fbpx

Text JoinTeam to 97211 to learn more about career opportunities today!

Listening to Your Heart – Atrial Fibrillation

Everyone knows about heart attacks… but have you ever heard of atrial fibrillation? Despite being the most common heart arrhythmia (meaning irregular heartbeat) that is medically treated and being the cause for 1 in 7 strokes, most people aren’t familiar with atrial fibrillation. Surveys have revealed that even those who are aware of it often don’t consider it a serious medical condition. Education is key here, as leaving atrial fibrillation untreated doubles the risk of heart-related deaths and increases the risk of having a stroke significantly. It is estimated that by 2030, about 12.1 million people living in America will have a diagnosis of AFib. Considering how high that number is, it’s time to start paying attention to what it is and how you can mitigate yours and your loved ones’ risk factors!

a fib diagram

What is Atrial Fibrillation?

So what is atrial fibrillation? Atrial fibrillation, abbreviated AFib, is an abnormal heart rhythm during which the top chambers of your heart, called your atria, quiver rather than beat, leading to inefficient movement of blood through your heart. Given the inefficient contraction of the heart, individuals with AFib are at a higher risk for clots. The higher risk of clotting and the decreased ability of the heart to pump blood efficiently is what leads to an increased risk of further heart conditions and stroke should a clot form and travel to the brain.

Common Symptoms

While some individuals with AFib might not know they have it and may experience no symptoms at all, others could experience a number of various symptoms. Pay attention to the symptoms and take action. Consider scheduling an appointment with your doctor if you or a loved one are experiencing any of the following:

Risk Factors

In addition to symptom monitoring, there are a number of risk factors to be aware of related to AFib. Considering the risk of stroke and heart disease increases significantly with AFib, mitigating the risk factors of AFib is crucial. Risk factors include:

If any of these risk factors apply to you or a loved one, consider if your risk factors are modifiable, meaning you have more control over reducing how much of a risk they pose. Focus on lowering your blood pressure, losing weight if appropriate, reducing or eliminating alcohol intake and quitting smoking. Consuming whole, natural foods when possible, incorporating exercise and purposeful movement every day, and staying hydrated can go a long way in preserving your health!

Treatment

If you have already been diagnosed with AFib, it is important to continue to mitigate as many risk factors as you can using the guidance above, in addition to seeking proper medical treatment for your condition. Lifestyle changes, even after being diagnosed with AFib, can greatly decrease the severity and frequency of your symptoms. These lifestyle changes include cutting back on alcohol, reducing caffeine, quitting smoking, exercising regularly, eating a nutrient rich diet, losing weight if required and lowering your blood pressure. When prescribed medications for AFib, especially blood thinners to reduce the risk of clots, it is imperative that you follow the guidance of your doctor and stay consistent with the treatment.

Understanding Your Medications 

Given that AFib is a chronic condition, meaning it doesn’t go away, it is likely that you will be on medication to manage it for the rest of your life. This can be scary and anxiety inducing if you don’t understand your medications or don’t have a plan to stay on track. Meet with your doctor and be sure to understand what medications you are taking, why you are taking them, how long you will be taking them for and what side effects to look out for. You deserve to understand and feel comfortable with your treatment, so be sure to collaborate with your medical team and find support from your loved ones.

heartbeat

Atrial fibrillation – if it’s not taken seriously, it could cause serious problems!

Know the symptoms, schedule regular visits with your doctors, and practice a healthy lifestyle to reduce your risk!

Sources:

Image 1 – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

Image 2 – https://www.mcrmedical.com/blog/aha-2020-guidelines/

Heart Foundation –

https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/your-heart/hearthelp/atrial-fibrillation/managing-your-af

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/atrial_fibrillation.htm

American Heart Association –https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/atrial-fibrillation/what-is-atrial-fibrillation-afib-or-af

Men, June means it’s time to take charge of your health!

young father and son

The month of June is Men’s Health Month and is dedicated to bringing awareness and providing education regarding all things health for the male population. With chronic disease and sedentary lifestyles on the rise, it is more important than ever to stay properly informed of how you can take steps to preserve your own health. Oftentimes, it can be as simple as making small changes to your daily routines that can prevent illness and preserve your quality of life in the long run.

Leading Health Concerns and Risk Factors

While men and women both share many of the same leading causes of death, studies have shown that men have a higher morbidity and mortality rate than women from coronary heart disease, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes and cancer, four of the top ten leading causes of death in our country. Though many factors, including genetics, come into play with these diseases that are not always avoidable, many of the biggest risk factors are preventable, including smoking, alcohol consumption, lack of physical activity, obesity, and high-risk behavior.

