Resources for Caregivers

Are you a caregiver or provider for a family member, friend, or patient? Do you help to take care of another person in need, including an ill spouse or an aging relative? Caregivers act as both healthcare provider and advocate for the person in their charge, and can be a financial resource when savings and social security are not an option. There are over 45 million caregivers in the United States, and there are resources available to help them fulfill their needs as they take on the care of others.

 

Whether you are taking care of the young or elderly; the ill, injured, or disabled; the difficulty of the work, while rewarding, can be draining. Respite care services (outlined here by StuffSeniorsNeed.com) can help allay the exhaustion and give a well-deserved break to caregivers. In 2009, the Lifespan Respite Care Program was authorized by Congress and has since been implemented in 37 states. Funded by federal grants from the Administration for Community Living and the Administration on Aging, the program has expanded access to respite care for caregivers of patients of all ages.

Caregivers of veterans are eligible for support from the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). In addition to respite care, VA Caregiver Services include home-based healthcare for those in need. Respite services and home-based healthcare are also offered by a number of organizations that can be found by searching for “Respite Care” and/or “Home Care” under Services Provided in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance database, though is not offered for all diagnoses.

While many options for respite or help at home are free or low-cost, there are out-of-pocket expenses even when Medicare or Medicaid covers portions of the cost. Call NeedyMeds’ toll-free helpline (800-503-6897) for information on respite, home care, or other forms of caregiver support. It is important to note that with different eligibility requirements for different programs in different areas of the country, it can be difficult to find a one-stop resource for caregivers. If you are having trouble finding services in your area, contact a local social worker.

 

We have an upcoming webinar about Self-Care for Caregivers. While taking care of others, it is often hard to find the time to take care of yourself. You are likely exhausted, stressed, and struggling to get everything done on your to-do-list. Our presentation will teach you how to practice self-care by tracking your own health and managing your stress using our free smartphone app, NeedyMeds HealthStorylines. You will also learn how you can use the tool to manage the health of your loved ones or patients, including their medications, symptoms, and health vitals.

Suicide Prevention Awareness

Suicide is a leading cause of death in the United States. Each year over 41,000 people in America kill themselves—a rate that has increased 30% since 1999. Mental health conditions are often seen as the cause of suicide, but 54% of those who commit suicide do not have a known mental illness. Suicide is rarely caused by a single factor, and are also affected by personal relationships, substance use, physical health, and stress from jobs, money, legal issues, and/or housing. In addition to September being Suicide Prevention Month, the week surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day is National Suicide Prevention Week. Awareness is important to end the stigma of suicidal feelings and help more people access life-saving help in dark times.

 

Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, but it is important to know they are not permanent. Having suicidal thoughts is not a sign of weakness or failure, but is a symptom of profound distress. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors can be very damaging and dangerous, and should be considered a psychiatric emergency. Other than mental illness, there are a number of risk factors for suicide:

 

  • A family history of suicide

  • Substance abuse—using drugs and alcohol results in mental/emotional highs and lows that can exacerbate suicidal thoughts

  • Intoxication—more than a third of people who die from suicide are under the influence at the time

  • Access to firearms

  • A serious or chronic medical illness

  • A history of trauma or abuse

  • Prolonged stress

  • Isolation

  • A recent tragedy or loss

  • Agitation and sleep deprivation

 

Certain populations can be more at risk than others. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, but men are four times more likely to die from it. Correlations have also been made according to age; people under 24 or above 65 are at a higher risk for suicide. LGBT people are at a higher risk for attempting suicide than heterosexual/cisgender individuals, especially among those who experience rejection from their families.

 

There are warning signs to watch for if you are afraid someone you know may be having suicidal thoughts:

  • Infographic from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    Infographic from American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

    Suicidal ideation—threats or comments about killing themselves that may appear harmless but can become overt and dangerous

  • Increased alcohol or drug use

  • Aggressive behavior and/or dramatic mood swings

  • Social withdrawal from friends, family, and community

  • Talking, writing, or thinking about death

  • Impulsive or reckless behaviors

The more serious signs include:

  • Putting affairs in order

  • Giving away meaningful possessions

  • Saying goodbye to friends and family

  • Mood shifts from despair to calm

  • Planning, possibly by looking around to buy, steal, or borrow the tools they need to complete suicide, such as a firearm or prescription medication

 

If you know someone who might be thinking about suicide, you can help by offering to listen. Listening to someone can show that they are cared for, give them a greater feeling of control, and help them feel connected to another person. It is important to remain calm and vigilant of their feelings.

