Posted: 7/20/2018 2:12:14 PM

Eight Meaningful Ways to Pump Up an Older Patient’s Happiness Hormones

Caring for elderly patients creates rich experiences. As a certified nursing assistant, you’d probably agree.

Older people undergo many changes in life. Physically, aging causes changes in strength, stamina, and function, often making them unable to do the things they used to. They may also have a chronic condition that causes pain and difficulties. Their family and friends could be living far away, or worse, have already passed away.

Although older people have, as they say, “survived the test of time,” this does not mean they feel happy and strong all the time. The many changes brought about by aging and illness can significantly affect their mood, so that they feel sad and frustrated at times, and can become cranky, overly sensitive, or just plain quiet and isolated as a result.

As CNAs get buried in a pile of tasks every day, they tend to focus on just getting the job done, with less regard for a patient's emotional state. Keeping elderly patients happy isn’t necessarily something that they include in their daily to-do list when, in fact, they really should.

And here is a simple reason why: happiness hormones have many positive effects on the body, and happiness contributes to wellbeing. Science has proven this many times over. Needless to say, keeping older people happy is part of caring.

So, what makes older patients happy? Read on, and make someone’s day today:

1. Ordinary circumstances, not big events

For most elderly clients, they would choose a simple gathering of family and close friends over a fancy trip to Las Vegas. Relationships seem to matter more as people near the last chapters of their lives. They prefer spending quality time with people they love and care about.

Therefore, what CNAs can do is encourage family members to visit and spend quality time with their loved one over lunch or dinner, or even a simple activity such as a backyard picnic.

2. Reminiscing

Older people cherish good memories, and they feel happy when reminded of good old times and when they get to talk about such moments.

You may ask their family to bring photo albums, yearbooks, or small mementos of their younger years. As you perform care procedures such as combing your patient’s hair or changing their clothes, encourage them to talk about the photos in the album.

3. A sense of control and independence

Of all the circumstances that can zap a patient's happiness, losing the freedom to do what they want because of the limitations of their body and mind is often the most difficult. For this challenge, it’s a good idea to let the patient do things on their own, as long as they are safe.

4. Productive hobbies with friends

In general, it seems older people love to stay at home and are at peace even when alone. The result is that, unknowingly, they isolate themselves. Socializing with people they barely know becomes a lot less appealing than when they were younger.

In a nursing home, for example, a CNA could group together elderly patients with similar hobbies and let their interaction with each other grow naturally.

5. A sense of purpose

Help patients feel useful. Let them teach. Ask for their advice. Give them a task to accomplish. Ask about their favorite recipes. Go out of your way and bring your grandpa's old typewriter to work to show the patient who was once a writer. Reminding patients that they are still needed is a gift more valuable than gold.

Nursing assistants must be creative in finding ways to spark an older patient’s sense of purpose.

6. Meaningful conversation

Know your patient’s likes and dislikes and what their life was like before their diagnosis. Ask general questions, allowing them to elaborate. Talk less and listen more. Remember that the patient is the primary focus.

7. Staying connected to family and friend through technology

When older people struggle to use devices to communicate, help them reach out to their relatives and friends through emails, calls, text, or chat.

8. Their favorite music

This is a common-sense way that is very effective in making elderly patients happy. Music brings encourages good feelings and promotes relaxation, among many other benefits, so keep their playlists handy. An hour of Kenny Rogers' country songs might just be your ticket to seeing an older patient smile again!

Posted: 7/13/2018 12:11:20 PM

Supporting a Coworker During a Personal Crisis

Workplaces are special places because, for most people, at least 40 hours of their life each week are spent at work, with others striving toward the same goal. For nursing assistants, these colleagues are the healthcare team and other staff. Many times over, they work on the same tasks as they go through the motions of everyday patient care, creating a bond among themselves.

Because of these shared experiences, we can sense when a coworker is having a rough time. Those who have become friends at work usually talk about the life crises they're currently experiencing. These conversations happen a lot, don't they?

So, as a CNA, how do you support a coworker who is going through a difficult time? Check out these simple do’s and don’ts:

1. DON'T pry too deep.

If a coworker confides in you that they just got divorced, for example, it might be tempting to ask about all the gory details of their relationship. While your intention might be to support them, asking too many questions is intrusive and overwhelming. Wait for them to open up to you when they’re ready.

