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Pretty, young Asian woman with her arms around an older Asian woman outdoors during sunset

Caregiving During COVID-19

By: Laura Mantine, MD

During periods of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, family members and close friends continue to provide daily care for their loved ones. These caregivers provide the initial response and defense for individuals who are often battling chronic medical illnesses. Like many first responders, caregivers often experience stress due to heavy workloads, fatigue, and anxiety. There are important steps that caregivers can take to help manage and cope with this ongoing pressure.

Important Steps for Caregivers to Take

Caregivers should develop habits and strategies to maintain their own physical health and emotional well-being. A caregiver can reduce transmission of a virus by diligent personal and patient hygiene. Washing hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds frequently throughout the day has been shown to reduce viral spread. It is also important to wash your hands during food preparation, toileting, and blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing. To be at your best, be sure to eat healthy, balanced meals, maintain a regular sleep routine, and find chances to exercise whenever possible. There is also a constant barrage of pandemic-focused news that can be overwhelming, so try to limit your intake to a certain time or times each day, and do not mistake social media opinion for fact. Remember to take care of yourself, as your loved one’s well-being relies on your ability to maintain your own.

Caregiver Burnout

Over any amount of time, caregiving can be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausting. Caregiver burnout can happen in any caregiver-patient relationship, but the risk is heightened in times of increased stress like the COVID-19 pandemic. When suffering from burnout, a caregiver may experience hopelessness, overwhelming anxiety, sleep problems, or difficulty coping with everyday tasks. Although caregiving is a major responsibility, it shouldn’t completely overtake an individual’s life. Make time for yourself and take breaks when possible. Use these spare moments to listen to your favorite music, read, or work on a hobby. Also, stay connected to friends and family. Social distancing doesn’t mean total isolation so reach out to friends and family regularly for casual chats and wellness checks. Consider spending time together virtually, whether by watching a movie over a video chat session or playing games together online. If you live with loved ones, find ways to help and support each other.

During these uncertain times, caregivers remain a valuable constant for their loved ones. Please stay physically and mentally healthy as you perform your crucial role.

References

“Family Caregiving During the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Scott R BeachRichard SchulzHeidi DonovanAnn-Marie Rosland. Gerontologist. 2021 Jul 13;61(5):650-660.

“Ensuring Adequate Palliative and Hospice Care During COVID-19 Surges.” Jean Abbott, MD, MHDaniel Johnson, MDMatthew Wynia, MD, MPH. JAMA. 2020;324(14):1393-1394.

Close up of hands administering CPR on a chest that is glowing in the heart area, indicating cardiac arrest

Sudden Cardiac Arrest: What It Is and What To Do

A leading cause of death in the United States, sudden cardiac arrest claims the lives of more than 356,000 people each year. This includes 23,000 youth under the age of 18. It is a life-threatening health emergency in which the heart suddenly stops beating, and it can occur in people of any age, including those who appear to be otherwise in good health.

When a person goes into cardiac arrest, they collapse and do not respond or breathe normally. They may also gasp or shake, similarly to a seizure. It is critical that the person gets help immediately, as it can lead to death within minutes. With October being Sudden Cardiac Arrest Awareness Month, we want to help raise awareness and explain what it is and what you can do when someone experiences this medical emergency.

What is sudden cardiac arrest?

As previously mentioned, sudden cardiac arrest is a health emergency in which the heart suddenly stops beating. It is life-threatening, and survival depends on people nearby calling 911, as well as starting CPR and using an AED (if available) as soon as possible. An AED (automated external defibrillator) is a portable, electronic device that is used to help someone who is experiencing sudden cardiac arrest. It analyzes the heart’s rhythm and can deliver an electrical shock to help the heart re-establish an effective rhythm.

Is it the same as a heart attack?

Sudden cardiac arrest is not the same as a heart attack. A heart attack is a blockage in coronary arteries that interrupts blood flow to the heart. The website stopcardiacarrest.org does a great job of explaining the differences between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest. It describes sudden cardiac arrest as being electrical and a heart attack as being plumbing.

