Journaling Through the Grief

Journaling while grieving can help you document and process the feelings of grief you are experiencing. As you begin the healing process and reconnecting with who you once were, you may start thinking about or telling yourself things you would want to record. Putting these thoughts and feelings into words can be very beneficial and help in better working through the grief. This is why it is a great idea to keep a grief journal.

There are many, different ways you can start to fill up your journal. From creative writing and poetry to journaling and writing letters to your deceased loved one, each way provides you with a venue to communicate without fear of being judged. Opening up and disclosing your feelings to others can be difficult, but each of these methods allows you to express what you are feeling in a more personal, therapeutic way.

Research demonstrates that grief journaling after a significant loss has beneficial value. Experts explain that ‘reconstructing your personal self-narrative’ is crucial to the healing process. A grief journal can assist you in recording your experience, recognizing patterns, and establishing growth.

Are you interested in grief journaling but aren’t sure where to start? Here are some writing prompts to get you started:

  • Today, I am really missing…
  • I feel most connected to my loved one when I…
  • If I could talk to you again, I’d tell you…
  • My goal for this week…
  • I know I’m going to be okay because…

AT Home Care earns recognition from HomeCare Elite

Blue Stethoscope in Heart formation in blue color theme

HomeCare Elite has recognized AT Home Care Williamsburg as a top-performing home health agency for 2018. HomeCare Elite is a compilation of U.S. Medicaid- certified home health agencies annually reviewed by ABILITY and DecisionHealth. The review is conducted using public information evaluating overall performance in quality outcomes, best practices, consistent improvement, and financial health.

Recognition is given to the top 25% ranks home health agencies and further to highlight the top 100 and 500 agencies. HomeCare Elite is unique in a way that it is the only performance recognition of its kind in the home health industry.

Thanks to the AT Home Care Williamsburg team for their continual hard work and dedication to improving the lives of others. Also, thanks to all the families that entrust AT Home Care to provide the care needed for their loved ones. Our team is humbled to be recognized with this prestigious award and hope to continually exceed expectations as the new year arrives.

Green and Grey HomeCare Elite 2018 badge with stars
AT Home Care blue logo

To find out how AT Home Care services can benefit you or your loved one, please contact us.

Sepsis Concern? We’ve Got You Covered.

Sepsis is a severe response to infection that can quickly become life-threatening. More than 1 million cases occur each year. The Washington Post calls Sepsis a medical emergency. Sepsis can be caused by any type of infection, anywhere in the body and is one of the top diagnoses for patients being readmitted to the hospital. This infection is more  likely to occur in the elderly and those with chronic or severe illness or weakened immune systems.

AT Home Care has a Sepsis Program designed to promote quality of care and improve outcomes for those at risk for developing sepsis and those recovering from sepsis. We have the resources and expertise to provide our patients with state-of-the art care for dangerous conditions such as sepsis.

In consultation with your physician and according to Medicare, you have the freedom to choose any qualified agency to provide your care. Be sure your agency is qualified by checking its credentials, specialties, and reputation. AT Home Care is proud to enjoy an outstanding reputation serving our community. We are a Medicare Certified, CHAP Accredited agency that provides the highest quality of traditional and specialized services. It would be our privilege to care for you.

Call us anytime. We’re available 24/7. (866) 497-2110

AT Hospice: Improving Family & Patient Lives in Virginia

No one ever intends for tragic things like cancer to enter their lives. Often times, it comes on suddenly and acts quickly, leaving people and their loved ones with tough decisions to make about their futures. Kelly is one of these people. In early 2015, her husband was diagnosed with cancer. He endured months of treatment, but a few days before Christmas that year, he took a turn for the worse. They knew he didn’t have very much longer to live, so he and Kelly decided for him to go home where he could spend Christmas and live out his days in a familiar environment surrounded by family and friends. That’s when Kelly recognized they needed hospice care.