Statistics have identified men as being more likely to smoke, drink higher amounts of alcohol, partake in risky behaviors, and put off checkups and medical care, all of which put you in a much higher risk category for chronic disease. Recognizing the risk factors that are most at play for you and reducing their presence in your own life can have a monumental impact on the quality of your life.

statistics graphic

Health Issues Unique to Men

In addition to being at higher risk for universal health issues that can affect everyone, there are several health concerns that are unique to men. These include prostate cancer, benign prostate enlargement and low testosterone. Sometimes signs and symptoms don’t present themselves until it’s too late, and because men are more likely to skip the doctor visits, these diseases can go unnoticed for some time despite treatments being available. Regular checkups and screenings are imperative for men, as they can often identify disease early, even before symptoms occur, making it more likely that treatment will be successful.

Making the Change

Lifestyle changes can be hard but living with chronic disease that could have been prevented is the unfortunate alternative. When you’re ready to consider evaluating some of the risk factors for disease that exist in your own life, start by making a list. Once you’ve made a list, pick one to three things that you can change right away. The change can be as small as drinking one more cup of water each day to as big as hiring a personal trainer or nutrition coach!

Remember, a huge key to success is starting with something you know you will be able to stick to in order to build a strong habit. Reducing risk factors, improving your nutritional choices, and increasing your daily activity levels has a long list of benefits. These include better sleep, improved cognition, less weight gain, decreased levels of depression, and lower risk of heart disease, stroke, type-II diabetes, hypertension, Alzheimer’s and several types of cancers. You have the ability to dictate your quality of life for the rest of your life, starting with the changes you make today.

Use this checklist below as a pocket guide to make sure you’re hitting your health goals and share with the men in your life!

References

Image 1 – https://www.minorityhealth.hhs.gov/omh/content.aspx?ID=10238

Image 2 – https://bppn.org/june-is-mens-health-month/

American Heart Association – https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults?gclid=CjwKCAjwyryUBhBSEiwAGN5OCPrs7yMioBQ6DkruGXplfE6urx91CVQEadSrYxoZHVUrPIkkmpOs0BoC6z8QAvD_BwE

CDC – https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/lcod/men/2016/all-races-origins/index.htm

National Library of Medicine – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5756802/

My Health Finder – https://health.gov/myhealthfinder/topics/doctor-visits/regular-checkups/men-take-charge-your-health

June 12th: Women Veterans Day

June 12, 1948. A day that changed the course of history with the passing of the Women’s Armed Services Integration Act. This act would allow for women to serve in an official capacity in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force.

While it took until 1948 for women in service to be recognized by law, women have been making invaluable contributions during war times through much of American history. From sewing uniforms, to providing medical services, to forming all-female units to help fight the war, women were integral members of the military as early as the Revolution and continued to serve in the Civil War and the World Wars. Today, they are legally and rightfully permitted to serve in the Armed Forces and continue to be a vitally important component.

Female soldier standing in field filled with American flags

Despite women being the fastest growing group of veterans, with approximately two million residing in the United States today, they experience a disproportionate amount of challenges compared to their male counterparts both during their time in service and upon returning to civilian life. At present, they continue to face a higher risk of harassment and sexual violence during service, homelessness following their duty, difficulty finding employment, and social bias upon reintegration to society. The Armed Forces have always been and remain a male biased organization and the struggles for women because of this bias continue to negatively impact our female veterans. The Center for Women Veterans (CWV) was established in 1994 to address

some of these disparities between women and men in service. The CWV continues to be a leading organization whose mission it is to ensure that female veterans are treated with respect and equality. While there are scattered efforts across the nation and within communities to address the needs of female veterans, we are far from a point at which we should be satisfied. Women’s Veterans Day was first recognized just four years ago on June 12, 2018. This day was established to highlight female veterans and the struggles they face in hopes of addressing them with lasting solutions. We, as a society informed of the struggles these brave women face, must continue to raise awareness on their behalf.

To the women that have served this country and to those that continue to serve, we see you and we thank you.

Group of soldiers saluting with focus on female soldier

For more information regarding the resources available to you as a female veteran, you can visit the National Veterans Foundation’s website for a categorized list of resources depending on your specific needs. https://nvf.org/women-veteran-resources/

References:

VAntage Point – https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/89813/origin-women-veterans-day/

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs – https://www.va.gov/womenvet/resources/index.asp

VAWnet – https://vawnet.org/sc/challenges-specific-female-veterans National Veterans Foundation – https://nvf.org/women-veteran-resources/

Cropped image of military service member holding PTSD block letters

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: Awareness, Recognition, and Support

What is Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder?

