COVID-19: Your Guide to Improving the “Home Alone” Experience

Let’s be honest, some days there are real advantages to being home alone. Dessert for breakfast? Sure. Staying up really late to watch a favorite movie? No problem. Working remotely while still in your PJs? Who’s going to know?

Yet with stay-at-home requirements now entering their fourth week in the Washington, D.C./Maryland/Virginia area, such formerly guilty pleasures are losing their luster and novelty. And for many seniors, being home alone has translated into just being lonely.

Even before social distancing, 43 percent of those 60 and over reported feeling lonely, according to a recent AARP-funded report. That’s not surprising, given that nearly 30 percent of all Americans already live alone. But now, even those simple social interactions that brightened a day—coffee with a friend or taking a class—are mostly gone, at least for the time being.

Nevertheless, we are social creatures, hard-wired for connections and community. In fact, staying socially connected affects our overall health and emotional well-being. So what are we to do?

Capital Caring Health (CCH) is ready to help, starting with the following ideas and suggestions.

Stay Connected

Try to spend at least 15 minutes of your day connecting with someone, whether a family member, friend, or neighbor. AARP recommends regularly scheduled phone and video calls, along with texts and emails, especially if you are a senior living alone. It’s also important to be in touch with someone you trust to share any feelings or worries you may have.

Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet including fruit and vegetables helps maintain your health, energy, and outlook. Conversely, an unhealthy diet can actually make stress and depression worse. Make sure family and friends know if you need help with grocery shopping or healthy meal preparation. If you are concerned about your ability to obtain food or groceries, please call 888-342-4774 or email stayathome@capitalcaring.org. We can help arrange home delivered meals during this crisis.

Get Your ZZZZZZZZs

Getting enough sleep is also important. While worry about COVID-19 and other concerns may be keeping you awake, you’ll improve your chance of quality sleep by not eating or drinking caffeine or alcohol too close to bedtime. Also, make sure your bedroom is dark, and place your phone out of reach. Cat naps and resting throughout the day can also help you recharge.

Exercise and Get Some Fresh Air

Exercise is great at reducing stress and improving mood. Depending on your ability, try seated exercise or yoga, or take a walk or bike ride…while maintaining physical distancing, of course.

Even just sitting on your porch or balcony can make a difference. Research shows that spending time outdoors and getting sun on your face are closely linked with happiness. If you can't go outdoors, just looking out the window at trees and clouds or photos of nature can help.

Be Mindful

A mind-body practice such as deep breathing, yoga, or meditation can also help you regain a sense of calm. UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center offers pre-recorded Guided Meditation audio sessions.

Also try using this time to remain engaged in your interests or find new ones, on your own or virtually with friends.

Seek the Medical Care and Help You Need

Don’t let the fear of catching COVID-19 keep you from getting the regular medical care you may need. Under certain circumstances, CCH can assure that you get necessary medical care and social support services, without leaving your home, through such programs as Primary Care at Home, Stay-at-Home Services, advanced illness/palliative and hospice care.

Don’t Grieve Alone

Those grieving the loss of a loved one may be especially affected by COVID-19 if they are unable to say good-bye in person or attend a memorial with others. CCH counseling services and grief support are available by phone or via Zoom, at no cost, for anyone who needs us—whether you’re an individual and family in our care or a member of the community-at-large. CCH volunteers can even help you set up the technology to do virtual visits with us, as well as connect with others in your life.

Our bereavement support groups will resume, virtually, in May for those who have lost a partner, parent, or child. While there’s no charge, online registration is required. An online support group is also in the works for bereaved children to interact with each other and do a group craft project in real time.

Click here to learn more about support groups or counseling services. Or you can use our website live chat or call 800-869-2136.

We’re All in This Together

You may be alone in your house and unable to connect in your usual ways, but millions of people are sharing the same experience. Together, as a community, and with help from community-based CCH, there are ways to remain safe, engaged and calm, ready to mingle or dance or discuss a book…virtually for now, in person sometime soon! Call Capital Caring Health at 800-869-2136 or visit www.capitalcaring.org to find out how we can help.


Volunteers Lend a Hand in Unique Ways During COVID-19 Crisis by Making 1,200 Face Masks, Assisting with Virtual Visits and Writing Letters to Seniors

On a normal day, many of Capital Caring Health’s 1,000-plus corps of volunteers provide comfort and companionship to patients by reading or singing to them, lending an ear, and providing in-person support to families who have lost a loved one. But the past four weeks have been anything but normal, as we are dealing with a “new normal” throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

As we adhere to social distancing guidelines set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Capital Caring Health Volunteers are currently unable to meet and visit patients in person.

