them is so evident in the loving way she cares for them. I know Mr and Mrs S (and their adult children) are grateful for all that Sheila does to help them live comfortably at home.

Sheila exemplifies the core values that we live by at Capability Homecare- honesty, integrity, empathy and compassion.

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A Christmas Memory I’ll Never Forget

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The Christmas season is now behind us, but the memories of it linger on…

Reflecting on the holidays this year, what were some of your favorite moments? What is one thing you did that brought joy to someone’s face? I’d like to share one thing I did- and it not only brought joy to someone else, but it also made my day.

Our client- I’ll call her Mollie- desperately wanted to go to Tacoma to watch her niece’s school Christmas pageant.  Mollie’s niece isn’t a student at the school- she is the music teacher and responsible for the entire pageant. Directing and organizing 300 children under the age of 11… impressive stuff. Even more impressive, many of the children at this school have parents who have dedicated their lives to serving others by working on the Fort Lewis military base.

I had first heard about this musical performance one afternoon in early December when I was visiting with Mollie in her home. We were reminiscing about the holidays and she mentioned to me that she really wanted to attend the holiday pageant- but had no way of getting there. Although she has a full time caregiver that assists in her home on a daily basis, on this particular day her caregiver was unavailable. As Mollie told me about she had never missed a performance, and how her niece reserved VIP parking and special front row seating for her- her eyes welled up with tears and her voice faltered- I could tell this was very important to her.

 So I offered to take her. The minute the words were out of my mouth her expression changed to utter delight.

In the weeks leading up to the big event Mollie would call me often, running details by me, checking on what time I would pick her up, planning where we would go for lunch… this was a big outing for her and she wanted everything to be perfect.

Finally the day arrived, I picked her up at 10:00 and we headed to Tacoma. On the way down she shared stories of her life and her family, reminding me there is so much more to each and every one of our clients than what meets the eye.  When we arrived at the school her niece came running out to the parking lot to steer us to our VIP spot and then escorted us our reserved seats in the school gym.

The minute the show started I was captivated. Each and every child in that school was bursting with pride and excitement. They were singing their little hearts out- and it showed! My eyes filled with joyful tears- watching these sweet, innocent children have their moment to shine was thrilling.  Each song was better than the last- the kids danced, sang, and entertained the crowd for an hour and a half- and it was fabulous. Best of all, as I looked over at Mollie- the smile on her face confirmed that this was indeed the highlight of the holiday season for her.

Sometimes we forget that we can spread happiness by doing the simplest things for others. By taking time out of my busy schedule and driving my client to Tacoma I got to experience first hand the joy of  the season- and what it’s really about- and that’s a Christmas memory I will never forget.

I Didn’t Even Know This Was Possible!

images“I didn’t even know this was possible” our client’s daughter said the other day.

Her mother, Mrs. W, had been hospitalized twice in the last month, first from a fall- then with a pneumonia.

When Mrs. W returned home from the hospital, she needed someone to help her recover. Her daughter lives 45 minutes away (and has a job and a family of her own) and as much as she wants to, she can’t be there everyday to help her mom.

That’s where we came in!

The daughter searched on the internet to see if she could find help for her mom.  In her search she came across Capability Homecare. She immediately called and set up a meeting for us to meet her mom and learn about our services.

One of the areas where Mrs. W needs the most help is with taking care of her beloved dog Gus.

Gus is not only Mrs. W’s constant companion- he is also a lifesaver! When Mrs. W had her fall, she was outside walking the dog. As she laid on the ground, Gus stood by Mrs. W’s side and patiently waited while she got her bearings. After a few minutes, she was able to slowly get up, using Gus to brace herself as she stood. Had the dog not been there, Mrs. W would have had nothing to help her up and could have laid on the cold ground until someone happened by.

After that scary experience, there was no way Mrs. W could leave her dog and move into an assisted living or skilled nursing. Gus had literally saved her life.

However, since Mrs. W is recovering from both the fall and being ill- she can’t take care of the dog on her own. He needs feeding and walks- 3 times a day. Luckily, our caregiver is a dog lover- and is more than willing to give Gus the attention and love he needs.

Mrs. W also needs help with personal care- bathing and getting dressed- as well as help with meals (planning, grocery shopping, preparing, and cleaning up).  Our caregiver, who has been trained in nutrition and food handling, is able to make healthy meals that will help Mrs. W recover.

Another area that Capability Homecare assists Mrs. W with is housekeeping; changing the sheets, doing laundry, running the vacuum… all the daily tasks to help keep her home clean and comfortable.

Most importantly, having the caregiver in the home with Mrs. W means that Mrs. W is safe and not alone. Both the companionship of having someone there to talk to as well as the safety of having ‘eyes on’ in case of another fall provide peace of mind to her family.

