If you have ever shared a deep belly laugh with a friend and instantly felt a little bit better, you probably understand where the saying “laughter is the best medicine” comes from. More than just a pleasurable in-the-moment experience, laughing can be a pathway to greater joy, renewed optimism, and better relationships. It turns out that “laughter is the best medicine” is more than just a sweet saying—there are a whole host of physical and mental benefits associated with having a laugh.
In addition to the individual benefits we experience, laughter helps us bond with others. Quality relationships with our friends, loved ones, and caregivers have a profound impact on our mental health, and laughing together can be a way to nurture these relationships and strengthen positive bonds. We can find more connection and delight in all our relationships, both new and old, through humor and play. As we will see, laughter can make all the difference.
Physical benefits of laughter
Finding something that makes you giggle can actually improve your physical well-being, from making your body feel better in the moment to helping you fight infection down the road. Some of the physical benefits of laughter include:
Laughter relaxes the entire body, helping you to release tension in your muscles and feel calmer.
Laughter strengthens your immune system, which makes you more resistant to disease. This is achieved through laughter reducing the level of stress hormones in your body, and increasing the release of feel-good hormones like endorphins. It also increases the production of infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter lowers your blood pressure, again thanks to less stress hormones and more endorphins.
Laughter decreases your risk of heart attacks and can help to prevent heart disease. As more oxygenated blood is circulated throughout your body, vascular function improves.
Mental and emotional benefits of laughter
It probably comes as no surprise that laughing regularly can make you a happier and mentally healthier person. Some of the ways laughter improves mental and emotional well-being include:
Laughter reduces stress and increases energy. After a good laugh, you may report feeling more relaxed and able to focus.
Laughter activates the release of serotonin, the main hormone that stabilizes our mood and happiness. This is why laughing can help to stop distressing emotions or dull their impact, at least for a little while.
Laughter puts problems into perspective. When dealing with a challenge, laughter infuses lightness into the situation. It can help you to feel less overwhelmed and better equipped to face obstacles.
How to enjoy more laughter in your life
The benefits of laughter are clear, but some of us may not be getting enough of it. Here are some tips on how to make sure you get your daily dose:
Smile and laugh, even when it’s not arising organically. Though it may feel a bit odd at first, forcing yourself to smile or laugh can often lead to the real thing. Even when it doesn’t, a forced smile or simulated laugh can provide some of the same benefits as their natural counterparts.
Connect to your inner child. No matter our age, all of us have a child inside us—the child we once were, full of quirks, curiosity, joy, and humor. Try to embody some childlike qualities, like playfulness and openness, as you navigate this chapter of your life.
Seek out humorous media. Watch a comedy, read a funny book, or listen to a silly podcast, and you’ll be laughing in no time.
Laughter is best when we get to share it with those in our life. Appreciate your time with others, and try to laugh together. This could be your family and old friends, but if those loved ones aren’t nearby, it could also be your neighbors, caregivers or other confidants.
While exploring home health care for you or a loved one is a big decision, one that often comes with serious deliberation and challenging emotions, it doesn’t have to all be ‘heavy’. In the midst of the process, don’t forget to smile, and share a laugh with others, and know that there are skilled, warm care providers eager to share the joyous and wonderful life moments that make us all smile - along with you.
Whether you are in need of short-term or long-term care, our providers are committed to bringing you compassion and personalized attention - always with a positive smile.
Please give us a call at (561) 559-1555 or email us at wecare@synchronyFL.com to schedule a complimentary in-home consultation.
Regardless of how well seniors and their adult children prepare for the later stages of life, it’s not always easy or pleasant to talk about bringing in outside help. Seniors and their children need to come to the point of accepting that help is necessary.
There are many different ways to divide duties to make sure that the needs of the elderly are taken care of. Setting up in-home health care doesn’t necessarily mean bringing strangers into the home around the clock.
When seniors can no longer provide for all their needs adequately, and family exceeds their limits to help, it helps to have a candid discussion about what tasks aging parents can continue to do on their own.
From there, other family members can decide what they can and are willing to do to manage the remaining tasks.
Areas Where Seniors May Need Assistance
Think through the types of services that your loved ones need. Take into consideration how much support there is, the senior’s general health and available finances. Can family members or friends help out in some areas? Are they willing and able to help?
