Why should I get the flu shot, when statistics show that this year’s vaccine is only 23% effective?

The CDC states that this is a very uncommon year and still recommends getting vaccinated because the flu virus could shift again before the flu season ends. This is the only protection we have at this time and may reduce and prevent severe outcomes such as hospitalization or death.

People 65 or older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu including pneumonia, dehydration, and worsening of chronic medical conditions.

Flu symptoms include cough, fever, sore throat, runny nose, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. Some people may also experience vomiting and diarrhea. A person infected with the flu may have respiratory symptoms without a fever.

Here are some preventative actions for this flu season to make sure you and your loved ones remain healthy:

  • Build up your immune system by getting enough rest; eating healthy- include lots of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet; drinking lots of water. These are essential in strengthening your immune system to help fight the flu.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash hands often, cover coughs, and avoid people who are sick.
  • Seek medical advice quickly if you develop flu symptoms – early treatment with antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu lessens the severity of symptoms and shortens the duration. GENENTECH offers a $10 coupon towards Tamiflu at
  • Encourage those who spend time with older adults to get vaccinated against the flu. The flu is air borne and can be passed from person to person. It is important that people who spend time with the elderly, including family members and caregivers, get vaccinated against the flu.

All SafeHarbor caregivers are urged to get the flu vaccination to ensure the best care for our clients.

For information about SafeHarbor and home healthcare on Staten Island call: 718-979-6900


shutterstock_65766067The Holidays are a good time to check in with elderly family members, especially those who live alone. All loved ones age differently. We want to make sure they are healthy and safe.

Here are quick tips on how to gently check in with your loved ones to determine whether they need to make life changes or require assistance.

  • Look for physical changes. Is there an extreme weight gain or weight loss? How is their general hygiene?
  • Check the refrigerator. It is well stocked with fresh, healthy food? Do they have an appetite?
  • Pay attention to how your loved one moves. How is their strength and balance? If they are unsteady on their feet, they may be at risk of falling.
  • Ask them about their social life. Are they still doing the things they love? Are they reluctant to leave the house?
  • Check out their medications. Are expired pill bottles mixed in with current ones? Are pills organized to prevent taking the wrong ones?
  • Check their bills. Do you see bills that are overdue? Do you notice large withdrawals from their bank account? Is there unopened mail piled up? These can be signs of memory issues.

If you notice indications your loved one needs assistance, ease into a conversation with them.

Remind your elderly loved ones how grateful you are that they are part of your celebration. Look through old photo albums and have them tell stories from holidays past. Most importantly, eat mashed potatoes. Because mashed potatoes are delicious.

For information about SafeHarbor  call: 718-979-6900.

The American Heart Association states that stroke is the No. 4 cause of death and a leading cause of disability in the United States.

Working with a primarily senior population, the health care team at the 45 year old Staten Island-based, healthcare agency, SafeHarbor HealthCare Services works with many patients who are in need of assistance due to having survived a stroke.

“It is a frustrating and painful process to watch your loved one work their way to a more independent way of life and in some cases the severity of the stroke may never allow for a full recovery” stated Mary Brady RN, Supervising nurse at SafeHarbor.“While our trained healthcare providers are knowledgeable, we also encourage family members living with or occasionally caring for the loved one to know t he possible risk factors and the warning signs.”

Risk factors for many include:

  • having already had a stroke
  • having Transient ischemic attacks (TIAs), a warning stroke that caused no lasting damage
  • having had a heart attack

There are other contributors, but for the caregiver, or person living with someone who has risk factors, it is also important to know the signs of a stroke.  The American Heart Association has an easy way to remember sudden signs called F.A.S.T.

 F.A.S.T. is:

  • F- Face Drooping – Does one side of the face droop or is it numb? Ask the person to smile.  Is the person’s smile uneven?
  • A -Arm Weakness – Is one arm weak or numb? Ask the person to raise both arms. Does one arm drift downward?
  • S-Speech Difficulty – Is speech slurred? Is the person unable to speak or hard to understand? Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence, like “The sky is blue.” Is the sentence repeated correctly?
  • T- Time to call 9-1-1 – If someone shows any of these symptoms, even if the symptoms go away, call 9-1-1 and get the person to the hospital immediately. Check the time so you’ll know when the first symptoms appeared.

