Happy Home Care & Hospice Month

New Name, Same Exceptional Care

Home Health United is now SSM Health at Home

While our name is changing, our history of providing exceptional care to our patients and the communities we serve will not. Our legacy has always been the services we provide and the way we provide them. Caring for our patients and their families is an honor, and as SSM Health at Home we will continue to fulfill our mission to promote optimal health and quality of life to those we serve through our exceptional, comprehensive care at home and in the community.

 

Hospice Patients Benefit from Puppy Love

If you have pets, you know how important the companionship they provide can be. But for Home Health United – Hospice patients staying at the SSM Health Hospice House, one special dog brightens days and provides a level of comfort only a furry friend can.

Meet Madeline, a fluffy golden doodle who helps comfort our patients staying at the SSM Health Hospice House in Baraboo.

Madeline’s owner and handler Susan Eldred-Kujawa sees how Madeline brings comfort, peace, and companionship to many hospice patients that come to stay at House. “One hospice patient we visited with really loved animals. The first day we went to visit her she was sleeping. The patient was quite upset that she wasn’t able to meet Madeline that day. When she woke up and realized she had missed meeting Madeline, she told the staff, ‘Wake me up next time. I want to see that dog.’ We had several nice visits with her. The last time we visited she wasn’t responsive. Madeline lay close to her bed; the woman reached out to pet her but didn’t have the strength. So, Madeline laid her head on the woman’s hand and just stayed there for the rest of the visit.”

But it’s not just the patients who benefit from Madeline’s visits; it’s the staff as well. Health care can be incredibly stressful, and providing end-of-life care brings its own challenges. For Hospice House staff, being able to take a short break and pet an incredibly fluffy dog helps them to cope.

Susan states, “Madeline is in most ways just a normal dog that is a well-loved family pet and quite spoiled by her humans. She just happens to also be a working dog, doing pet therapy. She loves playing outside and chasing her squirrel friends or fetching her ball. And of course loves people, especially kids.”

Interested in volunteering? Contact us at call 1-800-924-2273, Volunteers@hhuvns.org, or visit our website for more information.

Employee of the Month – August 2017

Nancy J. R.

Nancy recently celebrated 23 years with HHU. She is a Referral Liaison RN located at SSM Health St. Mary’s Hospital – Madison.  In addition to her regular duties, Nancy has assisted with hospice referrals and training of new staff.  Nancy is well known at St. Mary’s Hospital and has developed a strong positive relationship and rapport with physicians, nurses, and social workers.  They know they can always count on her for her excellent referral coordination.  She works hard at making sure that the needs of our patients are met first and foremost.

What do you enjoy most about working at Home Health United?
The flexibility, coworkers and I love being at St. Mary’s.  I am totally HHU and promote everything HHU!

What does Employee of the Month mean to you?
It is an honor to receive this.  My initial reaction was that of being shocked that I was nominated for this acknowledgement.

When you’re not at Home Health United, what do you enjoy doing?
I enjoy being with my family, taking walks or reading a good book.

 

Past Winners

August 2017 – Sean M.

June 2017 – Mike G.

May 2017 – Laura A.

April 2017 – Paulie S.

March 2017 – Cyndy T.

January 2017 – Julie W.

December 2016 – Kay F.

November 2016 – Jean B.

October 2016 – Jody S.

September 2016 – Alecia C.

August 2016 – Krista B.

July 2016 – Ben C.

June 2016 – Joy N.

May 2016 – Sally Z.

April 2016 – Ray F.

Immunizations Aren’t Just for Kids

Some adults assume they don’t need to worry about vaccinations because they got their shots when they were children. However, some adults were never vaccinated as children, or vaccines that are available today weren’t around when they were growing up. Even if you were fully vaccinated as a child, immunity can begin to fade over time leaving you vulnerable to infection. Depending on your job, lifestyle, travel, health condition, or age you could be at greater risk.

Getting your recommended vaccines can give you the peace of mind that you have the best possible protection available against a number of serious diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends all adults receive a yearly seasonal flu (influenza) vaccine. On average more than 200,000 people are hospitalized due to influenza and between 3,000 and 49,000 people die from flu and its complications every year. The majority of infections and deaths are among adults. In fact, over 60% of seasonal flu related hospitalizations occur in people 65 years and older.

