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Supporting the Patient and Family: The Role of the Social Worker

April 1, 2014

Terah Hatter can sum up her job in one word – amazing. Her job, she says, “is about caring.”

“It’s an honor to walk beside the patient and family to help them through a difficult time,” says Hatter, LMSW, a social worker for IntegraCare, which is an affiliate of Kindred at Home and an agency that provides home health, hospice and private duty nursing care in Texas.

It’s not so easy to describe a typical day for Hatter, if only because each one presents new challenges.

Each day she reviews referrals, which may come from the patient, family or the healthcare team. Patients may need to have meals delivered to their home or the patient’s primary family caregiver may need someone to stay with the patient while they run errands or even just take a break.

Hatter has a list of community resources but says she also relies on other social workers and agencies to help locate the right resources for each patient and family.

Kindred at HomeOne way Hatter and other IntegraCare social workers help determine those needs is through a “life review.” She describes this review as very “conversational.” The goal, she says, is “to help shine a light on how the patient or family member coped with adversity in the past.” In understanding how people have dealt with other difficult situations, social workers at IntegraCare can help devise the most effective support plans for helping them cope with their illness or the illness of a family member.

In Hatter’s experience, the patient’s family may not all be on the same page, especially with patients in hospice care. She recalls a situation in which one family member continued to believe that the patient would recover, a belief that wasn’t shared by the medical experts or the rest of the family. While it’s a normal part of the grieving process to experience denial, Hatter says that the social worker “is likely to be the person who gives a reality check on the patient’s medical condition and progress.”

It’s a tough job, but Hatter has seen firsthand the rewards of helping families get to a place where they can focus on spending time together and working together to support the patient.

For her patients, too, she knows how beneficial it can be for them to adjust to and face their situation. In some instances, for patients in hospice care, that transition may provide an opportunity for them to accomplish a life goal, which she is happy to help make a reality. For both the patients and their families, Hatter helps pull together all the resources they will need to cope with what could be the most devastating situation they’ve encountered in their lives.

While there are social workers in many areas, including healthcare, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) describes the general role that every social worker has: “Social workers help individuals, families and groups restore or enhance their capacity for social functioning, and work to create societal conditions that support communities in need.”

Healthcare Headlines Week of March 24, 2014

March 28, 2014

Healthcare_Headlines_3.24.14Flu Vaccines Can Help Even the Most Frail and Elderly

Debunking concern that flu vaccines can do more harm than good in very old and frail people, a new study out of Hong Kong suggests that flu vaccines can save the lives of even the most frail and elderly in nursing homes and hospitals. Read the story

Program Teaches Kids to Recognize Symptoms of Stroke

An experimental program run through a New York hospital aims to teach children to recognize the signs of stroke, so that they may help stroke victims — who may be family members — get help sooner. Read the story

There’s a pretty good chance some children might witness a parent or a grandparent having a stroke. So if they’re armed with the signs and symptoms, they could likely save a life. — Jim Baranski, CEO of the National Stroke Association

More Protections Suggested for Seniors in Medicare Advantage

Proposed new rules would protect seniors enrolled in Medicare Advantage, who currently only have 30 days’ notice of network changes. Recent doctor terminations have sparked protest from beneficiaries as well as physician groups. Read the story

Hospitalizations Potentially Preventable for Some Patients

A study has concluded that a certain subset of long-term care patients — those who are cognitively impaired and on feeding tubes — have high numbers of potentially preventable hospitalizations for things like urinary tract infections and other conditions that could be addressed through good outpatient care. Read the story

Hospital Leadership Addressing Patient Experience

The addition of Chief Patient Experience Officers in hospitals such as the Cleveland Clinic underscores a new focus on the importance of the patient experience in today’s changing healthcare environment. Read the story

 CMS Training Videos Answer FAQs

New Minimum Data Set training videos are designed to answer frequently asked questions and clarify code-related items for post-acute providers. Read the story