To summarize the differences between the two, someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest is unresponsive and not breathing, and they may gasp or shake. It can happen to anyone of any age, and people nearby must start CPR immediately to increase the likelihood of survival.

In contrast, someone experiencing a heart attack may experience pain in their chest, neck, or left arm. They may also experience shortness of breath, sweating, or nausea. A heart attack most often occurs in people over the age of 65, and responsive victims do not need CPR.

However, you should call 911 for someone experiencing either.

What should I do?

Cardiac arrest happens suddenly so it’s important that you know what to do so you can act quickly if you are nearby when it occurs. So what do you do when someone is suddenly unresponsive and breathing abnormally or gasping for air? According to the American Heart Association, here is what you should do:

What Hispanic Heritage Means to Me

As the end of National Hispanic Heritage Month grows near, we are shining a spotlight on Director of Business Development, Nereida. We asked her what Hispanic heritage means to her. Thank you, Nereida, for sharing your story with us!

Nereida’s Story

Hispanic/Latin/LatinX heritage and culture, to me, means family.

I was raised with a large, loving family. Food, music, and family created a sense of warmth, love, and good times. At the center of it all, our matriarch, my Abuela Juana. She moved to the United States from Puerto Rico in the 60’s. She was always in the service of others. From being a social worker to a home health aide, she was love, selflessness, and caregiving exemplified.

I became a nurse because of her. After her stroke, I experienced first-hand the weight of not having advance care planning in place. 9 children, 46 grandchildren and 40 great-grandchildren had to come together to make decisions on her behalf.

After a long illness, she needed hospice. Seeing how hospice allowed us to be family and experiencing that gift, I was drawn to hospice after 19 years of nursing.

My passion, drive, advocacy, and love for hospice is fueled by the love for and from my Abuela. I am honored to carry on her legacy in the service of others while assisting people and families at a pivotal moment in their lives.

Graphic of multi-racial women wearing pink breast cancer awareness ribbon

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers among women in the United States, second only to skin cancer. It’s a disease in which the cells in the breast grow out of control. There are several types of breast cancer, but there are two that are most common. Invasive ductal carcinoma is when the cancer cells begin in the ducts and then grow outside them into other parts of the breast tissue. Invasive lobular carcinoma is when the cancer cells begin in the lobules and then spread from there to the breast tissues that are close by. It is possible for both of these invasive cancer cells to spread to other parts of the body.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Symptoms of breast cancer can vary from patient to patient, and some may not experience any at all. However, some common symptoms one may experience are:

If you have concerns about any symptoms you are experiencing, see your doctor right away.

Risk Factors for Breast Cancer

There are several factors that can put a person at higher risk for developing breast cancer. Some are beyond our control, while others we can change. One of the main factors that puts a person at risk for breast cancer is being a woman. Although men can get breast cancer, women are at higher risk.

Risk Factors Beyond Our Control

How to Lower Your Risk for Breast Cancer

Hospice Care for Breast Cancer Patients

If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with breast cancer, and curative treatment is no longer an option, hospice may be right for you. Please contact us to learn more about how the Ohio Valley Hospice team can help.

Close up of doctor’s crossed arms holding a stethoscope and wearing a white lab coat

National Primary Care Week: The Importance of a PCP

We do our best to stay healthy by making nutritious food choices and exercising regularly but getting a little help from the experts is another important step to take. It goes beyond just going to the doctor when you are sick. It’s important to have a healthcare team that also takes a proactive approach to help keep you healthy. This is where a primary care physician comes in.

A primary care physician (PCP) is a general practitioner who provides their patients with continuous medical care. They are trained to treat a wide variety of health-related problems, and they often serve as your first contact in the health system when you have a question or concern. You may contact your PCP for:

Benefits of Having a Primary Care Physician

Aside from the points mentioned above, there are additional benefits to having regularly scheduled visits with your PCP. One example would be that you have a healthcare professional who knows the ins and outs of your overall health. This can be beneficial if you need to go to a specialist. They can not only refer you to one, but they can help you to communicate important information to the specialist to ensure you receive the best care possible.