Life is full of events that cause challenge, fear, or even sometimes pose a threat to us. Those serving in the military are even more susceptible than the general public to these events due to the high-stress, high-risk nature of their occupation. Often and commonly, individuals react to the situation at hand and are temporarily unsettled by these events before returning to normal daily living. In other cases, the event that is experienced can have long-lasting, life-altering negative effects and this is known as post-traumatic stress disorder. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines post-traumatic stress disorder, commonly referred to as PTSD, as a disorder that develops in individuals who have experienced shocking, scary, or dangerous events who continue to feel stress or fear even after they are safe from the original event.

Signs and Symptoms

While it is common for individuals to be temporarily disrupted by a trauma, especially during combat, PTSD diagnosis is less common and requires an individual to experience symptoms for more than a month and in a great enough capacity to interfere with work and/or relationships. Symptoms are categorized into four subgroups: re-experiencing, avoidance, arousal and reactivity, and cognition and mood symptoms. Below are some examples of each.

Re-experiencing

Avoidance

Arousal and Reactivity

Cognition and Mood

Treatment Options

Whether you recognize these signs or symptoms in a loved one or perhaps in your own behaviors, you are not alone and there are many treatment options available. Treatment by a mental health provider can open up the door to options such as medication or psychotherapy, or a combination of both. The medications that have been studied and utilized most extensively are antidepressant medications which help to mitigate anger, worry, sadness and numbness. Additional medications can be sought out and explored to help alleviate other symptoms such as trouble sleeping and nightmares. Psychotherapy, also referred to as “talk therapy”, can be done one-on-one or in a group setting. Along with specific and individualized therapy goals, treatment should aim to educate individuals about their triggers and symptoms and prepare them with strategies to manage them when they occur.

PTSD can be incredibly isolating and takes a toll on the lives of many individuals in our community. While it may be hard to imagine living without the symptoms, recovery is possible. In congruence with medication and therapy, there are steps you can take on your own to facilitate recovery. Exercise can be a useful tool to improve both physical and mental health, as it is proven to reduce stress and improve mood. A strong support system of family and friends, as well as the veteran community, can be key to recovery. Involving loved ones in your life and engaging in a community that can relate to your experience can help to alleviate the loneliness associated with PTSD. While working with your therapist to build skills to reduce symptoms, consider partaking in activities that previously sparked joy and interest.

Caring for someone with PTSD can take a serious toll on those providing support as well. If you are a family member, friend or loved one of someone with PTSD, it is imperative to

prioritize your health and seek care and support for yourself as well. Look into local support groups within your community or virtual platforms to connect with other individuals in similar positions and keep regular checkups with your doctor. Make sure to set aside time to sleep, exercise and eat while you are offering care. You are not alone in offering care; seek out professionals and encourage the individual you are caring for to get further treatment. The better you care for yourself, the better you will be able to offer support.

Looking to the Future

Research has been underway for years looking into both the mental and biological components of PTSD, and new research directions continue to develop as scientists acquire new information. A subgroup of research studies called clinical trials seek to study if new tests, prevention measures, or treatments are effective. While clinical trials are an excellent method to further scientific knowledge, individuals should be aware that new information is the goal and there is no guarantee of successful treatment. If you are interested in learning more about current clinical trials or being involved in one, you can visit clinicaltrials.gov for a current list of National Institutes of Health (NIH) studies being conducted across the country or visit the NIMH’s Clinical Trials webpage for information about partaking in a study.

Resources for Veterans and Caregivers

Seeking treatment can feel overwhelming and lonely initially, and it is important to know that there are many organizations that are in place to help you find the support you or your loved one may need.

If you are a veteran with PTSD, the Veterans Crisis Line is available to you and your loved ones. You do not need to be enrolled in VA benefits or health care to access the 24/7, 365-day-a-year support that this line offers. Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255 and press 1

If you are a caregiver for a friend, family member, or loved one dealing with PTSD, the VA offers caregiver support in the form of a helpline as well as a caregiver program. To visit the website, go to caregiver.va.gov or call the helpline to speak to someone directly. Caregiver Support: 855-260-3274

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administrations, abbreviated SAMHSA, has a free and confidential hotline for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance abuse disorders. This hotline is also referred to as the Treatment Referral Routing Service and provides referrals to treatment centers, support groups, and community-based programs. The hotline is free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year and is available in Spanish and English. SAMHSA hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)

Additionally, the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI) has a Monday-Friday, 10am-10pm, ET. informational helpline as well as an email address, helpline@nami.org, to

provide support and resources to individuals in need. The NAMI is NOT a hotline, crisis line, or suicide prevention line. NAMI helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)

Thank you to our veterans and their community caregivers.

We see you, and we support you.

