Caregiving

Humana and Valued Relationships, Inc. (VRI), a leading provider of home health monitoring services, are partnering on a national pilot aimed at preventing the serious long-term effects of medical emergencies and falls, and reducing unnecessary hospital admissions, readmissions and emergency room visits.

In late July, Humana began providing a free personal emergency response system, called “PERS,” to Medicare Advantage members identified by the company’s national chronic care management division, Humana Cares/SeniorBridge. About 500 Humana Medicare members nationwide will participate in the six-month pilot.

“We know that a third of people over age 65 fall at least once a year, and nearly half cannot get up without help,” said Gail Miller, Humana Cares/SeniorBridge Vice President of Telephonic Clinical Operations. “Our goal is to continue to find ways to help our Medicare members stay longer and safer in their homes. Humana believes a medical alert system can help our members who are at risk of falls, and give their caregivers and family members peace of mind at the same time.”

The VRI medical alert system is easy to use. A member simply pushes a button on the device and a Care Center representative answers the call and gets the help needed, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. VRI also uses the device to track motion and is alerted if the device senses a lack of activity that may signal a health emergency.

“We are excited to work with Humana to show that when proven, low-cost medical alerts are combined with innovative monitoring processes and fall technologies, health-care organizations can improve care and reduce costs associated with hospitalizations,” said Andy Schoonover, President of VRI.

Using state-of-the-art technology, the PERS device:

  • Automatically detects when someone wearing the device falls and calls them to see if they’re OK.
  • Uses GPS-tracking to help find the member if he/she can’t call out or doesn’t answer calls.
  • Can work like a two-way, hands-free radio anyplace where AT&T’s cellular network is active.
  • VRI is providing the monitoring of the systems through trained responders at its call center in Franklin, Ohio.
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LifeSynch, a Humana subsidiary, offers extensive health behavior resources, including behavioral healthcare, employee assistance program (EAP)/work-life services, behavioral pharmacy services, health coaches and Web-based wellness tools. As part of their commitment to change health behaviors and improve lives, LifeSynch’s health coaches will be contributing a series of articles that demonstrate how easy it can be to make a healthy change.

November is a month to give special recognition to those who devote their time, energy and emotional support to the well-being and safety of their loved ones. While caregiving can be extremely rewarding and fulfilling, there are times when the caregiver needs support, recognition, or celebration.

Caregiving can be an ever-changing role. There are several stages of caregiving ranging from the moment when you realize that you may need to help to recognizing that your role as a caregiver will soon end. No matter what stage you find yourself, know that there are resources available to you including commonly asked questions, legal advice, community health care options, and conversations to have with the loved you are helping. You can also download a caregiver’s toolkit at http://www.humana.com/

If you are a family caregiver, it is not uncommon to feel out of your element, overwhelmed, and stressed. Most caregivers are not trained for the types of duties that are required of them. In order to provide the love and best care you can to the one you are looking after, it is important to take care of yourself. As a caregiver, you must strive to be at your best—this includes giving yourself a break:

  • Set aside a minimum of 30 minutes every day for yourself. Do whatever you enjoy, whether it’s reading, working in the garden, tinkering in your workshop, knitting, playing with the dogs, or watching a sports event.
  • Find ways to pamper yourself. Small luxuries can go a long way in relieving stress and boosting your spirits. Light candles and take a long bath. Ask your spouse for a back rub. Get a manicure. Buy fresh flowers for the house. Do whatever makes you feel special.
  • Make yourself laugh. Laughter is an excellent antidote to stress—and a little goes a long way. Read a funny book, watch a comedy, or call a friend who makes you laugh. Try to find the humor in everyday situations.
  • Get out of the house. Ask friends and family to step in and help with caregiving periodically so you can have time away from the home – and the stress.
  • Visit with friends. If it is difficult to leave the house, invite friends over to visit with you over coffee, tea, or dinner. It’s important to interact with others.

Taking time for yourself will allow you to relax, recharge your batteries and de-stress. Once you reach a point of burnout, it can be very difficult to serve the needs of your loved one. If you or someone you know is showing or experiencing signs of stress or burnout, seek support.

Caregiving can also make you face situations and feelings that you may not expect such as loss, anger, and family conflict. Balancing work, family, and finances may be difficult at times. In order to keep your sanity and achieve boundaries, recognize the challenges that are causing problems and seek support and help to overcome them. Websites such as AgingCare.com and Caregiving.com can bring caregivers together to find solutions to commonly experienced issues. These resources offer webinars, activities, support groups, and forums. Remember, caregiving is two-fold job – taking care of yourself and your loved one.

Katie Rowe, a learning facilitator and personal health coach/mentor at LifeSynch, a subsidiary of Humana, has an associates degree in healthcare business services and a bachelor’s degree in healthcare management. She is an active volunteer in her community, focusing on public health initiatives. In her spare time, she enjoys exercising, vegan blogging, traveling, cooking, and any outdoor activity.

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