At this point in the global COVID-19 pandemic, many people have either lost someone to the virus or know somebody who has. While reading about the rising coronavirus death toll in the news is disturbing, hearing about the death of someone you know, directly or indirectly, hits far closer to home.
Those who have lost loved ones to COVID often struggle to balance their feelings of grief and sadness with anger over something that was preventable. This combination of emotions makes coping with a coronavirus loss extremely difficult, particularly when the virus keeps us apart from our family and friends during the grieving process.
But social distancing doesn’t mean complete isolation. There are still ways you can get support as you come to terms with a COVID-19 loss.
Join a Virtual Support Group
All across the country, virtual support groups are popping up on Facebook to provide a safe place for people to grieve the loss of a loved one to coronavirus. These groups offer support in the form of Zoom meetings, help forums, and private messages.
Do a Facebook search of support groups in your area to connect with people who understand what you’re going through. If there isn’t a local group yet, consider starting one yourself. Helping others can be a great way to make yourself feel better.
Call a Coronavirus Hotline
Many organizations have set up call centers offering live support to those struggling with the pandemic, whether it be frontline workers or people who have recently lost someone. The Red Cross, for example, has a variety of virtual and telephone resources to support those experiencing a COVID-19 loss. The CDC has also compiled a list of grief counseling resources, including phone numbers to call.
Connect with Family and Friends via Phone or Video Chat
Many psychologists have criticized the term “social distancing” for being inaccurate in a time when we can connect with loved ones virtually; they suggest using the term “physical distancing” instead. For while we may have to remain apart in physical form, we can still have much of the same mental and spiritual connection using modern technology.
Some families have found great comfort in hosting a virtual memorial on a videoconferencing platform like Zoom or Skype. The whole family gets together and shares memories of the loved one who has passed, much like at a funeral. This can be a source of catharsis and consolation that helps everyone come to terms with a death in the family together.
If that feels like too much emotionally, simply calling a close friend on the telephone helps too.
Seek Comfort in Your Faith
Many of us turn to a higher power in times of loss to guide us through the grieving process and remind us of a larger plan. Religion and spirituality are a great source of solace for members of any faith or philosophy. You might seek solace in the form of prayer, meditation, or study of a religious text.
Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
We’re now roughly six months into the global COVID-19 pandemic. Most of us never expected that it would reach this point, nor that we could make it this far without serious damage to our mental health—and yet, here we are.
For some of us, it feels positively normal by now. Many have grown accustomed to wearing masks everywhere, staying six feet apart, and being unable to see friends and loved ones. Others are struggling to adjust to this new COVID normal. It can feel lonely, hollow, and downright boring. For the elderly and other vulnerable populations, this may be a time of difficult isolation.
Whether you’ve become numb to the situation or are struggling to cope, one thing is certain: We could all use a little bit of extra light in our lives right now. We would all be better off if we knew how to not only survive, but thrive throughout this international health crisis. And with experts warning that it will likely be a long time before we return to a pre-COVID normal, we might as well make peace with this new reality.
Start from Within
Many psychological studies have determined that only 10 percent of our happiness stems from external events, with the remaining 90 percent being a mix of genetics and intentional activities (meaning what you do to stay happy, whether that’s changing the way you process the world or engaging in activities that uplift you). These statistics are reassuring during a time when we have so little control over the external events happening around us. They remind us that while our happiness is not 100 percent within our control, we can absolutely affect it through our ways of thinking and living.
Many people are finding comfort in their spiritual and religious practice during the pandemic. With more free time to pray, meditate, read, and reflect, it’s a great time to reinvigorate your faith. The Bible speaks at length about seeking God’s love in times of hardship. For example, James 1:2-3 tells us, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” Psalm 16:11 teaches us that we can find all the happiness we need in God: “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”
We’re all learning a lot right now. We’re learning what it feels like to be alone with ourselves, what is truly important to us, and how much we miss the people in our lives when we can’t spend time with them. Now is the time to reevaluate our priorities and renew our gratitude for others.
