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Trust Your Heart

Trust Your Heart to VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice

If you were having a heart attack, would you know it?

That may seem like a question with an obvious answer, but don’t be so sure. Between the fact that women often experience symptoms other than the recognizable chest pain, and that many men and women alike don’t realize their risk factors for heart disease, a cardiac event could be more likely than you think and could potentially go ignored until it’s too late.

During American Heart Month 2020 and all year long, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is working to help educate residents in its 35-town service area about the risks of heart disease and how to protect themselves.

Heart disease is a term for any condition that affects the heart’s structure and function. Annually, about 630,000 Americans die from heart diseases, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. Women often aren’t diagnosed with heart disease until about 10 years later in life than men, yet it remains the #1 killer of women.

Coronary heart disease – which is commonly understood as clogged arteries – is the most common type of heart disease. Risk factors include high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, a smoking habit, being overweight or obese, having diabetes or prediabetes, being physically inactive, eating an unhealthy diet, a family history of heart disease, preeclampsia during pregnancy and, for women, being over age 55.

Women who have gone through early menopause are twice as likely to develop heart disease.

Having just a single risk factor greatly increases the chances of developing heart disease, and the more risk factors a person has, the more serious concern should be. In Connecticut alone, 155,000 people have been diagnosed with coronary heart disease, according to the NHLBI.

The good news is that simple steps can be taken to help reduce the risk of developing heart disease or to keep the disease from progressing and nearly 80 percent of cardiac events are preventable.

Know your numbers

Having your blood pressure, BMI, waist circumference, fasting glucose and cholesterol checked and discuss with your health provider what these numbers mean in terms of your risk for heart disease. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers Ask the Nurse clinics in Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Killingworth, Madison, North Haven and Woodbridge, at which a registered nurse can check these numbers for you and work with you to set health goals and determine what questions you should ask your doctor. There is no cost for this service and appointments are not required. Click here to see our full list of dates, locations and times.

Cholesterol and A1c cannot be checked during these clinics, but VNACHCH offers cholesterol lipid profile and blood sugar screenings with immediate results and nurse counseling for $35 in ou Guilford and Hamden offices. These appointed can be scheduled by calling our Helpline, 866.474.5230.

Get social support

Sticking to a regular exercise plan that includes at least 30 minutes of physical activity, 5 days a week is critical to heart health, as is incorporating a healthy eating plan into your daily routine.  Diets high in trans and saturated fats, added sugars and sodium all increase the risk factors of heart disease. Social support can make a big difference in maintaining a commitment to lifestyle changes. Exercise classes you can attend with friends and a supportive instructor can be helpful. VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers numerous exercise classes for all fitness levels to help you make quick work of working out.

Get educated

Community heart health education courses offer resources, tips and information and can help increase your ability to take control of your heart health. The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute recommends people take a class, such as VNACHCH’s Living a Heart Healthy Lifestyle – offered this February 19 at 1 p.m. in the VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Wellness Center, 753 Boston Post Road, Guilford. These classes also teach how to spot the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, including lesser recognized symptoms like pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or stomach, as well as cold sweats, nausea and light-headedness.

“More than 1 in 10 Americans have been diagnosed with heart disease, but by taking proactive steps everyone can reduce their risk,” said VNACHCH Health Promotion Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “As a nonprofit home healthcare agency committed to bettering the health and wellness of members of the communities we serve, we are here to help you learn about your personal risk factors and to make the changes needed to avoid a heart disease diagnosis.”

Starting the hospice conversation

Tips for Caregivers

No one is ever fully prepared to have a conversation about death. It’s sad and difficult for loved ones of a person reaching the end-of-life as well as for that person’s physician who has been focused on helping that person recover or improve.

No one wants to hear, “There is nothing more that can be done,” and with hospice as an option that statement is never true. A cure might not be possible, but it’s important each individual faced with that reality know that there is still more life ahead.

The best thing for the people we love is for them to have the best quality of life possible, for as long as possible – and when a cure is no longer possible, hospice is available to offer care and support.

At VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, we offer symptom management while also supporting the social and spiritual needs of people helping them to live their best possible lives in the time remaining.

The best way to broach the topic of hospice with a loved one is to put all the cards on the table and have an honest discussion about the person’s prognosis and the complications of their current condition, such as frequent ER visits and hospital stays, side effects of their illness or treatment such as infections, pain and shortness of breath, and the overall stress and fear they are feeling.