Now volunteers are answering the call to serve in new ways – from sewing masks and gowns and assembling face shields to delivering flower baskets, care packages and writing letters to patients and their loved ones who may be experiencing social isolation.

As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, below are examples of new ways Capital Caring Health’s volunteers are reaching out to meet the needs of our patients and their families:

  • Students home from college are delivering locally grown flowering plants to the porches and stoops of families who recently faced the unimaginable loss of their child. These plants were grown by adults from the Rappahannock Adult Activities organization in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
  • College students are also providing technical support by phone and online to help patients and families utilize technology for tele-health and volunteer visits that include friendly chats, inspiration and entertainment.
  • Volunteers have assembled 1,000 face shields, 1,200 face masks, and have made 140 cloth isolation gowns, and 200-plus hair covers/medical caps to support clinical teams throughout Capital Caring Health.
  • Volunteers are assembling and delivering care packages including books, puzzles and healthy treats to pediatric hospice patients and their families to provide comfort and support.
  • High school students are volunteering with the new Capital Caring Health Caring Crew initiative to help alleviate social isolation among senior citizens in the community who are homebound and currently have limited, if any, interaction with friends and family members. Students are writing letters and sending personal messages of support and drawings to seniors.

Learn more about our volunteer program on our website at www.capitalcaring.org.  Learn more about supporting Capital Caring Health’s Emergency Relief Fund, which provides critical resources to cover the additional expenses that arise during these difficult times, at www.capitalcaring.org/emergency-relief-fund.

Photos of Capital Caring Health Volunteers in Action: Volunteers recently delivered 30-plus packages to pediatric hospice patients and their families to provide comfort and support; made more than 1,200 face masks to support clinical teams; and delivered flower baskets to families who recently faced the unimaginable loss of their child.

About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic region.  A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none.  We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans.  On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn.  Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families. Our website, www.capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat.  Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

24 Hour Care Line:  800-869-2136 www.capitalcaring.org


Capital Caring Health Expands across Shenandoah Valley to residents in the City of Winchester and Clarke & Frederick Counties

Falls Church, VA -   April 2, 2020 -- Capital Caring Health is dedicated to meeting the needs of the growing population of older adults and those with advanced illness in Mid-Atlantic region.  The organization recently announced an expansion throughout the Shenandoah Valley and is now providing care to residents living in the City of Winchester as well as residents in Clarke and Frederick counties.

“We are committed to providing critical services to individuals with serious, advanced illnesses,” said Susan Zehner, RN, BSN, Clinical Supervisor for these new service areas. “This expansion allows us to meet the needs of patients who are dealing with serious illnesses throughout the City of Winchester, Clarke and Frederick counties. Caring for these patients in their home is vitally important, and our clinical teams are truly honored to provide the best quality care to families in the comfort of their homes.”

In light of the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, at home care for seniors is needed now more than ever before.  COVID-19 is most serious for seniors who are ill with one or more illnesses such as lung, heart, or kidney disease. Their risk of infection can also increase if they leave home and go to the ER or other crowded locations.  The safest way to prevent the infection is to stay at home.

As a local non-profit provider of advanced illness and hospice care, Capital Caring Health serves more than 95% of patients in their homes or wherever they permanently reside.  Learn more at www.capitalcaring.org or call our 24-Hour Care Line 800-869-2136.

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About Capital Caring Health
Capital Caring Health is one of the leading nonprofit providers of elder health, hospice, and advanced illness care for persons of all ages in the mid-Atlantic region.  A member of a national network of 70 nonprofit hospice providers, our mission is to provide patients and their families with advanced illness care that is second to none.  We also have special hospice teams serving children and veterans.  On an annual basis, we serve over 7,000 hospice patients and provide more than $3 million in charity care to those who are uninsured and have nowhere else to turn.  Almost 90 cents out of every dollar goes to caring for patients and their families. Our website, www.capitalcaring.org, is available in English, Spanish, and Korean plus offers 24/7 Live Chat.  Since the beginning of hospice care over 40 years ago, we have served 120,000 patients and their families in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

24 Hour Care Line:  800-869-2136 www.capitalcaring.org

 


Take Control of What You Can

“Hope for the best, but plan for the worst.” That’s good advice under the best of circumstances. But in the era of Covid-19, it ranks right up there with washing your hands, staying inside, practicing “social distancing”…and being ready for a medical crisis.