The daughter is thrilled with the service and said she can sleep at night knowing her mom is in good hands.

Impacts of Hospice

Back CameraI was out with friends the other day and one of them recommended a fabulous Italian restaurant they had just eaten at. One of the other gals chimed in about how much she also loved that restaurant- and how it brought back so many memories because while her grandmother was at Evergreen Hospice, they would eat at this restaurant regularly since it was so close to the hospice house.

She then went on to describe her experience with hospice– and what an amazing service it is. She talked about how much it helped her family through a very difficult time. One thing she mentioned that I found to be very interesting was that originally her grandmother had been admitted to the hospital and the doctors were trying to run all sorts of tests, MRI’s and prescribe medication to treat her problem. When in reality, at age 97, all she really wanted to do was to die peacefully surrounded by loved ones and without any pain. Luckily, they were made aware of Evergreen Hospice House and advocated that her grandmother be transferred there. According to my friend, most doctors won’t mention hospice– it is a topic that you must bring up to them.

My friend spoke about how glad she was that the hospice staff educated the family on the stages of dying – so that when her grandmother started talking about taking an airplane ride- she knew that was a sign that the end was near. Because of the expertise of the hospice staff, they knew to not try to correct their grandmother and explain there were no airplanes… instead they encouraged her to get on the plane when she was ready. And when the time came, the family was there to experience and witness a beautiful death.

To have been a part of the process of dying in such a peaceful and safe environment was life changing for my friend. She could not say enough wonderful things about the Evergreen Hospice house and the experience she had.

After she finished sharing her story, my other friend spoke up about her personal experience with hospice. In her case it was her mother in law who was dying. My friend spoke about how rather than be in the hospital, they wanted to bring her home and let her make the most of the limited time she had left. My friend commented on how wonderful the hospice staff were- they arranged for a hospital bed to be delivered to the house, they took care of all pain medication, offered education and training to the family regarding what to expect as the illness progressed- and after she died- they took care of all the arrangements, making it much less stressful for the family.

Hearing my friends share their personal experiences with hospice makes me glad that more and more people are taking advantage of this service. Many people don’t realize that Hospice is covered by Medicare, and is often an under-utilized service.

According to Gentiva/ Odyssey Hospice, some possible indicators that hospice may be appropriate are:

  • Life expectancy of six months or less

  • Hospitalization or emergency room visit more than once in that past 6 months

  • Weight loss with a noticeable difference

  • Shortness of breath even while resting

  • Several falls over the last 6 months

  • Feeling weak or more tired than usual

  • Making frequent phone calls to physicians’ office

  • Spending most of the day in a chair or bed

Death and dying do not have to be a scary, lonely event. Allow experts to assist your family through this process. Capability Homecare works daily in conjunction with hospice teams. We can provide respite for families, help with housekeeping, companionship and assist with ADL’s. Our caregivers are experienced and trained in hospice care. We offer:

  • Increase communication with team members

  • Liaison between client, family and hospice

  • Increased awareness of pain management, communication

  • Tracking and communication of pain changes to hospice team

  • Increase staff during crisis management – during last 72 hours of life and as needed

  • Peace of mind for families who are looking for extra comfort and help

  • Caregivers are experienced working with hospice

  • Support hospice team managing disease

  • Provide 24/7 care so the patient is never left alone

  • Respite for family

For more information about hospice, click here, or call Capability Homecare at 425 679 5770

Letter From a Former Client

Today I wanted to share a letter we received from a former client*, I’ll call her L.

Several months after our client passed away, his daughter emailed us this letter:

I do not know how to begin to thank you for the exceptional care and compassion you and all of your staff and caregivers showed towards my father and my entire family during our time of need.  It has been several months already since my father passed away, and as I look back on those few months that he was not able to care for himself, there was such an obvious turning point the moment we came in contact with your group.  I just wish we had found you sooner!

I will always be grateful that we found Capability to see my Dad through his final days.  

Sincerely,

L

Before we came on board her dad had been on hospice- and the family had hired an agency to help take care of him throughout the day. Many people don’t realize that when hospice is in place, the care they provide is not 24 hours a day; so often families hire extra help to take care of the day to day stuff (ADL’s, bathing, med management, companionship, housekeeping).

Unfortunately, our client was very unhappy with the care the agency was providing (for a number of reasons; which included poor communication, concerns with transfers, rotation of staff and non pro-active caregivers)- so they brought Capability Homecare on board to take over.

After meeting with the client and his family, Capability Homecare developed a care plan specific to their situation. By meeting with them as a family- and careful listening, we then had a better understanding of exactly what went wrong with the other agency- and how we could better meet their needs.

