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Cultivating Empathy as a Caregiver

Learn to be a more empathetic family caregiver with these tips.

If you ask parents, educators and researchers what are the most important traits to encourage in a child’s development, you would undoubtedly receive a variety of responses, but two of the top responses would likely be kindness and empathy. Yet one study reported that less than 2% of our interactions include a “sincere acknowledgement of the other.”

One of the more heartbreaking calls we receive at Nightingale Homecare is when a caregiver calls to request our service, stating that he or she is failing to feel empathy toward a loved one in need – often the result of “caregiver burnout.”

Empathy is an especially important skill for caregivers. Studies have shown that caregiver empathy plays a critical role in forging a strong patient-caregiver relationship while developing a deep level of rapport and trust. Practiced empathy also plays an important role in increasing patient treatment adherence and reducing accidents. Improving your empathy and kindness can also have huge positive effects on every other relationship!

Empathy Defined

Most people would define empathy as the ability to have a sense of understanding and compassion for another person, while being able to sense what the other person is experiencing; i.e., “putting yourself in someone else’s shoes.” According to author Daniel Goleman, who wrote the book Emotional Intelligence, empathy is:

  1. Understanding the emotional makeup of a person, and
  2. Treating that person according to his or her emotional reactions

Treating people with empathy and responding to their emotions includes high levels of compassion and tolerance. Fortunately, there are tools for practicing this response towards others.

Active Listening

One of the key elements to conveying empathy and compassion toward another human being is to actively listen.

The steps are as follows:

  • Concentrate on not speaking while the other person is speaking
  • Pay attention to the words and emotion
  • Look directly into the person’s eyes while he or she is speaking
  • Listen, do not be thinking of preparing a reply
  • Pay attention to the person’s behaviors and body language
  • Let the person know you are listening; for example, shaking your head or squeezing his or her hand in reassurance
  • When the person stops speaking, try to paraphrase or translate what you heard and reflect on this
  • Try to recognize the individual’s feelings; for example, “You sound upset and frustrated”

Some other key elements to keep in mind while actively listening are:

  • Do not interrupt
  • Do not change the subject
  • Do not voice disapproval

Controlling the Urge to Help

During active listening, it’s important to control your urge to jump in and help or offer advice while the person is expressing feelings and emotions. Simply be present in the conversation. It is a difficult urge to control, as most of us responding to an upset person give advice, words of encouragement or comfort. While well-intentioned, these responses interfere with the person talking because our verbalizations result from our thinking about how to help and what the person’s words mean to us, rather than thinking about what the person’s words mean to him or her.

Controlling the Urge to Talk

Research on conversations has found that the person not talking usually starts talking about nine-tenths of a second after the other person stops. Developing the ability to wait, listen, and encourage the other to talk without interrupting is a critical skill. It can be developed by intentional awareness and with practice. Being more aware of opportunities to switch from talking to listening expands your consciousness and choice, which will help increase your flexibility and ease in using empathy effectively.

Can Empathy Be Faked?

It may be necessary while you are caregiving to act empathetically to achieve a positive outcome, even when you feel apathetic toward a loved one. When caring for a difficult loved one, you will still need to act empathetic in order to establish the rapport necessary to encourage the delivery of care. What is interesting with this approach is that often you will begin to feel true empathy toward a difficult loved one as a result of “acting” empathetic. The old adage “fake it till you make it” rings true.

Random Acts of Kindness

In the meantime, along with your empathy practice, throw in some random acts of kindness. This will help develop your empathy skills and you will begin to notice the world is a little better because of it, and the people around you will begin to model your kindness. It’s infectious!

Here are some fun activities that you can do to celebrate kindness:

  • Compliment the first three people you talk to
  • Write a hand-written note to a friend
  • Say good morning to the person next to you on the elevator(bus/subway/street)
  • Spend 10 minutes picking up litter in a park or your neighborhood
  • Place uplifting notes in library books, on restroom mirrors, on someone’s locker or computer screen
  • Hold up inspiring signs during rush hour
  • Leave a generous tip
  • Send flowers to a friend

If you run out of kindness ideas, The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation has lots of them on their website.

Empathy is one of the primary building blocks of social intelligence. Often, stress, self-absorption, lack of time and caregiver burnout can kill efforts to practice empathy. Knowing what your barriers are to showing empathy and exploring ways to overcome them can help you develop this much-needed skill that is vital to caring for a loved one in need.

And know that Nightingale Homecare’s compassionate and highly skilled providers of home care in Paradise Valley and the surrounding area are always on hand to help with the professional respite care that allows family members to take as much or as little time as desired for self-care – enabling you to return to caring for your loved one refreshed and renewed. Call us at (602) 504-1555 to learn more!

