Falls are the leading cause of fatal injury and the most common cause of nonfatal trauma-related hospitalization in people 65+. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control more than a quarter of older adults fall each year. Of those falls, one in five causes a serious injury. While many falls don’t cause injuries, falling once doubles your chances of falling again, and fear of falling may lead people to cut down on everyday activities. However, a decrease in activity can mean an increase in weakness which actually increases future risk.
The best thing you can do to prevent injury is to avoid falling in the first place. There are many steps you can take to help prevent falls.
Talk to your doctor. Less than half of people who fall every year tell their doctor. Being open about falls or the fear of falling with your health care team gives them the opportunity to evaluate your risk and recommend specific things you can do to decrease it.
Mind your medications. Some medications, or combinations of medications, can have side effects such as dizziness or drowsiness making falls more likely. Make sure each of your providers know about all the medicines you take including prescriptions, over-the-counter, vitamins and supplements. Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review your medications for side effects or possible interactions.
Get some exercise. Lower body weakness and balance problems both contribute to falls. Work on increasing your strength through activities like walking and water aerobics. In addition, choose activities that can help improve your balance such as tai chi, chair yoga, ballroom dancing and exercise classes that include balance specific exercises.
Keep your vision sharp. Have yearly eye exams and wear glasses or contact lenses with your most up-to-date prescription. Being able to see clearly will help you get around much more safely.
Eliminate hazards at home. Because half of all falls happen at home, a home safety check can go a long way in reducing falls. Fixing potential issues such as tripping hazards, clutter and poor lighting can all help lower the chance of falling. Installing grab bars in the bathroom or railings on stairs is also a great way to decrease your risk.
Don’t be that one out of four who falls this year. Take steps today to reduce your fall risk so you can stay safe, secure and independent tomorrow.
Because preventing falls is much more effective than treating the results of them, SSM Health at Home, in partnership with United Way of Dane County, developed the SAFE at Home program. SAFE at Home provides home safety assessments and medication reviews for Dane County residents ages 60+.
SAFE at Home participants receive:
Basic in-home safety assessment
Medication review by a pharmacist
Safety aids including a pill box and nightlight
Home safety recommendations
Information about community resources
Six months of follow-up by a medical social worker
The program is designed to help participants identify risk factors and advise them on ways to change or modify their environment to decrease fall risk. Our goal is to reduce falls, helping people live safely and independently in their own homes for as long as possible.
Kari is the Branch Assistant for the Columbus office and has worked for SSM Health at Home for 13 years. Kari is always willing to help out and is incredibly reliable and dependable. She provides amazing customer service to patients, families and staff. She is always a pleasant and positive person. When challenges arise during the day Kari steps up to the task at hand whether its meeting staff in the field to exchange equipment, delivering products in an emergency, or other duties that come up.
Gina has been with SSM Health At Home for almost four years and now serves as the Meals On Wheel Volunteer Coordinator. Gina is incredibly reliable, dependable, caring and thoughtful. Gina’s role has been one of the most challenging jobs in the program because she has to recruit and constantly maintain a daily schedule of volunteers. She is always willing to bring a meal out to a recipient or deliver more than one route. Gina takes the initiative to learn everyone’s duties in the department in order to help when someone is out of the office. The Meals On Wheels program has many moving parts, and Gina has learned to be incredibly flexible and ready to help whenever needed. Gina has been described as a great representation of our Meals On Wheels program and keeps our volunteers and clients happy.
Early admission to hospice can improve quality of life
Hospice care provides people at the end-of-life with symptom and pain management, emotional and spiritual support, and the ability to remain at home if that is their goal. Not only does the hospice team work to make the patient comfortable, they also support caregivers and family members throughout the process as well as after the death.
However, many people never have the opportunity to experience this type of care and support, either because they do not elect hospice or because they only elect hospice in the last days and weeks of life.
Hospice isn’t just for the actively dying. Anyone with a life expectancy of six months or less may be eligible, and patients who exceed the six months can be recertified and continue to receive care as long as they continue to meet eligibility criteria. Patients who choose hospice choose to forgo further curative treatment for their terminal illness and focus on comfort instead.
