The Advocate

The word advocate seems to be popping up everywhere in the media these days.  In healthcare it means to support and recommend a particular treatment plan for the individual.  With a private advocate as an adjunct to your team some of the missed processes and duplication can be prevented.  Coordinating health services, finances, healthcare surrogate designation and organizing this for the individual saves time and money.  

One of my friends said everyone over the age of 50 should have an advocate!  It's actually advantageous to all ages.  Imagine if we could educate one person each day on the importance of healthcare advocacy for all humans.  Instead of being on the phone to insurance companies for hours you could be enjoying time with family or your favorite hobby.   Having an advocate attend your doctor's visit readied with pointed questions can reduce your anxiety and increase your satisfaction about your visit.  

The healthcare system is already complex.  Humans are complex.  Navigating takes a special person with experience and compassion for humans.  Anchor provides the missing piece keeping the human factor as the primary approach to assisting you in your healthcare journey.  Think of Anchor as natural as the breath.  We inhale and exhale without a second thought.  Anchor takes care of you effortlessly. 

What I Learned About Caregiving

It was not until my husband had surgery that I thought of myself as a caregiver.  This might sound funny to you.  My image of a caregiver is someone without any medical background, learning everything from the healthcare staff or things they read on the internet.  Although my expertise as a nurse was invaluable to my husband’s hospital stay and now recovery, I am first and foremost his wife, friend and life explorer. 

Emerson Point Preserve, Manatee County

Emerson Point Preserve, Manatee County

My role as a wife and friend just expanded as caregiver to someone who went through a serious operation.  Reflecting now, my biggest fear was losing the man I married, my sailing buddy and the fun adventures we share today.  The other piece that became very clear was that as his companion, I know all his idiosyncrasies.  What makes him laugh, if he's angry or sad and the respect and love we have for each other.  Would these paid hospital healthcare providers know this?  The answer is no. 

Although we entrusted his life over to the scientific care of an expert surgeon, his team and amazing nurses, I am ultimately his advocate.  I am the person he trusts that will help him get through this event in his life.  If I had not had the experience as a critical care nurse, I would have consulted a nurse advocate.  When he was waking up from anesthesia, it was my nurses eyes that were "on" assessing all of his systems, the tubes and talking with the post-op nurse. 

When you hire Anchor Healthcare Advocates, you will get an experienced nurse with knowledge of your disease process and demonstrate communication with the healthcare providers to obtain accurate and timely answers to your questions.  They will take extra time to listen with family and the patient and be objective with their assessment of your loved one. 

Many people try and be their own healthcare advocate without the proper education and experience.  This is when confusion and havoc come into play.  It would be as if I insisted on joining the operating team and be a surgeon without a surgical residency or medical degree. Thankfully, I know my boundaries and limitations.  I stayed in the waiting room while the surgeon performed the operation.  With a well thought out and researched plan, we chose a remarkable specialized surgeon.  This is a perk you'll get with Anchor.  Finding a reputable, board certified surgeon in the respective field is vital to a strong wellness plan.   

As a caregiver, I also asked for help from family and friends.  My mother-in-law flew in for the week to be by my side and ultimately see her son through the major operation. I had nurses I worked with to talk with and friends who came by.  I had family texting and calling throughout the day of surgery sending their love and support.  I was able to get away each day to be home for just a couple of hours and de-stress. 

When I look at my husband, I don't see him as a patient.  I see the man I met years ago as my high school prom date and high school sweetheart,  now my husband of 9 years.  He is the light that gives me joy each day.  I often tell him, that my whole nursing education and career was for the purpose of being his nurse advocate.  What a gift I have today.

Let Anchor Healthcare Advocates be the gift you give your family and friends during times of illness to create their smooth journey toward wellness and recovery.   

 

 

Hot Days of Summer

My husband and I helped his mom and father-in-law move into their new home recently.  Their goals are many.  Their doctors are closer making it easier to get to appointments and they have benefits being closer to family support.  Living in-town also lends to local fresh markets and health food stores.  The down side was that the move-in date was post postponed to the hottest part of the summer. 

cayo costa state park sun rise by diane eggert

cayo costa state park sun rise by diane eggert

 

Believe it or not, heat exhaustion and worst case, heat stroke can be prevented by following a few simple suggestions.   The movers were done packing up the truck shortly after lunch.  We took a break and some of us went to lunch and others continued to the new place.  We were all dressed in loose comfy clothes and made sure we drank plenty of water, and had frequent rest times inside the air conditioned house.  There were moments when we were directly exposed to the sun .  If this happens, make sure to use sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and apply every 2 hours to prevent sunburn.   Make sure the folks who were not as spry as the movers are given extra care.  Find out if they are taking medications that can affect their body’s ability to stay hydrated and dissipate heat.  Some of these are diuretics, beta blockers and oral hypoglycemic medications.