At first, the family chose the hospice recommended by their hospital, but it turned out to be a terrible fit and ended up doing more harm than good. Eventually, Kelly was told about AT Hospice, and decided to give them a chance. AT Hospice’s amazing team of professionals stepped in, and the family noticed an immediate improvement! The nurses, aides, social workers and chaplains all demonstrated true competence and concern, and Kelly could finally relax, knowing that her husband and family would be taken care of. Throughout the rest of Kelly’s husband’s life, the AT Hospice team could be reached whenever they were needed, jumped at the chance to help out in any way, and helped the family prepare for what was to come. “They were angels,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s experience with AT Hospice was so positive that when her mom’s condition with Alzheimer’s began to worsen, and it became evident that she would need hospice care, Kelly made sure to call AT Hospice again. The response from the company was “We wouldn’t have it any other way.” As before, AT Hospice staff demonstrated their true desire and ability to help. Their relationship with Kelly and her family strengthened, and they were there to help Kelly through the shock of another loss. Kelly noted that the nurse was at the bedside talking to her mother after she passed, showing the type of exceptional care and regard that the AT Hospice team made part of their daily routine.

“I couldn’t begin to thank them enough,” Kelly said. To this day, she still keeps in contact with many of the people who helped care for her mother and husband. One AT Hospice staff member even adopted Kelly’s mom’s dog, giving her a loving home and keeping Kelly updated with stories about the dog’s adventures. People from the company continue to show support as Kelly begins to transition into a new part of her life. When she comes across people in need of hospice services, Kelly recommends AT Hospice. “There are a lot of hospice companies out there,” Kelly stated, “but this one is definitely the best.”

Vision Problems in Seniors

Eye health is an important component to overall health for an individual of any age. However, once a person reaches the age of 60, it’s even more critical to have regular eye exams, as well as specialized tests and screenings. Most eye diseases common to seniors develop painlessly. When gone undetected for a period of time, the result can be permanent damage, vision impairment and in some cases blindness. Early symptoms of eye diseases can easily be mistaken for normal signs of aging, but they shouldn’t.

Research shows that one in three Americans age 65 and older have some type of vision-impairing eye disease. The senior population is most susceptible to four major age-related diseases. These include glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy. Here’s what you should know about these age-related eye diseases . . .

Glaucoma: At the onset of the disease, there are no symptoms; however, as glaucoma progresses an individual may notice peripheral vision impairment. The disease slowly damages the optic nerve, and when gone untreated can cause vision loss and blindness. With nearly one million Americans unaware that they have glaucoma, regular exams are detrimental to an early diagnosis.

Cataracts: This is a common cause of vision loss, and involves clouding of the eye’s lens. Cataracts are a buildup of protein that grow overtop of the lens making it difficult to see. People with symptoms may complain more about glare, cloudy or fuzzy vision and sometimes double vision. Cataracts are a part of aging, and mostly affect those over 70 years of age.

Macular Degeneration: This is a very serious condition that dramatically affects central vision. It is caused by a deterioration of the light-sensitive tissue behind the eye. People with the disease often have trouble seeing enough to read, drive, or perform normal daily activities. Age is the biggest risk factor for macular degeneration, and nearly 50% of people over the age of 75 have the disease.

Diabetic Retinopathy: This potentially blinding eye disease is associated with diabetes. Diabetes causes irregular changes in the retina’s blood vessels. This can prompt them to leak and grow in places they shouldn’t. When this happens, the blood vessels may break off and hemorrhage. Seniors with type 2 diabetes must be aware of diabetic retinopathy especially if they are on certain medications.

It’s recommended that all seniors have regular eye exams that include visual acuity, dilation and tonometry. If you’re caring for someone with one of these eye diseases, it’s important to learn about their condition and understand how it limits their abilities to do certain activities. To find out more about caregiving for someone with vision problems, contact AT Home Care today.

Understanding Shingles and How it Affects Seniors

Shingles is a disease caused by the same virus that causes the chicken pox. Typified as a skin disease, shingles is a rash. However, unlike a minor rash that is bothersome and unsightly, shingles causes the individual a significant amount of pain. The rash appears on one side of the body in a band or strip. The early stages of shingles include three key symptoms. First, pain and tingling occurs before the rash actually begins to itch. Then blisters resembling chicken pox begin to appear.

