Life after a Hospital Stay
By Amanda Romano, Senior Helpers, Scottsdale LIVING WELL Magazine
Very few problems arise that present the same level of concern as an unforeseen, unexpected event that lands a senior loved one in critical care. It can happen without warning, and unfortunately, the lingering effects often last a lifetime. Regardless of whether it’s a minor issue or something more serious like a fall, heart attack or stroke, any health-related event presents a series of challenges for not only the affected individual, but for the family charged to care for them as well.
There is rehabilitation, there are new precautions, and there is almost always the need for another set of hands to lend assistance – even if it’s just temporary. Usually there aren’t always enough family and friends available to provide the type of support a loved one in need of transitional care may require.
As thousands of Arizona families figure out each year, life after a hospital stay can be just as stressful as the stay itself. Coming to terms with new abilities and physical limitations can be a high, and frustrating, hurdle to cross. The first question that needs to be addressed is this: Will the former living situation still be enough or do you need more care to be arranged?
“Unexpected heath events are an unfortunate part of the aging process, but they’re often a problem not quite as intimidating as they may initially seem to be,” said Shaun Phelan, owner of Senior Helpers of Scottsdale, a company that provides in-home care assistance to local families with aging loved ones. “We work on a daily basis with families that don’t have the experience, knowledge or time to do it all themselves, and the first thing we explain is that it’s perfectly fine to seek out some help when you need it.”
“Even if it’s only half a day a couple times per week, an extra set of trained hands can make a world of difference by helping to shoulder some of the burden during the adjustment process,” Phelan added.
The most important step in establishing transitional care is to assess the current state of the individual, both mentally and physically. Getting past the mental challenges can be the biggest barrier on the way to recovery. The sooner an aging loved one can come to grips with reality and get focused on what matters most, the more smoothly the recovery process is going to go.
Support from the inner circle and embracing the new situation, whatever it may be, is absolutely crucial to the healing process. There is no getting around it, it’s a tough task and family members often don’t know where or how to begin. It’s important to remember this – it all starts with understanding.
“Emotional changes are typical of elderly individuals who suffer any type of impairment that may affect them either temporarily, or long-term,” Phelan explained. “It often takes a little while for individuals to learn to deal with new emotions or new frustrations, which is exactly why the mood and tone set by those closest to them is so vital to recovery.”
Especially with any sort of incident that results in the loss of physical strength, coordination or movement, depression can be a common side effect that pops up in the weeks or months following an event. Depression can often decrease a recovering individual’s willingness to rehabilitate properly, and if the symptoms start to appear, close family and friends need to understand why it’s happening and that it’s completely normal. At the same time though, trained caregivers know to take evidence of these symptoms as cues to step in and be a source of motivation. The best, most effective response is to get loved ones active and get them moving as much as they are able. Start small, build momentum and positive feelings, and keep it going.
Senior Helpers trains its caregivers on how to handle cases of transitional care and how to communicate with seniors and their families about the best way to approach a given situation. The company matches up caregivers with seniors in need of assistance based on the needs and personality of each individual, so the right fit is found for every situation.
“Transitional periods are hard, there’re no two ways about it,” Phelan says. “They can be stressful and confusing, but they are also part of life. We help families across the Scottsdale area learn how to care for a loved one facing a new situation. It’s what we know and it’s what we do.”
Amanda Romano is a freelance writer. Shaun Phelan and Senior Helpers of Scottsdale can be reached at 480-621-6672, at email@example.com, or by visiting www.seniorhelpersscottsdale.com.