When you see your PCP regularly, you develop a level of comfort with them. This can help you feel at ease when discussing difficult topics related to your health. You also come to trust their opinion, so it makes you feel more confident when making health decisions.

The Role of Primary Care Physicians in Hospice

It’s a common misconception that a primary care physician is no longer involved once a patient elects hospice care. However, this is not true. Most hospice organizations encourage the PCP to remain involved in the patient’s care.

Why PCP Involvement in Hospice is Beneficial

PCPs are typically the ones who have the best knowledge of the patient’s overall health. Oftentimes, they have been caring for the patient for an extended period, so they understand the patient’s health history and what may have led them to their current state.

When a PCP remains involved during hospice care, they can offer reassurance and support to the patient and their family during a difficult time. When a patient has been with a physician for a long time, they develop a level of comfort with them. Sometimes they just need a familiar face to explain things to them to make them feel at ease. This also works the other way. The PCP can offer clear communication to the hospice provider when a patient may not be able to.

Choosing a Primary Care Physician

You’ve decided to schedule regular visits with a PCP, but how do you choose the right one for you? For some people, it’s as simple as finding a doctor whose office is close to home. However, for some, there’s a lot more to consider. You want someone who you “mesh” with – someone you feel comfortable with. It’s also important to find someone who communicates clearly and effectively. When it comes to your health, there’s no room for miscommunication.

Many hospital systems have online ‘find a doctor’ tools where you can search for a specialty and location. Some allow you to filter based on various criteria such as if they are accepting new patients or if they have extended hours. This will allow you to narrow down your search based on what is important to you.

Reading reviews is also a great way to help you choose. They give you an opportunity to learn more about the physician directly from other patients.

Once you’ve made your selection, make an appointment. Just because you see them once, doesn’t mean you can’t explore other options. Maybe you liked the front office staff and nurses, but just didn’t jive with the doctor. Next time, try a different doctor in that practice. Find the doctor who is the best fit for you. It will make it that much easier to stick to scheduling to regular appointments.

Doctor in a white lab coat with a red stethoscope, standing in hospital corridor holding a red heart

Advanced Heart Disease & Hospice Care

By: Marisol Ramirez, RN

Every stage of life is important. Ohio Valley Hospice clinicians understand how to care for late-stage heart failure patients. Every minute of life is valued and deeply treasured, emphasizing our utmost commitment to providing the best expert care in the last moments of life that matter most. It is a great honor to be a part of vulnerable moments, provide expert care, and provide emotional support and guidance when deciding the best options for your loved one. Have you or someone you love been diagnosed with advanced heart disease? Has a physician suggested hospice care, but you are just not sure where to even begin searching for answers? In honor of World Heart Day, we’ve put together this guide to bring you clear answers that will allow you to make the best-informed decisions for you or your loved one.

What is hospice?

Hospice care is specifically designed with the patient and family in mind. Ensuring patients are safe in their homes, comfortable, and pain-free is essential. Comprehensive hospice services are essential to satisfy the patients’ and their families’ most pressing needs.

You may find yourself in need of expert clinicians and skilled nurses to help you manage your heart failure, help with pain control, and preserve a sense of normalcy during the last months of life. Know that your hospice team is here for you and your loved ones.

When is the right time to ask about hospice?

Patients on hospice services have less than six months of life remaining. This may be the most difficult decision you will ever need to make, but you do not have to go through the process alone. Invite your family and special people in your life to provide support and be present when discussing options with your physician.

Your hospice team can support you in educating your loved ones on the disease process and can provide support during this time.

Signs of end-stage heart failure

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of end-stage heart failure is critical. According to the American Heart Association, end-stage heart failure is when most treatments may no longer work and when the patient experiences more frequent symptoms.