The National Stroke Association cites that one in six strokes is caused by a heart condition called atrial fibrillation (Afib), a condition where the heart beats abnormally resulting in the formation of blood clots.  Medical science has shown that having Afib increases the risk of stroke by 500 percent.

“Recent  studies have concluded that more strokes are attributed to Afib even though a short hospital visit does not indicate its presence.  Patients and their loved ones should relate any known risk factors or behaviors to the treating physician to rule out a heart problem as the cause of a stroke.  Caring for a patient and being knowledgeable and in tune with their risk factors and the latest medical science data on this issue is key to quality care”, added Ms. Brady.

For information about SafeHarbor  call: 718-979-6900.

Responses provided by: Mary Krause Brady RN, Supervising nurse at SafeHarbor HealthCare Services, a family operated, 45 year old Staten Island-based Joint Commission Accredited agency.

What are indicators that you should look for to determine whether your loved one can maintain an independent lifestyle?

When determining if your loved one can safely live independently, there are a few indicators to look for aside from the obvious ones like frequent falls or not recognizing people who are regularly in their lives. Check to see if medications are being taken regularly by discreetly counting them when you are visiting; see if the food in the refrigerator is fresh and being consumed. Is the person having difficulty bathing, keeping clothes clean and not keeping up with personal hygiene? Are they having difficulty with paying bills on time?

After making the assessment do you have a conversation with loved one first or an agency?

Only the one making the assessment will know how their loved one will react to having another person in their home taking care of them. Many may feel their independence is threatened and will not be receptive to the idea at all. Of course the optimum solution, if at all possible, is to have a loving family member or members alternate care. If financial resources are available, suggesting that a non-relative be hired to do some cleaning or shopping once or twice a week may alleviate their anxiety about the situation. This may help to make the loved one more comfortable to having someone in the home; if appropriate the aide could then assist with activities of daily living, i.e. personal hygiene, preparing meals, etc.

Does an agency offer intervention to assist with THE conversation?

If an agency must be utilized, most will aid the family in helping the loved one understand the need for some assistance. The usual procedure is that a supervisory Registered Nurse from the home care agency makes the initial visit to access the situation and put the consumer and family’s minds at ease. Once an agency is selected, typically they will assign a Home Health Aide to the case, if that is the level of care required. The family will meet the Aide when they start working. Of course, we usually try to fill the position with someone who will be compatible to the loved one’s personality and likes. If the loved one is not comfortable with the person we send, someone else is assigned until their needs are met.

Once the decision to use a Home Health Aide service is made what are next steps for family?

The agency should help the patient and family feel secure.  It is often requested that a family member not stay the first day but return unexpectedly to see how well the consumer and aide relationship is going. I always suggest that, if possible, the family visit often and unannounced.

No matter who you have working in the home, and even though they are bonded and screened, it is always a good idea to put valuables away and not leave opportunities for any misunderstanding. Install a listening or video device that gives the family some level of comfort. You can decide whether or not to tell the home health agency that it is installed.

Once the type and level of services are needed and determined how do you “shop” for one? How do you compare? What resources are available to fully investigate the options?

Start by researching agencies in your area. Question how long they have been in business and most importantly, how are their employees screened?  Are criminal and background checks done on a regular basis? Other sources for references would be your physician and friends who have had similar services. The family should feel free to interview each agency, and ask for references from others who have used their services.

Once you’ve settled on a service how do you stay involved in the loved ones care? How do you monitor?

Does the agency keep in touch with the family and reassess the client? How often? The family should be assured that the service agency is available 24/7 and that calls will be returned within a reasonable time. Be vigilant by stopping by frequently unannounced, especially if your loved one is incapable of letting you know if there is a problem.

What should an agency provide to loved ones in terms of reporting?

Someone from the service agency should call once a week and a Registered Nurse should visit on bi-monthly basis at a minimum. There should be a receptive voice from the agency for any concerns or questions and you should be confident that messages will be relayed to the Nursing Supervisor.