References

NIH – https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd#part_2241 SAMHSA – https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help/national-helpline https://www.caregiver.va.gov/Tips_by_Diagnosis/PTSD.asp https://www.veteranscrisisline.net/

NAMI – https://www.nami.org/help

Image – https://www.heroesmile.com/intersection-of-ptsd-and-veterans/

Elderly couple with dementia putting together a puzzle

Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month

June is Alzheimer’s and Brain Health Awareness Month. This month, take time to discuss the importance of brain health with your friends, relatives, and elderly adults in your life—especially those who may be at risk for dementia and cognitive impairment. Taking steps to improve brain health early on can often reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive disorders.

What Is the Prevalence Of Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 6.5 million Americans. As the most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive disorder that destroys brain cells and causes the brain to shrink. It is most common among adults over the age of 65.

Memory loss is the primary symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s can also affect a person’s concentration, judgement, and decision-making ability, leading to problems with carrying out essential daily tasks like bathing, getting dressed, and cooking. Many people with Alzheimer’s often require hospice care so they can get help with performing these activities.

The Importance Of Early Screening

Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition that develops gradually over time. There is no designated screening test for Alzheimer’s, though your doctor can review your medical history and perform an evaluation to determine your risk.

Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

Maintaining optimal brain health is key to reducing your risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. If you are caring for Alzheimer’s patients, you can work with them to improve their brain health and reduce the severity of certain symptoms.

Eat Healthy, Nutritious Foods

Leafy greens, fatty fish, and almonds are some of the many foods that contribute to good brain health. Foods like these are loaded with nutrients, including vitamin E and omega-3 fatty acids, that are shown to boost brain health and delay the progression of Alzheimer’s. Eat a higher amount of healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, fish, poultry, and nuts to improve your cognition.

Stay Social

Socializing with others on a regular basis can stimulate your memory and attention, strengthening neural networks to improve overall brain function. Being social can reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, boosting the quality of life in people with Alzheimer’s. Go dancing, join book clubs, and attend social events at community centers. Many hospice care providers can help you find social activities geared toward older adults and seniors.

Exercise Regularly

Physical activity offers a wide range of benefits for cognition and brain health. It improves your circulation and blood flow, boosting your memory and problem-solving ability. It can even help ward off anxiety and mood disorders, including depression. Schedule exercise into your daily schedule, even if it’s only a 10- to 15-minute walk. Better yet, join exercise classes for seniors, such as water aerobics and yoga.

Challenge Your Brain

Learning new skills and challenging your brain can lead to the formation of new connections between brain cells, which reduces your risk for cognitive problems, including Alzheimer’s. Play board games with your relatives and other seniors in the community, or take classes that teach you a new language or how to cook a certain cuisine. You can even download and play brain games on your smartphone, such as Wordle, Lumosity, and Candy Crush.

Hospice Care With Hospice of North Alabama

Hospice of North Alabama is a leading provider of hospice services throughout Alabama—including hospice services for people with Alzheimer’s disease. Fill out our online form today to learn more about our services.

Senior woman walking on outdoor trail

5 Things To Do On National Senior Health and Fitness Day

Staying fit and healthy year-round is essential for a fulfilled lifestyle. But as people age, it becomes increasingly more difficult to remain active and feeling your best. ​​If you have been struggling with your health or fitness lately, then May 25th is the perfect day for you. This year, May 25th is National Senior Health and Fitness Day, and to kick off the celebration, here is a list of our favorite things you can do to improve your well-being on this inspiring day, and throughout the year.

Get Active Outside

As the weather starts to turn in May, now is the perfect time to dust off your walking shoes and get outside. For seniors, low-intensity activities are safer and easier to do on your own. They still promote increased heart health and strength while putting reduced pressure on your joints and muscles. Some activities can include walking to the park with your family, doing lawn work, or riding a bike. These are all great ways to get outside and get active, and the best thing is, seniors of all ages can enjoy them without pushing themselves to their limit. The bottom line is as long as you are getting outside and moving your body, you’re taking steps in the right direction to leading a healthier life.

Get Active Inside

We all know the weather can be very unpredictable at times, especially during the spring months. At times, it can go from rain to sunshine within the same hour. That’s okay because there are plenty of ways that you can still stay active indoors, no matter if you’re living independently or in a community living setting. For example, yoga and dancing are great options because they work all parts of the body, are low impact, and can be performed indoors. If you need something a bit more tangible to do, look into using resistance bands when doing some basic exercises. These bands are much safer than weights and will not take up nearly as much space.  While you might have to get a little more creative if you’re working with less space indoors, there are plenty of ways you can get your body moving inside even just by walking up and down the stairs. Your local gym or YMCA also may offer a dedicated space for activities such as swimming to get active while still staying indoors.