DO convey your presence.

What you can do instead is sit with your colleague and sincerely be aware of what they are going through. At this point, you have gained their trust and they are likely to verbalize more.

If they cry, let them. If they are to resume patient care, help them compose themselves first before going back to work. If they do not seem well enough to perform their duties, encourage them to tell the nurse supervisor so that appropriate measures can be taken to help them, and ensure patient safety at the same time.

2. DON'T insist on “helping.”

Even if they have become a close friend, a colleague in crisis will need some space to process the situation. Do not insist on staying the night, for example. Instead, tell them that you could stay with them if they want, which brings us to the next tip in discussion.

DO offer help.

Ask your colleague if they'd like to talk more about their situation after the shift ends. If they are up to it and you can give more of your time and support, invite them somewhere quiet to talk. Offer what you can, but respect their privacy.

3. DON'T tell them to look at the bright side of life, or that problems have a purpose.

While it has become a habit for some people to tell a troubled friend to find the good in a thorny situation, or that life is trying to teach them a lesson in every problem, CNAs must know better.

Our training has taught us that this response is not therapeutic because it undermines the patient's feelings. Outside of patient care, this “rule of thumb” also applies to anyone who is in distress.

DO emphasize their strength.

In difficult times, a person's morale is usually torn to pieces. Recognizing one's own strength during a crisis can be hard. As a CNA, boost your coworker's spirit by reminding them of their positive qualities.

4. DON'T give unsolicited advice.

Let's say your coworker has recently received the news that they have cancer. This is certainly devastating.

Your mom happened to be a cancer survivor, and so you start lecturing your colleague on how to battle the disease. However good your intention, it can be disrespectful and inconsiderate to give such unsolicited advice.

DO ask them if they need any help and mention casually that someone you know is a survivor and you may have helpful information.

Your main goal should be to listen to your coworker if they need to talk and offer your support.

Posted: 6/29/2018 7:30:52 PM

Ten Things an Alzheimer’s Patient Wants You to Know

Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia wherein a person loses their memories, ability to make sound judgments, and bodily functions. It is a disease that worsens over time and affects millions of Americans. Taking care of a patient with this type of dementia can be very challenging. To help them overcome, certified nursing assistants must learn how to put themselves in their patients' shoes.

Here are ten things every patient with Alzheimer's disease wants their CNAs and other care providers to know:

1. “As frustrating as it is for you to take care of me, it's even more frustrating for me when I cannot recall my memories."

Even at the early stages of forgetfulness, it can be very stressful for a patient to be unable to remember what has just happened. Occasionally forgetting where you last placed your car keys is already infuriating when you’re in a hurry, but experiencing recent memory loss more often can damage one’s confidence in many ways.

Patients with Alzheimer’s disease feel deeply that something has changed for the worse.

It’s not just about the missing car keys—it’s also being unable to remember what you had for breakfast, which friend just came by to visit, or what the coffeemaker is for. It’s the frustration of not knowing how to make your own budget, when it has been an ordinary task your whole adult life.

This forgetfulness is different. It strips the life out of the patient, one memory at a time.

2. “I deserve to be respected in spite of . . .”

People with Alzheimer’s disease are ill just like other patients, even though the signs and symptoms start with changes in memory and judgment. As patients, they deserve to be respected at all times.

If you are a CNA, accept patients as they are as well as the changes that result from their illness. Even if patients lose their ability to think and remember, or become totally dependent on others for care, they still deserve respect from every member of the healthcare team.

3. “It rips me apart to know that loved ones are already dead."

Because patients with Alzheimer’s lose their recent memories, they tend to remember things only from farther back in the past. For them, being told that their loved ones have already passed is like hearing it for the first time. The shock and the grief are real and the emotions are raw.

Remember to be empathic and considerate when the truth is necessary. Better yet, use distraction to avoid giving them the sad news and prevent them from being distressed unnecessarily.

4. “Please bear with me when I insist on going home. Home is my happy place and my comfort zone.”

An Alzheimer's patient may do everything they can to “go home,” even though they are already there. They may shout, lie, drive, or run away, just to “go home.”

At that moment, this is their reality and their present. They feel that they are in an unfamiliar place and only want to be home with their family, being a good parent to their children and a loving spouse to their husband or wife.