No doubt about it, the coronavirus has made these difficult and anxious times for everyone, everywhere. But for those over the age of 65 or with underlying health conditions, daily life seems especially fraught with questions and the unknown: What happens if I get sick? Who will take care of me and how? And most frightening, what if I end up in the hospital?

While none of us can foresee the future, there are actions you can take right now to help you, your family members and others regain some control in this time of uncertainty.

One of them is to observe National Healthcare Decision Day (NHDD), a public awareness campaign about the importance of advance care planning—that is, thinking about and planning for how you want to be cared for in a medical crisis…before it strikes. And this year’s observance on April 16—smack in the middle of the coronavirus outbreak—couldn’t be more timely.

Basically, advance care planning involves learning about the types of medical care decisions that might arise during an emergency or end-of-life scenario; considering what treatments and interventions you would or would not want under the circumstances; and then letting others know—both your family and your healthcare providers—about your preferences.

Getting people to discuss such issues is always difficult. Yet many people now realize it’s a talk they need to have on their own behalf and to help others, sooner versus later.

Toward that end, Capital Caring Health, which has participated in NHDD since its inception, has the tools and resources you can use to start and guide a discussion with family, friends and caregivers. Also included is helpful advice on how to talk to your doctor about end-of-life wishes, as well as information on legally documenting your preferences so that treatment decisions are based on what you want.

The following summarizes the more important steps:

  • Know where your loved ones stand

There may be a time when you have to help the people closest to you get medical care if they become seriously sick with coronavirus disease or any other advanced illness. You need to understand what is important to them so you can speak on their behalf if they can’t.

  • Pick your person

Ask a friend, family member or other trusted person to become your medical care decision-maker for when and if you can’t make decisions for yourself. Your designated person may also be known as a “health care proxy,” “health care agent” or “power of attorney for health care.”

  • Make it official

Document that person on an official state health care proxy/agent/power of attorney form or through an Advance Directive. An “Advance Directive” is a term for any written health care instruction that specifies your wishes or names a proxy for you.

If for some reason you are unable to make it official, make sure the person you choose knows what is important to you and what care you would want to receive.

  • Talk about it

Talk openly about what matters to you and what you’d want most if you became seriously ill with coronavirus disease or any other serious illness, including your preferences for the amount and types of treatments.

You may not be able to predict every choice you’ll have to make, but you can give others the guiding principles to confidently make decisions for you. But don’t leave them guessing. Open conversations can provide clarity, direction and reassurance to both you and your designate.

Capital Caring Health is here to provide the support and information you need to get through the current outbreak and cope with special issues and concerns. Our website also provides up-to-date information on COVID-19 to stay safe and describes how we have temporarily adapted our services and support. Lastly, if think you or a loved one could benefit from healthcare services delivered at home, especially now, please check out Primary Care at Home to see if it might be right for you.


Celebrating Social Workers

“Every human being needs and deserves to feel warmth, acceptance, and support,” Maralyn says. “The most meaningful part of my job is to be a compassionate, empathic presence for the patient and family members.” 

Celebrating Social Workers   

Maralyn Farber didn’t start out to be a social worker. In fact, she spent most of her career in public information for the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health, plus a period as a technical editor for a cancer journal. But as so often happens, life had other plans.

In 1991, Maralyn’s 37-year-old husband died from an inoperable brain cancer, leaving her and her young son devastated and alone. Over the next months, the duo would get to deeply appreciate the hospice social workers who helped support them during their journey to find a new normal.

“Even though my husband was only in hospice for a couple of days,” Maralyn says, “the social workers were available to help me and my son get through our grief and back on our feet. I will never forget the kindness, compassion and expertise they extended to us during my husband’s dying days and beyond. And I vowed then and there that I would one day work in the field, as a means to repay our emotional debt and help others.”

Only 36-years-old at the time of her husband’s death, Maralyn made good on her promise. She obtained her Master of Social Work degree and has spent the last 18 months at Capital Caring Health, helping others going through loss.

That desire to help others is a common denominator among social workers, regardless of the setting. Members of the profession, says the National Association of Social Workers, have a strong desire to improve the lives of others, and help people overcome some of life’s most difficult challenges.

