Archive for January, 2012

Lung Cancer Awareness: The Caregiver’s Perspective

November was National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, which means that the American Lung Association and many other health organizations are making a special effort to turn public attention to this potentially deadly disease. BrightStar Care of Austin is no exception. If you have a loved one who is struggling with lung cancer or recovering from lung cancer surgery, we want to help you help them. Allow us to present some bits of advice that may prove valuable:

Practice prevention! The only good case of lung cancer is the one that never occurs, so eliminate whatever risk factors you can from your life. Quitting smoking, however difficult it may be, is an essential step, so find a program to help you or your loved ones. Radon gas in the home can also cause lung cancer, so get your residence inspected and perform whatever remediation might be necessary.

Don’t play the blame game. Yes, there’s a stigma associated with this ailment. We all know that smoking frequently leads to lung cancer, and your loved one’s smoking habit may have contributed to the disease. but now is not the time to cast blame. People don’t voluntarily give themselves lung cancer, nor do they “deserve” to have it because of their lifestyle choices. You might be sad or angry over this development, but what you need to be is supportive and helpful.

Get educated. As caregiver you need every scrap of knowledge you can get about the needs of a lung cancer patient, including medication dosages, oxygen supplementation and which symptoms require immediate medical attention. A home health care specialist can prove incredibly useful in this regard. We can supply expert caregivers who already know how to work with such cases. Contact us if you need help.

Hospice Care and Home Health Care

Previously we mentioned that November was National Lung Cancer Awareness Month, but did you know that it’s was also National Hospice Month? President Obama made the proclamation in 2010 as a day to recognize “the dignity hospice care can provide to patients who need it most, and the professionals, volunteers, and family members who bring peace to individuals in their final days.” But what exactly does hospice care encompass — and how does home health care complement it?

Translated from the Latin, a hospice is literally a “guesthouse” — a comfortable, well-equipped home away from home where terminally ill patients can experience their final days in peace and tranquility. The institution dates from Medieval times when monks would shelter and care for dying visitors as honored guests. These facilities may have their own in-house nursing staff or contract out to other healthcare providers. Either way, residents receive comprehensive palliative care to relieve their discomfort and give them a supportive, positive end-of-life environment, as opposed to the relatively clinical, impersonal atmosphere of a hospital.

Both hospice care and home health care, in fact, offer an affordable, comforting alternative to hospital care for terminal patients. Some of the patients we care for at BrightStar Care have terminal conditions and are deeply relieved to be in familiar surroundings with their loved ones. Why, then, do some patients opt for hospice care? Different individuals have different perspectives on death — some want to spend their final moments with their families, but others may not have families and would prefer the company of a hospice environment. Hospices also provide ready access to clergy, social workers and counselors for those who want them. Either option can make your loved one’s final months much happier. If you aren’t sure what you should do, feel free to talk to us about it.

CareTogether: Your Home Health Care Social Media Application

Caring for a loved one with special health needs can feel pretty overwhelming a times. While BrightStar Care’s team of devoted professionals can help take a huge amount of the burden from your shoulders, there are still details you want to attend to — appointments to remember, status reports to share with concerned friends and relatives, daily tasks to perform and so on. So you’ll be relieved to know that BrightStar Care has a Web-based application that can make coordinating all these items a snap. We call it CareTogether. You’ll call it a lifesaver.

You don’t have to be any kind of computer whiz to use CareTogether. It has a lot in common with common social media applications, so if you know your way around, say, Facebook or Twitter, you”ll feel right at home with the easy-to-use CareTogether interface.The Status tab, for example, allows you to post quick updates on your loved one’s latest health status for others to view and respond to. “Teams” lets you communicate with the individuals or groups involved in your loved one’s care, including BrightStar caregivers, physicians and relatives. Enter doctor appointments and other important items in an online calendar that syncs effortlessly with other popular calendar programs. View calendar items and task lists from any Internet-ready device, including your smartphone.

You’ll find the other CareTogether features equally helpful. You can post photos for your various teams to view and comment on. If you want to write something more than a status update about your loved ones’ health, you can enter that information in the journal as part of an ongoing archive. And the “Resources” tab connects you to a treasure-trove of helpful sites and information. Contact us today to learn more about how we can CareTogether!

Improving Your Health at Any Age

All too often we see people who have let themselves decline out of some sort of fatalism. How often have you heard someone explain explain away a bulging waistline, shortness of breath, or aches and pains with a statement like, “I’m not as young as I used to be.” It’s almost as if we give ourselves permission to fall apart once the candles on the cake reach a certain critical mass. But if we allow that to happen, we’re just hurting ourselves — and hurting our loved ones.

A recent article by P.J. Skerret on the Harvard Medical School website pointed toward what can happen when we resolve to fix our health, even in our later years. Michael O’Donnell was a middle-aged, out-of-shape man with a drinking problem, He faced some serious future health issues unless he made some immediate, radical lifestyle changes. Mr. O’Donnell could have resigned himself to years of chronic pain and illness, but instead he took matters into his own hands. He started exercising, stopped drinking, changed his diet. Today he is a healthy, happy and very active 85-year-old.

This may sound crazy coming from us, but frankly we would love it if no one ever needed home health care. The longer you and your loved ones protect your health, the less chance you’ll have need of our services. But if your loved ones do need BrightStar Care of Austin, we can play an important role in their ongoing health. We can help people with diabetes or other metabolic conditions eat the right foods, make sure those with high blood pressure take their medicine, and help arthritis sufferers perform exercises to keep their joints limber. We can also provide encouragement, hope and support — both to your loved ones and to you.

Don’t accept the “inevitable” — because it isn’t!


Don’t Forget Your Flu Shots!

There’s still time to skip the flu. According to the Centers for Disease Control, flu cases in the U.S. tend to peak in January and February, so you need to get your loved ones and yourself vaccinated as soon as possible to avoid this viral “rush hour.”

Yes, there are some people who shouldn’t receive a flu vaccination. Folks who are allergic to eggs, currently sick and running a fever, have a history of Guillain-Barré syndrome or have had bad reactions to previous flu shots should consult their doctor first. Babies younger than 6 months shouldn’t get vaccinated either. But the vast majority of us should take the precaution. People who are pregnant, work in healthcare or act as a home caregiver, reside in a nursing facility or work around children need to get vaccinated, as do most children between the ages of 2 and 5 and adults aged 50 or over.

You’ll find flu shots available all over Austin and surrounding cities. MinuteClinic, Walgreens, CVS and other convenient places are all offering them. Austin Regional Clinic offers flu shots at most of its locations. Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services administers them free of charge to uninsured and under-insured country residents. BrightStar Care of Austin can help transport you or your loved ones to a vaccination site if mobility is an issue — and if you’re taking care of a sick or elderly person in your home, you absolutely must avoid contracting the virus. And don’t forget to take everyday precautions such as washing your hands and avoiding close contact with others if you do get sick.

If you have questions about flu shots in general or how BrightStar Care of Austin can help you protect you and yours from the flu, contact us and we’ll be happy to talk about it.