Early stages of mild dehydration include symptoms of dry mouth, tiredness, thirst, decreased urine output, lightheadedness and dizziness.  A handy home remedy by WebMD.  With older adults, those who have other health problems, infants and children, consulting your physician is best practice. 

The collective effort of my husband's sisters and their husbands eased the burden of this life changing event.  The best part of the weekend was that we gathered together as a family and helped each other.  We were all tired at the end of the weekend, but none of us exhibited signs of dehydration or heat exhaustion.  This might be because they have a nurse in the family.  

 

 

Sources:  mayoclinic.org; WebMD

Happy 4th of July - God Bless America

God Bless America by Irving Berlin

While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
let us swear allegiance to a land that's free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair, as we
raise our voices in a solemn prayer.

God Bless America, land that I love.
Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above.
From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam.
God Bless America, my home sweet home.
God Bless America, my home sweet home.

Chris and I in North Carolina on vacation

Chris and I in North Carolina on vacation

To be free to roam all over America is one of the benefits of living in this great land.  As a kid, my family would go to North Carolina in the summer and rent a cabin for two weeks.  I always loved it because it was so different than the beaches of Florida.  The smell of the pine, the majestic mountains and the streams and rivers as cold as ice even in the summer fascinated me.  As an adult the enormity of the forests brings an essence of calm whenever I go back for a visit.    

Remembering My Dad

I was adopted when I was a few days old.  My dad will always be the only father I have ever known.  He died nearly five years ago.  Today I am reminded of the many gifts he gave me.

I called him on a regular basis to ask about certain foods as I considered him an expert in seasonal fruits and vegetables.  I know now that in January, grapefruit are excellent to buy since it is their peak season.  I've never seen someone love citrus so much!  And in June when I go to the grocery store I had to buy a cantaloupe.  I can still see him picking up the cantaloupe, smelling it and giving it a thump or two to see if it was ripe. The nutritional benefits of cantaloupe include Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Niacin, dietary fiber and folic acid.  Almost sounds like the perfect food!

This is how my dad ate his cantaloupe

This is how my dad ate his cantaloupe

 

He loved to stop at local farmers markets and vegetable stands he would pass while driving.  Little did he know he was ahead of his time.  The movement toward organic foods and non-genetically modified food trend has really skyrocketed.  I've learned everything I know from my dad about fruits and vegetables.   He shared his appreciation of having garden style fresh food.  My healthy eating lifestyle is directly a benefit of having my dad.  Thanks dad!

Photo source:  Pinterest

Rockin' Like a Healthy Hurricane - Your Healthcare Advocate Prevention Care List

 

Living in Florida I have had many chances of preparing for a hurricane; however never experienced one firsthand.  June 1st began our Atlantic hurricane season.  A hurricane is a type of tropical cyclone with a low pressure system that generally forms in the tropics.  I visited Miami shortly after Hurricane Andrew and saw the aftermath of a category 5 hurricane.  The devastation of the beautiful lush Miami I grew up with was gone in less than 24 hours.  For hurricane check list:  Hurricane Preparedness Article

2003 Hurricane Isabel photographed from the International Space Station

2003 Hurricane Isabel photographed from the International Space Station

 

Similar to our health, a sudden and unexpected storm of events can occur and change the course of our life forever.   As your patient advocate focused with a preventive health philosophy, I have compiled a wellness preparedness checklist.  Unlike hurricane season during June 1 through November 20th, maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit is a 365 day job. 

I have created a list to help you maintain and/or reach your wellness state.  Click here.

 

 

 

 

Summertime Water Safety for Children - Boys will be Boys

Having twin grandsons that celebrated their first birthday last week brings out my natural advocacy tendencies and my pediatric emergency nursing experience too.  The adage boys will be boys gives a new meaning to the toddler development stage!  During this rapid growth of motor and cognitive skills, the brain is exploding with 250,000 neurons added each minute.  https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/dev.html.  They are learning to crawl, reach, walk, talk and bang on toys!  Creating a safe environment and preventing accidents is a challenge even with years of experience. 

Cal and Everett in their new swim gear.  Mommy and Daddy watching constantly.

Cal and Everett in their new swim gear.  Mommy and Daddy watching constantly.

 

The definition of curiosity is a strong desire to know and learn everything.  As a Nana, it is fascinating to watch them soak up the world for the first time.  At the same time, we take for granted as adults the lake nearby, our baby boomer friends unfenced pool or how much water to put in the bubble bath.  The hard facts are that three children die every day as a result of drowning.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) drowning is the leading cause of death of children from age 1 to 4. 

