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Stories and information from the HomeWell community.
Think positive for health!
The power of positive thinking has been touted in recent years, especially as it pertains to health and well-being. For senior citizens, who may deal with medical issues more often than younger adults, companionship and hobbies that boost happiness may boost health as well.
A recent study in the medical journal Cancer further enforced the notion that one’s mental state may impact health, revealing that death rates are almost 40 percent higher in cancer patients with depression.
The study, “Depression as a predictor of disease progression and mortality in cancer patients: a meta-analysis,” was published online in September and will be featured in the November 2009 print edition of Cancer.
For the study, researchers took a look at 26 previous studies, involving nearly 10,000 cancer patients. Each study examined links between depression, cancer progression and patient survival.
“We found an increased risk of death in patients who report more depressive symptoms than others, and also in patients who have been diagnosed with a depressive disorder, compared to patients who have not," said Jillian Satin, one of the researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada.
Across the various studies, death rates were up to 25 percent higher in those subjects with symptoms of depression and up to 39 percent higher in those diagnosed with major or minor depression.
The researchers were quick to point out that these studies looked at all kinds of cancer, and further investigation is necessary to pinpoint the effects of depression on patients diagnosed with specific tumor types.
However, the study’s authors do recommend that physicians screen for depressive symptoms, mostly due to the fact that the results of this research show an increased risk of death associated with depression, even after factoring in the other clinical characteristics that may affect survival rates.
Among senior citizens, with or without a serious illness such as cancer, the results of this study seem to point toward the power of positive thinking for wellness in general. Be sure to keep an eye out for any sign of the blues among your own elderly loved ones.
According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of depression include loss of interest in daily activities, restlessness, crying for no apparent reason and other such symptoms.
To stave off minor depression and promote positive thinking, friends and family members may wish to ensure senior citizens have regular companionship, as well as hobbies that boost happiness, such as puzzles, gardens, music or church.
Meet Christina Mathena
Caregiving comes naturally to Christina Mathena, a HomeWell Personal Assistant who’s been caring for others nearly all her life. Mathena has worked in the realm of senior care for more than four years, and she serves as the state-approved individual provider of care for her disabled brother.
“Ever since I was little I helped out taking care of my brother, so caretaking comes naturally to me,” she said.
“I’ve always had a caretaker personality. I love it.”
Mathena currently serves as a full-time HomeWell Personal Assistant to one senior client. She said HomeWell took the time to match her with the right client, in terms of both their personalities and the client’s particular needs.
“We go for walks, and he tells me about the history of our town and the different things he did in the war,” Mathena said. “I’m like a HomeWell housewife is the way I put it. I do the cooking, I do the cleaning, and I help him with his personal care.”
Besides performing household tasks and providing personal care, Mathena also is a registered nurse assistant, so she has the training to deliver increased personal assistance, should the need arise. Although she has certification in medical assisting as well, Mathena said she prefers a career in home care.
“Giving care through HomeWell is more of a personal relationship than working in a doctor’s office,” she said. “I love the relationship you gain with your client — the friendship.
“You go home and think about all the things you got done for somebody who wasn’t able to do it themselves,” Mathena continued. “You go home with a lot of accomplishments.”
This HomeWell Personal Assistant said she plans to continue taking courses on the route to becoming a registered nurse.
However, Mathena doesn’t see herself working in a traditional office or hospital environment, but continuing to provide care where her patients are most comfortable.
“I plan to be a traveling nurse,” she said, “so I can go to people’s homes and help them out instead of working in a hospital.”
Meet Selamawit Alemayheu
In 2003, Selamawit Alemayheu moved to the United States from Ethiopa. Soon after, she began her career as a caregiver, working with senior clients in various private homes.
“I love caring for elderly people,” she said. “I learn so many things from them, because they have lived long, full lives and have a lot of wisdom to share.”
Around 2006, the experienced caregiver came to work for HomeWell Senior Care, and she has since served as a thriving Personal Assistant to several HomeWell clients.
“When I care for my elderly clients, I feel like I’m taking care of my own family,” Alemayheu said. “I feel like this could be my grandma, my dad, my mom.”
The comparison to caring for family extends into every aspect of working with seniors for this Personal Assistant. “When you’re working with the elderly, you have to be patient and very kind,” Alemayheu said. “Remember to treat them like family, and to be very respectful.”
Currently, the HomeWell Personal Assistant is working with one elderly HomeWell client, a woman who is on hospice. Alemayheu is with her every Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.
“I make sure she’s clean and comfortable at all times,” Alemayheu said. “I change her clothes, brush her teeth, comb her hair, and I also do light housekeeping for her, such as vacuuming and dusting.”
In addition, the Personal Assistant makes sure her client takes each of her medications properly and on time. She also prepares meals for the senior.
Alemayheu said she has been working with this particular client for about four months. During the week, another Personal Assistant comes in to serve the senior.
When she’s not working with, caring for and learning from the elderly, Alemayheu enjoys several of her own relaxing hobbies, such as reading and taking walks in the parks nearby.
Meet Minty Donaldson
Margaret Jane Donaldson was a colicky baby. Her family found mint tea to be the most soothing antidote for their infant. Little did they know this “cure” would lead to a nickname the baby girl would be known by all her life — Minty.
She was born in December 1915, in a home her father had built, located in the now-historic Washington Park neighborhood of Seattle. Minty was one of seven children, and her loved ones say she’s always been great fun to be around.
“She was a party girl, always entertaining at our house with so many friends,” said Laurie Daiger, Minty’s daughter. “She still comes to our family parties and goofs around, laughing and joking with us — nothing shocks her.”
Growing up in the Pacific Northwest, Minty became an avid skier. She also enjoyed golf and acting in local plays. According to her daughter, she was a fabulous cook as well.
In 1948, Minty married her husband, a Navy doctor whom she had been set up on a blind date with by another doctor and his wife, two of her friends. The couple remained married nearly 50 years, until her husband’s death in 1995.
During that time, Minty worked as a volunteer at a Seattle hospital, where her husband served as a surgeon, obstetrician and gynecologist. The family also was active in the local church.
These days, Margaret “Minty” Donaldson is a HomeWell Senior Care client, thriving with help from her live-in Personal Assistant. Minty’s family made the decision to hire HomeWell about three years ago.
“We decided to bring in help because she was having a hard time walking, but she didn’t want to be in assisted living or a nursing home,” Daiger said. “When you’re having a hard time walking, you can’t really be on your own, so we knew we needed live-in help.”
Minty’s Personal Assistant helps her bathe and get ready each day, setting her hair in rollers, carefully applying her makeup, picking out stylish clothes and making sure her nails are well-manicured.
“HomeWell does the things that would never happen if she was in assisted living,” Daiger said. “I think it’s helping her live longer, having somebody there to live with her and be friends with her, keeping her looking good and active, taking her to do things and making sure she exercises.”
The service brings Daiger a sense of peace, in addition to improving her mother’s quality of life.
“I think about my mother every day, but I can’t see her every day,” she said. “I feel assured that there’s somebody with her and taking care of her — it really eases my mind.”
Minty’s favorite activities today include tending to and enjoying the flowers on her deck, playing bingo and hanging out with her family. The senior has two children — Laurie and Lincoln — four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.