Frequent and recurring chest pain

Frequent and recurring angina, or chest pain, is common at end-stage heart failure. It may become more difficult to breathe, in addition to feeling short of breath with minimal exertion or at rest. Your doctor may recommend supplemental oxygen to alleviate the strain, or medications to relieve chest pains or heart palpitations.

Significant symptoms of fatigue and functional decline

According to a Heart.org study, medical records of patients with end-stage heart failure tend to have symptoms very similar to patients with cancer:

Other common symptoms to note that may affect daily functions:

In addition to the cardiac insufficiency, these symptoms may cause patients to feel overly fatigued and with less energy to complete their normal functions of daily living. Patients may require more hands-on care from their caregivers or family at this time. This may include performing tasks such as bathing, dressing, and grooming care.

The patient does not consent to further medical interventions by personal choice

There may come a point – even before the last six months of life prognosis – in which patients may come to terms with their end-stage heart failure diagnosis. They may have already decided that they will not consent to further medical interventions if it causes more pain or a poor quality of life. The patient’s loved ones must be present with kindness, support, and respect for the patient’s decisions. The patient’s decision to refuse further medical treatment can often bring discord from family members.

The benefits of hospice for a patient with advanced heart disease

The nature of end-stage heart failure is complex. It involves providing support both for the patient and their families during their most vulnerable moments.

Hospice services provide an array of benefits for patients with advanced heart disease:

If you think you may benefit from the following services below, then hospice care may be for you.

Personal Attention

Every patient is unique and will present different needs towards their end-of-life care. Your case manager will create your hospice plan of care to suit your needs, preferences, and health goals.

Medical Support

Competent healthcare professionals and physicians are on staff to specifically address your concerns, signs and symptoms, physical discomforts, and other medical questions you may have. On-call staff are available around the clock to support you to ensure you receive the best possible medical care in the comfort of your home.

Comfort

Our hospice care team is committed to providing patients and families with the emotional and spiritual support they need.

What does hospice care do for heart disease patients?

Our hospice team’s goal is to relieve the patient’s pain and suffering, prevent complications, ensure safety in the patient’s surroundings, and provide education regarding end-of-life best practices. Our hospice services ensure that you or your loved one will receive the following:

Continuous Care

Your care team may offer continuous care for up to 24 hours if the patient requires close monitoring or interventions due to a severe problem or health crisis. 

Routine Home Care

A team of expert and compassionate professionals conduct regular home care visits. The goal is to help in alleviating symptoms, pain control, and educating patients and their families. 

Medical Equipment and Supplies

Providing the best possible experience at this stage of life is important. Our team understands that patients need to obtain the proper medical equipment and medical supplies, as related to the primary diagnosis.

Inpatient Care

Inpatient care is critical during those moments when extra help is needed to control pain or other symptoms. A short-term inpatient stay will be available in such cases. 

What can hospice do for family members?

The absence of proper end-of-life planning for families can be even more difficult when losing a loved one. Ultimately, hospice means:

Respite Care

Care at home requires a team effort and collaboration from the various parties involved. However, everyone knows that the patient’s family at the bedside is generally the one most involved physically and emotionally in the care of their ill loved one. Ohio Valley Hospice provides families up to five days of inpatient respite services. This gives caregivers and family a much-needed break during this time.

Bereavement Services

Ohio Valley Hospice understands that death is a life-changing moment for the survivors. We provide bereavement services for the family to provide care and support after a loved one’s death.

Who pays for hospice services?

Ohio Valley Hospice accepts Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and other forms of payment. You may contact your local branch to find out more about hospice services and insurance questions.

Our mission at Ohio Valley Hospice

Our mission is to provide the best care for our patients as they navigate the dying experience. Our goals are to provide competent, skilled care; alleviate symptoms; prevent a crisis; and provide guidance, comfort, and support for patients and families. We are here with you every step of the way.

Contact Ohio Valley Hospice for more information.