In pre-COVID times, many of us were so busy balancing work, school, and responsibilities that we lost sight of the important things in life—things like family, friendship, love, and quality time. Now that we can’t meet an old friend for drinks or invite the parents over for Sunday dinner, we realize just how much those small things really mean to us.
This doesn’t have to be a tragedy. In fact, it is a valuable lesson. We’ve had the chance to get back in touch with the things we value most of all, and we will not soon take them for granted. Once it’s safe to return to “normal” life, we will see the small things that we so long took for granted in a whole new light.
Focus on What You Can Control
We can do our part to end this pandemic by wearing masks and practicing social distancing, as well as encouraging others to do the same, but we ultimately can’t control what happens with COVID-19. We have no say in whether a potential vaccine proves effective or when that may happen. These are all factors outside of our control, which means worrying about them is fruitless.
But there are also a lot of things we can control. We can be safe and responsible to ease our fears of catching the disease; we can visit with loved ones virtually; we can reconnect with nature by spending more time outdoors. When you focus on these things rather than what is out of your control, you regain a sense of autonomy and control over your own destiny. It’s hard to feel happy and fulfilled with life right now, but it’s far from impossible. With the right mindset and support from others (including a professional if you need one), you can thrive in times of uncertainty.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has awarded HealthKeeperz of Scotland County with 4.5 stars in home health care! This score reflects an exceptionally high level of quality in patient care, as the average rating among home health agencies is three stars.
“Our team of home health professionals have worked extremely hard to provide their patients with the highest quality care,” said Tim Brooks, president of HealthKeeperz. “Achieving a 4.5-star rating from CMS is a huge validation of all the work they’ve put in. Our home health team is doing crucial work during the COVID-19 pandemic, and I’m thrilled to see them get the recognition they deserve.”
CMS’s Quality of Patient Care Ratings are calculated by combining seven criteria: timely initiation of care, improvement in management of oral medications, improvement in ambulation, improvement in bed transferring, improvement in bathing, improvement in dyspnea (shortness of breath), and acute care hospitalization during the first 60 days of home health.
CMS is responsible for ensuring that many of our nation’s most vulnerable populations receive the medical care they need—a noble cause at any point in time, but especially now, as we face unprecedented challenges from the global coronavirus pandemic. The agency sets high standards of care and its ratings matter a great deal to any home health provider. Thus, we’re extremely grateful to have passed the test with flying colors. It’s a culmination of hard work from many team members, both those on-the-ground serving patients and those behind-the-scenes doing administrative work.
“The thing about HealthKeeperz is, we function as a family,” said Mr. Brooks. “That means that this achievement was not done by one single person, or even by one team. It’s something we did together as a company by motivating, supporting, and inspiring each other on a daily basis.”
We recognize that our team members are confronting new challenges and fears brought about by COVID-19. It’s truly inspirational to see how our healthcare heroes have faced these challenges head-on, refusing to waiver in their commitment to patients. That patient-centric focus surely played a huge part in this 4.5-star achievement.
To learn more about our home health care services in Scotland County and beyond, please visit http://www.healthkeeperz.com/services. For more information on CMS’s home health ratings system, visit https://rb.gy/woykmh.
In a time when vulnerable populations are being encouraged to stay at home as much as possible to prevent COVID-19 exposure, the home health industry is proving to be a safer alternative to traditional methods of care. Hospitals are crowded, doctors are overworked, and tens of millions of surgeries have been postponed as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, more than 40 percent of U.S. coronavirus deaths are linked to nursing homes—exposing the inherent risks of having members of vulnerable populations living together in close quarters.
Home health care has long been a viable alternative to nursing home placement and recurring doctor’s visits. But the pandemic is reinforcing its many benefits, particularly in times of crisis. Home health services are in increasingly high demand amid the COVID-19 outbreak, and the conversation around expanding the Medicare home health benefit is growing louder. So, what exactly are the benefits that are driving more patients and policymakers toward home health care?
