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Think of mom and dad but think twice about visiting

This season can make it difficult to stick to social distancing measures – but now is the time to hold the line and resist the urge to relax restrictions.

Mother’s Day is just a few weeks away followed soon after by Father’s Day. These holidays, of course, are ones best celebrated in person with the people we love. Unfortunately, despite the fact that many states are at the very least in discussions to begin reopening, ending social distancing to see mom or dad is not in their best interest in the long run.

Even as businesses and public spaces open up again, it will still be important – particularly for the aging and chronically ill who are at high-risk for severe complications of COVID-19 – to remain at home as much as possible, to stay 6 feet away from others in public, to wear a mask in public and to avoid close contact with those who do not live with you in your home, including other family members.

There is potential for subsequent waves of this virus and until a vaccine is available there is a still a risk for infection, so the best gift you can give your parents right now is the gift of good health.

Here are some ideas for special ways to say “I love you” this spring:

Virtual performances can be a great way to lift the spirits of grandparents who are struggling with the need to stay distant from the young ones in their lives. Organize a Zoom hangout with all the grandchildren and have them learn a new song and perhaps some choreography that can be performed together for grandma or grandpa. This can be a fun bonding activity for siblings and cousins that is sure to brighten up their grandparent’s day.

Another fun activity for children that is sure to bring out smiles from the recipient is an outdoor display. One idea is to have the kids collect and paint small rocks with messages of love that can be set up in their grandparent’s garden or along a front walkway as a Mother’s Day or Father’s Day rock garden surprise.

Of course, special deliveries of cards, flowers, gift baskets or a meal are always appreciated at any time. Throughout this crisis, in particular, consider supporting local, small businesses when ordering these things for delivery. Make sure mom or dad remembers to sanitize anything coming into their home.

If you do want to see each other face to face, remember that masks are critical but also not a guarantee of full protection, so its best to see each other briefly through a closed, glass door.

We all look forward to the day when hugs and hand holding are no longer replaced with on-screen hangouts and hellos from afar, but for now it’s important to put thought into what will make your parents and grandparents feel well loved this season, but think twice about visiting.

COVID-19 Updates and Resources

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice is committed to helping our staff and our communities respond to the COVID-19 outbreak in the best and safest way possible.

We know this is a time of uncertainty and stress for our patients and their loved ones, but we want to assure all those in our care that we continue to engage the strictest infection control practices and are practicing social distancing among our staff, as we encourage everyone in our communities to do in the interest of the health and safety of our most vulnerable.

Here are a few important things to note as a patient in our care:

  • We are doing a telephone screen of each patient prior to making a home visit. The screening assesses for respiratory symptoms, fever or travel to countries with high prevalence of COVID-19 disease.
  • If a patient or close household contact has a fever and respiratory symptoms we will wear full protective equipment and attempt to ascertain risk of COVID-19 exposure. The patient’s doctor will be contacted.
  • All of our staff are supplied with protective equipment and re-educated in proper usage.
  • We are tracking respiratory illness in our employees and patients.
  • We are following all communications from the Dept. of Public Health, CDC and local emergency management office.

All of our Wellness and Exercise Classes have been cancelled until further notice. This includes classes and programs held in our wellness center in Guilford, our program room in Hamden and any classes held in the community.

We will re-evaluate the situation as new information becomes available. For updates, please continue to visit or website or call our helpline at 866.474.5230. Messages will be updated on that line.

If you are experiencing the following symptoms: fever, coughing, shortness of breath, please contact your primary care physician right away or call the Yale New Haven Health COVID-19 call center at 833-ASK-YNHH (833-275-9644).

We’ve compiled some resources to assist our clients and caregivers during this difficult time:

  • For comprehensive instructions for caring for a COVID-19 positive person at home and preventing the spread of infection click here: Infection Preventing the Spread of Coronavirus Disease 2019 in Homes and … (1).
  • For an overview of tips on caring for a loved one who has been diagnosed with COVID-19, read this tip sheet from CHAP: Covid-19 Caregiver Instructions
  • If you are a caregiver struggling to care for an ill or aging loved one, particularly during this time of social distancing, we welcome you to join our weekly Virtual Support Group. Visit our Family Caregiver Support Network page to learn more here.
  • Preventing a fall is critically important during this time to keep yourself or your loved one out of the hospital, both to avoid exposure to COVID-19 and to keep hospital beds free for COVID-19 patients, in addition of course to the fact that avoiding fall-related injuries is always in your best interest. Read more about the heightened need for fall risk reduction on our Steady Steps page here.
  • To read about how you can support an elderly loved one during this time of social distancing, click here.
  • For advice on staying focused and safe through the outbreak, click here.
  • For more resources, visit our tip sheets and videos page.