“Urinary tract infections, as we know from our long time working with elderly, are a very common infection affecting the elderly. The difference is that in the elderly population the symptoms may manifest in ways that mimic other disorders or lead to diagnosis that doesn’t address the primary issue, the UTI,” said Mary Krause Brady RN, Supervising nurse at SafeHarbor HealthCare Services, a family operated, 45 year old Staten Island-based Joint Commission Accredited agency.

The elderly are susceptible due to a lack of hydration. Whether it be a patient with a form of dementia or just the ability or desire to have an adequate intake of fluids, the elderly can develop a UTI yet not experience the same symptoms as a younger individual. They may not have pain or fever but rather are confused or feeling excessively tired.

“We have found that working with the elderly that you can’t look at their symptoms in the same way you would someone half their age,” said Mrs. Brady.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), elderly people are more vulnerable to UTIs for many reasons, not the least of which is their overall susceptibility to all infections due to the suppressed immune system that comes with age and certain age-related conditions.

NIH has cited that younger people tend to empty the bladder completely upon urination, which helps to keep bacteria from accumulating within the bladder. But elderly men and women experience a weakening of the muscles of the bladder, which leads to more urine being retained in the bladder, poor bladder emptying and incontinence, which can lead to UTIs.

UTIs in the elderly are often mistaken as the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer’s, according to NIH, because symptoms include:
• Confusion, or delirium-like state
• Agitation
• Hallucinations
• Other behavioral changes
• Poor motor skills or dizziness
• Falling

We recently had a case where a client presented with increased confusion and had sustained several falls. Diagnosis was delayed because common signs and symptoms such as discomfort on urination and foul smelling urine were not present. After a complete blood work up and vital signs, a urinalysis finally revealed an infection of the urinary tract. A course of antibiotics quickly helped the patient regain her normal mentation and secure mobility.

About Safe Harbor HealthCare Services
Since SafeHarbor’s establishment nearly 45 years ago, this fully licensed by the State of New York and accredited by the Joint Commission on Health Care Organization remains family owned and operated by the founding family of Frank Krause.

Caregivers at SafeHarbor are professionally trained, thoroughly screened, bonded and insured and undergo a complete background check, including fingerprinting under the auspices of the New York State Department of Health. SafeHarbor maintains its credentials by hiring highly qualified and professionally supervised personnel with a team approach which emphasizes total case management and excellent customer service as well as by compliance with agency and governmental regulations.

For information about SafeHarbor call: 718-979-6900.

Senior PainPersonal Emergency Response Systems (PERS) have been increasing during the last few years because of the rising age of the elderly. Approximately over 13 million seniors fall every year with over half not able to get up on their own. Due to the rising number of older people in their own homes, these response systems play a major part in saving lives. By demand, Safe Harbor has come up with important information about (PERS) for the elderly and your loved one.

Personal Emergency Response Systems, also known as Medical Emergency Response Systems, let you call for help in an emergency by pushing a single button. A PERS contains three mechanisms: a small radio transmitter, a console connected to your telephone and an emergency response center that monitors calls.

Transmitters are usually light in weight, and are battery powered devices. You can wear one around your neck, on a wrist band, on a belt, or in your pocket. When an emergency has occurred, you just press the transmitters help button, which will send a signal to the console. The console automatically calls one or more emergency telephone numbers. Today most PERS are programmed to telephone an emergency response center. The center will try to figure out the nature of your emergency. They will also review your medical history and check which family member will be notified.

When it comes to buying a PERS, you can purchase, rent or lease a device. Remember, that Medicare, Medicaid, and most insurance companies normally don’t pay for the equipment, and few require a doctor’s recommendation. Most hospitals and social service agencies might fund the device for low-income users. If you purchase a PERS, expect to pay an installation fee and a monthly monitoring charge. Rentals are accessible through national manufacturers, local distributors, hospitals, and other social service agencies and fees often include the monitoring service.

For a list of systems available in your area, contact your local agency on aging. Once you have found a list of agencies you’re considering, check with your local consumer protection agency, state Attorney General, and Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed against them.