For one, there is the reduced risk of contracting contagious diseases from others. While this risk is especially high in a global pandemic, it was also present before COVID-19, and will continue to be present after. There are existing diseases that are known to spread quickly in nursing homes, most commonly respiratory infections (often caused by influenza viruses) and gastrointestinal infections (often caused by noroviruses). Then there is the potential for future viral outbreaks; public health officials say that another pandemic is “a probability, not a possibility.” Does that mean we should live in fear? Absolutely not. But it’s a good reminder to weigh the risks before placing a family member or loved one into an assisted living facility.
Secondly, it’s easier and safer to visit our loved ones in a home health care setting rather than in a nursing home setting. With many facilities under strict lockdown orders, seniors have been forced to give up regular visits from family and friends in order to prevent a deadly coronavirus outbreak. In contrast, seniors who receive home health care services can still visit with their loved ones as long as necessary precautions are taken, like maintaining a safe distance from one another and wearing masks at all times.
Lastly, we can’t neglect the mental health benefits that home health care offers. Who wouldn’t prefer the comfort of one’s own home to the often cold and sterile environment of a hospital or assisted living facility? Patients who receive home health care have a higher quality of life, more freedom, stronger connection to family members, and often faster recovery times. In addition, home health care is usually less expensive than hospital care or a skilled nursing facility, but just as effective and more convenient.
If you’re looking for a safer (and happier!) alternative to traditional methods of care, we hope you’ll explore the possibility of home health. Give us a call at 800-309-3784 to begin the conversation.
Just as we should exercise to keep our bodies strong, we should also challenge ourselves with mental workouts that help keep the brain young and healthy. While there’s no way to prevent aging of the brain altogether, research shows that doing certain brain exercises boosts memory, concentration, and focus, and helps keep your mind sharp as you get older.
Today, we’ll look at a few different exercises that promote brain health and keep you feeling young in spirit. After all, the familiar adage applies here: Use it or lose it!
Pick Your Puzzle
Whether it’s a jigsaw, a crossword, or Sudoku, challenging yourself to solve puzzles is a great way to keep your brain sharp—and a lot of fun to boot. Different types of puzzles work different areas of your brain, so it’s a good idea to switch it up now and then. There’s something classic and peaceful about doing the puzzles in your local newspaper with a pen and paper. But if you’re looking for an easy digital fix, The Washington Post compiles all their daily crossword puzzles in one free, online library. This website has billions of free Sudoku puzzles with varying levels of difficulty.
Learn a New Language
There is a wealth of evidence proving that learning multiple languages provides huge cognitive benefits. Bilingualism promotes memory, creativity, and visual-spatial skills. It also helps you switch mental gears more easily, meaning you can switch between tasks faster and delay the onset of age-related brain decline. The best part is, it’s never too late to reap the cognitive benefits of learning a new language: Researchers insist that you can improve your brain health by becoming a student of Spanish, French, or Mandarin at any stage of life.
Bust a Move
Yep, that’s right—dancing is good for your brain health as well as your physical health! Well, more specifically, learning new dance moves is. According to the CDC, learning a new dance increases your brain’s processing speed and memory. Now may not be the best time to take a salsa or ballroom dance class, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn new moves on your own time. Check out this instructional video that is specifically geared toward teaching seniors Latin dancing, or grab your partner and learn the basics of swing.
Try a New Hobby
Taking up a new hobby or skill is a powerful way to strengthen the connections in your brain and improve memory. Always wanted to learn how to rebuild a vintage car? Curious about decoupage? Now is the time to get started on a new hobby or skill that will not only enrich your life, but also challenge your brain to a workout. With more time on your hands, retirement is a great stage of life to try new things and take up hobbies.
