PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — At age 20, Rita Stasiak, of Elizabeth Township, served as a Navy meteorologist during the Vietnam War. Today, afflicted with Parkinson’s, she is confined to a special chair, 24-7, with VA-provided home health care 35 hours a week.
“I need help with bathing, and eating, and dressing, and going to the bathroom,” Stasiak told KDKA political editor Jon Delano on Tuesday. Now the local VA wants to take this away. Stasiak received a phone call from a woman at the VA who said, she recalled, “Instead of getting 35 hours a week, you’re lucky. You’re going to get six hours a week. I’m not going to survive with that. And she said, sorry.”
Many others are getting similar calls like disabled Army vet Gerald Powell of the North Side who gets 25 hours a week of home health care. “She said the VA is cutting back on home health care, and you’re only going to get six hours a week,” said Powell.
In a statement, the local VA said it was reviewing what it called “excessive levels of in-home assistance,” but now says it is doing a “close second look” at its initial decisions. Cutting back home health services for veterans certainly flies in the face of President Trump’s promise to increase, not cut, benefits.
KDKA’s Jon Delano has reaction from Rep. Mike Doyle —
And it’s also at odds with statements from Secretary of Veterans Affairs Dr. David Shulkin, interviewed at the White House in the spring by KDKA’s Jon Delano. “Care needs to involve having good access. When people need services, they can get it,” insisted Shulkin. Denying adequate home health betrays these words, but Shulkin acknowledged the VA makes mistakes. “We are here to make sure we are honoring the commitment we made to veterans. When we don’t always get it right, and we know we don’t always get it right, we want to know about it and we want to fix it,” the secretary said.
Delano:“What’s your message to the secretary?”
Stasiak:“He needs to do his job better. Like I said, fight for the veterans. We deserve at least to be taken care of.”
They can stay in a familiar environment
Change can be difficult at any age or in any circumstances, but dementia patients will find it especially challenging to be taken outside their familiar environments. Anxiety and agitation can be quite problematic for dementia patients, and it's very easy for them to become overwhelmed. Many organizations feel that the best thing you can do is to keep dementia patients in surroundings that are familiar to them if at all possible. By working with certified caregivers, this can become a realistic course of action. Being able to provide comfort care in their own homes can go a long way for many patients.
They can stick to their routine
Much in the same way that the familiar location can be helpful, a familiar routine can provide comfort. Keeping the same schedule can allow for reduced anxiety and a sense of normalcy, which can be hard to come by when patients are moved into facilities for care. Even if a patient doesn't get as much out of their routines as they once did, it can still be extremely valuable. In home caregivers will come up with plans that combine familiar routines and daily activities (such as bathing, dressing, eating) and that will allow patients to have more understanding and control over their lives.
They'll receive more individualized care
Dementia care is never a one-size-fits-all endeavor. But in a facility, it can be harder to ensure your loved one is getting the personalized care they deserve. In home care can be more tailor-made to your wishes and schedule. Plus, securing quality care for your loved ones at home means that they'll have a system that can evolve as their needs change.
They'll have their safety monitored
While dementia facilities do offer high levels of protection in terms of wandering, not every patient will get that individualized attention that can keep them safe at all times. Having a caregiver whose sole purpose is to monitor your loved one will ensure their safety to a much more specialized degree. And because these caregivers are trained to recognize pain and discomfort in dementia patients, the level of care will be higher overall. In addition, many care providers will conduct a safety assessment of a patient's home and will advise you on changes that need to be made.
Plus, familial caregivers can breathe a sigh of relief
Caregiver burnout can be a huge problem for many family members. Although you'll of course want to care for your loved one on your own, the stress can be overwhelming for many people. You need to take care of yourself, too. By supplementing your own care with home care from certified caregivers, you can allow yourself to have the break you need without handing over the care of your loved one to a facility. It's really the best of both worlds, especially because your caregiver can offer advice on best practices to use during your time with your loved one.
They have recently fallen or may easily become injured
Falls are all too common among seniors, but they should still be taken seriously. Usually, a fall is an indication that an individual is struggling to get around. Whether that's because they have physical limitations or are taking medications that result in balance issues, supervision and movement help can make a huge difference. However, you likely can't observe your loved one 24 hours a day. In home caregivers can ensure your loved one is safe when you aren't there and that their home is modified in a way that reduces potential hazards.