Working May Keep Seniors Fit — Mentally and Physically

Continuing to work well past “retirement age” may make sense financially for some people, but new research shows it might also be beneficial to health. Depression and mental illness rates go up after retirement, and so does incidence of arthritis and hypertension. Read the story


There are so many different factors that come into play. Are you retiring ’cause you want to? Are you retiring involuntarily? Are you working or volunteering after retirement? These are all critical factors in terms of your mental health, and I think they also affect your physical health — Dr. Edward Schneider, Professor of Gerontology at the University of Southern California and the former deputy director of the National Institute on Aging

Can Exercise Protect Aging Eyes?

New research suggests that exercise may have a protective effect on aging eyes, staving off age-related macular degeneration, which causes central vision loss. The new research, coupled with earlier research, seems to indicate that exercise has a protective effect on neurons that affect vision. Read the story

 iPods Used as Memory Tool

As part of a new initiative, some nursing centers are using iPods for patients with myriad memory-related conditions — such as dementia and Alzheimer’s — to rekindle memories. Read the story

 Bill to Halt Medicare Payment Cuts Passes House

A bill that would stop cuts in Medicare payments to doctors has passed the House and advances to the Senate. This represents the latest chapter in the ongoing struggle to fix the broken Medicare fee formula. Read the story

Opinions expressed in any of the included stories or their publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kindred Healthcare and this blog post is a compilation of news stories from other sources that have appeared during the past week.



Helping Patients Move Forward After Brain Injury

March 27, 2014

Brain Injury Program, Kindred Rehabilitation HospitalsWhen it comes to cases involving brain injuries, “No two patients are alike,” Amy Hoffner, the administrator for Kindred Rehabilitation Hospital Arlington, says. An individualized care plan is critical when helping brain injury patients recover and return home. And it takes a team of specialists to tailor the rehabilitation plan so it addresses both the physical, cognitive, and emotional issues involved.

The brain injury program at Kindred’s Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospitals focuses on helping patients restore function and learn how to do things differently when functions can’t be restored to pre-injury levels. The program combines a multidisciplinary team with the technologies and tools specifically geared toward brain injuries.

In addition to physician specialists, Kindred’s brain injury team includes rehabilitation trained nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists, clinical dietitians, neuropsychologists, orthotists, social workers and case managers. The therapists often have extensive training in areas such as Neuro-IFRAH, Neurodevelopmental technique, Vital Stim, and more.

Hoffner says that the one thing these healthcare professionals can count on is “facing a new challenge every day.” “It takes a special person to work with brain-injury patients,” she says. “There could be cognitive and behavioral issues that need to be taken into account when providing therapy.”

Kindred highlighted its specialized brain injury treatment program in recognition of Brain Injury Awareness Month in March. The Centers for Disease Control also offered information on prevention of traumatic brain injuries.

Hoffner is proud of her facility’s staff and of the comprehensive brain injury rehabilitation program it offers. As part of the program, the staff may visit the patient’s home or workplace. “Home evaluations are time consuming, but extremely important; other healthcare organizations may not incorporate them into their treatment plans,” says Hoffner. She emphasizes, however, how critical these visits can be in helping make sure that patients return to a safe environment where they are able to cope with the activities of daily living.

Kindred’s brain injury team provides practical guidance for patients and their families for everything from how to safely get in and out of bed to cooking meals. They also make recommendations to prevent further injuries, which is especially important for the elderly, Hoffner says, because they may have depth perception or other medical issues that make them more prone to falls at home.

Combining the expertise of everyone on the team is what makes Kindred’s program so unique. “It’s individualized coordinated care,” Hoffner explains. “And everyone on the team is working toward the same goal to maximize independence.”

If you would like more information on a career in a Kindred Inpatient Rehabilitation Hospital, please check Kindred’s Career page.