For more information about PERS contact us at 718-979-6900 and we will gladly assist you in answering any questions you have.

Pretty nurse and senior patient in a wheelchair looking at camerReturning home from the hospital can be a traumatic experience for the elderly for many reasons. In most cases the patient has been 100% dependent on hospital staff and the transition to life with less help at home can be a challenge. Assistance may be needed in the home because the elderly person may need help or supervision with certain activities. While many people can provide a certain amount of care themselves, they may need assistance part time or with certain tasks. The need of a registered nurse may also be necessary.

In the case of a fall in the home that leaves a person with hindered mobility, assistance with moving a patient and catering to their needs is essential, and can help to prevent additional injuries. Each year one out of every three older adults (aged 65 or older) falls. Falls are the leading cause of death for people 65 or older. The good news is that many falls are preventable. The elderly should exercise when possible to increase balance and leg strength, have vision checked periodically, and safeguard their homes from falling hazards. Some medications do not work well together and can increase the likelihood of falling.

Alzheimer’s patients might need assistance in tasks such as cooking, bathing, dressing, as well as supervision and all around care. 5.2 million people over the age of 65 in the US have Alzheimer’s, and 70% of those people are cared for at home.

Stroke victims may need help with day-to-day tasks. 40% of all stroke victims will fall in the home within a year of the stroke. Over 750,000 Americans suffer from stroke each year. It is the fourth most common cause of death. On average, a stroke occurs in America every 40 seconds. Stroke victims can develop dysphagia, which makes it harder to swallow. With dysphagia, victims may inhale food/drink into the lungs and airways, causing asphyxiation. Pneumonia can develop from this as well. Speech-language pathologists should evaluate the victims ability to swallow and talk. Rehabilitation should be considered for stroke victims, as they will need to restore muscle function and strength for everyday tasks. For these reasons qualified supervision is prudent.

When returning from the hospital the addition of certain items can make home care easier. The installation of a portable toilet containing a bucket, grab-rails, and raised seat in the bedroom can make things accessible. Moreover, the use of adult diapers can help alleviate accidents. When taking a shower or bath, make sure the levers or knobs are clearly labeled and elongated for easy use. Additionally, rubber mats in the shower as well as shower chairs can help prevent falls. For the main bedrooms insert a light switch or lamp near the bed to illuminate the room to prevent falling in the dark. If you are using the stairs in your home, install and check the handrails annually. Furthermore, if you use the stairs multiple times in the day, consider adding a stair-lift inside your home. Lastly, all of these excellent items can make home care easier for you and your loved one.

For more information contact Safe Harbor at (718)-979-6900

18In-home care and assisted living facilities has been an increasing segment of elder care in the past decade. Approximately more than 1.8 million people live in nursing homes today and will gradually decrease in years to come. Statistics have shown a slight decrease in the number of seniors living in nursing homes for every year that goes by and medicine seems to play a major role for these results. The improved health of seniors, more choices for the elderly and the rising costs of health care today all contribute to this new trend.

Elder care is of the utmost concern now as 79 million baby boomers turn 60 and over.  Of course, the preference both personally and financially is to remain at home as long as possible.  

Many elderly people today have managed to remain living in their homes with community support services and these systems are becoming a worldwide trend as populations age. Adult children seek viable and reasonable choices for taking care of their elderly parents. As such, home care is the most flexible choice.  There are many community support system options for your older loved one including:

Adult Day Care: is non-medical care with community based programming to meet the needs of adults with disabilities

Chore and Personal Care Assistance: Service is provided by individuals to elderly people who need help to maintain independent life. Personal care offers assistance to maintain bodily hygiene, safety and daily activities for every-day life. A personal care assistant can do what your elderly loved one can’t.

Care Management: Helps clients gain access to waiver and other local services. Care managers are responsible for ongoing monitoring of the clients plan of care and oversee the process of the level of care.

Housing Assistance: Includes provision of physical devices, emergency assistance situations that require relocation.

Meal Services: Includes meals that are served and delivered to the house.

Protective Supervision: Provides supervision to people in their homes that have weak and frail or may suffer a medical emergency.

Respite: Supervision and care for a loved one while the family takes a short-term relief or respite.