It’s important for a person considering hospice care to know what their options are and that they will not be alone. Focus on the following points:

  • There is not a cure for your condition, so let’s focus on the things we can control and that includes
    making sure you make the most of the time you have left
  • The hospice team will help you to maintain as much independence and dignity as possible for as
    long as possible so you can have the best possible quality of life
  • Because of hospice, you’ll have better control of your symptoms and be able to stay at home with us
  • Your doctor is still part of the team and we can reach out if we need him/her
  • You aren’t going to live as long as we all want, but we’ll be able to enjoy the time we have with you

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is happy to sit down with families and help them have this conversation or have it with their loved ones for them. No one should walk the end of life journey along, and we are proud to be here to support patients and their loved ones every step of the way.

We offer a Family Caregiver Support Network and a hospice program focused on quality of life. Although hospice is available to any terminally-ill patient, 90 percent of hospice patients are Medicare beneficiaries. We are happy to answer questions regarding eligibility and to help families understand how the Hospice Medicare Benefit works.

For more information call 866.474.5230 or visit our Hospice page.

Fight the flu

Colder weather comes with boots, sweaters, scarves and sniffles as cold and flu season arrives.

During this time of year, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is reminding members of the community of the importance of getting an annual flu shot.

Influenza is a serious lung disease caused by a virus, which spreads from person to person. Symptoms include fever, cough, chills, muscle aches, headache and sore throat.

Although many are only sick for a few days, thousands die each year. The virus can make anyone ill – most deaths are in people over age 50 and it is also particularly dangerous for young children. Serious complications, such as pneumonia can lead to hospitalization.

“The flu is a very real health risk. The best thing you can do to protect yourself, your children and the people around you – particularly those with compromised immune systems – is to get your flu shot,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Health Promotion Supervisor Kathleen Eagle. “There are a lot of myths that exist surrounding the flu shot, but the reality is that it is a safe, effective way to reduce your risk of getting the flu and to help you recover more quickly if you do get sick.”

Everyone over 6 months of age should get the flu shot, particularly those with a chronic condition, caregivers of those at high-risk, students and those in institutional settings, residents of long-term care facilities and pregnant women.

Other important tips for flu prevention include regular hand washing, covering your mouth when you cough by coughing into your elbow, disinfecting surfaces in your home and workspace, and eating well along with drinking enough water.

The vaccine will prevent most strains of the flu and though it isn’t 100% effective as the virus changes frequently, it will decrease the severity of the illness if you do get the flu. The vaccine is developed yearly based on the strains expected to be most prevalent and it takes one to two weeks to take effect, but will protect you for several months.

There are vaccines specifically for those over age 65 designed to create a stronger immune response, so ask your doctor for more information.

The vaccine cannot cause the flu, but it will not prevent other illnesses you may contract around the time of receiving the vaccine, and it can cause some side effects – including temporary fever or aches – though most people have no reaction at all.

VNACHCH will host public flu clinics the following dates, times and locations:

Tuesday, Oct. 8
Woodbridge Center
4 Meetinghoue Lane Woodbridge
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 10
Miller Senior Center
2901 Dixwell Ave. Hamden
9 to noon

Friday, Oct. 11
St. George Church (in the Church Hall)
33 Whitfield St. Guilford
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Tuesday, Oct. 15
Joyce Budrow Senior Center
189 Pool Rd. North Haven
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Thursday, Oct. 17
Madison Senior Center (in Library)
29 Bradley Rd. Madison
12:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Getting physical

Tips to overcome everyday aches and pains

The main goal of the wellness programming at VNA Community Healthcare
& Hospice is to keep you moving, but pain can sometimes get in the way. Estimates from the International Association for the Study of Pain suggest that one in five adults across the globe suffer from pain.

“Even those living healthy, active lifestyles can suffer from mild to moderate aches and pains that can impact daily life,” said VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice Director of Therapy Kelli Filosa. “Pain also doesn’t discriminate. Although many find they struggle with it as part of the aging process, younger individuals can also face challenges.”

Pain can affect anyone, even people who have not been in an accident or suffered an injury while playing a sport or performing another physical activity. For example, lower back pain, which can be caused by sitting at a desk for long stretches of time, is the most common type of chronic pain in the United States. Such pain may be unavoidable, but that does not mean it and other types of everyday aches and pains cannot be overcome.

Begin a well-rounded exercise regimen

Regular exercise that includes both strength training and cardiovascular exercise increases blood flow and helps build a strong core.

A strong core supports the spine and reduces the pressure on it, making it less likely people who sit for long stretches at a time will end their days with lower back pain. Routine exercise also helps other areas of the body by keeping muscles loose and flexible. Before beginning a new exercise regimen, men and women, especially those with existing aches and pains, should consult their physicians about which exercises they should do and which they might want to avoid.