American Diabetes Association Alert Day®

March 25, 2014

Did you know that every fourth Tuesday of every March is The American Diabetes Association Alert Day? Diabetes is an epidemic and is the seventh leading cause of death in the United States. Over 25 million children and adults in the United States or 8.3% of the population have diabetes. Approximately 7 million people are unaware that they have diabetes and go undiagnosed. As a result, on Tuesday, March 25, 2014, The American Diabetes Association is “Alerting” the public to this chronic disease and is asking everyone to take the Diabetes Risk Test to find out if you are at risk for developing type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. The body does not produce enough insulin or doesn’t use insulin efficiently which causes blood sugars to increase. Diabetes when poorly controlled, can lead to other medical problem such as heart disease, strokes, kidney disease, blindness, nerve damage and amputations. Type 2 diabetes used to be called “Adult On-set Diabetes” where adults usually over the age of 40 developed type 2 diabetes. However, with the increase rate of obesity, younger people of all age ranges, even pre-teens or teens, are developing type 2 diabetes.

eat healthyFive basic tips to lowering your risk for type 2 diabetes:

  1. Being overweight increases your risk! Manage your weight within a healthy range with a BMI between 18.5-24.9
  2. Eat healthy
  3. Maintain physical activity daily to help maintain a healthy weight range
  4. Avoid or quit smoking
  5. Control your blood pressure to less than 120/80

In joining the American Diabetes Association, I encourage you to take the diabetes risk test here

Visit these sites for more information on diabetes: or

Click here to find a Registered Dietitian in your area.

Healthcare Headlines Week of March 17, 2014

March 21, 2014

Healthcare_Headlines_3.17.14CMS Updates Two-Midnight Guidance

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has updated its guidance on medical review of inpatient claims, instructing Medicare administrative contractors to use the two-midnight policy when reviewing claims regarding a surgery that was canceled. Read the story

Coordinated Care Helps Seniors and Saves Money

A study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, found that when care was coordinated for patients with chronic diseases, meaning they saw fewer providers, they had fewer complications and costs stayed down. Read the story

The findings…suggest that better coordination of care for patients with these diseases could save Medicare up to $1.5 billion a year, said the researchers at RAND Corporation, a nonprofit research organization.

Foot Ulcers a Costly Component of Diabetes Care

A new study has found that eliminating diabetic foot ulcers could cut the cost of diabetes care in half. The cost of caring for foot ulcers is driven up by hospitalizations, home healthcare days, emergency room visits and physician office visits, raising the cost of diabetes care $9 to $13 billion. Read the story

Pennsylvania Studies Ways to Improve Long-Term Care

The governor of Pennsylvania has created a Long-Term Care Commission to undertake two studies aimed at improving long-term care for elderly in the state and for younger residents with disabilities. Read the story

Screenings Lead to Drop in Death Rate from Colon Cancer

Colon cancer death rates have dropped by about 30 percent over the past ten years, and screenings are being largely credited. Read the story

This is one of the great public health success stories of the decade — Richard Wender, Chief Cancer Control Officer at the American Cancer Society

Quality Improvement Measures Being Taken

A MedPAC report indicates that long-term care providers are making strides implementing quality improvement initiatives, with preventative hospital readmissions dropping overall for the first time in a decade. Read the story

Ad Urges Congress to Avoid Healthcare Cuts

A new television ad features people sharing their opinions about how cuts to Medicare and Medicaid would affect patients. The ad is sponsored by the Coalition to Protect America’s Health Care. Read the story

Affordable Care Act Outreach Gets Creative

“Quirky stunts and niche messaging” are being used to sell the Affordable Care Act in its final weeks before the March 31 enrollment deadline. College basketball and its March Madness popularity is one vehicle being used. Read the story

Many Underestimate Retirement Costs

A study has found that many pre-retirees assume they will be healthier than average in their older age. The average couple, the study found, estimates they will spend $100,000 on healthcare in retirement but the actual bill tends to come in at $220,000, for example. Read the story

Long-term Care Providers Under Increasing Pressure to Perform

At the 2014 National Investment Center for the Seniors Housing and Care Industry Regional Conference, the discussion turned to outcomes and increasing pressures on long-term care providers to perform in a time of change characterized by healthcare reform, innovation, evolving consumer preferences and technology. Read the story

Opinions expressed in any of the included stories or their publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Kindred Healthcare and this blog post is a compilation of news stories from other sources that have appeared during the past week.