All adults should also get the Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, pertussis) vaccine if they did not receive one as an adolescent to protect against pertussis (whooping cough) and then a Td (tetanus, diphtheria) booster shot every ten years. It is also recommended that pregnant women get the Tdap vaccine with each pregnancy, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks.

Because the immune system tends to weaken over time, older adults have a higher risk of certain diseases. This is why, in addition to seasonal flu and Td or Tdap vaccines, seniors should also get pneumococcal and zoster vaccines.

Pneumococcal vaccines which protect against pneumococcal disease, including infections in the lungs and bloodstream, are recommended for all adults 65 and older as well as those younger than 65 who have certain health conditions. About 900,000 people get pneumococcal pneumonia every year leading to as many as 400,000 hospitalizations and 19,000 deaths.

Zoster vaccine, which protects against shingles, is also recommended for all adults age 60 and older. An estimated one million Americans get shingles every year, and about half are 60 years old or older. Some will have severe pain that can continue even long after their rash clears up, or they may suffer from other painful complications that could persist for years.

If you have certain health conditions you may need additional vaccines. Talk with your doctor to find out which vaccines are recommended for you based on your specific health status.

You have a busy life and too much responsibility to risk getting sick. Vaccines can help you stay healthy so you don’t miss work and you have time for family, friends, and hobbies. And when you get a vaccine you not only protect yourself, you protect everyone around you as well. Some people in your family or community may not be able to get certain vaccines due to their age or health condition so they rely on you to help prevent the spread of disease.

Make it a point to talk with your doctor to make sure that everyone in your family gets the shots they need.

In addition to your doctor’s office, vaccines may be available at pharmacies, workplaces, community health clinics, health departments, or other community locations such as schools and religious centers. To find an adult vaccine provider in your area visit HealthMap Vaccine Finder.

Home Health United is a nonprofit agency providing home health, palliative care, hospice, home medical equipment, home infusion pharmacy services, and community health services. We offer Informational Visits to anyone interested in learning more about how we can help. Request a visit online or call 1-800-924-2273.

Managing Chronic Disesase

Chronic conditions are among the most prevalent and costly medical issues facing Americans.

What is a chronic disease? A chronic disease is defined as a disease lasting three or more months by the US National Center for Health Statistics. Common chronic conditions include heart disease, COPD, and diabetes.

Nearly half of all US adults have a chronic condition, and one in four have two or more. For those over 65, the numbers only grow. Eighty percent of seniors deal with at least one chronic condition while almost seventy percent are living with two or more.

Those suffering from chronic conditions are the most frequent users of health care, accounting for over eighty percent of hospital admissions and a third of health care spending in the country.

While chronic diseases generally cannot be cured, many can be prevented. Living a healthy lifestyle throughout one’s life is the best preventative measure. Key risk factors for chronic disease include tobacco use, poor nutrition, excessive alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, and obesity.

While not all chronic diseases can be prevented, once diagnosed, there are many things you can do to improve your quality of life by effectively managing your condition.

Communication is key. About half of patients with chronic conditions see three or more different physicians. Many patients with chronic illnesses present at the emergency room or urgent care center when their symptoms become severe and are referred back to their primary care doctor or a specialist. Be an active member of your health care team. Make sure you not only discuss your condition and treatments with your primary doctor, but make sure all your clinicians are communicating with each other. If you are admitted to the hospital, be sure to have a plan in place to manage you condition before you are discharged.

Commit to managing your condition. Educate yourself on your diagnosis. Make changes to behaviors that are adversely affecting your health and contributing to your diseases progression. Discuss medication and treatment options. Learn about signs and symptoms that indicate the need for intervention. Being proactive when issues arise allows you and your doctor to make changes to your treatment plan before a crisis requires hospitalization. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Doing everything you can to manage your disease will not increase your quality of life today; it can lead to better health outcomes in the future.


Chronic Disease Management Programs

Managing chronic conditions properly not only leads to better health outcomes and lower spending, it also increases quality of life.

In order to help patients living with chronic conditions, many facilities, agencies, and organizations offer chronic disease management programs. The goal of these programs is to help people self-manage their illness, allowing for better health outcomes as well as reducing hospital admissions, re-admissions, and emergency room visits related to their diagnosis.

All Home Health United nurses, therapists, and social workers are trained in Chronic Disease Management and certified by the National Association of Home Care.