A report from the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization shows that in 2016, the median length of hospice care for Medicare patients was only 24 days. In fact, over 40% of Medicare hospice beneficiaries received less than two weeks of care, and 27% received service for a week or less.
Why does this matter?
The sooner patients are admitted the sooner the care team can begin to control pain and symptoms. Researchers from the School of Medicine at Yale University found patients they were studying only experienced substantial relief of their most distressing symptoms (including nausea, depression, pain, shortness of breath) after hospice began.
Managing symptoms can go a long way in ensuring patients can remain at home. The Kaiser Family Foundation reports that 71% of Americans prefer to die at home, yet the Centers for Disease Control found that only 33.5% of Medicare patients died at home in 2009.
Not only does hospice improve patient quality of life, it can also improve length of life. A Journal of Pain and Symptom Management study showed hospice patients lived an average of 29 days longer than those who were not receiving hospice services. And a study in the New England Journal of Medicine reported hospice patients were happier, more mobile, in less pain and lived nearly three months longer.
We understand that talking about end-of-life is difficult, but with hospice services patients have a team of people working with them and their families to identify goals, set priorities and help achieve the best quality of life possible.
Who is on the hospice team?
The team is led by a hospice RN case manager and may also include:
Hospice medical director
Hospice nurse practitioner
Home health aides
Medical social worker
Grief and spiritual counselor
Physical, occupational or speech therapists
The patient’s primary care physician is also involved and kept informed about the patient’s condition and plan of care.
Where do patients receive care?
Hospice is a service, not a place. Most patients prefer to remain at home and the team will do everything they can to make that happen. Care can be provided in the patient’s home, the home of a family member, nursing home, senior apartments, assisted living facilities or residential hospice facilities.
Who pays for hospice?
The Medicare Hospice Benefit covers the services provided by the hospice team as well as many types of medical equipment and approved medications related to the terminal illness. Most HMO’s and private insurance companies also provide coverage for hospice services.
What if a caregiver needs a break?
Hospice can provide temporary, short-term assistance in caring for a hospice patient allowing caregivers time to recharge. Respite care comes in many forms and can be provided at a variety of locations.
What if symptoms cannot be managed at home?
In rare instances, patients who require skilled care around the clock in order to maintain comfort may be eligible for short-term general inpatient care. For qualifying patients, this type of care can be provided in a Medicare-certified facility that meets the conditions of providing inpatient care.
I’m not ready for hospice but have a chronic or life-limiting illness that is affecting my quality of life. Is care available to help manage my symptoms?
Yes. Palliative care is a type of home health care focused on helping people facing chronic or life-limiting conditions manage symptoms, pain and stress. Eligibility for palliative care is not dependent on life expectancy and can be provided at the same time as curative or life-prolonging treatment.
How can I learn more?
SSM Health at Home can provide informational visits to anyone interested in learning more about how our services can help. We are able to meet with you and your family to discuss how our team of hospice professionals can help identify goals, set priorities and help achieve the best quality of life possible. We can also discuss other services available to improve quality of life for those who do not qualify for or are not ready for hospice.
About SSM Health at Home
SSM Health at Home is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of comprehensive home care services, including home health, hospice, medical equipment, infusion pharmacy and community health. We offer informational visits to anyone interested in learning about how our services can help today or in the future. Please visit ssmhealthathomeWI.com or call 800-924-2273 to schedule an informational visit today.
Care need indicators and where to find assistance
Could you or a loved one benefit from additional care or supportive services? There are underlying issues that may indicate the need for more care. Some things to look for include:
Acute, chronic or terminal health condition
Frequent hospitalizations or ER/urgent care visits
Home safety concerns
Pain control management
Changes in mobility
Limited social network
Lack of family support
Activities of Daily Living
Personal care needs
Range of motion changes
Lack of food preparation
Change in appetite
Worry/concern about loved ones
Sense of abandonment
For a more extensive checklist, please visit our website at ssmhealthathomeWI.com and click Resources.