After listening for a while, ask the person if they have thought about suicide. Asking can be scary and difficult, but the answer will give more information than watching for warning signs. If they answer “No,” keep listening; don’t tell them you are glad or relieved, as they may be less likely to be honest if their answer changes. If their answer is “Yes,” it is important to stay calm and not show signs of fear or anger; keep listening, let them know you care, and ask questions about any further thoughts or plans to commit suicide. Get the person help, even if they have not agreed to it. Telling a professional about your concerns can save their life.

 

NeedyMeds has information for over 5,000 free, low-cost, or sliding-scale clinics throughout the country that offer counseling or mental health services for those in need. Search your ZIP Code for mental health clinics near you, or call our toll-free helpline for information at 1-800-503-6897 (open Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm ET).

We encourage everyone to educate themselves, strive to understand the difficulties people around us live with, and to replace stigma with hope and support. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, it is important to know that no one is alone in their struggle. Call for assistance, whether help is needed immediately or long-term.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
NeedyMeds Toll-Free Helpline: 1-800-503-6897

E-Cigarettes & Vaporizers

We have discussed the health ramifications of smoking tobacco in previous blog posts, but the rising trend in vaping with e-cigarettes leaves some with misconceptions that it is safe or at least less dangerous than smoking conventional cigarettes. Vaporizers and e-cigarettes are now the most commonly used tobacco products among youth.

 

Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items.Image from CDC

Some e-cigarettes are made to look like regular cigarettes, cigars, or pipes. Some resemble pens, USB sticks, and other everyday items.
Image from CDC

E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that heat a liquid (or “juice”) which contains nicotine, flavorings, and other chemicals. While no flame is used to combust and cause smoke, there is an aerosol vapor expelled when using e-cigarettes. The vapor can contain harmful chemicals, including nicotine; ultrafine particles that can be inhaled deep into the lungs; flavoring such as diacetyl, a chemical linked to a serious disease called “popcorn lung”; volatile organic compounds such as benzene, which is found in car exhaust; and heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.

 

While the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found vaping may benefit adult smokers as a complete substitute for traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults, pregnant women, or adults who do not regularly use tobacco products. With vaping being a relatively new trend, more research is needed to better understand the health ramifications of vaping nicotine.

 

E-cigarettes and vape liquid are regulated the same as conventional cigarettes and often available at convenience stores, gas stations, specialty shops, or through the internet. Retailers selling them should check the ID of whoever is buying vaporizers or “e-cig juice” the same as other tobacco products. Despite this, a 2015 study found that 44% of high school youth in Massachusetts had used e-cigarettes in the previous 30-days.

 

The liquid nicotine used in e-cigarettes can be especially dangerous outside of the vaporizers. While some vape models use disposable pre-filled pods of the liquid, others require to be filled with the “e-juice” when depleted. The liquid itself is poisonous—as little as a teaspoon can be deadly for a child if swallowed or spilled on their skin. Companies that produce liquid nicotine have been criticized for marketing to children, often flavoring the “juice” like fruit or candy and packaging the liquid in similar eye-catching ways to junk food.

 

For those looking to quit, consult your doctor or call the CDC’s toll-free helpline at 1-800-QUIT-NOW (1-800-784-8669).  NeedyMeds has resources for many smoking-related conditions in our Diagnosis-Based Assistance area of our site, including Addiction which may list programs that offer help with quitting as well. For more information on e-cigarettes or vaping, check GetOutRaged.org.

Help Kids Stay Healthy Going Back to School

It is the time of year that children are preparing to return to school where they will be exposed to lots of new experiences and ideas but also higher risk of exposure to viruses and other illnesses. Here are tips to ensure your children have a successful and healthy time in school.