Diverse group of five smiling older adults in workout clothes standing in a half circle in a park with their hands stacked in the center of the group

Tips for Healthy Aging

According to the National Institute on Aging, 61% of Americans aged 65 or older have multiple chronic conditions. Aging is an inevitable part of life. There’s no avoiding it, but there are things we can do to age in a healthy manner. In honor of Healthy Aging Month, we are sharing some tips for focusing on healthy aging.

What is healthy aging?

There are several components to consider when thinking about healthy aging. There is the obvious one: physical health. But it is also important to focus on others like mental health, social health, and even financial health.

Physical health

Exercise is one of the most important ways to care for your physical health. Scientific evidence suggests that people who exercise regularly not only live longer, but they also live better. Keeping your body moving by doing things like walking the dog or gardening can help you stay independent as you age. Practicing exercises that focus on your balance can help you to avoid falls, while stretching can improve flexibility which can help your body maintain the freedom to do everyday activities. 

Making smart nutrition choices is also important in helping maintain physical health. As we age, our bodies change, and thus so do our nutritional needs. AARP’s MyPlate for Older Adults breaks down exactly what a balanced nutrition plan looks like for older adults. It includes fruits and vegetables, healthy oils, herbs and spices, fluids, grains, dairy, and protein.

Regular health screenings are also important for maintaining physical health. There are many debates about how often an older adult should see their doctor, but it’s common to hear a recommendation of at least once per year.

Mental health

Another incredibly important part of our overall wellbeing – at any age – is mental health. When your mental health suffers, it can have a negative impact on your physical health, as well. Clinical psychologist Carla Manley, PhD says people with mental illnesses can experience a variety of physical symptoms, including muscle tension, headaches, insomnia, and feelings of restlessness. 

So how can we take care of our mental health as we age? One way would be to participate in activities that bring you joy. Research shows that having a hobby is linked to lower levels of depression and may even prevent depression. Some examples of hobbies that are good for our mental health are playing music, gardening, fishing, yoga, and writing. Puzzles like word searches, crossword puzzles, or sudoku are great hobbies that help to keep our mind sharp. 

Social health

Research has linked social isolation and loneliness to a higher risk of physical and mental conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, a weakened immune system, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Engaging in meaningful activity with others gives us a sense of purpose which ultimately leads to a boosted mood and longer life. We can focus on several aspects of our health at once by taking our hobbies and making them a group activity. This could be in the form of a gardening or book club or simply taking a walk with a friend. 

Financial health

With most of the focus being on our physical health as we age, we can’t forget the importance of our financial health. This can be a little trickier to manage, and with all the information that is available online, it is tough to determine what is reliable. Senior Finance Advisor put together a list of reliable resources that help with investment advice and financial protection resources.

They also recommend finding a trusted fiduciary planner who can help you manage your money. The law requires them to always act in your best interest, and they tend to be more transparent in discussions of financial opportunities.

Healthy, happy living

Remember, what we do today impacts tomorrow. It may feel overwhelming to think about changing bad habits or creating new healthy ones, but it’s the key to living a longer, healthier, happier life. Start small and remain consistent and dedicated to your goals. It will pay off!

Woman’s hand using pointer finger and thumb to hold a teal ribbon in honor of ovarian cancer awareness

Hospice Care for Ovarian Cancer Patients

By: Laura Mantine, MD

What is ovarian cancer?

Ovarian cancer is cancer that grows in a woman’s ovaries. Damaged or deformed cells start to grow out of control. Although treatment has a high rate of success if the cancer is found at an early stage, in many cases it isn’t discovered until advanced stages when the cancer is harder to treat. A biopsy, or small surgery, is often performed when ovarian cancer is suspected. This is done to confirm the disease by taking tissue and fluid samples for analysis. Some ovarian tumors are benign, which means they don’t grow into cancer. Treatments for ovarian cancer vary based on the stage of the disease, but often include surgery and aggressive chemotherapy. These treatments may come with distressing side effects like pain, sleep problems, nausea, fatigue, loss of appetite, anxiety, or depression.