They cannot maintain medical or personal care
Seniors with reduced mobility, memory issues, or problems with their vision will often find it difficult to keep up with their personal care routine. If your loved one's personal appearance (i.e., the way they wear their hair, how they dress, or how they apply their makeup) has changed drastically, that could be a sign they could benefit from home care. This might also be the case if your loved one cannot keep up with their medications or appointments. When you hire a company to care for patients at their home, you'll have peace of mind that they'll be tended to in terms of both health and hygiene.
They can no longer drive (or do so safely)
Memory conditions, vision loss, hearing problems, and reduced reaction times can, unfortunately, make it unsafe for many seniors to drive. But the loss of a driver's license often comes with a loss of independence and even social interaction. Certified caregivers will often provide transportation for their patients to the supermarket, to the drug store, to doctors' appointments, and more. But they'll also provide valuable companionship along the way. That way, if you cannot personally drive your loved one around all the time, they can still get what they need and won't be stuck alone in their home or subject to a specific schedule.
September is Healthy Aging® Month, an annual observance aimed at focusing national attention on the positive aspects of growing older… a chance to encourage us to take personal responsibility for our health… physically, socially, mentally. So, what are the keys to healthy aging?
Keep moving.Regular exercise is key. Living an active lifestyle will keep you fit and help you maintain a healthy weight. You might even find that you sleep better. Regular exercise may also prevent or provide relief from common chronic conditions, such as heart disease, diabetes, depression and arthritis. When you choose to move, make sure it’s something you enjoy so it doesn’t end up feeling like a chore.
Eat nutritious foods.Eating a healthy, balanced diet can not only make you feel great, it can help fight certain diseases. Opt for fresh fruits and vegetables and clean proteins. Ditch the junk food and avoid sweet, salty, highly-processed foods.
Get enough Zzzzzzz.Did you know that humans can go longer without food than without sleep? That’s a frightening fact. Make sure you get the sleep your body needs – that’s usually seven to nine hours per night for older adults. Lack of sleep can also cause irritability, increased fall risk and memory issues.
Prevent and protect.Keep up with regular well visits with your doctor, dentist and optometrist. Make sure to take all medications as directed by your physician. And make sure you know which immunizations you need to stay protected. In addition to a seasonal flu vaccine, which all adults need every year, there are many other important vaccines for seniors.
Challenge your brain.Some cognitive decline, such as in memory and thinking skills, is a normal part of aging. Studies have shown that a lifestyle that includes cognitive stimulation through active learning slows this cognitive decline. Do something good and stimulating for your brain like assembling a puzzle, learning a foreign language or learning to play a musical instrument.
Stay social.Stay connected to friends and family by being social. Schedule a regular time to have lunch, go for a walk or meet for coffee. Join a book club, paint pottery or volunteer with your favorite organization. Stay social and keep it fun!
Home Plus Pre-Care Evaluations: Contact us before you need in-home care. If you have aging loved-ones who want to stay in their homes, learn about planning for the need and considerations about hiring in-home caregivers now. Many problems and expectations can be sorted out beforehand and insurance questions can be answered. Visit our FAQ page for more details and call us today to start a plan.
Determine the type of care you need
The qualities of your home care assistance depend on the kind of care that professional needs to provide. For instance, some in home caregivers spend hours with their patients. Others may only be present for a couple of minutes to provide their medical services.
Is the caregiver certified or licensed?
Certified caregivers are necessary if your parent requires medical care and not just physical assistance. Certain senior living places automatically require their caregivers to be licensed, but these licenses can differ depending on the state. Ask the specific licenses of the job applicants to be sure that they meet the qualifications of the necessary medical care your loved one requires.
Does your parent or loved one approve?
It's important that your parent or loved one gets a voice in the decision of the person you're hiring. After all, the caregiver will be spending the most time with them and you won't be there for many of their interactions. In addition, depending on the type of caregiver you're looking for, many in home caregivers will be giving your loved one baths, helping them dress, and preparing their meals. Once the job applicants leave, ask your loved one their opinion on the prospects and let them have the final say. Not only will this make your loved one more comfortable, but it will also let them feel more independent.