That’s certainly the case at Capital Caring Health, where our team of 60 social workers is integral to everything we do…from problem-solving with patients and caregivers in the home…to conducting workshops on aging and other topics…to providing grief support and counseling to bereaved spouses, children and community members.

For example, as a member of each dedicated patient care team, CCH social workers teach patients and caregivers coping skills, including non-medical strategies for symptom management, and help identify and coordinate additional resources they may need. They also help clarify the palliative and hospice care philosophy for patients and caregivers, helping them set goals and facilitate advance care planning to assure that patient wishes are met, now and in the future.

CCH social workers are also specially trained in advanced illness care and bereavement support., with a special sensitivity to the effect that profound personal loss can have on lives. So, in addition to individual and family grief counseling for CCH families, social workers also lead free grief support groups and workshops open to anyone in the community. As further evidence of our non-profit mission, CCH also offers community talks on topics such as caregiving for parents, aging in place, advanced care planning and others.

So, from the beginning of your CCH journey to the end, our social workers are walking right along with you, helping to pave the way for the next steps in life. It’s a role that Maralyn Farber has taken to heart.

Covid-19 Alert
Due to COVID-19, in-person counseling, support groups, and workshops have been suspended until further notice. Short-term counseling is currently available via telephone and videoconferencing. Coming soon will be the addition of both videoconferencing and telephone based support groups. You can check the status of services here, by calling 800-869-2136, or using the live chat function at www.capitalcaring.org.


Capital Caring Health is joining with MemoryWell to support and honor our patients by helping them capture their life stories

MemoryWell’s network of specially trained writers craft brief, intimate stories that capture the legacy of each person’s legacy and contributions. The stories create lasting family keepsakes and promote better care. Interviews happen remotely by phone and stories are shared on-line. 

Stories show what matters most.

Learning what has motivated people throughout their lives helps our care team see beyond medical records to understand what matters most to them.

“MemoryWell gives me a sense of comfort knowing I am providing the best personal care I can.” — Nursing Assistant using MemoryWell in Cleveland, Ohio

“The experience helped me look at my mother’s life from a different perspective. It reminded me what a rich and adventure-filled life she has lived.” — Family Member

How it works

Sign up today

Stories cost $250 and last forever. Use code CARING for a $20 discount. www.memorywell.com/family.html or call (202) 854-WELL(9355)


70 Not-For-Profit Hospice and Advanced Illness Care Providers Launch Toll-Free 24/7 Hotline

Caregivers and others seeking care at home for people with advanced illness can now reach 70 hospice and palliative care providers by calling one toll-free number: 1-844-GET NPHI

Especially at this time, care in the home for people with advanced illness is imperative

WASHINGTON, DC—When faced with advanced illness or end-of-life care, many people prefer in-home treatment from a not-for-profit hospice, advanced illness and palliative care provider with deep roots in their community, but too often, they don’t know where to turn.

That’s why 70 mission-driven, not-for-profit providers of at-home care nationwide, under the umbrella of the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI), are launching a telephone referral network: 1-844-GET-NPHI (1-844-438-6744).

“Making the decision to receive hospice, advanced illness or palliative care can be stressful under the best of circumstances, let alone when patients and families are unsure of their options and the quality and safety of the care provided,” said Tom Koutsoumpas, president and CEO of NPHI. “This new toll-free number makes a formerly complicated process simple by providing access to all 70 providers, allowing families to find the care they need, even when they and their loved ones are in different parts of the country.”

NPHI member programs—many of which are among the oldest and largest advanced illness care providers in the country—work together to share best practices and implement innovative care solutions with a focus on meeting the needs of their patients and caregivers. Members range from large programs caring for thousands of people daily to smaller programs caring for fewer than 100 people in their communities. While inpatient care is an option, overwhelmingly NPHI members care for patients wherever they permanently reside.

“Care from a not-for-profit hospice and advanced illness group is simply different. Our mission is to provide compassionate care to all those with life-threatening illnesses, not to deliver profits for shareholders,” said Robert Cahill, president and CEO of NorthStar Care Community, which is providing the infrastructure for the toll-free number. “When families consider their care options for a loved one dealing with an advanced illness, our hope is that they choose a not-for-profit palliative care and hospice provider. It can make a huge difference in their loved one’s quality of life in their final months, weeks and days.”