Schedule Your Health Screenings

Maintenance is key to living a long and healthy life. The best way to maintain your health is by staying on top of your regular health screenings. If you find yourself in the situation of not having been to the doctor in a while, now would be a great time to schedule an appointment. Keep in mind that your health goes beyond just your normal primary care. Scheduling a cleaning with your dentist, getting new prescription eyeglasses from your optometrist, and getting a head-to-toe skin check at your dermatologist are all commonly skipped areas of health maintenance. If you can’t remember the last time you addressed these areas of your health, use today to take that step in scheduling your health screening appointments so you can ensure you live the longest, healthiest life you can.

Eat A Healthy Meal

I’m sure you have heard the saying that “food is your fuel”. The food that you put into your body plays a major role in how you feel and operate on a daily basis. Don’t wait, start eating some healthy meals today! To begin, try and get your daily serving of greens, whole grains, and protein. While they are all important, eating an adequate amount of protein each day can help prevent the muscle breakdown that most seniors will face as they age. Another thing to keep in mind is the roles that certain foods have. For example, if you’re having a hard time with digestion, try eating more fiber as it helps food move through your digestion system. Lastly, staying away from processed foods and sugar as a whole can make a world of difference for your overall nutrition.

Meet With Your Friends/Family

Happiness is a foundational building block of your health, and don’t let anybody tell you anything different. Make time to visit with friends and family today; even if it’s only for a half-hour. Grab a coffee, eat lunch at your favorite local spot, or even invite company over. Not only does seeing your loved ones show that you care, but it also allows a space for happy memories to be created. In addition, being happy has been shown to fight stress, reduce blood pressure, and may even extend your lifespan. Take the opportunity to get out of the house, enjoy some great company, and reap the benefits that come along with it.

Hospice of North Alabama Thanks You

Even though Hospice of North Alabama acknowledges the importance of our seniors every day, National Senior Health and Fitness Day gives the larger population an opportunity to shed light on the importance of their health and wellbeing too. No matter what you do on this day, the memorable lesson is that you’re acting upon the matter and seizing the opportunity to better yourself.

We are looking forward to seeing how you participate this year. We hope you enjoy National Senior Health and Fitness Day 2022.

National Volunteer Month

Volunteers are an essential part of the hospice care team. The difference they make for our patients and their families is immeasurable. Whether it’s through direct care or administrative work behind the scenes, there are countless ways a hospice volunteer can help.

We are beyond grateful for the incredible people who volunteer their time and talents to make a positive difference in our patients’ lives. In honor of National Volunteer Month, we’d like to recognize just a few of them. We asked our volunteers to share what made them decide to be a hospice volunteer and what they find most rewarding about their experience.

Dennis

Hospice of the Midwest Volunteer – We Honor Veterans Program

Dennis

“On September 10, 2018, Mr. Kelly Gafkjen, Chaplain, Hospice of the Midwest, was a guest speaker at our Urbandale-Johnston Veterans of Foreign Wars monthly meeting. Kelly was on a mission seeking veterans to talk to veterans in local hospice care in their homes or hospice facilities.  Many veterans in hospice would like to share their life and military experiences, but feel only a fellow veteran can associate with their feelings. At the conclusion of his presentation, Kelly asked that we consider volunteering, receive some minimal training, and agree to talk to veterans who are seeking fellow veterans to talk to.  After our meeting concluded, a number of us discussed the information presented by Kelly, and three of us thought this was right in line with our VFW mission of “Veterans helping Veterans”.  Contact was made with Kelley and the three of us started our training at the Fall Training Session September 27, 2018 , conducted by Kelley and Taylor Schneider.  By the end of October we had finished our training and were waiting for our first assigned veteran. Under the guidance of Taylor I was introduced to my first veteran during a pinning ceremony on November, 30, 2018.  Since then I have had the privilege of meeting and sharing both civilian  and military experiences with 9 veterans of WW II, Korea, Vietnam and the Cold War eras.  Every veteran, whether Army, Air Force, Navy or Marine, were all comrades and had their own unique and fascinating stories to tell. Some sad, some humorous, but all seemed willing to share with enthusiasm. I so much enjoyed visiting with these men, and I only hope they felt the  same comradery that I felt while in their presence.  I will miss these veterans but look forward to meeting my next comrade.”