  1. Vaccinations are the best course for preventing illness. In addition to the vaccines recommended by your doctor, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends an annual flu vaccine for everyone over 6 months of age.

  2. Sleep is essential to keep children (and adults) focused throughout the day. Adults need about eight hours of sleep, while young children often need more. It’s important to set a bedtime that ensures they get enough sleep, and to keep a consistent schedule.

  3. It is never too early to teach good hygiene habits. To help children avoid getting sick and prevent them from bringing germs home, it’s important to show them how to wash their hands after using the restroom or before eating.

  4. A healthy diet can help children grow and learn more effectively, as well as keep their immune systems primed to fight off illness. Avoid junk food and soft drinks, and consider packing children’s lunches with healthy snacks.

  5. Going back to school is stressful for both parents and kids; for some children, it may be a new sensation. Help manage stress by talking to children about anything bothering them and take care not to overload anyone’s schedule. Schoolwork is important, but it is essential for mental health to relax, play, and spend time with family.

  6. Student backpacks should never weigh more than 10-20% of a child’s body weight, and should be adjusted properly to the bottom of the pack so it sits at the child’s waist.  Encourage children to use both shoulder straps; slinging a backpack over one shoulder can strain muscles and hurt their back.

  7. If your child has a chronic health condition, ensure the school nursing staff is aware and carefully go over any emergency plans with your child and school health personnel.

 

Children of different ages may have different experiences in school, but these tips are a good foundation to staying healthy while learning and growing. If you are having trouble accessing vaccination or other services, NeedyMeds has a database of over 17,000 free, low-cost, and sliding-scale medical clinics all over the country. The NeedyMeds Drug Discount Card can be of help for prescribed medicines, even over-the-counter medications if written as a prescription. The free discount card is also available as an iPhone and Android app. For children affected by a chronic health condition, there may be academic scholarships or extracurricular camps and retreats available. For more information, call our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897 Monday through Friday, 9am to 5pm Eastern Time.

National Health Center Week

This week is National Health Center Week. As healthcare has become more and more expensive, the need for low-cost healthcare has increased. Many people living in more rural parts of the country have a very limited number of options to see a doctor, and depending on their insurance status the number of available “in-network” doctors is even lower. Many people do not regularly see their doctor, only seeking healthcare when a more serious condition arises. It can be a stressful situation to be uninsured and have an unforeseen medical problem come up. This week is meant to celebrate and raise awareness of local community owned and operated clinics providing high quality, cost effective, accessible care to more than 27 million Americans.

medical clinic signOne of the most popular sections of the NeedyMeds website is our listing of Free, Low-Cost, and Sliding-Scale Clinics. We list three different types of clinics on NeedyMeds.org. The first are free clinics, which provide services at no cost to the patient. The second are low-cost clinics that usually have a low flat-fee for all patients or types of visit. The third are sliding-scale clinics; the price for these clinics is based on the patient’s ability to pay, and is usually derived from their income and family size as it relates to the federal poverty level.

Each clinic offers a different variety of services. We list locations by medical clinics, dental clinics, mental health clinics, and substance abuse clinics. Other services include women’s health, family planning, health screenings, vision, pediatrics, podiatry, and pharmacy services among others. Each clinic also has its own hours, and may only serve select towns or counties.

Every clinic also has its own set of eligibility requirements. In most cases these requirements deal with insurance status, income, and residence status. Some clinics require that the patient has no insurance whatsoever while others work with both the uninsured and underinsured. Many clinics accept patients on Medicare and Medicaid—but not all. Sliding-scale clinics in general have an income requirement based on the federal poverty level, making the clinic only available to those under a certain annual income. There are also many clinics that have no income requirements.

We list over 17,000 clinics on NeedyMeds, making it easy to find one near you. From the Free Clinics page, select Mental, Dental, Mental Health, or Substance Abuse clinic depending on your needs, and then select your state or type in your ZIP code to find a clinic in your area. A list of local clinics will appear with contact information, as well as eligibility requirements, services, and hours. You can print out a selection of clinics or the entire page of clinics from your search. We encourage users to check the clinic’s website for any additional information. You can also get the information from our toll-free helpline at 1-800-503-6897, available 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday.

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