Heart Disease Is Different for Men and Women

At Home Care Scottsdale

Learn the differences in heart disease symptoms between men and women.

With the CDC reporting that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men, it’s important for all of us to understand how to recognize and prevent the condition – and surprisingly, this can vary widely between the two genders. The heart itself is, in fact, physically different based on gender, with women’s hearts comprised of thinner walls and smaller interior chambers, pumping blood faster and yet with less blood per pump than the hearts of men.

As a result, women’s heart disease risk factors differ from men’s in the following ways:

Heart Disease Risk Factors Specific to Women:

  • Endometriosis
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure developed during pregnancy
  • Polycystic ovary disease

Heart Disease Risk Factors for Both Men and Women:

  • Elevated blood pressure, cholesterol, and/or blood sugar levels
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Family history

Women’s experience with heart disease and treatment/recovery differ as well. For instance, because heart disease in women often effects the smaller arteries, diagnosis through the typical means (angiogram) is less effective, as it shows blockages in the larger arteries only. In fact, it’s recommended that women who receive clear angiogram results but are still experiencing symptoms of heart disease see a cardiologist with a specialty in women’s heart health.

Heart attacks also differ between men and women. Consider the following:

  • A first heart attack usually occurs at a later age for women than men (on average, 70 for women and 66 for men)
  • A woman’s heart attack can include the additional symptoms of:
    • Sweating
    • Extreme fatigue
    • Pain in the back, neck or jaw
    • Shortness of breath
  • Women typically struggle with a more difficult recovery following a heart attack than men, requiring a longer hospital stay
  • Women are more likely to experience a subsequent heart attack

One thing that applies to both genders when it comes to heart health is prevention. Reduce your risk of heart disease and a heart attack by making the following lifestyle changes:

  • Quit (or never start) smoking
  • Ensure your diet includes plenty of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and less processed foods, simple carbs, and animal products
  • Ensure that your blood pressure, blood lipid, blood sugar and weight are all within healthy levels
  • Exercise for at least 30 minutes each day

For more heart health tips, call on Nightingale Homecare, providers of the highest quality at home care Scottsdale and the surrounding area has to offer. We can help with planning and preparing heart-healthy meals, encouraging an active lifestyle, ensuring medications are taken exactly as prescribed, and much more. Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 and take the first step in improving heart health for yourself and the seniors you love!

The Link Between Chronic Pain and Depression

home care Paradise Valley Chronic pain is described as any persistent or intermittent pain that lasts more than three months. Depression is described as a psychological state that causes fatigue, appetite changes, sadness, lack of motivation, slowed response times, difficulty sleeping, feelings of helplessness and thoughts of suicide. Studies have revealed that up to 50% of patients suffering from chronic pain are also affected by severe depression.

It can be difficult to assess whether depression has led to chronic pain, or vice versa. Depression can frequently cause unexplained pain, such as back pain and headaches, and people who are experiencing chronic pain can develop increased stress or feelings of guilt and helplessness, often leading to a depressive state. These effects can create a cycle that is difficult to break. Those patients that have chronic pain-induced depression have a poorer prognosis than those suffering from chronic pain without depression. It seems pain and depression create a vicious cycle in which pain worsens the symptoms of depression, and the resulting depression worsens the feelings of pain. Suffering from both conditions tends to promote their own severity.

One of the reasons depression and chronic pain are so intertwined is because of the way stress works on the body. Chronic pain turns on the “fight or flight” stress signals in the brain, preparing the body to fight off whatever is causing the pain. The nervous system is in a high state of alert, and eventually this wears the body down, leaving the person vulnerable to depression. Finding ways to deal with stress and cope with chronic pain can give you an edge in the battle against developing depression.

Chronic pain-induced depression can keep you from enjoying life, such as spending time with your children and grandchildren, engaging in hobbies, exercising and traveling. It can also lead to isolation, exacerbate other health conditions, and can be emotionally draining.  It can quickly lead you in a downward spiral, and without treatment and attention, can gravely affect your quality of life.

ASSEMBLING YOUR TEAM

Those patients suffering from chronic pain-induced depression benefit most when a team of professionals is involved in their care. This team may include a:

Physician: Thorough exams and evaluations are of primary importance in the diagnosis and treatment of pain and depression. Physicians may also include psychiatrists to help manage depression, and pain specialists to help manage the pain. When necessary, both pain and psychiatric medications may be prescribed.

Therapist: Anxious and negative thinking patterns can be alleviated during regular sessions with a trained therapist. Coping skills and behavioral therapy skills can be taught to reduce the symptoms of pain and depression. A therapist can also work with the patient’s family to help them understand this complex disease process.