Download a Free App
There are hundreds of free smartphone apps featuring puzzles, games, and challenges to improve cognitive wellness. For example, the CogniFit Brain Fitness app tracks your progress and tells you which areas are most in need of improvement. BrainHQ, which is available online and via smartphone, asks users to solve problems and adapts the difficulty level based on your individual ability. But beware: The aforementioned apps are backed by real scientific evidence, but there are many apps out there of dubious effectiveness. This article provides a helpful guide for choosing the right ones.
At HealthKeeperz, our approach to wellness is holistic. That means we focus on caring for the whole person — not only meeting your needs for physical care, but also for spiritual, emotional, and social support.
You can’t care for every aspect of a person without the properly trained personnel. That’s why we hire people of many different specialties, from registered nurses and occupational therapists to case managers and medical social workers.
“Medical social worker” — there’s a term you may not have heard before. Most people outside the healthcare field probably haven’t, yet medical social workers play an important role in caring for patients. Today, we’ll take a closer look into what they do and how they may be able to help you or a loved one.
Medical Social Work: An Important and Holistic Discipline
Medical social work is a sub-discipline within the larger field of social work. It deals with patients and families who are in need of “psychosocial” help, or help relating to a combination of social factors and individual behavior.
Some of the social factors that are addressed in medical social work are:
● Income level
● Family size and structure
The individual thoughts and behaviors that are often managed by medical social workers include:
● Grief counseling
● Supportive counseling
● Substance abuse
● Family intervention
Healthcare is often inextricably tied to these factors; for example, a patient’s financial status may restrict their access to quality healthcare, or a patient may have existing psychological issues that make it hard for them to cope with illness. It is the medical social worker’s job to help the patient and his or her family navigate these problems and find a way to recovery.
Medical social workers help patients find balance in their personal, family, and social lives. Without this balance, it is often difficult — or even impossible — for a patient to recover from a medical ailment and reintegrate into society. Alternately, if a full recovery is not possible, medical social workers make it easier to manage chronic conditions and access helpful resources.
Qualifications for Becoming a Medical Social Worker
Aspiring medical social workers undergo extensive training and practice. First, they must complete a bachelor’s degree in social work (BSW) or a related field like psychology or sociology. Most medical social worker positions also require applicants to complete a master’s degree in social work (MSW).
During their graduate studies, aspiring medical social workers must complete many hours of fieldwork to graduate — often as many as 1,000. Finally, they must obtain licensure through both the Association of Social Work Boards (ASWB) and their state’s board of social work. Medical social workers are always learning, and must complete a variety of continuing education courses to maintain their licensure.
How Can Medical Social Work Help Me or My Loved Ones?
A medical social worker can help you and your family answer some of life’s most difficult and important questions, including:
● When should I intervene in my loved one’s healthcare?
● What community resources are available to help me or my loved one?
● What is the best course of action to help me or a loved one heal physically, emotionally, and socially?
If you’ve been struggling with any of the above questions, we hope you’ll reach out to us for help from one of our skilled medical social workers. Give us a call at 800-309-3784 to begin the conversation.
After months of widespread business closures and shelter-in-place orders sweeping the nation, we’re finally seeing a slow return to the way things were before COVID-19. Even New York City has taken preliminary measures to reopen. Whether you’re thrilled by the news of reopenings or feeling more wary, it’s important that you continue to take special measures to protect your health – particularly if you belong to a population that is more vulnerable to COVID-19, such as the elderly and those with preexisting respiratory illnesses.
Wear a Mask in Public
Cloth face masks slow the spread of coronavirus by preventing those who may have the virus, but no symptoms, from spreading it. Wearing a face mask contains your germs, keeping them away from others around you, so that when we all wear a face mask, we all protect each other. Countries that combined face masks with other protective measures early in the pandemic saw success in slowing the spread of the virus.
You can buy cloth face masks online or in-store for a relatively low price, or make your own at home. The CDC has provided instructions for DIY cloth face masks, both with and without sewing.