It’s important to understand how shingles and chicken pox are related. For anyone that has had chicken pox, the virus remains in your body well after recovery. This means that at any point in time the virus can reactivate itself. The result is shingles. Many people don’t understand if shingles is contagious. The disease is not contagious to someone as long as the person has already had chicken pox. However, people with shingles are contagious to those who are still susceptible to the chicken pox virus. Babies, young children and unvaccinated individuals are most susceptible, as well as those with weakened immune systems.

Just like chicken pox is a childhood skin disease, shingles is most common in older individuals 60-80 years of age. Research indicates that nearly half of all Americans who have had chicken pox will have gotten shingles by the time they reach 80. This is unfortunate because the elderly experience significantly more pain and risks associated with shingles than younger individuals.

For most people, shingles only develop once. However, studies suggest that those most likely to have a recurring episode were people whose symptomatic pain had lasted more than 30 days with their first shingles incident. If it is severe enough, the pain resulting from shingles can last months and even years. The medical term for this type of pain is called post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN). Persistent pain and lingering symptoms is fairly common in seniors.

In 2006, the FDA approved a vaccine (Zostavax) to prevent shingles in people age 60 or older. Shingles’ prevalence in the elderly population and the risks for long term symptoms is what has doctors urging seniors to get the vaccine. Even if you don’t recall ever having the chicken pox, or if you’ve already had shingles, you can still get the vaccine. It is a one-dose vaccine with no age maximum on who can receive it. Luckily, studies show that the vaccine reduces the number of shingles cases in seniors by half.

“VitalStim” Therapy to Help Patients Learn to Swallow

AT Home Care is One of Only Five Home Health Nursing Agencies to Offer “VitalStim” Therapy to Help Patients Learn to Swallow 

More than 15 million Americans have moderate to severe difficulty swallowing (dysphagia). In over 50% of the cases, dysphagia is a result of strokes or radiation treatments to treat throat cancer. Parkinson’s disease is another cause of swallowing difficulties. Thankfully, medical technology has developed a device which delivers neuromuscular electronic stimulation, known as Vital Stim, to specific muscles in the neck which acts to jump start them into functioning at an improved level. This non invasive treatment has been approved by the FDA.

“More than 15 million Americans have moderate to severe difficulty swallowing”

AT Home Care has specially trained Speech Language Pathologists who are certified to perform this therapy. In conjunction with other speech therapy, muscles are reeducated and swallowing efficiency is improved. Electrodes are gently placed on the front of the patient’s neck. A carefully measured electrical current is administered to targeted nerves. The current produces neural stimulation, which creates a muscle contraction that facilitates swallowing. Through repetition and specific therapeutic exercises and strategies, the patient’s muscles relearn how to swallow independently.
Trish Ginn, a speech pathologist with AT Home Care, treated a patient recently who had suffered from a stroke. She had been using a PEG feeding tube for years and never thought she would enjoy food again. After only a month of Vital Stim therapy, in conjunction with specialized therapy, she was able to swallow soft food. “The rewards are immense for these patients”, Ginn said. “Sometimes it is only a pleasure feeding just so that the patient can enjoy their sense of taste again. Each patient requires different amounts therapy”, she added.
Vital Stim, which began only 8 years ago is gaining more popularity as doctors see the results and the success stories become prolific. Home health care companies such as At Home care must devote the appropriate resources to training their clinicians to be successful. For AT Home Care, the time dedicated to training has been well worth it in outstanding patient moral and outcomes.

Seniors & The Grieving Process

Dealing with loss is a difficult circumstance for a person of any age. However, seniors have the unfortunate experience of being faced with multiple losses in a short period of time. The magnitude of a series of losses can be devastating for a senior.

When we think about seniors and grieving, oftentimes we focus on the loss of a spouse. This life-changing event changes what was once a partnership and makes the remainder of life a solo venture. In many cases, death isn’t the only challenging part of the actual loss. Seniors who lose their spouse may also lose financial stability, a best friend and even social acquaintances.