Physical Therapist: A physical therapist can be invaluable in their instruction on exercise and muscle relaxation techniques to help improve mobility and reduce pain. The added benefit is that regular movement can help improve mood.

Other Health Professionals: Occupational therapists, nutritionists and acupuncturists can also help alleviate the symptoms of chronic pain-induced depression.

TREATMENT

Catching chronic pain and depression in its early stages can help you get your life back. Early treatment of chronic pain and/or depression can help fight this downward spiral.

Medications

Often, when patients present with chronic pain to their physician, they may be prescribed antidepressants, even if the patient’s mood seems fine. While this may seem odd, the use of low dose antidepressants for pain control is well-studied and has been a standard practice for many years. In low doses, antidepressants cause chemical changes in the brain that alter the way pain is perceived. Of course, another reason they are prescribed is that they can stop the cycle that leads to depression prior to it starting.

Standard analgesics are often prescribed to treat chronic pain. For severe chronic pain, opioids are the most effective medications. Several studies have found that opioids may help achieve antidepressant effects by regulating neurotransmitters; however, the use of opioids in chronic pain-induced depression has been controversial due to patients’ dependence and addiction to them. The long-term use of opioids (over 30 days) has actually been shown to increase the risk of depression. Be sure and thoroughly discuss their use and risks with your physician.

Talk Therapy

Also called psychological counseling or psychotherapy, talk therapy can be very effective in treating both depression and chronic pain by changing patterns of thinking and application of coping skills. Look for a therapist who applies Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, which can provide real-life coping skills that are greatly beneficial to patients.

Stress-Reduction Techniques

Many patients suffering from chronic pain and depression find great relief from utilizing stress-reduction techniques. Many of these techniques are taught in therapy sessions, but many more can be learned on your own. Meditation and journaling can both be extremely helpful in coping with chronic pain and depression. Gentle physical activity such as yoga and tai chi are also very healing. Sometimes, just getting out into nature can help those suffering from chronic pain and depression.

Pain Rehabilitation Centers

In these centers, a team approach is provided to treat both the medical and psychiatric aspects of chronic pain-induced depression. These centers offer outpatient or inpatient programs and can provide immediate and long-term support when chronic pain and/or depression is severe. These programs are effective because they involve a combination of treatments. The Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Center at the Mayo Clinic is one such program.

Peer Support

Many people suffering from chronic pain and depression find that support groups can be irreplaceable. Peer support groups offer emotional support through caring, encouragement, reassurance and avoidance of criticism. These groups can also offer information support in terms of advice, suggestions, problem-solving and dissemination of facts. The families of patients suffering from chronic pain often have a difficult time relating or understanding, and these groups provide an outlet where the patient is heard without judgment.

The PAINS Project is a great resource for finding more support.

If you are in crisis and need immediate emotional support:

  • Call your or your loved one’s health professional
  • Call 911 for emergency services
  • Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
  • 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) National Suicide Prevention Hotline
  • 1-800-442-HOPE (1-800-442-4673) Kristin Brooks Hope Center National Hotline
  • 1-877-Vet2Vet (1-877-838-2838) Veterans peer support line or chat online
  • 1-800-SUICIDA (1-800-784-2432) Spanish-speaking suicide hotline
  • IMALIVE.org (volunteers are trained and certified in crisis intervention)

If you think you might be suffering from depression in addition to chronic pain, be honest with your health care team and seek the support that will help you regain control over your mind, body and spirit. Nightingale Homecare, top providers of the best home care in Paradise Valley and the surrounding area have to offer, can serve as an invaluable resource to you as well, with a full range of customized skilled and non-medical in-home care services. Contact us for a free in-home consultation at (602) 504-1555to discover how we can help enhance joy, comfort, and overall wellbeing and quality of life.

Is Your Senior Loved One Struggling in These 5 Areas? If So, Home Care Can Help!

senior caregiver

Find out if your senior loved one can benefit from an in-home senior caregiver from Nightingale Homecare.

As your loved one ages, there may come a time when you question if he or she may benefit from the assistance of an in-home senior caregiver.  It will be important for you to be observant to the warning signs that care may be needed, as seniors are often hesitant to raise the subject of home care. Initiating home care services, however, will not only help maximize your loved one’s independence at home, it will also help him or her to maintain safety. Keep on the alert for the following indicators that your loved one may be in need of home care services:

  • Physical Changes: A decline in physical health can increase the risk of your loved one falling or suffering other serious injury. Look for changes such as difficulty walking, maintaining balance and unsteadiness. If your loved one appears to be in a frail condition, it can be dangerous for the senior to do even the simplest tasks, so home care may be necessary.
  • Inattention to Personal Hygiene: Those individuals who neglect personal hygiene may have a strong body odor, unkempt or unclean hair, obvious inattention to oral care or soiled clothing. While often elderly individuals would like to keep clean, it may have become too difficult to complete the daily tasks to do so. Having in-home care ensures that your loved one can safely maintain a regular hygiene schedule, which improves health and wellbeing.
  • Lack of Nourishment: Your loved one may have lost the ability to regularly prepare food at mealtimes due to lack of energy or other physical conditions. Getting to the grocery store to purchase fresh, healthy foods can be a challenge. You may notice the refrigerator and cupboards may not be stocked, or there may be many items that have passed their expiration date. Not eating properly can lead to lack of nourishment and dehydration, which causes cognitive issues, depression and other health concerns. In-home assistance can provide your loved one with help grocery shopping and preparing meals as well as providing a companion to sit down with at mealtimes, which will help make eating more appealing.
  • Inability to Manage Medications: Taking the prescribed dosage of medicine is essential to maintaining health, especially for elderly individuals with chronic or ongoing medical issues. Many times, seniors are prescribed a number of different medications with different dosage schedules. Prescriptions and dosages can easily become mixed up, which can lead to missing or overdosing on medications. When this happens, severe health problems can occur. In-home care ensures that your loved one stays on his or her prescribed medication schedule.
  • Lack of Household Upkeep: When visiting with your loved one, look for things such as stacks of dirty dishes and laundry, overflowing trashcans and appliances that have been left turned on. If the living spaces are dirty and more cluttered than the person would normally allow, this is a sign some extra help may be needed to keep up with the demands of managing a home. Home care assistance will ensure that your loved one’s living spaces are regularly cleaned and clutter-free.

If you notice any signs that your elder loved one may be having a hard time completing daily activities, including those not listed above, the help of an in-home senior caregiver could be the answer. Not only will this make your loved one’s life a lot easier, it will also bring you peace of mind knowing your loved one is well taken care of.

Take the first step in improving quality of life for your senior loved one by contacting Nightingale Homecare to request a free in-home consultation or to ask any questions about our professional in-home care services for seniors. Call us any time at (602) 504-1555 to learn more and to see if our services are available in your area!

Brighten a Senior’s Smile and Health with Proper Oral Hygiene

Scottsdale home care

Learn the importance of proper oral care for the elderly.

The older we get, the more time it seems necessary to spend on maintaining optimum health. Between checkups with primary care physicians, blood work and other lab tests, visits with specialists for chronic conditions, and more, there is one area that many seniors seem to let fall by the wayside: continued, ongoing dental care. While the reasons for this are varied, it is crucial for all of us, regardless of age, to stay on top of oral hygiene needs.

In fact, statistics show that in adults over age 65, as many as 40% suffer from gum infections, 30% struggle with issues related to broken and/or decaying teeth, and nearly a fourth have no teeth at all.

In addition to the pain and discomfort poor oral hygiene causes, the home care team at Nightingale Homecare shares several key risks that can arise:

  • Sickness: Infections in the gums can lead to serious infections throughout other parts of the body. Even something as seemingly innocuous as bad breath can indicate the presence of an infection that could travel through the bloodstream to the heart and lungs, resulting in pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses. In fact, gum disease is even linked to the prevalence of cancer, heart disease, and other chronic conditions.
  • Eating difficulties: Older adults with dental problems struggle with the ability to chew healthy foods like meat, vegetables, and nuts, opting instead of softer foods that are often low in nutrients and high in salt, fat and sugar. Malnutrition causes additional physical problems such as an increased risk of falls, diabetes, immune deficiencies, heart disease, and more.
  • Isolation: The self-consciousness resulting from failing teeth and gums, along with the discomfort experienced in eating can cause older adults with poor oral hygiene to avoid social situations. And we know that a lack of healthy socialization leads to a variety of conditions, both physical and emotional, including depression, anxiety, and cognitive decline.

Help your senior loved ones maintain good oral hygiene to maximize overall health and wellbeing. Nightingale Homecare, top providers of the best Phoenix care at home for seniors, is on hand to keep seniors healthy and well by providing transportation and accompaniment to medical appointments, including visits with the dentist, running errands such as picking up any needed prescriptions and dental care products, and a full range of both medical and non-medical in-home care services. By monitoring a senior’s health ongoing, we can help proactively catch and address any problems early, and avoid serious complications that can arise when needs go unmet.

Contact us any time at (602) 504-1555 to improve quality of life for your senior loved ones!

Posted in Aging Issues, Blog, Senior Health on December 18th, 2018 · Comments Off on Brighten a Senior’s Smile and Health with Proper Oral Hygiene