National Minority Health and Health Disparities Month is just around the Corner....

National Minority Health and Health Disparities Month is observed every April to bring attention to the health inequalities that persist among racial and ethnic minority populations and the ways in which programs can help advance health equity. This year the theme for the month-long observance is “Partnering for Health Equity.”

Health Equity exists when every person has the opportunity to be as healthy as possible. Unfortunately, there are vast differences in the number of disease incidence, prevalence and mortality between specific population groups in our country.

Thankfully, there are organizations like the REACH healthcare foundation that are working hard to reduce the gap of health disparities among the poor and underserved people in our communities. Join with organizations that promote health equity and educate the disenfranchised individuals in your service area about Home Health Care & Hospice care. The lack of understanding of health care systems, language and cultural barriers, combined with trust issues prevent some consumers from seeking care.

Ideas to promote health equity in your community:

• Build your agency’s library of Spanish-language educational materials and expand Health Literacy in your community. Share your customized brochures with local practitioners that serve large Hispanic populations.

• Get involved in Kidney Sundays, an effort of the National Kidney Disease Education Program, to educate the African American community about kidney disease. The African American population has higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure which are the two leading causes of kidney disease. Distribute agency flyers to your faith community. Be the one to raise awareness about the risks of kidney disease and the importance of getting tested.

• Demonstrate your agency’s inclusiveness by gathering testimonials from past minority patients and their families that you have assisted. Incorporate their suggestions on how Home Health and Hospice care can be more effective into your marketing plan.  

• Provide educational materials to your local community centers and initiate discussions during senior events on good health practices such as fall prevention.

• Partner with organizations that promote health equity events in your area, such as: National Partnership for Action to End Health Disparities (NPA), Community-Campus Partnerships for Health (CCPH), and Common Health Action.

• Participate in discussions with community leaders to create a shared vision on how to combat health inequity and foster multi-sector collaborations. Healthier communities mean lower health care costs, which translate into a stronger and more productive, competitive society.

For more educational materials you can share with your referral sources, check out our webstore:

April 1 – 7 is Medication Safety Awareness Week

While gearing up for Spring cleaning this April, don’t leave out your medicine cabinet. Expired and mislabeled medications contribute to the unfavorable drug events that send many people, especially seniors, to the emergency room every year.

Although medications are intended to help maintain wellness, many older adults suffer from problems related to their medications such as:

  • Side effects that accompany medications increase as our bodies age. For seniors the impact can be severe like a sudden drop in blood pressure causing loss of balance or disorientation.  
  • Persisting symptoms despite the use of a prescribed medication which can lead to under or over medicating.
  • A reluctance to follow-up with a medical practitioner after starting a new drug regimen. Many medications such as those prescribed to regulate glucose levels need to be closely monitored and adjusted over time.
  • Drug interactions due to numerous medications being taken especially when more than one Doctor is prescribing. A good example is the drug warfarin, a commonly used blood thinner, can interact negatively with antibiotics and other drugs.
  • Confusing directions on when and how much to take when medications are taken at different intervals during the day.

As health care professionals who specialize in senior care, we should lead the charge to educate our clients and patients about how to prevent medication mishaps. Here are some ideas to highlight this effort during Medication Safety Week:

  • Demonstrate to your physician referral sources how you work to increase the patient’s understanding of the proper medication regimens, and how you address fall prevention for those patients taking medication that can cause impairment.
  • Hand out Medication Safety Flyers with your company’s information to assisted living facilities in your service area, and offer to host a workshop on Medication Safety. Talk about how to read the drug facts label on nonprescription products to avoid over medicating with multiple products that have the same active ingredients.
  • Create a tip sheet for each of your clients’ caregivers on proper Medication safety for seniors. Check our complete line of Home Health and Hospice educational materials at our web store:


April Is National Stress Awareness Month …

With April being National Stress Awareness Month it’s the perfect time to identify the stressors in our lives. Those things that push our buttons, that not only negatively affects our mental and emotional health, but also does a number on our bodies.

Long term stress and anxiety can lead to a number a of physical problems, ranging from mild acne to severe depression. Some common symptoms of stress include: arrhythmia, high blood pressure, panic attacks, asthma, sleep disorders, acid reflux, ulcers, IBS, teeth grinding, weight gain, and headaches. If you struggle with any of these conditions, the cause may be stress related.

One particular group who struggle with stress and depression are those facing a terminal illness and those caring for patients them. Extended illnesses can compound the effects of stress on the mind & body, and depression has a negative effect on the immune system, making a person more vulnerable to infections. 

Family members taking on the role of primary caregivers often feel overwhelmed.  Provide your referral sources with materials to assist patients and their support teams.  Caregivers of Home Health & Hospice patients experience the physical stress that comes with caring for patients that are immobile or partially immobile, and the emotional stress of the reality of their loved one’s diagnoses. 