To learn about how you can support our team during this pandemic, including by showing support using our downloadable unique social media icons to support our nurses and other team members, click here.

As we continue to provide the highest quality care in the midst of this outbreak and the financial toll it has taken on our operation, we ask you to consider supporting us through our comprehensive campaign, We Are Stronger With You: The Campaign for VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice. Click here to learn more.

Healthcare Decisions Day 2020

 

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, this event has unfortunately been cancelled. 

 

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 Thursday, 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.

It is an initiative of The Conversation Project, which is aimed at helping people begin end of life conversations with loved ones and which works in collaboration with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.

Without an advance care plan, a person’s loved one can be left making difficult decisions during a grief-stricken time with no guidance as to what their friend or family member would choose for themselves if they could. That is why it is so important to not only put thought into what you would want in a variety of medical situations, but also to learn how to choose a healthcare proxy, and how to have the conversation about your wishes with the people you care about most.

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 the Guilford Free Library. 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:

Hamden Senior Center
11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
No registration required

North Haven Senior Center
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Guilford Senior Center
11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Madison Senior Center
11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
No registration required

Advance Care Planning panel April 16:

Guilford Free Library
67 Park St. Guilford
5 p.m. hors d’oeuvres
6 p.m. panel discussion

Register 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.

Spring 2020 Program Book Released

VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice offers many opportunities to help you improve your health, prevent illnesses and keep you independent. From group classes, personalized blood pressure checks and nurse health coaching, to clinics and cholesterol screening, VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice‘s team of professional nurses will help you design a personalized wellness program.

We are pleased to announce the release of our program book for Spring of 2020. Programs include a full line up of exercise classes and several wellness programs in towns throughout our territory.

Our next edition of the program book will be released in the late summer of 2020 containing programming information for fall and winter. To be added to the mailing list, please email Mary Higgins at mhiggins@vna-commh.org or call our toll free helpline at 1.866.474.5230.

Click the following link to view the Spring 2020 Program Book.

Thank you to our corporate sponsors of the Spring 2020 program book! To learn about our corporate sponsorship opportunities, email Sandy at KHernandez@vna-commh.org.

                   

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.”

Dodge Diabetes

 

One in three American adults has prediabetes. Do you know if you’re one of them?

Prediabetes means a person’s blood glucose level is higher than normal, but not high enough yet for the person to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. However, if left untreated, this condition can progress to type 2 diabetes, which can lead to blindness, kidney failure, and the loss of toes, feet or legs.

Prediabetes also increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.

The good news is that prediabetes can be reversed through lifestyle changes including healthy eating choices and physical activity. These changes and the resulting weight loss can cut your risk of getting type 2 diabetes in half.

If you don’t know whether or not you are one of the 86 million American adults living with prediabetes, you aren’t alone. Nine out of 10 people with prediabetes don’t know they have it.

Take this test to find out if you’re at risk:

https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/prevention/pdf/Prediabetes-Risk-Test-Final.pdf

If you are indeed at risk, consider joining VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice for our yearlong program, Dodge Diabetes, which will begin Tuesday, March 3. The cost for the program is $79 for the year.

Dodge Diabetes focuses on education and lifestyle changes to help reduce the chances of developing diabetes. Participants will learn how to make healthy food choices, add physical activity into their day, cope with stress, handle obstacles and overcome barriers to stay on track or get back on track when needed, track progress, stay motivated and set goals.

The program is based on the Center for Disease Control & Prevention’s Prevent T2, a successful, evidence-based lifestyle change program. Prevent T2 is part of the National Diabetes Prevention Program.

A total of 26 classes will be held throughout the next year on Tuesdays 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. in the Wellness Center of VNA Community Healthcare & Hospice’s Guilford office. For the first four months, the class meets every week, then every other week, and then once a month during the last half of the year.

Contact Kathleen Eagle at 203.458.4284. or email to learn more.

More information you can use:
CDC information on Prediabetes

CDC information on Diabetes

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.