We then used our Care Match system to find the perfect caregivers to meet these specific requirements. Our caregivers were ‘live in care’- meaning they lived in the client’s home and were able to provide care as needed.  Our amazing caregivers had the pleasure of serving this client until he passed away.

It’s letters like this that make our day. We are so blessed to do the work that we do- and so honored to be a part of someone’s life at such a crucial time.  Thank you, “L” for taking the time to write.

*We always ask client’s permission before sharing their letters.

Paying for Alzheimer’s Care

Did you know that ‘5 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease, and the National Institute on Aging estimates that that number is going to triple by 2050 — in part due to aging baby boomers.’ (NPR)?

This staggering statistic got me thinking about how many people’s lives will be affected by this disease- and more importantly- how many of them have NO IDEA how they are going to pay for care.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association’s 2009 Alzheimer’s Disease Facts and Figures, Alzheimer’s disease triples healthcare costs for those over the age of 65.

So what exactly does that mean?

It depends on what kind of care you need.

If you choose to care for your parent yourself (in your own home), than the costs are minimal. However, many people find they can’t do this alone and feel the need to hire outside help.

For example- if you are a working person and need to leave the house to go to work-  hiring an caregiver to come to your home for 8 hours a day, will cost you around $200 a day. That can add up to $4000 a month.

Another option is to move to an assisted living or memory care facility- but costs here can be double what you would pay at home- many facilities charge a flat rate and then add on costs for the higher level of care.

What appears to be only $4500 a month in rent can easily become $6000- $7000 a month- after all the care needs/ costs are added in.

According to the Genworth Long Term Care Insurance in the state of Washington a semi private room in a nursing home will cost around $88,633 a year while in home services cost about half that. (1) 

What about Medicare?

According to Paying for Senior Care,  “Medicare does not pay for custodial or personal care that is provided in an assisted living residence but will pay for medical care provided in that location.  The same applies for home care and adult day care; personal care services, or assistance with the activities of daily living which is typically necessary for Alzheimer’s patients is not covered but medical care is covered.”

It’s a common misconception that Medicare is going to cover your medical needs 100%. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case.

What they will cover is short term care in a Skilled Nursing Facility (or Rehab) ONLY if the person has had a 3 day hospital stay (they must be admitted to the hospital-  and stay for 3 midnights).

Even then, Medicare only covers 100% of the first 20 days, then the coverage drops to 80% for the next 80 days- (which seems like a lot, but 80 days will go by very quickly- people with Alzheimer’s suffer for years) and only if you show that you are making progress- which is basically impossible for someone with Alzheimer’s since Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive illness. This means that the structure and chemistry of the brain become increasingly damaged over time. The person’s ability to remember, understand, communicate and reason will gradually decline. “(http://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=133)

So what can I do?

If you (or your parents) are still healthy- I highly recommend looking into a Long Term Care Insurance plan.

When looking at different plans, do your homework.  Ask around, compare rates and read the fine print!

Make sure to:

  • Look for a plan that covers Alzheimer’s.
  • Make sure the coverage period is long enough to actually help (usually around 3-5 years per person and couples can sometimes ‘share’ the coverage.)
  • Be aware of any exclusionary period – and understand how the days are counted.
  • Inflation protection is a must- the cost of care 10 years from now be the same as it is today.
  • Understand what and how many Activities of Daily Living are required (many policies require the person need assistance with at least 2 or 3 ADL’s)
  • Look for a large company that will still be financially sound in 10 years.

(1)  Genworth Financial

Capability Homecare: Taking the Time to Listen

One thing I’ve learned over the years is how important it is to be a good listener, especially when working with our clients.

When we go out to meet a new client we take the time to really get to know them. We aren’t in any hurry and we allow as much time as it takes for the client to feel comfortable with us.

We give them the opportunity to share stories about their life.  We ask questions to learn more about who they are as a person. We sit and listen and let them talk.

This enables us to connect with the client- and also helps us do our job better. Because we’ve taken the time to get to know them-  we are better able to find the perfect caregiver for their unique personality.

I’ve heard that some agencies are in such a rush when they do the assessment that they only allow a short period of time with the client. They just go over the form- firing away with one question after the next.

Listening goes beyond the assessment- once they become a client, we are always there for them. We are available on the phone 24/7- not an answering service, it’s one of us who you get when you call.

We had a client come into the office today who just needed to talk. He is concerned about his wife- who has dementia- and he just needs someone to hear his concerns, to validate the choices he is making and to comfort him through this time of stress.  He wasn’t really looking for answers- he was just looking for a place to share his concerns and know that he is being heard.

Our director, Laura, took time to sit and listen to this gentleman express his concern for his wife.  She was kind and compassionate and offered suggestions when needed- but more than anything was just there to support him.

That’s the difference between Capability Homecare and a large franchise organization. Like a good friend, we take the time to listen.