Arav and Anishka

Grane Hospice Volunteers

Arav and Anishka

“We started volunteering for a local hospice during the pandemic (2020). We stumbled upon the opportunity from an email our mom received asking for donations of homemade casseroles and cards for hospice patients and their families. At first, it started by making occasional cards and casseroles, and then it turned into a routine every other week activity. This evolved into helping other hospices including including Grane Hospice. We have made homemade cards and even have given a virtual concert for the patients at Grane Hospice. We feel grateful to be able to give back to others in need even during a worldwide pandemic. It shows no matter what the circumstances, we can help others in our community. All this volunteer work has inspired us to create our own non-profit group called Rays of Sunshine, benefiting local hospices. We hope to expand and help even more local hospices in the future.”

Daniel

CompassionCare Hospice Volunteer

Daniel

“Coming from a family where both parents were in the medical field, I have had an interest in medicine ever since I can remember. In the pursuit of getting involved with medical volunteering opportunities, I wanted to commit to something that would provide meaningful experiences in vulnerable people’s lives, as well as my own. Although my patients’ physical bodies are failing them, they still have great wisdom to impart when given the chance to share and be heard. Many times, I leave the local assisted living facility with an enlightened perspective that I believe will serve me well in the career I am aspiring to have. From hearing first-person stories of World War II experiences to celebrating 96 years of living, there is always a window for valuable learning opportunities when I have the chance to spend time with these folks whom I now consider my friends.”

Joan

AT Home Care and Hospice Volunteer

Joan

“I Prayed about being a Hospice Volunteer and this is how the Lord is using My ability as a Hairdresser, to bring Comfort and Joy to the Patients. The most rewarding aspect is seeing the Happiness in the Faces of the Patients and their Families. Working with Them is a Blessing to Me.”

Virginia and Flynn

Grane Hospice Volunteers

“Being a hospice volunteer is about having a passion and love for helping others. No, I don’t physically help them but the most rewarding part about volunteering with my dog, Flynn, is seeing the joy it brings to residents. Residents look forward to our visits and remember us from week to week, allowing special connections to be made. I’m thankful for the opportunity Flynn and I have to give our time and make people smile.”

Kennedi and Ernest

Hospice of North Alabama Volunteers

Kennedi and Ernest

Kennedi and Ernest – graduate level social work students with Alabama A&M University and the University of Alabama – are student volunteers with Hospice of North Alabama in Huntsville. They sit with patients to provide caregiver respite. Hospice volunteer work allows students to garner a strong understanding of how social workers broker services within a healthcare agency as well as how to coordinate with various other healthcare and social service agencies.

Ernest states “I have learned that the process of dying and bereavement is as diverse as the families we serve. The first step of serving this population is engaging the patient and/or caregivers on what they want this time in their lives to be like—no two answers are the same.”

Along with the home environment, they also work with residential care communities to provide comfort and support. This gives them experience working with diverse community types and medical care needs.

Kennedi states “The things I’ve learned while interning at Hospice of North Alabama have prepared me to be a more caring and competent social worker. The compassion and kindness that HNA shows to the patients has been extended to me from the very beginning, and I’m so grateful. This has been the greatest experience of service I have committed myself to.” Ernest agrees, adding: “Knowing that you have provided support to a patient and/or their family in this transition period is rewarding. Establishing the trust that fosters comfort and emotional resiliency is an experience that will give volunteers a unique understanding of how health care best serves patients in all life stages.”

Choi-ha

Premier Hospice Volunteer

“My internship and volunteering experience with Premier Hospice was meaningful and fulfilled my longstanding desire of working with end-of-life services to clients and their families. 

I enjoyed working with a well-resourced team that included a chaplain, bereavement coordinator, social workers, liaisons, nurses, a doctor, and a volunteer coordinator. Each of them brought to bear their own particular skillset, and we all collaborated to make our clients’ end of life as comfortable and dignified as possible. 

Besides teamwork, I enjoyed, I enjoyed visiting with my client once a week. My primary role was to support and strengthen the care providers so that they might function better.

I also enjoyed supporting other team members by making caring calls to clients or their families. It was amazing how much comfort and reassurance I could bring to them through the calling service. My participation in the online bereavement group was my gain in the understanding and knowledge of the process in group work, particularly for grieving families. 

Through my time with Premier Hospice, I have grown to better appreciate the important role of leadership in the hospice setting. The internship was profitable to my professional growth and development.”

Katie

Premier Hospice Volunteer

Katie

“I volunteer with hospice to facilitate new transitions. In January 2020, I completed the training to become an End-of-Life Doula in New York City. In my move to Indianapolis, it was important for me to find a strong hospice program where I could be actively involved in the moments of life and death with others.

I volunteer because dying is an important cycle in every community. It is never easy to participate in the dying process, it pulls at every piece of your being. But there is nothing more rewarding than helping a patient or caregiver smile again while recalling a significant life moment. There is nothing more rewarding when the world feels burdensome, to help others find peace even for a single second.”