It is important for patients to understand why they are getting the treatments and how their own behavior affects their chronic disease. Home Health United’s chronic disease management training includes education on adult learning, health literacy, and behavior techniques, allowing clinicians to help patients better manage their conditions.

While providing skilled care for patients with chronic conditions Home Health United’s care team uses this training to educate patients on their conditions and treatment(s), help patients set their own health goals, and increase patients’ confidence in self-management of their condition.

Home Health United offers Informational Visits to anyone interested in learning more about how our services can help. Request an Informational Visit online or call 800-924-2273.

 

Employee of the Month – July 2017

Sean M.

Sean has worked for Home Health United since 2012 and is currently our Business Development Marketing Manager.  He is a true ambassador and very vested in our success and it shows in his demeanor, professionalism, presentation style and work ethic.  In addition to his regular Business Development and Marketing job duties, Sean has gone above and beyond by serving on numerous committees and assisting at Foundation special events.  He provides training to new hires and impacts new hires from the start on how to be a great ambassador for the company.  When Sean sees things that could benefit from process improvement he speaks up and often plays an active role on making changes for the better.  Sean is a great role model for his fellow employees and a wonderful asset to Home Health United.

What do you enjoy most about working at Home Health United?
I like to get out in the community and share how Home Health United can help people and improve their quality of life.  Many people might know us for one specific service or another, but we offer so many different ways to support peoples’ health and independence, there is always something new to talk about.

What does Employee of the Month mean to you?
I feel like my efforts are really appreciated. I work on a great, supportive team that makes it easy to promote Home Health United.

When you’re not at Home Health United, what do you enjoy doing?
I have three boys and I spend most of my time chasing them from activity to activity. I am a really big baseball fan. I love to watch any baseball games, but especially my beloved World Champion Chicago Cubs. I love music! I play the guitar as hobby and also have a massive music collection. I really enjoy digging for records and going to concerts. I have a lot of bowties. You may have seen me wearing one.

Past Winners

June 2017 – Mike G.

May 2017 – Laura A.

April 2017 – Paulie S.

March 2017 – Cyndy T.

January 2017 – Julie W.

December 2016 – Kay F.

November 2016 – Jean B.

October 2016 – Jody S.

September 2016 – Alecia C.

August 2016 – Krista B.

July 2016 – Ben C.

June 2016 – Joy N.

May 2016 – Sally Z.

April 2016 – Ray F.

Tips for Talking with Your Doctor

The doctor-patient relationship is a two way street. In order for you to receive the best care possible you need to be an active member of your health care team. Working in partnership, together with your provider, enables you to make the best decisions for your healthcare needs.

However, for this partnership to work, communication is key. Your healthcare team relies on you to communicate your needs and concerns just as you rely on them to deliver information back to you that you understand.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. If you don’t understand something, speak up. Your doctor is there to help. If they use a term you are unfamiliar ask them to clarify.

Remember to speak up. Physicians aren’t mind readers. If you are experiencing symptoms, let them know. If you have upcoming procedures or are unsure about a treatment, tell your doctor now so that you can discuss the pros/cons and other options.

Sometimes however, asking questions and raising concerns are easier said than done. It is important to prepare for a doctor’s visit much like you would prepare for a meeting. In order to have the best line of communication possible there are some things you can do when getting ready for an upcoming appointment.

An appointment provides a finite amount of time to discuss your concerns, and you don’t want to forget anything, so write it down. Start by making a list of everything you want to discuss. If it’s possible start making this list at least a week prior to your appointment so you have time to add items you may have initially overlooked or forgotten. Prioritize your list and highlight the top three or four most important things to discuss first. That way you ensure you won’t run out of time to bring them up.

Make sure to note any changes since your last visit. Have you been ill? Have you been to the ER or to visit a specialist? Have you had any changes in medication? Have you experienced any significant stress or changes in your life such as a recent loss? All of these details are important because they allow your doctor a more complete view of your situation.

Next, gather important information. Bring along the names and contact information for any other doctors you see, even if you don’t see them regularly. Make sure you have your insurance information when you arrive at the clinic. If this is your first visit with this particular physician, make sure they have access to your medical records. You can request that your records be sent to your new doctor. Make sure to bring a list of ALL medications including those prescribed by other physicians, over the counter medicines, vitamins, and supplements.