“Our home healthcare physical therapy clients most often require our services after a fall, injury or joint replacement, though they can also be beneficial if you have an ongoing medical condition that has gotten worse – such as chronic heart failure, breathing problems or diabetes,” Filosa explained. “We can also help those dealing with weakness or poor balance after a stroke or other medical event.”

She added, “Because we help those dealing with such a wide range of physical therapy needs, we are experts in exercise programs and even home modifications that can help you live safely and prevent an injury before one occurs.”

Filosa recommends walking as a tried and true method of cardiovascular exercise, as well as low impact classes such as the Yoga, Tai Chi or Sitercise classes offered by VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice to help with building core strength and improving balance.

Employ RICE

RICE, which stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, can help men and women overcome the aches and pains that result as the body ages and tendons begin to lose some of their elasticity. RICE might be most helpful for people with tendinitis.

“It’s important to exercise regularly and to stay active after an injury, fall or joint replacement, only of course with the approval of your doctor and under the supervision of a licensed physical therapist, but appropriate rest and care is also necessary,” Filosa explained. “A therapist can offer tips on what’s best for specific types of pain.”

Athletes over 40 who engage in activities that require repetitive motion might need to take more days off between rounds of golf or other competitive and/or repetitive activities.

Recognize your body may develop some limitations

Age should not prevent you from being physically active, and numerous studies have touted the benefits of continuing to exercise into your golden years. However, as the body ages, muscle fibers become less dense, resulting in a loss of flexibility that increases the risk of injury and/or soreness. As men and women grow older, they shouldn’t abandon activities like gardening or strength training, but they may need to scale back on the intensity of such activities. Doing so can prevent the kinds of muscle strains associated with aging.

To learn more about our therapy program, visit our page for Therapy Services.

Managing Pain

How well do you understand Palliative Care?

September is Pain Management Month, a good time to consider how important pain management is in the lives of those living with a chronic illness.

At VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice, we offer a palliative care program focused on quality of life that is beneficial for anyone suffering from side effects of curative treatments or simply those in need of pain or symptom management.

Common misconceptions about palliative care include that a person must be in the hospital to receive it or that pain and suffering is just part of a chronic illness.

Palliative care is aimed at controlling symptoms so patients are more comfortable and able to stay out of the hospital. It is helpful to those struggling to cope as an illness progresses and those suffering from a variety of causes of discomfort and pain.

Shortness of breath, the inability to move around freely, loss of appetite and nausea, confusion about one’s treatment plan or worry about the future, and a loss of interest in hobbies that comes with depression or frustration resulting from an illness are all things causes of discomfort and pain that palliative care can help improve.

Palliative care teams include registered nurses, home health aides, spiritual counselors, social workers and rehabilitation therapists.

Pain does not have to be accepted as part of chronic illness, nor is it always part of dying once an illness progresses. There are many ways pain can be managed. In addition to providing symptom control medically, our program can help lower stress on patients and families, which aids the process of getting pain under control.

Many confuse palliative care with hospice care, and believe that they must be dying or end their curative treatment to receive a palliative care referral.

Palliative care can be engaged at any point during an illness and is not the same as hospice care. Unlike with hospice services, patients receiving palliative care can continue curative treatments and do not need to be considered terminally ill.

Engaging palliative care does not mean you will die sooner, it simply means you will continue to live with the support of trained professionals who can help ensure you have the best quality of life possible.

Healthcare Decisions Day 2019

In an effort to educate and empower people to learn about and engage in advance healthcare decision-making, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice has planned a full day of outreach culminating in a panel presentation from three local experts as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day.

Recognized on Tuesday, April 16, National Healthcare Decisions day is a collaborative effort of national, state and community organizations aimed at ensuring information, opportunity and access is available for all to document important healthcare decisions.

The theme for this year’s day is: “It’s always seems too early, until it’s too late.”

As part of this movement, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers. The nonprofit agency will also have information available on how to execute written advance directives, such as healthcare power of attorney and living wills in accordance with Connecticut state laws.

On April 16, trained VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice volunteers will be available at local senior centers to provide information and education, and the day will culminate in a panel that evening at Evergreen Woods, located at 88 Notch Hill Rd. in North Branford. An informal social hour with hors d’oeuvres and the opportunity to review informational materials will begin at 5 p.m. with the panel presentation scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.

Panelists include Donna Cricenzo, concierge physician and the medical director of the VNACHCH hospice program, who will discuss the chronic illness journey and ultimate palliative and hospice care decisions one might face. Joan Reed Wilson of RWC, LLC Attorneys and Counselors at Law will sit on the panel to share important information regarding elder law and estate planning. Finally, Guy Tommasi, the executive director of VNACHCH affiliate LIFETIME Care at Home will share his perspective on the need for non-medical in-home care and the decisions associated with that phase of the healthcare journey.