Thank You, Volunteers!

Thank you to these incredible individuals – and to all the volunteers on our team – for all you do for our patients and their families. You are amazing!

Interested in learning more about volunteer opportunities at Hospice of North Alabama? We’d love to have you on our team! Learn more and apply here.

Senior woman drinking water with shaking hands

Parkinson’s Awareness

By: Dr. Laura Mantine

Parkinson’s disease (PD) is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing nerve cells within the brain. The loss of dopamine causes symptoms like stiffness, slow movements, balance problems, and depression. There are certain specific motor symptoms that accompany Parkinson’s disease. A resting tremor happens when a body part, usually a hand or foot, shakes slightly when a person is not using it. Bradykinesia is whenmovements are extremely slow, and patients may have freezing episodes which are temporary, involuntary periods where a person is unable to move. A PD patient may also experience changes in speech, smaller handwriting due to difficulties performing repetitive motions, and a “masked” face due to a loss of facial expression. Patients are also at an increased risk of falls from a combination of poor balance and severe stiffness. A PD patient may develop difficulty swallowing which can lead to weight loss, malnutrition, dehydration, and pneumonia.

There are also non-motor symptoms that are present in Parkinson’s disease. Parkinson’s dementia is a significant, permanent decline in attention, memory, and problem-solving that impairs daily life. A patient may develop hallucinations or delusions throughout their disease course which can lead to increased caregiver stress. Patients may also suffer from severe constipation, urinary problems, and sleep disorders that affect their quality of life.

A Progressive Disease

As a progressive disease, Parkinson’s disease symptoms will slowly worsen over time. While PD affects people in unique ways, there are typical patterns of progression, defined by five stages. In stage 1 and stage 2 of Parkinson’s, patients may experience mild shaking and stiffness. As the disease advances into stages 3 and 4, loss of balance and slowness of movement begin to impair daily functioning. Stage 5 is the final, most debilitating stage of PD. In this stage, patients are wheelchair- or bedbound and require 24-hour nursing care. Patients are said to have end-stage Parkinson’s disease at stages 4 and 5 of the disease. In end-stage Parkinson’s disease, symptoms are so severe that medication stops working well, and patients require full-time caregiver assistance. Eventually, end-stage PD patients become candidates for hospice care, a service that focuses on easing symptoms and improving comfort at the end of life.

Hospice Eligibility

There are no formal PD eligibility guidelines for determining when a hospice referral should be made, and there is no definite timeline when it comes to the final stages of Parkinson’s disease. However, hospice care is available to patients who are expected to live six months or less. Doctors and hospice agencies will consider factors relevant to PD like a patient’s history of falls, hospitalizations, withdrawal from activities, inability to perform self-care, and lack of benefit from medication. There are very general hospice guidelines intended to cover a broad-spectrum of neurological disorders. The guidelines for neurological illnesses state that patients must meet one of the following to be eligible for hospice: critically impaired breathing or rapid disease progression in the past year.

Critically impaired breathing is unlikely to be applicable in Parkinson’s disease. Primary respiratory problems are not typical in advanced PD. The second criterion, evidence of rapid disease progression in the prior year, tends to be more useful for patients with end-stage PD. A rapid disease progression means that patients are bedridden, have unintelligible speech, require a modified diet, and need major assistance with activities of daily living. Nutritional impairmentis common in end-stage PD. Patients are unable to maintain sufficient oral intake and experience weight loss and dehydration. Life-threatening complicationsthat may occur in end-stage PD include recurrent aspiration pneumonia and pressure ulcers of the skin.

Hospice for Parkinson’s Patients

Hospice care is an extra layer of support to help care for loved ones with end-stage Parkinson’s disease. The goal of hospice care is to optimize comfort and ease physical, emotional, and mental suffering during the dying process. Members of a hospice care team include a doctor, nurse, social worker, and home health aide. Most patients with PD die from the same diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer, that others do. As such, hospice care may be considered even before a patient with PD reaches the end stages of their disease. Deciding when it is time to enter hospice care can be a difficult decision for a person and their loved ones. However, being admitted to hospice can ensure a person and their caregivers have access to a variety of services that are needed.

References:

“Eligibility for End-Stage Parkinson’s Disease Hospice Care.” By Colleen Doherty, MD. Published on October 24, 2021. Medically reviewed by Isaac O. Opole, MD, PhD. https://www.verywellhealth.com.

“The Role of Hospice in Parkinson’s.” Parkinson’s Foundation. 2018. https://www.parkinson.org.