Now identify potential obstacles to communication. If you have glasses or hearing aids, make sure you wear them to your appointment. Don’t be afraid to ask your doctor to speak up or slow down if you are having a hard time understanding what they are saying. Consider bringing a “stenographer”. Ask a family member or friend to join you to take notes or just be another set of eyes and ears. You can always ask them to step out of the room if you would like to discuss things privately with your physician.

Not only will you give your doctor a lot of information, you’ll get a lot of information too. Ask questions. Have the doctor write important information down for you. If your doctor gives you information verbally, repeat it back in your own words. This allows you to clarify what you have heard. It also gives your doctor the opportunity to make sure you have understood the information.

Being a patient is not passive. You are an essential part of your healthcare team. By actively participating in your care you help to ensure you and your clinician can work together to make the right decisions for you.

Home Health United offers Informational Visits to anyone interested in learning more about how our services can help. Request an Informational Visit online or call 800-924-2273.

Keeping Seniors Safe During Summer Heat

When summer temperatures begin to soar, it is important to keep yourself and your loved ones safe in the heat. High temperatures and humidity affect older adults more severely for a number of reasons. People’s ability to notice changes in their body temperature decreases with age, certain health conditions like heart disease and poor circulation affect the body’s ability to adapt to higher temperatures, and some prescription drugs can contribute to dehydration.

Heat related illnesses and death are preventable, so it’s important to be aware of the risks and signs of heat duress as well as what can be done to prevent them from happening. These tips are applicable to everyone, not just older adults.

Stay Hydrated

Encourage seniors to drink plenty of water. Drink more water than usual and don’t wait until you feel thirsty. If your doctor generally limits the amount of fluid you drink or has you on water pills, ask your doctor how much you should drink while the weather is hot. Stay away from sugary drinks and avoid alcohol. Consider a sports drink which can help replace the salt and minerals you lose when sweating. If you are on a low-salt diet, talk with your doctor before drinking a sports beverage.

Wear Appropriate Clothing

Be sure to wear light weight, light colored, loose fitting clothing. Clothing made of cotton or a sweat-wicking material (made to pull sweat away for your skin) is best. If you are venturing outside consider wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and remember the sunscreen.

Take it Easy & Stay Indoors

Avoid exercising and strenuous activity, especially outside. It is coolest in the morning and evening, so get any outdoor tasks or errands done before the mid-day heat begins to rise.

Turn on the Air-Conditioning

When the weather gets hot, turn the air on. While fans provide a nice breeze, they will not prevent a heat-related illness when temperatures are high. If you don’t have air conditioning, find someplace that does like the mall, department store, or library. During heat waves many municipalities set up “cooling centers” for those without air conditioning to beat the heat. If you are unable to access an air conditioned environment consider a cool bath or shower.

Keep an Eye on the Heat Index  

Ever heard the phrase, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”. The heat index uses humidity and temperature to approximate how hot it “feels”. Since the body’s ability to cool itself through sweating is impaired with there is lots of moisture (humidity) in the air, it’s important to know not just the actual air temperature but the heat index as well.

Know the Warning Signs

There are two types of heat related illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Muscle cramps are often the first sign of heat-related illnesses so pay attention to how you feel so you can take steps to cool down.

Symptoms of Heat Exhaustion

  • Heavy sweating
  • Weakness
  • Cold, pale, or clammy skin
  • Fast, weak pulse
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fainting

 

If you or a loved one have any of these symptoms, move to a cooler location immediately. Lie down, loosen clothing, and apply cool, wet cloths to as much of your body as possible. Keep hydrated by sipping water. If vomiting occurs and it doesn’t stop, seek medical attention immediately.

Symptoms of Heat Stroke

  • High body temperature (above 103 F)
  • Hot, red, dry or moist skin
  • Rapid, strong pulse
  • Possible unconsciousness

 

Heat stroke is a medical emergency, call 911 immediately. While you wait for help to arrive, move the person to a cooler environment if possible. Attempt to reduce body temperature with cool cloths or a cool bath. Do NOT give fluids.

Sometimes people don’t realize how hot it really is or that the heat is even affecting them. It’s important to use a “buddy system” to check in on high-risk friends, relatives, and neighbors. Be sure to check in twice daily during especially hot days.

If you know of someone who is having trouble handling the heat, or has a need for other in-home assistance, you can request an Informational Visit online or by calling 800-924-2273.

Mapping Out Long Distance Caregiving

Caregiving is difficult but the more miles between you and your loved one, the more complicated things can be. But there are things you can do and services available to help you help your loved one, no matter the distance between you.