Once this is determined, you’ll have a better idea of whether hiring caregivers for home health care services for a few hours, a full day, or overnight will benefit your loved one. Seniors typically prefer getting help from family members when they need it, but that isn’t always possible. Getting help from home health aide services can be a bit of an adjustment in the beginning, but many seniors adapt fairly quickly and eventually look forward to seeing their home healthcare workers.
Here are some areas to think about.
Location, Location, Location
If location mattered during the working years, it matters much more during the retirement years. Here are three questions to consider:
How easy is it for seniors to get to town to do their banking, shopping, and other errands?
How easy is it for family members to get out to the senior’s home to help out with transportation, meals, home repairs, and other needs?
For seniors that live in rural or remote areas, do you have a plan if they need help in an emergency?
In thinking through healthcare needs, you may consider bringing in outside help, arranging for transportation, or moving the senior closer to the services they need most.
Home Accessibility and Maintenance
Seniors may love their homes, but it’s important to consider whether their family homes work as well for them as they used to. Ask the following questions to make the best determination:
Would adding ramps or stair lifts make it easier for the senior to remain living in their home?
Is it possible to make needed additions to the current home?
Does the home have too many steps or too steep of an incline to get into the house?
Is the senior able to keep up with lawn or home maintenance?
Many seniors can continue living in their homes by making a few minor modifications. [iii] Seniors that can take care of themselves may only need a few hours of lawn maintenance or access to an on-call handyman.
Managing the Household
There are many duties that go into managing a household—shopping, cleaning, laundry, gardening, paying bills, pet care, and managing doctor and other appointments. Find out which of these tasks the senior feels capable of handling and find resources to fill in the gaps. Some seniors will not want to give up tasks they enjoy.
Getting help for other things may afford them the time to tend to the activities they enjoy most.Elderly people that enjoy shopping may want or need a companion to go with them.
Seniors with chronic medical conditions like kidney disease, congestive heart disease, diabetes, or some other health issue may only need in home healthcare at regular intervals to give medical checks, administer medications, or provide treatments.
Other professionals also offer in home healthcare services. Occupational therapists, social workers, and home health nurses provide many services in the comfort of the senior’s home. You may also be able to find intensive home health care services like dementia care and hospice care.
Medicare, Medicaid, Veteran’s services, or private insurance cover many healthcare and social services.[iv]
As seniors age, their abilities to perform personal care and other activities of daily living tasks may decrease.[v] Many seniors find it very helpful to have a home health aide or personal care aide visit them for a few hours of the day to help with everyday tasks, including:
Taking blood pressure
Caring for plants or pets
Performing light housekeeping
Personal care services may extend to a full day or live-in care as the needs of the senior increase.
Availability of Transportation
It’s harder for seniors living in rural areas to get to town to do their banking, shopping, and other errands if they are unable to drive at night or not at all. It’s also more difficult for family members to take time from their busy schedules to help out if the driving distance is too far.
Home health aides often provide transportation and assistance for grocery shopping, personal shopping, assistance with banking, medical appointments, hair and barbering appointments, and other errands.[vi]
Seniors that live in the city or suburbs may have access to public transportation, which may make things easier. Public transportation is not always accessible or handicap accessible. Many communities have designated transportation for senior citizens.
Putting Together a Budget for In-Home Healthcare
As the needs for in-home health care services increase, costs can quickly add up. It helps to make a line-by-line budget with services, hours, and fees. If costs are getting out of control, home health care services may be able to help you get the most appropriate array of services that fits the budget.[vii]
Higher levels of care are costly in all settings, so it’s a good idea to periodically compare costs against in-home care, assisted living, and nursing care to see which type of care makes the most sense.
Weighing the Pros and Cons of Hiring a Home Healthcare Agency or Independent Caregiver
There are many pros and cons to hiring an independent healthcare aide, and the same is true when considering hiring in home healthcare aides through a home health care agency. You’ll also want to learn more about the impact of taxes, risks, and the legal relationship between you and an independent senior caregiver.
What to Ask Home Healthcare Agencies During an Interview
If you’re new to interviewing with a home health care agency, you may be at a loss regarding for what types of questions to ask. [xx] Depending on the type of care that your loved one needs, you may have specific questions.