I will never forget as a pediatric nurse early in my career the resuscitation efforts the emergency room staff took to try and save a 3 year old who was found in a pool.  One of the parents was a police officer.  It can happen to any of us. As parents, grandparents and those who we entrust with our children the following guidelines give us a way to prevent harm to our toddlers on summer water safety.

TOP FIVE SAFETY TIPS

1. Learn cardiopulmonary resuscitation.  For a class go to: 

http://cpr.heart.org/AHAECC/CPRAndECC/Training/FamilyandFriendsCPR/UCM_473171_Family-and-Friends-CPR.jsp

2. Learn basics of swimming.  Search "swimming lessons for children" in your area, your local YMCA or pool community center. For swimming classes in the Tampa Bay area go to:

https://www.ymcasuncoast.org/swimming

3. Install a 4-sided fence around a backyard swimming pool.  Our "smart phone" doesn't make us very smart when we are constantly looking at social media updates and not our children. 

 

4. Have child life jackets readily available especially around lakes and the ocean.

5.  Designate a WATER WATCHER similar to a designated driver.  Parents need rest and relaxation and can take turns in social situations.  Have the WATER WATCHER put their smart phone away and drink a non-alcoholic beverage.  Keep eyes and ears on the children

Growing up in Florida I remember my swimming lessons at the Venetian Pool in Coral Gables and how much fun I had.  I hope you will teach your children to swim so they can enjoy the wonderful water sport activities, the beautiful aquatic life and respect of the dangers that water can bring.  Be a #waterwatcher today.

Sources: www.CDC.gov

Memorial Day

If the highest aim of a captain were to preserve his ship, he would keep it in port forever.
— Thomas Aquinas

Americans celebrate Memorial Day in many ways.  I hope all of us took a moment to remember those Americans who served our country in Civil War or foreign wars like my dad during World War II.    Because of their bravery we have the freedom to celebrate with family and friends sharing food and conviviality in whatever way we like.   

This year I went sailing on our boat #svgatogo with my husband.  We joined about 30 fellow sailors for an annual bar-b-que.  Meeting new people and socializing is a great way to live a little longer.  Maintaining close relationships also protect us against illness by boosting our immune system.   We hear interesting sailing stories and learn from the experienced sailors who have sailed all over the world.  Although I have traveled several hundred miles on our sailboat, we primarily sail on the West coast of Florida.  If we were to travel further south to Key West or Cuba, we would depend on more experienced sailors to guide us through the voyage.

When setting out for a sailing weekend we begin the arduous detail of weather watching.  We try to obtain the wind direction, the speed, and the tides.  How we use our nautical tactics will ultimately steer us to our destination; however the weather is unpredictable.  Similarly in healthcare, we choose a provider from our insurance plan, schedule the appointment and gather our records.  Out best strategy for smooth sailing toward healthy living can be challenging at times.

Having a patient advocate navigate your healthcare journey will reduce stress for you and your family.  Whatever the issue, Anchor Healthcare Advocates has the expertise and years of experience to help you.   

 

Sources:  urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia

 

Mild Cognitive Impairment

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) also known as incipient dementia or isolated memory impairment.  It is the intermediate stage between the expected aging cognitive decline versus the more severe signs of Alzheimer’s.  During the time the symptoms are evolving, the patient is often aware of their memory "slipping".

As like the rest of your body, the brain will age and forgetting someone’s name or coming up with a word is normal.  Constant forgetfulness, stopping mid-sentence in a conversation may be more of a concern.  When family and friends notice these changes it will further put up a red flag to seek further neurological evaluation.

I had a client who's family member noticed that her loved ones text messages were disjointed.  She then learned she had a recent fall.  The family member reached out to Anchor Healthcare Advocates to explore whether she had a head injury from a fall or something else.  When we first met, she shared her professional and personal life and her love of homeopathic practices.  As the story unfolded, her friends had noticed her less focused and disorganized.  She described it as being "foggy" which lasted hours and sometimes days.  She was referred to a neurologist to have diagnostic neuroimaging and neuropsychological testing which is recommended when these symptoms appear.  

Father and son enjoying a moment at St Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Father and son enjoying a moment at St Marks National Wildlife Refuge

Mild cognitive impairment can be treated.  Along with neurodiagnostic testing, antidepressants can elevate mood.   Imagine a puzzle and some of the pieces are missing.  Certain processes we have performed all our life and then suddenly forgetting how to turn the handle of a blind to let in light.  These every day signs are subtle and I hope those closest to us will question us even if it turns out to be the normal process of aging.   