Whether you are currently in the caregiving trenches or thinking about the future, there are steps you can take to make things easier for everyone.

Step 1 – Start Talking
Although it may be difficult, you need to have conversations about finances. When the time comes to pay for services, where is that funding going to come from? You also need access. Doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, banks, even the utility company cannot give you information or access to accounts without permission. Help your loved one fill out the paperwork and make the calls to give you access. You don’t have to use it now, but if you ever need to, you can easily access everything. Address legal issues. Your loved one should have a durable power of attorney for health care and finances. It doesn’t have to be you, but if no one is defined, the courts will have to step in if your loved one is ever incapacitated. Have a basic plan for emergencies. Consider giving house keys and alarm codes to a trusted neighbor or friend who lives nearby. Trade contact information so that you can communicate in the event of an emergency.

Step 2 – Build a Team
Reach out to friends and family in the area to see if they would be willing to help. Find out what types of community resources are available to assist. Consider hiring professionals to help with certain tasks. Next make a list of tasks and determine who will be responsible for what. Finally create a roster of contact information for everyone involved in care, be it the helpful neighbor who cuts the grass, the agency delivering daily meals, or the hired house cleaner. Be sure to leave your contact information with everyone as well.

You may want to consider hiring a local care manager who can help bridge the distance. A qualified care manager can help manage logistics for you. They are also a great resource for connecting with area organizations that can help. Be sure you find someone reliable. Check their credentials and discuss area of expertise as well as scope of service. Finally, consider the costs. Health insurance typically does not cover this type of service, but an experienced care manager may be able to save you time, money, and stress with even a brief consultation.

Step 3 – Stay Connected
Make sure you communicate regularly with your loved one and their local care team. Think about ways in which technology can help. With your loved one’s permission their care team can communicate with you. Call and ask for updates. Perhaps you can “attend” appointments via Facetime or Skype. Consider a personal emergency response system. These types of devices can call for help if there is a fall or other event. If your loved one is dealing with a chronic condition ask their physician if home telemonitoring might be helpful.

Step 4 – Make the Most of Visits
While you may not be able to be there day to day, you can still get a lot accomplished on visits. Schedule important appointments when you are going to be in town. Being there in person also gives you the opportunity to see if and where additional help might be needed. Maybe the lawn is overgrown or the fridge is empty. You can help out while you are there, but you can also find someone locally to assist on a more every day basis. A face to face visit also gives you the opportunity to see if there are any new or progressing medical issues affecting your loved one. This will allow you to make plans for future needs before there is an emergency.

Finally make sure to spend quality time with your loved one when you visit. Go out to dinner, take a walk, or simply sit on the couch and chat. Being together can be the best medicine.


How can Home Health United help?


VoiceCare

VoiceCare is a personal emergency response system that allows subscribers to maintain their independence while providing a connection to help should the need arise. In the event of a fall or other emergency, activating VoiceCare will alert monitoring center personnel who will then contact subscriber, designated individuals, or emergency services as needed. Learn more.

Telehealth
Telehealth or home telemonitoring helps patients with chronic conditions by providing a consistent connection to healthcare professionals. In-home monitoring devices are used to collect vital information based on the patient’s health condition. This information is then securely transmitted to the healthcare team for review. If the data is outside established parameters for the patient, the system alerts the team which allows for early interventions and treatment adjustments before a more significant health event occurs. Learn more.

SAFE at Home
Home Health United, in partnership with the United Way of Dane County, provides in-home safety assessments for Dane County residents 60+. These assessments focus on reducing falls by addressing unsafe home environments and negative drug interactions. Live outside of Dane County or under 60? Contact us for an Information Visit to find out ways Home Health United can help. Learn more.

Meals On Wheels
Homebound and disabled individuals living in Madison, Middleton, Monona, and Sun Prairie can receive daily mid-day meals through Home Health United Meals On Wheels. In addition to a nutritious lunch, meal delivery also provides a safety check. In the event a recipient does not answer for a meal, volunteers are instructed to alert Home Health United staff who then to contact the individual and their emergency contact. If necessary, public safety officials are contacted to follow up with a secondary safety check. Learn more.

Informational Visits
Home Health United offers Informational Visits to anyone interested in learning more about our services and how we can help you or your loved one. Contact us online or call 1-800-924-2273 to schedule a visit today.