Loss is also a natural part of aging. As a person grows old they may lose their physical strength and cognitive abilities. These characteristics affect independence, self-confidence and the overall feeling of knowing their place in life. While death is inevitable, it’s the cumulative effect of multiple loses over a short time frame that can really hit seniors hard.

Grieving is a challenging process that each individual handles uniquely. It can be a very slow and gradual process that naturally unfolds on its own schedule. Before a person can begin to regain balance in their life following a loss or series of losses, they must progress through four steps:

  1. Acknowledge that the loss occurred and accept it as part of a new reality.
  2. Endure the pain and emotion that comes along with the grieving process.
  3. Adjust to the changes, whether it’s living alone, being less secure financially, or finding new social groups.
  4. Gradually remove the emotional energy put into handling the loss and devote it to new people, activities and/or passions.

If a loved one is grieving it’s important to know how to help and support them through what can be a very slow process. The first thing to remember is to be patient and give them time. Visit them regularly, especially if they are now living alone. Talk about the loss, and share memories. Take notice of changes in attitude, and point them out to the person. It’s likely they are unaware of how the loss is affecting their behaviors. If over an acceptable amount of time there are little signs of improvement, encourage the person to talk with their doctor.

Non-Medical Tips for Improving Eye Health

Eyesight is one of the senses that we grow so accustomed to that it’s likely the one most taken for granted.  It’s not until faced with a disease that causes a decline in vision, or even blindness, that we realize the importance of preventative eye health.  Once a person reaches the age of 40, regular eye exams are recommended.  Since asymptomatic disorders of eye diseases can easily be mistaken as a normal sign of aging, it’s important that screenings continue into the senior years.  Here are a few non-medical tips for improving eye health…

  1. Proper lighting: Increasing the amount of light in the home is important since pupils change as we age. Use lamps for regular use and task lights for certain activities like cooking or reading. Avoid glare by using lamp shades which help to diffuse light. Halogen and fluorescent bulbs will enhance color interpretation.
  2. Warm contrasting colors: Reds, yellows and oranges help emphasize objects and make daily activities easier. This is especially significant for persons with minor lens yellowing. Again, halogen and fluorescent bulbs are helpful as they improve color rendering.
  3. Vitamins, minerals and antioxidants: Diets that incorporate spinach, blueberries, beets, red onion, fish and sweet potatoes just to name a few are packed full of antioxidants that can improve eyesight and repair damage from common eye conditions.
  4. Natural sunlight protection: Wear sunglasses outside to protect eyes from harmful UV rays. Even if it’s not sunny, sunglasses will keep your eyes from feeling the effects of harsh, drying wind.
  5. Car air-conditioning and heating: Point vents down to the floorboards, not towards the face. Wearing sunglasses while driving can also help alleviate potential dry eye. Not only is dry eye a nuisance, but in excess it can lead to corneal abrasions and other serious conditions.
  6. Computer use: Move the computer screen just below eye level so you are looking slightly downwards. Avoid glare from windows and lights. Let eyes readjust by looking away every 20 minutes. For longer computer sessions, take a 15 minute break every 2 hours.

It’s surprising how regular daily activities and habits can adversely affect eyesight. Practice these easy tips and suggestions for better eye health and prevention. Whether it’s warding off dry eye or preventing serious conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration, proper eye care makes a big difference in our overall health.

Elderly Can Combat Skin Aging

Most of us grew up basking in the warmth of the sun throughout the summer, and rarely considered sunscreen on a daily basis when not on the beach or tennis courts.  Today we are well aware that UVA rays speed up aging and cause skin cancer in various degrees.  Interestingly enough, UVA exposure is only one of many causes of skin aging.

Accumulated cellular damage in the skin results not only from UV sunlight, but also from smog, toxins, cigarette smoke, x-rays, drugs, and other stressors.  The important thing to know is that some of the effects can be reversed through lifestyle changes as simple as diet and supplemental creams.