Avoid Large Gatherings
The more people at a social event, the higher the risk of COVID-19 transmission. While there’s no magic number to limit gathering sizes – it varies by state – North Carolina has recommended no more than 10 people gather indoors and no more than 25 outdoors during Phase 2 of reopening.
That doesn’t mean you should go to as many dinner parties of 10 people as you can. It’s probably best to start slow, especially if you are a senior or part of another vulnerable population. And when you do attend social gatherings, be sure to take additional protective measures like wearing a face mask and washing your hands often.
Wash Your Hands, Don’t Touch Your Face
One of the simplest ways to protect yourself from COVID-19 is to wash your hands after touching surfaces in public, including doorknobs, handles, cash registers, ATMs, and gas pumps. If there isn’t a place to wash your hands nearby, use hand sanitizer instead.
The average person touches his or her face as much as 16 times per hour. The good news is, you can train yourself out of this habit. Simply setting an intention to not touch your face, or to only do so with freshly washed hands, is a great first step. If that’s not enough and you still catch yourself doing it, try placing reminders where you can’t miss them – for example, put a Post-it note on your desk, or set an automatic reminder on your phone.
Continue to Practice Social Distancing
Even as government leaders at the federal, state, and local level relax mandatory guidelines, it’s still wise to practice social distancing as much as you can. When you’re out shopping or dining, keep a distance of at least six feet from others. Avoid restaurants and retailers that appear to be ignoring state guidelines to limit customers to 50 percent capacity. If it looks too crowded, go somewhere else!
Try and plan small gatherings for the outdoors; the risk of coronavirus transmission is lower in the open air. With loved ones, opt for elbow taps and “footshakes” instead of hugging and kisses on the cheek. If you have any COVID-19 symptoms (fever or chills, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue, to name just a few), do not travel outside of the home except to get tested or consult a medical professional.
Happy reopening. Stay safe, stay vigilant, and stay healthy!
HealthKeeperz, along with our friends at Campbell’s Soup, proudly sponsored the Scotland Memorial Foundation’s 2020 5K Virtual FUNd Run.
Since 1988, the Scotland Memorial Foundation has served as the provider and custodian of generous gifts and bequests to Scotland Health Care System. The foundation plays an integral and unique role of support in Scotland Health Care System’s mission to provide safe, high quality, compassionate, and sustainable health care in the communities it serves in Scotland, Robeson, and Marlboro counties.
The foundation touches hundreds of people every year by offering programs and services which provide hope, encouragement, and a healthier way of life to friends, family and neighbors in the communities served by Scotland Health Care System.
In normal times, the FUNd Run is a live event, a typical 5k race. But due to health concerns related to COVID-19, organizers made the prudent decision to go “virtual” and protect the health of area residents by not gathering everyone simultaneously to walk and run. Instead, participants registered as normal and participated on their own, running or walking the 5k between April 25-May 31.
The foundation race organizers handed out multiple awards in the following categories:
· Best 5k time
· Most mileage run (participants could run the 5k as much as they wanted over the month-long event)
· Most prolific social media poster (runners and walkers shared photos taken as they participated)
· Best photo shared
· Craziest outfit
· Farthest participant from Scotland Memorial Hospital
“We were thrilled to sponsor the Scotland Memorial Foundation’s Virtual 5k FUNd run this year,” said April Dederick of the HealthKeeperz marketing team. “Obviously, the current COVID-19 environment posed some incredible challenges to the race, which is one of the major fundraisers for this vital organization that contributes so much to the communities we serve together. But the foundation’s race organizers more than rose to the occasion, creating a fun event where people could not only participate in a healthy endeavor, but also get really creative and show their love for southeastern NC.”
For more information about our friends at the Scotland Memorial Foundation, visit https://www.scotlandhealth.org/scotland-memorial-foundation.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s so important for healthcare providers to stand in solidarity with each other, as many of us work tirelessly to provide the care so desperately needed at this time. Our organization has been recognizing the heroism of our own staff, who go into homes and facilities across North Carolina to care for populations that can include the senior population and those with conditions deemed high-risk with regard to the coronavirus.