Your discussion should include the following:
Questions about the agency
The credentials and training of the healthcare aides they employ
General practices, application, and payment
Read on to learn about some additional questions that you may want to add to your list.
Questions to Ask About the Agency
Before you ask any questions about caregivers, you’ll want to learn some of the background and history of the agency, including:
How they got started in the home healthcare industry
How long they’ve been in business
Awards they have won for quality services
You’ll also want to learn if there’s been a recent change in management. Learning more about the agency’s mission, vision, and background will give you a good first impression about whether their services are likely to be a fit.
Many seniors will pay for the bulk of home healthcare costs with Medicare. Medicaid may cover some other services. Most states require home healthcare agencies to be licensed by the state to bill for Medicare and Medicaid so, you’ll want to check and make sure the agency is able to accept your form of payment. If the agency isn’t licensed for Medicare, you’ll want to ask the reason.
Most states regularly review licensed home healthcare agencies. You may want to ask when the last review was and where you can get a copy of it. If you can’t get a copy right away, check with your state health department and see if you can get a copy there.
Home health care agencies typically get referrals from doctors, hospital discharge planners, social workers, and other professionals. Ask where the agency gets most of their referrals from and use them as references to check for credibility.
Ask the agency representative if they have privacy practices and if you can get a copy of them. Your loved one’s confidentiality is an important consideration.
Find out the types of services the agency provides including:
Additional questions include:
What steps will you need to take if you need to expand the level of care?
What is your protocol for responding to an emergency situation?
Can you provide verification that the healthcare workers are insured?
What happens if a home healthcare aide gets injured or has an accident at your loved one’s home?
Can you tell me about a time that they needed to fire a caregiver?
What are the circumstances surrounding letting someone go?
What is the process for applying for service?
How are things handled if I decide to terminate services for any reason?
Questions About Home Healthcare Aides and Senior Fit
Learn more about how the agency manages their staffing needs. Can you reasonably expect to have the same caregiver on a regular basis? What is the protocol for you to use if the assigned worker doesn’t regularly show up on time or if they don’t show up at all?
It’s a good idea to keep in mind that the agency may be short-staffed on weekends, holidays, or when there are special events going on in the area. Ask about the workforce supply during times when home healthcare aides ask for days off for holidays and other annual celebrations.
The agency, the senior, and the family members all have the best intentions of setting up the best overall care program, but sometimes, it just doesn’t work out. The senior doesn’t click with the caregiver or vice versa.
What is the agency willing to do in the event that the caregiver and senior clash?
In a perfect world, the caregiver will have similar interests as the senior that needs care. After all, they will be spending much time together.
Find out if the agency matches caregivers to clients with the same hobbies or other interests. Seniors who love to read but have trouble seeing may enjoy having a home healthcare aide that can read and discuss their favorite genre of books together.
Will the agency accept any special requests for caregivers with certain interests or passions?
Asking Questions to Assess the Quality of Home Healthcare Aides
Use this part of the interview process to learn more detailed information about how the agency screens their home health care aides. Ask questions like:
Do they perform background and criminal checks?
Does the agency make any exceptions for background and criminal checks that aren’t perfectly clear?
Will they perform additional screenings throughout the healthcare aide’s employment? If so, how often do they screen them?
Does the agency have a minimum standard for new home healthcare aides?
How do they assess new caregiver applicants?
What does their evaluation process look like and how often do they evaluate caregivers?
Do caregivers get their training from the agency or from another source?
Does the agency require the home healthcare aides to get continuing education or training?
How does the agency monitor and supervise their aides?
What is the family’s process for reporting any concerns or issues of non-compliance by agency workers?
Getting Specific Information About Caregivers
Ask if it’s possible to meet some of the agency’s home health care aides and determine the following:
Do they seem friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable?
Do you feel comfortable and at ease?
Do you see them being a good fit for your family?
If you decide to contract with the agency, will you be able to learn about the health care aide’s credentials and degree of experience in senior caregiving?
Will you be able to double check that the person has a health care license?
Will the senior be able to meet the caregiver and get acquainted before a formal working relationship starts?