Offer a positive distraction and tell them they need to stay for just awhile, instead of insisting that they are already home.

5. “I sometimes wet my pants, and I don’t want it to happen again.”

Patients with Alzheimer's disease in the advanced stages start to lose bodily functions, including their ability to control their bladder and bowels. This change can feel devastating and humiliating at the same time.

Remember to be empathic and compassionate. CNAs must preserve their patient’s dignity at all times.

6. “Please be patient. More than you, I want to get things done quickly and efficiently, the way I used to!”

Patients with Alzheimer’s will have difficulty accomplishing even the most basic tasks, like buttoning shirts, holding a glass of water, or brushing their teeth. CNAs must be extra-patient when a task such as eating or drinking takes a long time.

7. “If I zone out, it might be because I am too absorbed in the memories I have left.”

Patients with dementia such as Alzheimer’s enjoy reminiscing, because they are holding onto their remaining memories. They like thinking about happy times from their younger years. For CNAs, this is a wakeup call to do more activities that help them remember such times.

8. “The world has become a lot scarier for me. Losing my memories is a frightening experience.”

For Alzheimer’s patients, these feeling of fear come to the surface every time they cannot remember who has visited them or who is posing in their photographs. It is also a terrifying and traumatic experience when they wander and get lost.

Confusion is very scary. Nursing assistants must always be ready to offer safety and comfort.

9. “Be understanding when I cannot do things on my own anymore. Losing my independence to disease kills my morale.”

Alzheimer’s disease can render a person unable to function, to the point that they completely become dependent on others, even for self-care. Depending on others for personal matters is very difficult to accept, so nursing assistants should express understanding if a patient throws a fit or spills something on the bed.

10. “Talk to me more. I am not a zombie, and you are not a robot.”

When an Alzheimer’s patient’s ability to speak is also lost, it does not mean that their comprehension and hearing are gone, too.

Healthcare staff should not talk about their patients as if they aren’t in the room. Instead, they should try to engage in conversation with them even if they do not readily get a response. Keeping communication alive between CNAs and patients preserves the human connection.

Posted: 6/22/2018 1:31:34 PM

Six Worthwhile Lessons Learned as a CNA

During this time of year, we celebrate National Nursing Assistants Week. It's a time to recognize CNAs who have shown exemplary performance and outstanding service. While few make it to the list of those who receive such recognition, each CNA will learn valuable lessons from their job as a CNA, whether or not they’re included on any list.

Every CNA learns a remarkable number of lessons in their work. Here are some learning points that make their efforts worth every minute on the job.

1. The primary lesson is perfecting a skillset for caring.

Nursing school and textbooks give the theories for practice, but only you have your unique ways of making the most efficient use of your time.

For example, you might have a technique for wrapping a BP cuff around a patient's arm without waking them up, or a way to remove a patient's incontinence pads in one quick motion, without hurting the patient or making a mess.

It's all about striving for perfection and being able to do more or better with less time and fewer resources.

2. Critical thinking makes you so much greater than just the tasks you accomplish.

Understanding why a task needs done and how a procedure benefits the patient is the essence of critical thinking. It is more than simply taking orders and carrying them out in blind obedience. As you spend years taking care of different patients, you'll become more certain about how a patient with a particular condition needs to be turned in bed regularly, for example. As you master critical thinking skills, you’ll be able to raise concerns regarding patient care and act as an advocate at the same time.

3. Life is precious, and so is health.

As you see patients come and go, some getting better and some that sadly don't, you begin to realize that life is fleeting and that it should be spent doing the things we love, being good to others, and always striving, whatever the circumstances.

You will also realize that good health can be the cornerstone of a happy life. We must guard and protect our health the best we can to live our lives to the fullest. And, in times of illness, we also need to trust the healthcare team while maintaining our independence, because this is the way to wellness or to having the best quality of life in the midst of an incurable disease.

4. Communication is key to patient care.

When you work as a nursing assistant, you learn the value of communication. Knowing how to ask for feedback respectfully, and giving patients the right information, can soothe unnecessary fears and let patient care proceed smoothly. It can be as simple as explaining a procedure before carrying it out. Communication is also important for a productive working relationship with other members of the healthcare team, leading us to the next lesson . . .