Young woman consoling elderly loved one

April Is Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month

By Jacquelyn Buffo, MS, LPC, CAADC

Losing a loved one to a terminal illness is one of the most painful experiences you can go through. The loss of a spouse or partner is traumatic for many people, and the grief journey can feel overwhelming, confusing, and painful. However, each person grieves and works through the grieving process at their own pace and in their own way. If you are grieving the loss of a partner or spouse, you are not alone. The month of April is Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month, observed since 2008. Bereaved Spouses Awareness Month provides support and resources for bereaved spouses.

The difficulty of losing a spouse is followed by a grieving process that can be challenging for many people. Grief is a process and includes many different types of symptoms, some more severe than others. Feelings such as shock, sadness, numbness, and even guilt can occur after losing a spouse. Your experiences of grief may be different than others, and it is dependent upon factors specific to you. Grief can present as intense emotions and can also present in behaviors.

For example, bereaved spouses may experience:

How Hospice Care Can Help 

There is no right or wrong way to grieve, and support and help are available to you. An available resource along your journey of bereavement is hospice care. Hospice can help spouses prepare for the impending loss of a loved one. The hospice’s bereavement team can also help spouses after a patient passes. The mission of hospice care is to deliver compassionate, quality care to individuals with terminal illnesses and support the families through the caregiving phase and bereavement process.

Many spouses spend a significant amount of time and energy caring for and tending to their ill partners. But unfortunately, they may overlook their own needs and feelings during this time. Utilizing the hospice team as a source of support can help spouses tend to their emotions and needs when it is difficult.

If you are struggling with the loss of a loved one, it is vital to get the help and support you need. First, talk to a trusted family member or friend about what you’re going through. Loved ones can be strong sources of validation, support, and compassion. You can also talk to your doctor if you notice a change in behavior and mood or if you are having difficulty performing the normal activities of daily living, such as showering regularly and eating. Your doctor may be able to provide you with medication and can also provide you with referrals to a grief counselor or support group near you.

Sources:

  1. Mourning the Death of a Spouse | National Institute on Aging (nih.gov)
  2. Missed Opportunity: Hospice Care and the Family – PMC (nih.gov)

Group of smiling doctors

National Doctors’ Day: Physicians & COVID

By: Laura Mantine, MD

“Wear the white coat with dignity and pride, it is an honor and privilege to get to serve the public as a physician.”

― Bill H. Warren

National Doctors’ Day

Physicians display heroism and courage every day in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. National Doctors’ Day, celebrated on March 30th, is an annual observance aimed at appreciating physicians who help save lives everywhere. The holiday first started in 1933 in Winder, Georgia, and since then it has been honored every year. The idea came from Eudora Brown Almond, wife of Dr. Charles B. Almond, and the date was chosen as it marked the anniversary of the first use of general anesthesia in surgery.  This month, National Doctors’ Day continues to highlight many questions, concerns and fears about what the future of medicine holds. The COVID-19 pandemic has already left its indelible mark on American’s health and well-being.  Many doctors have courageously set aside their own fears to help those in need, lend a hand to an overburdened colleague, gather supplies and equipment for those who may soon go without, and accelerate the research to develop a vaccine or medication that may bring an end to this pandemic once and for all.

Toll of COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold and upend American life, physicians, nurses, and the health care workforce are leading a remarkable response effort by putting their health and safety on the line every day. There have been many cases in the U.S and around the globe in which physicians have fallen seriously ill or died after treating patients for COVID-19. The physical toll alone is daunting with extremely long and taxing hours at a patient’s bedside. The emotional toll is just as significant, and enough to overwhelm even the most seasoned and experienced doctor. Ultimately, no one can say for sure how long this health threat will last or how much more our nation’s physicians will be asked to give.

A Physician’s Responsibility

The COVID-19 pandemic reminds physicians of the obligation to place a patient’s welfare above our own, the need to protect and promote public health, and the ethical considerations involved in providing care under the most urgent and trying circumstances. Physicians embrace all these responsibilities and more as a routine part of their professional lives. This fact does not diminish the burden a physician will undertake on a patient’s behalf. The selflessness displayed in the face of a deepening health crisis is truly extraordinary.

Thank You to Physicians – Today and Every Day

When physicians are asked why they chose their profession, answers will of course vary. One theme tends to underlie all the responses: a profound commitment to helping others. Physicians are called upon to help in moments like the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Patrice A. Harris, former president of the American Medical Association, said in her inaugural address “Physicians don’t run from challenges. We run toward them.” Physicians undertake these efforts because they are called to do so, not to earn public recognition or thanks. People should thank them and offer heartfelt gratitude and praise, not on National Doctors’ Day but every day.

References:

Search CompassionCare Hospice