10 Tips for Healthy Eating on the Run

March 20, 2014
Quincie Grounds, RD/LD, CNSC

Quincie Grounds, RD/LD, CNSC

Americans are looking for fast, easy, and good-tasting foods to fit a busy lifestyle. Whether it’s carry-out, food court, office cafeteria or sit-down restaurant, there are smart choices everywhere. Here are 10 tips to help you eat healthy when eating out. Think ahead and plan where you will eat. Consider what meal options are available. Look for restaurants or carry-out with a wide range of menu items.

  1. Take time to look over the menu and make careful selections. Some restaurant menus may have a special section for “healthier” choices. Read restaurant menus carefully for clues to fat and calorie content. Menu terms that can mean less fat and calories: baked, braised, broiled, grilled, poached, roasted, and steamed.
  2. healthy eating nutrition monthIt’s OK to make special requests, just keep them simple. For example, ask for a baked potato or side salad in place of French fries; no mayonnaise or bacon on your sandwich; sauces served on the side.
  3. Think about your food choices for the entire day. If you’re planning a special restaurant meal in the evening, have a light breakfast and lunch.
  4. Tempted by sweet, creamy desserts? Order one dessert with enough forks for everyone at the table to have a bite.
  5. Split your order. Share an extra large sandwich or main course with a friend or take half home for another meal.
  6. Boost the nutrition in all types of sandwiches by adding tomato, lettuce, peppers or other vegetables.
  7. Load up your pizza with vegetable toppings. If you add meat, make it lean ham, Canadian bacon, chicken or shrimp.
  8. Build a better breakfast sandwich. Replace bacon or sausage with Canadian bacon or ham and order your sandwich on a whole grain English muffin or bagel.
  9. Be size-wise about muffins, bagels, croissants and biscuits. A jumbo muffin has more than twice the fat and calories of the regular size.
  10. Grabbing dinner at the supermarket deli? Select rotisserie chicken, salad-in-a-bag and freshly baked bread. Or, try sliced lean roast beef, onion rolls, potato salad and fresh fruit.

Find more information about healthy eating at designed to help you “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”

Try Something New for National Nutrition Month

March 18, 2014

As we focus on good nutrition during National Nutrition Month, I challenge you to explore new flavors and foods. Explore the vast array of foods at your local grocery store, restaurants, and at home in your own kitchen.

healthy cookingAt the grocery store:

When shopping, make it a point to try one new fruit, vegetable or whole grain every week. Start small by picking a new variety of apple or potato and then try venturing into the world of whole grains trying whole wheat couscous, quinoa, barley, whole grain rice and whole wheat pastas. Have your family choose a new recipe to try each week that includes an ingredient you aren’t familiar with.

Eating at restaurants:

The next time you and your family head out to eat, choose a restaurant that features ethnic foods from Asia, Europe or Africa. These restaurants often feature menus filled with healthy options that will be new to you. Try a restaurant that specializes in local produce or seasonal ingredients. Try a vegetarian or vegan restaurant. Grab a friend and spend a night enjoying something new.

Cooking at home:

Add variety to your staple dishes by varying the ways you cook them. Grill or broil the chicken you typically bake. Mash the potatoes you typically roast. Grill or steam the vegetables you typically sauté. And get to know your spice cabinet. There are hundreds if not thousands of herbs and spices at your local grocery store and farmer’s market. So pick up your spatula, grab the nearest cookbook and get started!

Find more information about healthy eating at designed to help you “Enjoy the Taste of Eating Right.”


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