Once you have identified a need, the next step is to determine the level of care that can best meet your needs. While the goal of each type of home health care is the same – to help keep people at home – the level of care provided depends on the unique needs of each individual.
Non-medical home care provides assistance with personal care like dressing, grooming, bathing and other activities of daily living. This type of care can also assist clients with meal preparation, transportation or medication management. Non-medical home care can benefit people who do not qualify for skilled home care services, but who require increased day-to-day support due to their physical or cognitive needs.
Coverage for non-medical home care services depends on each individual’s specific circumstances and coverage. You can contact your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) for assistance and additional information.
Skilled home care provides patients with medical care in their home. It is provided by a licensed home health agency and must be “prescribed” by a physician. Most skilled services are covered by Medicare. There are a number of types of skilled care available and which type of care a patient receives is dependent on their individual condition(s) and needs.
Skilled home health care helps patients remain at home by providing medical care such as nursing, physical, occupational or other therapies, and medical social work. This type of care can benefit those who are recovering from an illness or injury, people who have recently had surgery, or those who are dealing with a chronic health condition. The goal of skilled home health care is to help the patient recover or manage their chronic condition(s) at home.
Palliative care is available for people who are having difficulty dealing with the symptoms of their chronic and/or terminal condition(s). Patients receiving this type of care are still able to receive curative treatment and do not have to have a limited life expectancy. The goal of palliative care is to manage symptoms in order for patient’s to live the best quality of life possible, all while remaining at home.
Hospice is a special type of care for those dealing with a terminal illness and whose physician estimates they have a life expectancy of six months or less. Care is focused on managing symptoms, keeping the patient comfortable, and providing emotional and spiritual support to both the patient and their family. Hospice is a type of care, not a place. In fact, the vast majority of hospice patients remain at home.
Many people know they need help but don’t know where to start. Navigating the maze of care options available can be stressful. While many people know that they or a loved one needs additional help, they may not know where to find it.
Your local Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) is a great place to start. You can find the ADRC nearest you at dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc or by doing an online search for ADRC Wisconsin. You can also visit Medicare’s website at medicare.gov to search for services from doctors, to home health care, to nursing homes. Talk to your doctor and ask for recommendations from people you trust. Learn more about agencies that provide additional care and support. Medical social workers are a great resource. Schedule informational visits with care providers to see what is available.
SSM Health at Home is a nonprofit organization providing a variety of comprehensive home care services, including: home health, hospice, medical equipment, infusion pharmacy and community health. We offer informational visits to anyone interested in learning about how our services can help today or in the future. Please visit ssmhealthathomeWI.com or call 800-924-2273 to schedule an informational visit today.
SSM Health at Home’s hospice helps keep patients at home
Thinking about hospice can be overwhelming for patients and their families. However the sooner an eligible patient is admitted to hospice, the sooner our care team can begin treating symptoms, managing pain and providing support.
Most hospice patients prefer to remain at home surrounded by the people and things they love. SSM Health at Home helps make that happen, helping patients achieve the best quality of life possible for however long they are in our care.
Sharing Helen’s stories
SSM Health at Home provides so much more than physical care to our patients and their families. It is an honor and privilege to be allowed to join an individual’s end of life journey. Each person’s journey is as unique as they, and so our care is tailored to each and every patient. For hospice patient Helen, sharing stories was a way for her to connect with caregivers and our staff.
At SSM Health at Home, we are proud to offer our patients a selection of home-based health services designed to keep people at home. From skilled nursing to telehealth monitoring, chronic disease management to post-surgical care, our home health services are here to help you heal at home.
Our dedicated team coordinates with physicians, nurses and specialists to create individual care plans for patients that help treat and improve chronic conditions, support those recovering from an injury or illness, or assist people healing from surgery.
SSM Health at Home provides support to patients of all ages, providing compassionate care that travels from our home to yours.
Don’t let sleep apnea keep you awake at night
A good night’s sleep is important not just for our mood, but for our overall health. Sleep apnea is a relatively common condition that impacts not only a person’s quality of sleep, but left untreated, can have detrimental effects on their health.