Over the last week, we added a new twist on our gratitude tour, according to April Dederick of the HealthKeeperz marketing team. “In the last several days, our sales and marketing representatives have visited 75 care facilities and clinics to thank our community partners and healthcare heroes across 10 counties in southeastern NC.”
Dederick, along with Michele Morgan, Ponce Chavis, Tito Massol, Shaneese Brown, Jeff Hunt, and Otara Mills, have placed signs thanking our partners and recognizing the healthcare heroes we collaborate with every day to give our patients a better quality of life. The facilities visited by the team include skilled nursing facilities, health clinics, assisted living and retirement communities, and facilities specializing in memory care.
For Massol, the pandemic is bringing the healthcare provider community together in a very human way. “The story here is that people need people,” he said. “Social isolation isn’t healthy, especially for prolonged periods. We hope that these signs remind our friends in these facilities and communities that we care about them and miss our connection to each place during this time. We think of it as a big HealthKeeperz version of a Hallmark card!”
“We appreciate everything they are doing to take care of their residents and patients, and they are constantly in our thoughts and prayers,” Massol added. “Part of our mission, caring for all people for the glory of God means caring for our partners, too.”
A favorite song of mine these days has the following refrain.
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
“He Reigns, --GhostShip
This refrain resonates so deeply with me, because it points us to a source of peace and rest that we all need, whether we are weary now or will be later. Our hearts have been, are presently, and/or will be broken in the future.
And what we need is a friend. And when He says “come, take a load off,” can actually help us unload our burdens. One of the great truths of the gospel is that Jesus bears “away” our sin. Along with the penalty of sin, Jesus also bears its burden. Shame is cast away. Fruitless toil for acceptance by God is gone.
Because of Jesus’ death and resurrection we are accepted as sons and daughters by our Heavenly Father. We find ourselves empowered by the Holy Spirit to walk in strength, even though we may be experiencing weariness. Broken hearts can be healed and kept soft, that we might love again.
Oh, my friend, if you find yourself overcome with grief, then let me point you to THE GOD OF ALL COMFORT! Jesus knows deeply and intimately the ache of every tear that fills the eye. Yet, He says, “come to me.” When God promises comfort for the weary, it is not through the waving of magic wands or the snapping of fingers, but through faith. Yes, faith. Trust. Belief.
Do you believe God, when He says that your suffering and hurting is purposeful? Do you trust Jesus to provide the strength and comfort that you need? Will you remain faithful to God in deed and heart? My friend, Jesus is not just an ancient Jewish carpenter who drummed up a public following because He could relate with the plight of His kinsman and thus spoke words of hope. No, Jesus is THE HOPE, the great King of Heaven who reigns supreme over all. He is THE creator of all that is seen and unseen.
He fashioned our emotions and our psyche. He knows our hearts. And this is precisely how he knows what we need in difficult times. But Jesus doesn’t simply know in some theoretical, disconnected way. Jesus Himself left heaven to come and live the human experience as a man. He experienced true hunger, exhaustion, joy, excitement, sadness, joy, disappointment, and fulfillment as a human.
The only part of the human experience He did not taste was the taste of sin. He did everything perfectly: no bad words, bad attitude, or bad thoughts. Beloved, if you leave this devotion with one thought, know that Jesus has identified with our humanity in all its sufferings, so that we might identify with His perfections. There’s a day coming when we will never be weary or broken-hearted again, because the very presence of sin and its effects upon the world will be annihilated. But in the meantime, Jesus says “Come to me, today.” Jesus gives the peace and rest of heaven today, by faith. So I end where I began:
Come all who are weary
Come all who are broken hearted
Oh come now to Jesus
Come and lay your burdens down.
Yours in Christ,
Chaplain James Chavis