Supportive services for ovarian cancer patients

Facing ovarian cancer is difficult. It can have a big impact on your physical and emotional health, all of which may cause enormous stress for both you and your family. But you don’t have to face this alone. Treating the pain, symptoms, and stress of cancer is just as important as treating the cancer itself. Palliative care and hospice care are forms of supportive services available to people with cancer. Supportive care focuses on providing comfort, relieving pain or other symptoms, and improving quality of life. Supportive care doesn’t cure disease. The main difference between these two types of care is that you can receive palliative care at the same time you are receiving treatment, whereas hospice care begins after stopping standard cancer treatments for end-of-life management.

Ovarian cancer and hospice

Once you decide to no longer receive chemotherapy or other standard cancer treatments, transitioning to hospice may be beneficial for both you and your family. When you choose hospice care, it means that the goals of treatment have changed with a shift from curative to comfort-based care. Hospice care is usually offered at the end of life, when you’re expected to live less than six months. The aim of hospice is to care for you rather than attempt to cure the disease.

Hospice care is very personalized. Your hospice care team will focus on making you as comfortable as possible. They will work with you and your family to create a care plan that best suits your goals and needs for end-of-life care. A hospice team member is generally on call 24 hours a day to provide support. You may receive hospice care in your home, a special hospice facility, a nursing home, or a hospital. A hospice team usually includes doctors, nurses, home health aides, social workers, clergy members or counselors, and trained volunteers. Services may include medical services, supplies and equipment, medications to manage pain and other cancer-related symptoms, spiritual support and counseling, and short-term relief for caregivers.

Medicare, Medicaid, and most private insurance plans will cover hospice care. Most U.S. insurance plans require a statement from your doctor that you have a life expectancy of six months or less. You may also be asked to sign a statement that you accept hospice care. Hospice care can continue for longer than six months, but your doctor may be asked to give an update on your condition.

Understanding your care options

Getting supportive care, whether palliative care or hospice care, can be beneficial to your mental and physical well-being. Talk to your doctor, family, and friends about your supportive care options.

Please contact us if you would like to learn more about the hospice services Ohio Valley Hospice provides.

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September is Sepsis Awareness Month

According to the CDC, in a typical year, at least 1.7 million adults in America develop sepsis and nearly 270,000 Americans die as a result of it. So, what exactly is sepsis and who is at risk? In honor of Sepsis Awareness Month, we want to answer these important questions.  

What is sepsis?

Sepsis is the body’s extreme response to an infection and can be life-threatening. Your immune system works to protect you from infections and fight off any that occur, but it’s possible for it to have an overreactive response to infection.

Symptoms of sepsis

Although a medical assessment by a healthcare professional is needed for a diagnosis, a patient who has sepsis may have one or more of the following symptoms:

Three stages of sepsis

There are three different stages of sepsis. Each has its own variation of symptoms a patient may experience. A patient can develop sepsis while they are still in the hospital recovering from a procedure, but that is not the only time/place it can develop. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms below, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Seeking treatment early on can be lifesaving.

Sepsis

The first stage is simply called sepsis. Symptoms a patient may experience in this stage are:

Severe sepsis

The second stage is severe sepsis which occurs when there is organ failure. The following are common symptoms of this stage:

Septic shock

The third and final stage is septic shock. In this stage, a patient will experience the symptoms of severe sepsis plus a very low blood pressure.

Who is at risk?

Anyone can get sepsis, but some people have a higher risk of infection. Those at higher risk include:

How sepsis impacts seniors

Adults who are aged 65 or older are reportedly 13 times more likely to be hospitalized with sepsis than those who are younger. Researchers believe our immune system becomes less effective at fighting off infection as we age, which means older people tend to contract more infections that become more severe. Since each infection we get presents a risk of getting sepsis, this puts older adults at a higher risk of developing sepsis.

Any type of infection can cause sepsis but the most common among older people are respiratory such as pneumonia. COVID-19 has also become a strong risk factor for sepsis among older adults. Sometimes it is difficult to spot an infection right away in people who are aging. If an older person becomes confused or starts to behave in an unusual manner, it could be a sign of infection.