Healthcare Decisions Day events:

Meet with a VNACHCH representative April 16:

Miller Senior Center
2901 Dixwell Ave., Hamden
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

Joyce Budrow Senior Center
189 Pool Rd., North Haven
11 a.m. to 1:15 p.m.
No registration required

Guilford Senior Center
32 Church St., Guilford
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Madison Senior Center
29 Bradley Rd., Madison
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

Advance Care Planning panel April 16:
Evergreen Woods
88 Notch Hill Road, North Branford
5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres
6 p.m. panel discussion
Registration required at 866.474.5230

Healthcare Decisions Day resources:

Below is a link to a summary of Connecticut State law pertaining to an individual’s right to make health care decisions, directions for completing the consolidated health care instructions and advance directives document and the documents themselves including Appointment of A Health Care Representative, Living Will and Health Care Instructions, Appointment of a Conservator and Organ Donation in one form.

https://www.ct.gov/agingservices/lib/agingservices/pdf/advancedirectivesenglish.pdf

Below are links to useful documents when it comes to starting the advance care planning conversation with family members and healthcare providers.

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-ConvoStarterKit-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/ConversationProject-ProxyKit-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-StarterKit-Alzheimers-English.pdf

http://theconversationproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/ConversationProject-TalkToYourDr-English.pdf

For more information and for these documents available in other languages, visit theconversationproject.org.

LIFETIME Care at Home receives 2018 Best of Home Care® – Leader in Excellence Award

LIFETIME Care at Home recently announced that it received the distinguished Best of Home Care –Leader in Excellence Award from Home Care Pulse, the leading firm in quality assurance for home care. The Leader in Excellence Award is the highest recognition awarded by Home Care Pulse and is given to select home care businesses that consistently rank among the very highest in 15 or more quality metrics. As a Leader in Excellence, LIFETIME Care at Home is now ranked among the top 4-5% of home care providers participating in the Home Care Pulse Satisfaction Management Program.

This accomplishment demonstrates LIFETIME’s long-term dedication to excellent care and quality improvement. To qualify for this award, 10% of LIFETIME’s clients and caregivers were interviewed each month by Home Care Pulse. Over a 12-month period, LIFETIME received high client and caregiver satisfaction ratings in areas such as: caregiver training, compassion of caregivers, communication, scheduling, client/caregiver compatibility, etc. Using feedback from clients and employees, as well as quality benchmarks from Home Care Pulse, the LIFETIME management team set goals to reach the highest level of excellence possible.

“This recognition by Home Care Pulse is testimony to the hard work, commitment and dedication of both our support staff and caregivers. It shows that our clients and families trust us to provide compassionate, respectful, quality care as they remain safe and independent at home,” says Guy Tommasi, Jr. Executive Director, LIFETIME Care at Home.

LIFETIME Care at home is a proud affiliate of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice.  Since 1999 they have been providing advising and caregiving services throughout Connecticut. Their mission is to embody a spirit of compassion for those seeking and receiving in-home care. LIFETIME’s services include activity assistance, personal care, live in, and transportation.

The Best of Home Care – Leader in Excellence Award highlights the top-performing home care businesses in the nation. Home Care Pulse believes that by honoring these providers, families looking for in-home care for a loved one will be able to recognize and choose a trusted home care provider.

“Our goal at Home Care Pulse is to empower home care businesses to reach their goals and deliver the best home care possible,” says Aaron Marcum, CEO and founder of Home Care Pulse. “We are happy to recognize LIFETIME Care at Home as a Leader in Excellence. We’ve been impressed by their commitment to their clients and caregivers, as well as the quality of the overall care they provide. They really stand out in their market as a top home care provider.”

Click here to learn more about LIFETIME Care at Home’s commitment to excellence or call 203-458-5990.

Fall Free Living Highlighted in Journal of Gerontology

The success of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s award winning Fall Free Living program was recently highlighted in a report published in the Journal of Gerontology.  The report, Intervention to Prevent Falls: Community-Based Clinics, written by:  Yale University’s Dorothy I. Baker, Linda Leo-Summers, and Terrence E. Murphy; plus VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s Barbara Katz and Beth A. Capobianco focuses on the impact fall prevention clinics, like our Fall Free Living program, have on rates of self-reported falls and fall-related use of health services.

For the past 6 years Fall Free Living has been funded by a grant from the Connecticut Collaboration for Fall Prevention at Yale University School of Medicine through the Connecticut State Department on Aging.  The program offers group and individual in-home fall risk screenings and personal recommendations to reduce fall risk. Many Tai Chi and chair exercise classes designed to help participants build and maintain strength and balance.

 

Fall Prevention Publication