5. The only way for care procedures to truly meet patient needs is through teamwork.

When the healthcare team acts together and collaborates, they achieve patient goals. They know how to grow as a team and solve problems as a team. Teamwork dissolves barriers to care and brings out the best of each member’s talents. Those who have learned to work well with others achieve the most in any field, but especially in healthcare.

6. Working as a CNA is emotionally rewarding, despite its challenges.

Believe it or not, it's not all about bodily fluids and exhausting shifts. Beyond the physical discomforts of the job is a reward that makes the role fulfilling: The sense of accomplishment in knowing that you have helped someone recover or have given them hope.

Eventually, you will also learn that helping someone feel significant and less alone as they face their health challenges makes this job worth every second spent caring for patients. It is the sincere, “thank you” you hear from patients, families, and co-workers that wrap up each day in positivity and warmth. And, of course, gaining the insight to aid in restoring a patient's health is the greatest reward (and best lesson) of all.

Posted: 6/18/2018 10:33:19 AM

R-E-S-P-E-C-T in Healthcare Defines the Way We Care

RESPECT. It is the foundation of patient-centered care. Without it, humanizing the workplace becomes difficult. Every healthcare worker is expected to show respect to patients regardless of their age, gender, race, or other circumstances.

Certified nursing assistants interact constantly with patients and are expected to treat their patients as human beings, deserving of respect and consideration.

If you are a CNA, there are things you must respect when providing care. Use the acronym RESPECT below as a guide:

1. R - Rights

Understand from day one that patients have rights whenever they receive medical care. They have the right to respectful and humane treatment. For CNAs, this means performing procedures with gentleness, especially if the patient is experiencing pain and discomfort. This also means keeping the patient's privacy by not exposing them unnecessarily as you provide care. Pull drapes and curtains shut and close windows and doors when helping to change a patient's clothes or assisting them in using the bedside commode.

It is also not uncommon to hear coworkers call patients “honey,” “dear,” and “sweetie.” If you are an expressive person who uses such terms, refrain from doing so and address patients formally using Mr., Mrs., and Ms., especially if it’s the first time meeting them. After, you can ask them what they prefer. Also, don't forget to introduce yourself to new patients!

2. E - Expressed needs

Patients’ expressed needs are what they request from the staff. Sometimes the request is as simple as an extra pillow or help changing clothes. Sometimes, the need is as complex as information regarding their upcoming surgery, which only their surgeon can provide.

Whatever the circumstances, you must respect patients by meeting their expressed needs to the best of your abilities, but well within the scope of your practice and safety limits for patients.

3. S - Say in the matter

Patients have the right to decide their own course of action when it comes to matters regarding their health. This is where informed consent comes in. Although it is the physician who obtains informed consent, you must support the patient in their decisions.

4. P - Preferences

You can also respect a patient by accommodating their preferences. Provide options whenever possible. If the patient is changing clothes, let them choose from several outfits. When it comes to meals, patients usually prefer some foods over others. Ask them how they want their meals prepared, for example, if they want their food softer, less salty, or with more spices. Always be aware of special diet instructions that are given by the doctor or nurse.

5. E - Every family member

When caring for patients, it is very likely that you will need to interact with their family as well. The way healthcare workers treat their patients’ families is part of the overall patient experience, so CNAs must show respect in this regard as well.

6. C - Confidentiality

Because CNAs remain connected with their patients from day-to-day, they sometimes become the perfect person to listen to stories about patients’ private lives. It is your responsibility to keep these stories to yourself, unless the matter has to do with a patient's safety or the safety of others, at which point, a CNA should encourage the patient to talk to the physician or the proper authorities.

Another way to respect patients in this regard is to keep their health information strictly confidential. This means NOT discussing a patient with others who are not providing direct patient care.

7. T - Traditions, culture, and religious values

Respecting patients’ beliefs and practices can be challenging, especially if you are of a different culture or faith.
A patient may refuse to bathe certain days of the week as part of their culture. Or, a patient may insist on having a religious icon on the bedside table or prefer to be massaged with a distinct-smelling essential oil that their traditional healer has prepared.

What would you do if the family of an elderly patient asks you to bow your head as a sign of respect before leaving the room? The possibilities are endless. Try your best to accommodate these requests, as long as they do not compromise patient safety.

Respect for patients should always go hand in hand with your job as a nursing assistant, because without it, “caring” loses its meaning. Never lose the respect you have for your patients as you carry on with your daily tasks.

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