The launch of the national provider network and the toll-free hotline are vital links between not-for-profit advanced illness care providers and the communities they serve, including the most vulnerable patients. The member organizations serve veterans dealing with chronic illness and care for the most complex cases, as well as for community members otherwise overlooked including the homeless, uninsured, underinsured and those living in often underserved areas like inner cities and rural areas. NPHI members never refuse to serve anyone because of their inability to pay. NPHI members are the advanced illness safety net of the communities they serve.

Those in need of advanced illness care, including hospice, should call 1-844-GET-NPHI (1-844-438-6744) to learn about the NPHI member or another not-for-profit, care-at-home provider nearest to them.

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Contact: Amy Martin Vogt, 202-868-4807, AMartinVogt@MessagePartnersPR.com

About the National Partnership for Hospice Innovation
The National Partnership for Hospice Innovation (NPHI) is a collaborative of 70+ not-for-profit, community-integrated, hospice and palliative care providers from across the United States who play a unique role as a crucial safety net for the sickest, most vulnerable patients in the communities they serve. For more information, visit www.hospiceinnovations.org.


Checklist for Choosing A Hospice

This checklist is designed as an at-a-glance summary of topics from our guide on how to choose a hospice and can be used in discussion with hospice staff or others.

Experience

  • Is the hospice Medicare-certified?
  • Is the hospice accredited by a recognized national organization?
  • Are the clinical staff certified or accredited in hospice and/or palliative care?
  • Is the hospice prepared to take on a complex case?
  • How strong is the hospice's volunteer program and what does it include?
  • What information is available about other families' experiences, satisfaction with the hospice?

Patient-Centered Care and Family Support

  • How is the hospice governed - non-profit, for-profit, faith-based, part of a larger system?
  • What type of support is available to family and caregivers?
  • What bereavement support is offered?
  • How much of every dollar received by the hospice is spent on patient care and support?
  • Does the hospice provide care for those who lack coverage or the financial means to pay for care? How much do they spend annually on charity care?

Access and Availability

  • How long does it typically take to enroll in the hospice and begin care following a referral/request for services? Is it the same for evenings and weekends?
  • How does the hospice handle a medical crisis that occurs on a weekend or evening? Will hospice staff come to the home any time day or night including weekends if there is a medical crisis?

Specialized Services and Support

  • Does the hospice offer any specialized programs and services, for example, palliative and hospice care for children, or a dedicated program for veterans?

1 in 4 Unpaid Caregivers in the US are Millennials

Capital Caring Health, a non-profit, offers tips for younger people caring for a family member, friend, or neighbor

Ten million unpaid caregivers in the United States are between the ages of 18 and 39, according to the AARP. That’s a quarter of all people who care for an older relative or friend. Often these millennial caregivers take on the task alone without support from caregiving organizations, while going to school or holding down a full- or part-time job.

Capital Caring Health, the Washington, D.C.-area’s leading non-profit provider of advanced illness, hospice, and at-home care services, wants millennials to know they are not alone. The organization offers a variety of professional health and social services that support family caregivers, as well as emotional support and grief counseling for those who just need to talk to someone.

The following are tips to support millennial caregivers and help them navigate their role:

  • Create an advance care plan and share it with the rest of the family and the medical care team to make sure the wishes and values of the person living with the serious illness are honored. This should be done in advance of any emergency.
  • Learn what services are covered by insurance. Capital Caring Health has staff and volunteers that can walk you through your relative’s or friend’s insurance plan free of charge to let you know what services they can offer.
  • Look after yourself. Your physical and mental strength is necessary to provide the care your relative or friend needs. Eat well, exercise and take time out of your day to do something that you enjoy. It could be as simple as Netflixing, reading a book or going to a trivia night.
  • Ask for help. According to a recent poll, 80 percent of younger people are stressed about caregiving. Capital Caring Health offers services and resources to help you handle life’s tasks that come with being a caregiver.

To learn more about Capital Caring Health’s services, enroll a relative or friend in one of their programs or to talk to someone for emotional support call our 24-Hour Care Line at 1-800-869-2136 or visit www.CapitalCaring.org.

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CONTACT: To arrange an interview with a millennial caregiver, contact Andrew Silva at 202-868-4803 or ASilva@MessagePartnersPR.com.

About Capital Caring Health

Capital Caring Health is the largest non-profit provider of elder health, advanced illness, hospice and at-home care services for the Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C. area. We provide quality care where people live, supporting dignified, independent aging. For more information, visit CapitalCaring.org or call our 24-Hour Care Line at 1-800-869-2136 to learn more.