Social Services: Social reassurance/ friendly is able to visit, group or individual counseling, and money management.

Transportation: Offers access around the community and special events for clients who don’t own transportation.

For more information contact Safe Harbor at 718-979-6900

Laughing With Elderly LadyToday, many people don’t understand the difference between Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. By knowing the meaning of both terms you will be able to determine the correct symptoms for you or a family member.

Dementia refers to a set of symptoms, not the disease itself. Some of the symptoms include: memory loss, personality change, and impaired intellectual functions, trauma to the head, brain tumors, stroke or diseases like Alzheimer’s.

These cognitive problems are an obvious change compared to the person’s cognitive functioning earlier in life and are severe enough to get in the way of ordinary daily living, such as social and occupational activities.

A perfect analogy to term dementia is “fever.”

Fever refers to a higher temperature, specifying that a person is sick. But it does not give any evidence about what is producing the sickness. In the same way, dementia means that there is something wrong with a person’s brain, but it does not deliver any information about what is causing the memory or cognitive complications. Remember, dementia is not a disease; it is the clinical presentation or symptoms of a disease.

There are many probable causes of dementia. Some causes are reversible, such as certain thyroid conditions or vitamin deficiencies. If these problems are recognized and treated, then the dementia reverses and the individual can return to their normal functioning.

Nevertheless, most causes of dementia are not changeable. Rather, they are worsening diseases of the brain that decays over time.

Conversely, Alzheimer’s is a specific disease that attacks the brain. It is considered the most common form of dementia and causes problems with memory, thinking and behavior. Symptoms usually grow slowly and get worse over time, becoming severe enough to interfere with daily tasks.  In its early stages memory loss is mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer’s individuals lose the ability to convey on a conversation and respond to their situation. Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States. Those with Alzheimer’s live an average of eight years after their symptoms become noticeable to others, but survival can range from four to twenty years, depending on age and other health conditions.

Alzheimer's is not a typical part of aging, though the greatest known threat factor is increasing age, and the majority of people with Alzheimer's are 65 and older. But Alzheimer's is not just a disease for older people. About 5 percent of individuals with the disease have early onset Alzheimer's (also known as younger-onset), which normally appears when someone is in their 40s or 50s.

Alzheimer’s has no current cure, but treatments for symptoms are accessible. Although current Alzheimer’s treatments cannot stop Alzheimer’s from developing, they can briefly slow the worsening of dementia symptoms and improve quality of life for those with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers.

When it comes to screening for Dementia or Alzheimer’s there is no substitute for a thorough examination by a skilled physician.

For more information on care for a loved one suffering from these illnesses contact Safe Harbor at (718)-979-6900.

bigstock-Fallen-Senior-11703836Trips and falls can be extremely devastating for seniors. Fortunately, some simple tips can help keep elderly family members safe when they're on the go and at home, and prevent injury:

Check Your Vision

·See your doctor for a vision check up every year and pursue treatments that will correct any problems you find out. Weak depth perception can lead to problems navigating uneven or slippery terrain.

Exercise Weekly

·Healthy seniors who live home should exercise at least twice a week to retain strength and agility. (Make sure to contact your doctor before starting any exercise program.)

Wearing The Correct Shoes

· Avoid shoes that don’t fit you correctly. Wearing Ill-fitting footwear can increase your chances of falling on slippery surfaces and decrease your overall stability. Search for shoes with a rubber sole that suggests a good grip while walking.

Check Up On Your Equipment

·If you currently use a cane or a walker, make sure the rubber tips are intact. Worn out tips can decline the dependability of your device and even cause a traumatic fall. New rubber tips are available for purchase at your local surgical supply store or drugstore.

Research Your Medication

·Have you medications reviewed by a medical professional, since some medicines contain side effects including dizziness or a lack of stability.

Stay Indoors During Inclement Weather

·Stay home during dangerous weather conditions such as heavy rain or snow, or when there is an accumulation of snow or ice on the sidewalks.

Update Your Home

·Search around your house for fall hazards, including unsecured area rugs, loose electrical cords, and items on the floor, like papers, slippers and other mess.