 Sources:  Mayoclinic.org

 

Telehealth is a Great Addition to Your Healthcare Toolbox

The benefits of telehealth through videoconferencing allow you to be face to face with your provider.  This can give you peace of mind anywhere you are regarding your non-emergency health issues. When taking responsibility for my health and lifestyle, I have the 20 minute rule.  While I was a clinical nurse and had to call a doctor for results, if no answer within 20 minutes, a second call would be placed.  At a scheduled primary care physician appointment I follow the same standard.

Time is valuable to me and I take a proactive role in my health, wellness and fitness.  Telehealth is one of my preferred health choices that give me a greater opportunity to stay #fitover50.  According to statistics with some telehealth companies, you can schedule an appointment within 10 minutes of your call or at your own convenience which gives you control over your time and health status.

Top 5 benefits of telehealth

1.       Provides a convenient way to access a physician 24/7/365 for non-emergent issues.  It can be accessed through the internet via your smart phone or your laptop at home. 

2.       Reduces cost to patient and employer.  When the health issue is immediately identified you are able to see a doctor within hours of the initial symptoms. Telehealth may reduce time away from work by cutting down on commuting time either for yourself, a child or an aging parent.  

3.       Initial contact with a provider can identify necessity of a specialist.

4.       Providers who manage population health under risk adjusted base arrangements under Medicare and other private insurers can reduce expensive hospital admissions, emergency room visits and re-admissions to the hospital. 

5.       Once the health concern is identified, questions can be answered in a timely manner, prescription medication (non-narcotic) can be prescribed and instructions on the treatment of the illness can be given.

Watch Anchor Healthcare Advocates website for upcoming news for telehealth for their clients.

 

Mother's Day is Every Day

Who would have thought to create a single day to celebrate motherhood?  When I became a mother, I celebrated being a mother every day I looked at my beautiful daughter’s face shining back at me.  I called her my little sunshine girl.  I celebrated every day that I had a chance by playing with her, going on adventures (many call them vacations) and just being in the moment with her.  There is only one regret….I wish I had played house with her Barbie dolls more often.

Mother and daughter with her twin boys

Mother and daughter with her twin boys

To those of us who no longer have our mom’s around, remember the twinkling smile she would give you and those hugs that only you feel when it’s from your mom.  Enjoy the day celebrating those special women who nurtured and loved us through it all.

 

Friday Date Night

It’s my dad’s birthday today.  He would have been 92.   I thought it would be appropriate to begin my blog talking about my dad since the core of my advocate business was fired by the events that took place the last 6 months of his life. 

My Dad was a veteran of the Coast Guard in WWII, born second generation Italian in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  My mom passed away in 1994 and I was a single mom with a 4 year old daughter at the time.  His granddaughter became his purpose in life, a key piece to seek value as you get older.  As my daughter got older and busier with her own friends, we decided to reserve Friday night as date night with my dad.  He also became busier with his friends and played poker once or twice a week with his buddies, was active in his church and had a had a group of friends he would go out with. 

Life moved on, my daughter went to college and I married my high school sweetheart and I moved about 4 hours away from my dad.  One weekend, I visited my dad on my own in April 2011.  It had been the first time we spent time together without my daughter and husband or others.  I can remember him saying how much he enjoyed having me all to himself and how much we laughed and got along so well.  At 87, he looked pretty good, still driving his golf cart to the grocery store, playing cards and socializing.  He had given up his car 3 years prior but not without a fight! 

I got a call in May 2011 from his primary care physician that he had fainted in the doctor’s office and they had suggested he go to an assisted living facility for a while to build up his strength.  He was old school and followed doctor’s orders without much question. 

I can’t really remember much of my first visit with him at the facility.  I was in shock that I must have missed something during that visit in April.  It turns out that he had become more anemic and his mobility was failing him, specifically his feet.  Within a few weeks I felt it was important to get a durable power of attorney and organize other financial affairs.  It was if he had suddenly given up on life and everything took such effort.  He would tell me how much he missed his house and that his friends didn’t come visit him. 

I knew intuitively from my 30 years of nursing care of patients that my dad did not have long to live.  I encouraged my daughter to visit him even while she was away at college.  When he saw her his face would light up and he always smiled for the camera when she was by his side!

My daughter now has twin boys of her own and is married to a wonderful young man starting his career in general dentistry and she is a stay at home mom. They came to visit us this weekend and we reminisced about how life was with my dad and her grandfather who she called “poppi”. 

He passed away November 20, 2011 and I miss him every day.  Our Friday date night is my favorite memory with him.    Cherish what you have today and schedule time with those who are important in your life as our bodies and mind do not last but the memories we create today will be with us forever.