A heart-healthy class was taught to area homecare workers by Mary Wright, R.N. of the Oregon Home Care Commission as part of their continued education in caring for homebound clients. Blood pressure was one of the main topics. TRISH YERGES photo
Caring for patients at home is a serious responsibility but, thanks to continued education classes, homecare workers can keep abreast of how to deliver heart healthy care to their clients.
Homecare instructor Mary Wright, R.N., of the Oregon Home Care Commission in Salem, had been a registered nurse for 18 years. For the past three years, Wright has been traveling around the state, giving classes to homecare workers, teaching them the most current medical information to help their clients.
“The CDC lists the top leading causes of death,” said Wright at a recent “Heart Healthy” class for homecare workers.
“They include diseases of the heart, cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, strokes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes. That’s why it is important that we’re going to talk about heart healthy care.”
Monitoring one’s blood pressure is critical to early detection and treatment of heart disease. Blood pressure is the pressure exerted against the walls of arteries and veins when blood is being forced through them by a pumping heart.
Homecare workers Nickie Voltaire and Marina Miller, both of Elgin, attended Wright’s three-hour class and learned the importance of correct technique when taking blood pressure readings.
“I learned that you should always take it on the same arm each time, preferably the left and that arm should be bare. Don’t talk at all during the reading, not even if you’re spoken to because that can raise your blood pressure,” said Miller. “Always take a person’s blood pressure at the same time each day, too, and with the same blood pressure machine.”
A healthy blood pressure is 120/80, and hypertension is any measurement of 140/90 or higher. Wright said there is also a new (intermediate) category called pre-hypertension, which is a measurement higher than 120/80 but lower than 140/90.
Causes of hypertension include smoking, obesity (a body mass index of 30 or above), sedentary lifestyle, genetic predisposition and stress. Smoking and poor nutrition can harden or narrow the arteries, which raises blood pressure.
The symptoms of high blood pressure may be one or more of the following: a headache, dizziness, flushing, blurred vision, fatigue, and nose bleeds. To keep blood pressure under control, proactive homecare workers provide their clients with heart healthy diets and exercise.
“A heart healthy diet is low in fat, low in sodium and high in fiber,” said Miller. “Dark green vegetables have a high calcium and fiber value. There is also an optimum pH benefit in the dark green veggies like spinach and broccoli.”
Every body has an acid/alkaline composition or pH (potential Hydrogen). The pH scale ranges from 1 (extremely acidic) to 14 (extremely alkaline) and 7 is neutral. The desired blood pH for a healthy body is between 7.35 and 7.45. A person may measure the pH of his own urine and saliva easily with pH strips sold at most pharmacies.
“I’ve been a care giver for three years now,” said Voltaire, “and I have worked in a medical office for five years prior. I know through my own research and what I’ve seen and learned that diseased bodies are acidic bodies.”
To stay within the desired, healthy pH range, eating a balance of acidic and alkaline producing foods is important but so is drinking enough water --- the universal solvent. “Ninety-eight percent of us are dehydrated,” said Wright. “Many people end up in emergency rooms just for IV fluids.”
Wright taught her class of homecare workers that “water is the only method of delivery of air and nutrients in the body.” Understandably, it is vital for everyone to drink plenty of water each day, but how much?
“It’s important to drink half your weight in fluid ounces of water,” Voltaire said after attending Wright’s class. “You want to drink even more water if you drink caffeine, high fructose or carbonated drinks.”
Besides nutrients and water, exercise is very important, Wright said. It increases blood flow and brings oxygen to the cells. Homecare workers know the importance of keeping their sedentary clients moving every day.
“Exercise according to your ability,” said Voltaire. “Low impact exercises might include sitting and doing rotations of the ankles or lifting the arms over the head, causing circulation because without oxygen your cells will die.”
Miller, who has been providing homecare for seven years and has worked with a quadriplegic client, agrees.
“If the client can’t do the exercise herself, a homecare worker has to help by performing range of motion techniques for her,” she said. “This is especially the case for people who sit in chairs. They still have to keep limber.”
“If you don’t use it, you lose it” — applies in this case.
“Range of motion exercising is needed because ligaments and muscles, when not used, atrophy,” said Voltaire.
Both Voltaire and Miller have had prior homecare experience with clients who had severe heart and lung disease. They found Wright’s “Heart Healthy” class very instructive and useful.
“I would take this class even if I were not considering home care,” said Voltaire. “It’s good to know even for personal reasons.”
“We live in Union County, where there is a high percentage of people over the age of 50,” said Miller, “so your chances of encountering someone who needs home care is high.”
Homecare workers may inquire about taking continuing education classes by contacting their county Department of Human Services or the Oregon Home Care Commission. Classes are ongoing and help homecare workers stay abreast of the latest medical information and healthcare deliveries.