Doing all the good we can with the help of our donors
Every day, through every gift that is given, our donors help our Foundation do all the good we can.
Last fall, a donor wanted to give her Green Bay Packers tickets to a patient in our care. Due to her generosity, we were able to grant a wish for a hospice patient and his family. When we asked the donor why she had chosen to do this, she quoted John Wesley.
“Do all the good you can, by all means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
We later learned the patient’s family chose to share the sentiment with all who knew him by printing the quote on his funeral program.
Through your gift to our Foundation you can help us to continue to do all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, for all the people we can, as long as ever we can.
Our donors impact the lives of every senior who receives a noon meal through our Meals On Wheels program, to every family who spends final days together at our Hospice House, and to each hospice patient who plays cards with a fellow veteran volunteer through our We Honor Veterans program. Every day, through every gift that is given, a life is touched by the generosity of our donors.
Please join us in doing all the good we can, by all the means we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, for all the people we can, as long as ever we can. Donate today.
Save the Date – Heels for Meals
Save the date on August 23, 2018, and join us for the inaugural Heels for Meals event in support of our Meals On Wheels program.
Held at the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery in downtown Madison, the evening will feature a four-course meal, music, dancing and much more.
SSM Health at Home joined Helen on her health care journey in 2012, providing in-home health care, including physical and occupational therapy. In 2018 Helen’s needs changed, and SSM Health at Home was able to transition with her, providing care and support to her and her family through our hospice services.
While home health concentrates on helping patients meet clinical goals, hospice focuses on comfort and support, not only for patients but for their families as well. Our clinicians are experts at keeping patients comfortable through symptom and pain management, but hospice is more than just physical care.
When members of our team visit patients and their families they are sharing a part of a journey, providing not only medical care but spiritual and emotional support as well.
For 102-year-old patient Helen, sharing her experiences through her stories helps her connect with SSM Health at Home’s clinical staff, our volunteers and her caregivers.
Helen is used to telling her stories. She was a speaker at the sesquicentennial in New Glarus detailing her family’s history there; her grandfather was one of the founders of the city. A few years ago she was interviewed for a Wisconsin State Journal story about riding out the summer heat wave of 1936 by sleeping on the Capital Square to keep cool.
She talks about her father and mother. How her father would warm blocks of Limburger cheese on the block of his truck, traveling to Switzerland with her mother to visit her grandfather, and watching the annual Cheese Days parade ride past the house where she grew up.
She shares memories of growing up with her brothers, all three of them, and their antics. She remembers her days as a schoolgirl in Monroe, walking to school with her girlfriends and laughing at her classmates’ pranks.
She fondly recalls meeting her husband Walter at the skating rink. He was a pilot and would buzz her parent’s house with his biplane. She talks about the first time she went flying with him, how she was scared to tell her parents because she knew they would be worried.
She tells tales of working at the Swiss Colony as a young married woman. Then later she talks about shopping in Chicago for the fashions sold at the women’s clothing store she owned and operated in Brodhead in the 1950’s.
She reminisces about her 100th birthday party only a few short years ago. Her only living brother, who traveled all the way from California to attend, hid a hundred dollar bill in her purse to surprise her, an old family tradition her father started with her mother.
She speaks about her caregivers, her son and daughter, her four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. She remembers her granddaughter who comes to dance for her and the SSM Health at Home music therapist who comes to see her and play songs that she once played on the piano.
These stories are just brief moments from a long and rich life. We have cared for many hospice patients over the past 29 years, each on their own unique journey with their own special stories to tell. SSM Health at Home was honored to be part of their journeys just as we are honored to have been part of Helen’s.
Employee of the Month
Congratulations Maureen K.
Maureen has been with SSM Health at Home for over 27 years as an RN Case Manager for our Reedsburg office. Always willing to help out her home health team and the hospice team, she will assist on her days off, at night and on the weekend with no complaint. Maureen is a true team player and maintains a positive and professional attitude at all times. She is kind, caring, compassionate, and her patients always come first as seen in the many positive comments and cards the office receives from her patients and families. From individualized patient-centered goals to informing patients of SSM Health at Home services, one of Maureen’s strongest attributes is the care she provides to patients. She has been described as the Florence Nightingale of SSM Health at Home! Maureen is dedicated to SSM’s mission and values, and it is seen in her work with patients and families every day. Please join us in congratulating Maureen on this recognition!
