Monday, September 27, 2010

Vitamin D May Reduce Falls in the Elderly in SNFs

Dietary Supplements

Recent studies indicate that adding Vitamin D supplements to the diets of nursing home residents may reduce the frequency of falls, a leading cause of death and disability in the elderly.

Vitamin D deficiency is associated with muscle weakness, which can contribute to falls and fractures. Nursing home residents are especially vulnerable to falling due to advanced age, health problems, and weakened eyesight. In fact, approximately 50% of nursing home residents fall every year, and those who are injured become even more prone to future falls.

Although exercise, appropriate equipment, adequate staffing and a risk-free environment are important, research done at the Sydney Medical School at the University of Sydney in Ryde, Australia found that Vitamin D was a effective measure, although they are not sure why. 

Fall Prevention Resources, Available Online

In an effort to increase awareness about fall prevention hazards the Fall Improvement Taskforce (FIT) at Pathways created colorful flyers that can be printed and used as check-off lists to ensure your environment remains safe and to minimize the risk of falls.

Topics include: “Did you know that clothing can contribute to falls?”; “Medications can increase the risk of falls”’; and “People with vision deficits are twice as likely to fall”.

These helpful resources can be downloaded via our website at

Monday, September 20, 2010

Care at Home vs. Hospitalization

Home Fares Better for Heart Failure Patients

Hospitalization, the standard venue for short-term medical care, may be hazardous for the elderly according to a study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine in September, 2009.*  The study evaluated the feasibility and effectiveness of physician-managed home care for selected patients with acute decompensation of chronic heart failure.  The prospective, single-blind, randomized trial followed patients 75 years or older who had been hospitalized.  They were randomly assigned to a Geriatric Home Hospitalization Service or a general medical ward.

Overall Improved Status

Findings demonstrated no significant difference in the number of deaths or subsequent hospitalizations, but the mean time until the first additional admission was longer for the patients cared for in their own homes.  Only the home patients experienced improvements in depression, nutritional status and quality-of-life scores.

The research concluded that home care is a viable alternative to traditional hospital inpatient care for elderly patients with acutely decompensated CHF.
*Arch Intern Med. 2009 Sep 28;169(17):1569-75.

For more information about Pathways Home Health services for patients with chronic heart failure, please visit

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

When It Comes to Hospice, What's In It for Families?

We Know What Patients Get

The multiple advantages of hospice for the family are often lost in our natural concern for the patient.  We know the patient gets to stay at home with expert pain and symptom control as well as spiritual and emotional support.  We know they have volunteers for companionship and the safety and energy conservation provided when a home health aide assists with personal care.  And of course, there are the extras like massage with aromatherapy and music therapy.

“Unit of Care”

But how does the family benefit?  In the very unusual insurance benefit that is hospice, Medicare defines the “unit of care” as the patient and family—and family is loosely defined to include close personal friends and significant others.

Relief from Caregiving

One of the pluses caregivers love most is relief from being the caregiver.  It may be a couple of hours at the bank and beauty shop while a volunteer sits with the patient; it may be a 5-day paid respite stay in a skilled nursing while the caregiver recharges her metaphorical batteries; it may be a home health aide to do the physical care of bathing, dressing, shaving and linen changes several times a week; or it could even be a volunteer to grocery shop, run errands or walk the dog.

Emotional and Spiritual Support

A family at odds about healthcare goals may have a conference facilitated by a hospice social worker.  There is some financial relief as hospice assumes the cost of medications, equipment and supplies related to the terminal illness—even over-the-counter products and disposable briefs.  Then there is the assistance with funeral plans or insurance issues from skilled medical social workers—and sometimes a spiritual care counselor to preside over a memorial service or to pray with family members.

Easing the “Burden”

Those approaching the end of life often express regret over their perception of being a burden.  It is a relief to them to find out that family members can call hospice 24 hours a day to talk to a nurse or arrange a visit if needed, and that their families can have the same spiritual and emotional support that they get.  Patients are also comforted to know their family will have 13 months of support in their bereavement.


And perhaps most important of all, because people who opt for hospice often live longer, patients and families have a few more cherished days or weeks to share this precious finale to life.

And Benefits for the Physician?
  • Physicians get fewer calls at night and on weekends
  • They have extra eyes and ears in the home. 
  • Doctors get to be the heroes by giving patients and families better quality, and often quantity, of life.
  • Physicians have hospice medical directors with whom they can consult on complicated symptoms.