How to treat sepsis

Sepsis can quickly progress through the three stages and result in death if left untreated. Treatment includes:

Preventing sepsis

The best way to prevent sepsis is to prevent an infection. You can do this by:

What to do if you think you have sepsis

Sepsis is a medical emergency. If you or someone you love has an infection that is not getting better (or is getting worse), it is important to act fast. Get medical care immediately and ask your healthcare professional if the infection could lead to sepsis.

Recovery from sepsis

Recovery typically starts with rehabilitation in the hospital. This includes building your strength back up and receiving help with things like bathing, sitting up, standing, and walking. Upon returning home, it is normal to feel weak and fatigued and have difficulty sleeping. Some people also experience a loss of appetite which results in weight loss. To help keep the recovery process moving, you can rest and rebuild your strength, eat a balanced diet, and exercise if you are feeling up to it.

Some patients experience long-term effects of sepsis. These can include:

How Ohio Valley Hospice can help prevent and care for sepsis

Ohio Valley Hospice has a sepsis program designed to promote quality of care and improve outcomes for those at risk for developing sepsis, as well as those recovering from sepsis. We have the resources and expertise to provide our patients with state-of-the-art care for dangerous conditions, such as sepsis.

Our sepsis program is designed to effectively:

Please contact us to learn more.

Calm middle-aged woman sitting in padmasana with eyes closed. Mature female holding hands pressed together in namaste and doing breathing exercises. Meditation and yoga idea

Benefits of Yoga for Hospice Patients

We’ve all heard how good yoga is for you, but have you ever thought about the benefits of yoga for hospice patients? Yoga is defined as a spiritual discipline that is widely practiced for health and relaxation that includes breath control, simple meditation, and specific bodily postures. All of these things can be used to help hospice patients and their families navigate through an emotionally stressful time.

A brief history of yoga

Yoga is a combination of spiritual, mental, and physical practices that originated in ancient India approximately 5,000 years ago. It was originally practiced primarily to cultivate spiritual harmony and enlightenment.

It started to become more popular in the late 1800s as it spread west. New practitioners viewed it as a path to inner peace and better health. Then, we saw what is called the ‘Modern Yoga Renaissance’ in the 1920s where the physical practice of yoga dramatically changed. Prior to this point, it really only consisted of a few standing poses. Today, yoga has become a key component of holistic health.

Learn more about the history of yoga here.

What yoga looks like for hospice patients

When we think of yoga, we often think of poses like downward dog or child’s pose or even the more complex poses that turn a person into a pretzel. However, before you can learn to twist and turn and pose like that, you must focus on something you already know how to do. In fact, you do it all day, every day: breathe.

In yoga, breath control is referred to as pranayama [pränəˈyämə], and it is essential. There are several forms of pranayama that can be done from the seated position. One example of this is Adham Pranayama. It can be performed either sitting or lying down, whatever is most comfortable. The focus of Adham Pranayama is ‘belly breathing,’ or breathing deeply into your stomach.  

So how do you do it, you ask. First, place one hand on your stomach and the other on your chest. Breathe in and out. Focus on moving only your abdomen, instead of inflating your chest. It’s as simple as that. Practicing Adham Pranayama has several benefits, including reducing insomnia, providing oxygen to the body, and relieving stress.

There are many other forms of pranayama that can be done anywhere and in comfortable, seated positions. You can learn more about them here.

Why hospice patients should consider yoga

Yoga can easily be adapted to fit the needs and ability of the person doing it. Plus, it can be done anywhere- from a yoga studio to the comfort of your own home, even from your bed! Not to mention the benefits of mindful breathing. This can be an incredibly difficult time for patients and their loved ones. Taking time to truly focus on your breathing can provide a break in the stress and anxiety you may be feeling. Plus, it can be done together, helping to reduce everyone’s stress while also creating peaceful memories you’ll have forever.

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