According to the FCA, here are symptoms to watch out for that you can share with your patients and their primary caregivers:

  • Feeling sad, tearful, empty, hopeless
  • Changes in eating habits—weight loss and no appetite or cravings with weight gain
  • Changes in sleep—too much sleep or not enough
  • Feeling tired all the time, difficulty being motivated to do anything
  • A loss of interest in people and/or activities that once brought you pleasure
  • Feeling numb
  •  Becoming easily agitated or angered
  •  Feeling that nothing you do is good enough
  •  Increase in alcohol or drug consumption
  •  Excessive time on the Internet
  •  Trouble focusing, thinking, or planning—as if your head was filled with fog
  •  Neglecting your physical well-being and appearance
  •  Thoughts of running away, or escaping from the situation
  •  Thoughts of death or suicide

 Ongoing physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, such as headaches, digestive disorders, and chronic neck and back pain

People assume that once caregiving is over, the stress from providing hands-on care will go away. In an effort to return their life to normal, former caregivers may need to seek help for depression as well.


Flu Season … It’s a Rough One

The Flu Season has been exceptionally harsh this year but as it lingers on you can take steps to help protect yourself. Start by getting vaccinated if you haven’t already, and try to avoid close contact with sick people. Wash your hands often with soap and water, and when that’s not an option use an alcohol-based hand rub. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth to prevent the spread of germs. It’s not too late to educate yourself and your clients on how to avoid the flu.

Encourage those around you who are at higher risk of developing serious complications from the flu to get vaccinated and to seek medical treatment at the onset of flu-like symptoms. Those groups at higher risk include young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease and people 65 and older.

Seniors have a greater risk of complications from the flu because the human immune system weakens with age. To help combat the threat there are two vaccines specifically designed for people 65 and older. The “high dose vaccine” which contains four times the amount of antigen as the regular flu shot, and the “adjuvanted flu vaccine”, made with MF59 adjuvant, which creates a stronger immune response to vaccination. The high dose and the adjuvanted flu vaccines may result in more of the mild side effects that can occur with standard-dose shots. Those side effects can include headache, muscle ache, malaise, and pain & redness at the injection site. Seniors should ask their physician which type of vaccine is right for them. They should also stay up to date with the pneumococcal vaccination to protect against pneumonia. Penumonia is an example of a serious influenza complication that can cause death.

Another major concern is safeguarding younger children who cannot be vaccinated. If you live with or care for an infant younger than 6 months old, you should get a flu vaccine to help protect them from flu. See Advice for Caregivers of Young Children for more information. Everyone else who is around the baby should be vaccinated also.

Additionally, some children 6 months through 8 years of age will require two doses of flu vaccine for adequate protection. Any child who is being vaccinated for the first time will need two doses of the vaccine, spaced at least 28 days apart.

Common Flu Symptoms:

  • Fever or feeling feverish/chills
  • Cough
  • Sore throat
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Body aches
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Vomiting and Diarrhea

Promote Renal Health Awareness During National Kidney Month

March is National Kidney Month and an opportunity to remind your friends and neighbors to think about their kidney health. One in seven American adults is estimated to have Chronic Kidney Disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the 30 million Americans affected by kidney disease do not even know they have it, and many others are at increased risk of developing the disease.

Chronic kidney disease can lead to kidney failure and early detection can be  the key to prevention. Highlight the importance of good renal health this March during National Kidney Month and acknowledge World Kidney Day on March 8th.

  • Start by visiting the official website for World Kidney Day. Here you’ll find an abundance of helpful information, including a toolbox with quizzes, recipes and educational information, and a section of campaign materials for World Kidney Day.
  • You can also visit the National Kidney Month web page of the NIH’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases for additional information to spark ideas and promote recognition of the disease.
  • Sponsor free blood pressure screenings at a community event. High blood pressure is the most common cause of kidney damage. Be sure to have stacks of agency brochures and flyers about kidney disease available.
  • Share information about the need for awareness of kidney disease among high risk groups through your website and social media feeds. The groups at a greater risk of developing kidney disease include African Americans, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, American Indians and seniors.
  • Lead a senior-focused discussion group on diet and nutrition in a local assisted living facility. Discuss the benefits of healthy eating and proper fluid intake in the prevention of kidney disease. Don’t forget to bring along healthy snack alternatives and bottled water for attendees and be sure to address these snack choices in your presentation.
  • Volunteer at your local dialysis center. Approximately 50% of people suffering with diabetes develop kidney damage. Offer to provide samples of kidney-friendly foods and distribute them to patients. Home care professionals can help by providing support and education about dietary