Skin Care Tactics for Seniors

As we age, we have less ability to repair DNA and renewal cells to combat these free radicals.  Enzymes that provide antioxidant activity decrease in the elderly.  But, there is greater understanding of how diet can play a big role in improving cell energy and antioxidant activity.  Foods rich in nucleic acids such as sardines, salmon, tuna, shell fish, lentils and beans help improve cell energy.   Foods containing antioxidants and other phytochemicals such as fruits, vegetables, and green tea help protect against oxidative damage and free radical attack of all body cells including the skin.

Understanding the complexities of all of the factors affecting skin, can help motivate the elderly to change the things they are able to; diet and lifestyle. Home Health Care Clinicians have a unique insight to their patients’ activities of daily living as well as their diet.  They are often able to best raise the topic about the benefits of lifestyle changes and alternatives.  Some agencies, such as AT Home Care in Virginia, have partnered with trained dieticians who are able to consult with patients to create a tailor made nutritional plan for each person’s physical condition.   The home nurse and dietician may collaborate to focus on problem areas such as skin conditions or skin quality improvement.

DHEA, Melatonin, and Skin

Hormones play a large role in skin health.   So much hormone activity occurs in skin that it has been called another endocrine gland.  Skin has its own immune system and specialized enzymes not found in any other part of the bod.

The sleep hormone (melatonin) and the anti-stress hormone (DHEA are both found in the human skin.  They are both converted into other entities which benefit the skin. DHEA is converted into estrogen and androgen-type metabolites found only in skin.    Melatonin is synthesized in skin.  In low concentrations it can stimulate cell growth.

Estrogen’s skin-enhancing effects are well-known.  It provokes collagen and a moisture factor known as hyaluronic acid.  Aging decreases both estrogen and collagen.  Enzymes that convert DHEA to estrogen also decline.  Not surprisingly, women who take synthetic estrogen have scientifically proven thicker skin.

It is thought that faulty skin immunity affects the entire immune system.  Sunlight can penetrate deep into the skin and alter the entire body’s immunity directly.  It also affects hormones.   It decreases melatonin, norepinephrine, and acetylcholine and increases cortisol, serotonin, GAVA and dopamine.

Interestingly, both DHEA and melatonin are absorbed by skin when applied topically and can have an 85% greater effectiveness than when taken orally.  The additional benefit is that it works directly on the skin and does not end up in other organs.

DHEA’s benefits extend beyond its conversion to skin-friendly hormones.  It protects blood vessels which have been injured and appears to prolong the healing process.  It preserves the ability of skin to react to cancer-causing, skin destroying pollutants in air, food, and water.  It also keeps chemical carcinogens from binding to DNA.

Melatonin is another antioxidant that protects against UV radiation.  Studies have shown that topical melatonin give excellent protection against sunburn if applied before sun exposure.  In small amounts, melatonin causes skin cells to proliferate.  (In large amounts, it stops proliferation).

Aging causes a progressive decline in our ability to internally synthesize the essential fatty acids required by the skin to maintain a youthful, moist appearance.  The most important oils are the omega-3s that can make the skin smoother, softer, and look more radiant.  Less of the effects of aging are noticeable.  Fish oil, Flax or Perilla oil provide abundant quantities of the omega 3 fatty acids that are so beneficial to the health and appearance of skin.

Additional Measures for Keeping the Skin Young

The ozone layer filters out the UVC and much of UVB rays, but the ozone layer has little effect on UVA rays which cause most of premature wrinkles, loss of elasticity and  hyperpigmentation.  Wearing a hat and clothing with substantial coverage is your best bet in avoiding UVA rays.

Solar Max 17 is a sun protection formula that also contains antioxidant vitamins and sun protection factor 17.  Vitamins A,C,E protect from free radical damage. Rejuvenex Body Lotion contains some titanium oxide, precise amounts of glycolic acid, vitamin C. and melatonin The Dream Cream, also known as RejuveNight, contains all the anti-aging ingredients including DHEA amounts and melatonin, together with associated factors, work specifically in the epidermis layer of the skin.

Medical professionals such as a primary care doctor or a home health nurse can create  a care plan with a certified dietician that will add the optimal supplemental vitamins, topical creams or diet to improve skin health.