What do you enjoy most about working at SSM Health at Home?
Things have changed so much over the years at Home Health United/SSM Health at Home but I guess the most of what I enjoy without a doubt are the patients. People are so appreciative of what we do for them. They are so happy to be able to stay in their homes. What we do for our patients today, I did for the patient’s in the hospital setting years ago. It is even more complicated today than it was then and we do it in the home! Medicine has changed so much. People would stay in the hospital until they were well. Now they go home once a discharge has been made and the home health nurse gets them to care for. I really love it! Every day you learn something new – so many things to learn all the time. My patients are the reason I’m here. I enjoy them and when they are happy with what I have done for them they have made my day.
What does Employee of the Month mean to you?
What can I say……I was completely shocked. It was unbelievable to me….the first employee from the Reedsburg home care team. I am so appreciative and excited, completely humbled, it was so unexpected. It could have been anyone of us. We all work hard and help out one another all the time. There is always a place to help. I have made many friends and lasting friendships with patients and fellow colleagues over the years – a lifetime of friendships. Being chosen as “employee of the month” builds from a lifetime of working together and is so meaningful to me. It is awesome. I want to thank everyone for this incredible honor. Thank you!
When you’re not at SSM Health at Home, what do you enjoy doing?
My hobbies have changed over the years. Guess that comes with age. I use to be a big runner – every waking free time – even got the whole family involved many times. I have lots of medals and ribbons from my running days. My hobbies today are my flower gardens. I just love what I have been blessed to do – my flowers are beautiful. I have many different gardens – grandchildren, Angel, Brett Favre, and a memory garden for my parents to just name a few. It’s wonderful—lots of work but wonderful.
My husband has rejuvenated his musical talents so I have become a “groupie”. He plays the guitar and sings. He has a band so we entertain when we have time. It is a lot of fun. We also like to travel. We go south for a couple of weeks each year and this year we will be playing at a resort in Key West, so a true “groupie”!
I also have two sons and their families which includes five grandchildren, ages 4-16. Family is very important to me. The kids grow up so fast – you have to enjoy them while you can.
Janet has been with SSM Health at Home for over 28 years and has held various positions within the company. In her current role as Outreach Manager Janet meets with referral sources, community leaders, patients and family members to provide education on SSM Health at Home’s services. Janet also represents SSM Health at Home in community groups, provides student education, trains new hires, volunteers to help out MOW routes and has been our United Way key leader for several years. Janet brings a professional, calm and positive attitude to work every day. She is an asset to our company serving as a resource for our staff, as well as to the community as seen in numerous letters of praise and recognition received from people outside of our organization. She is very dependable, self-motivated and her customer service skills and follow through are top notch! Janet is a passionate ambassador of our services and a wonderful role model for staff members. Please join us in congratulating Janet on this recognition!
What do you enjoy most about working at SSM Health at Home?
In my tenure at Visiting Nurse Service/Home Health United/SSM Health at Home, I have been offered wonderful opportunities from field work as a medical social worker, management of the Social Workers and Spiritual Counselors, program development as well as outreach and business development. I truly believe the primary reason for enjoying my work is because I strongly believe in the vision and mission of the company by helping people stay in their homes with needed support. Another very important part of my satisfaction is due to the people I work with! I enjoy meeting and building relationships with our referral sources.
What does Employee of the Month mean to you?
I am honored to be presented Employee of the Month! It’s humbling to know that others recognize and appreciate your hard work and dedication to the company!
When you’re not at SSM Health at Home, what do you enjoy doing?
My family and friends mean the world to me so spending time with them is my highest priority. My husband and I have been married almost 32 years; I have a daughter who is 23 and a big lab puppy! We all enjoy time together! I enjoy the outdoors, bonfires, Harley road trips and suspenseful shows and movies.