As a caregiver, you are keenly aware of your family member’s patterns and their health. One thing you are always watching for are signals that they are experiencing memory loss. Caregivers Connection has some helpful tools for you. Continue reading
If you are a caregiver of a family member, you are among some of the busiest people around. Perhaps you provide care for a disabled relative or an older adult by spending hours making sure your loved one is safe and well cared for. You often are juggling work and other family responsibilities. Finding time to spend on your own needs is a scarce commodity. Finding the time to exercise may seem like something you can’t do right now, but, caregiving and exercise can be done at the same time.
Not to be alarmist, but there are dangers that lurk in your household that you aren’t even likely aware of – we weren’t! Consider this: you watch what you eat, you drink filtered water, you are diligent in the use of your seatbelt and you exercise daily.
Here are a few items that you probably have in your house that you may want to rethink:
- A pizza box. Because many of these boxes are greaseproof, they may contain PFCs. Perfluorinated compounds have been associated with adverse health impacts such as thyroid, obesity, cancer and high cholesterol. PFCs are also found in carpet cleaning compounds, many take-out boxes and furniture. Toss that pizza box into the outside trash.
- Scented candles will help you unwind and de-stress, but some of those candles contain unhealthy chemical compounds. If you find your eyes and throat are irritated it could be because of the compounds in the candles. The mere fact of burning a candle can also lead to particle pollution in your home.
- Many items from the “dollar stores” come in packaging that has questionable chemicals including phthalates, lead or polyvinyl chloride plastics. If you purchase items from there, remove the packaging, toss it out into an outside garbage container and thoroughly wash your hands. Children are most at risk from illness from these chemicals.
- Antibacterial soaps sound like a good idea. The risks associated with using these soaps too frequently means that your body will have a harder time fighting off bacteria because your body may develop an increased antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, if the antibacterial soap contains triclocarban it can lead to unwanted hormonal implications as they can impact your thyroid.
Being aware of what is in your home can help you lead a healthier, happier life! If you care for an elderly person, it may be wise to look through their cupboards and junk drawers to be sure they aren’t saving things that could be causing them health issues!
Over the course of our lives we build and establish important relationships … first as children, then with spouses and our own children, our pets and our friends. We also build relationships with things … our cars, our homes, our hobbies. All combine to make our life rich and fulfilling.
But life changes and as it does, we find ourselves saying goodbye to some of the “things” we value … like our homes. The reasons are many. We are upgrading and moving to a larger nicer home. We are downsizing because the kids have left the nest. We are moving for a new job. At any rate, we say goodbye to “our home” filled with memories and move on. Sounds easy. But wait a minute. There are both “easy” and more “challenging” aspects to getting ready to sell your home. Let’s tackle some of the easy ones first.
For the most part, it is EASY to do the physical prep to attract buyers.
- Curb appeal is very important. Many of us, even when we are not looking to buy, have driven by a home and commented on how great it looks. Meaning, if I WERE looking, this place grabs my attention. Much of curb appeal is easy. Make sure that the grass is mowed or the snow is shoveled. Plant flowers to add warmth. Make sure that shrubbery is trimmed and touch up trim paint if it is chipped. Front doors should be inviting and draw your attention. First impressions matter.
- Once inside, prospective buyers tend to be nosey! After all, you are not there and they want to see what the inside of the cupboards look like. Does this bathroom make me want to soak with a candle and relax because it is clean and inviting? Are the towels and linens fresh and unused? To that end, you should clean out cupboards and make sure everything is organized and not overly full. Crowded closets and cabinets give the impression that there isn’t enough storage. You may need to get a rental storage unit to de-clutter the house.
- Make the house shine! It is a bit unsettling to know that there might be a “showing” at any moment and so you have to live ready for that expectation. Dirty floors and windows are a turn off. Your refrigerator, microwave, oven and dishwasher will be opened. I promise. And look at ceiling fans. They are notorious dust catchers and send a bad signal if they are not spotless.
- In making the house shine, re-evaluate placement of furniture. What worked well for you functionally may not give the best impression of the room. Re-arranging and removing some furniture can make the home look and feel bigger. A “big” home is worth more money and seems more livable.
- Remember we suggested that once you put your house on the market, that it no longer belongs to you? All those family pictures and personal belongings will look great in your NEW home but are distracting when you want to sell. People need to see your HOME … not your stuff. Remember that storage unit you are renting?
These are all relatively easy. But there are some CHALLENGING things to getting your home ready to sell as well.
- Homebuyers take deep looks at potential property they own and often hire a professional inspector to take that look. Take a look at your heating and air conditioning systems and make sure they are in prime near perfect condition. They should be serviced professionally and in some cases replaced. Though you probably do not want to spend that money, you will do so one way or another … either in a reduced selling price or in fixing it first. Your attention to detail … including the big things will pay off. Talk to a professional.
- Check your basement … check your roof … check your driveway. The more you can do to have perfection, the better. Remember, each day on the market is just costing you money.
- And the final one may just be the hardest! You have utilized professionals to help you get the home ready and now … for some of you, is the most difficult task. Say goodbye to your home. Let it go long before it actually sells whether you have something forward to look to or not.
We have a relationship with our home … sometimes love, sometimes hate. But it IS a relationship. And relationships matter.
Spring is a welcome relief from the long, cold winter, but for about one in five people, budding flowers and trees bring their seasonal pollen allergies into full swing causing all types of discomfort. Symptoms can be cold-like, including itchiness in the nose, roof of the mouth, throat, eyes and ears, along with watery eyes, runny nose, congestion and sneezing. Allergies can also trigger asthma, restricting airways and making breathing more difficult. And even if you don’t have symptoms now, new allergies can be acquired at any age.
Allergy symptoms for older adults can pose additional challenges. Those with chronic conditions such as cardiopulmonary disorders are at increased risk of serious complications during allergy season. Over-the-counter medications that people have taken for years may cause side effects as they age, including reactions with other medications. Seniors may ignore their allergies or try to self-medicate. Neither option is advisable. These symptoms need to be discussed with a physician.
LifeFone can help. The emergency profile we keep for each subscriber is used to relay vital information to emergency responders when needed, including medical conditions, medication, emergency contacts, physician, and preferred hospital.
If you’re a LifeFone medical alert system subscriber, you can update your profile using the LifeFone Caregiver Portal. You can make this update directly online or call us at 1 800-940-0262.
Have you had that moment when you feel hunger pangs but look at the clock and realize you’d finished a meal not too long ago? If you’re wondering why you’re hungry not too long after a meal, many times it’s because the food you’re eating can leave you hungrier than you were before! It’s true.
Here are some of the foods that will leave you hungrier sooner:
- Salty snacks like pretzels and potato chips satisfy a craving for salt, but in truth the salt is an “addictive” additive that can lead to overeating and weight gain. Salted foods also won’t satiate you and will leave you hungrier than you were before you started! If it’s difficult to eat the recommended serving size of a salted snack, it might be best to keep them out of the house. If you’re craving a salty snack pair it with protein – a hard-boiled egg, for example to help satiate you.
- Artificial sweeteners have the same impact on your blood sugar and your hunger pangs as salt. It’s been shown that artificial sweeteners can increase your appetite. Consider this: real sugar is registered in the brain as a “reward” while artificial sweeteners don’t register that “reward” leaving you craving for sweets.
- White breads, pasta and rice are made from refined flours and that means you need to eat more in order to feel full. These foods can also cause a spike in your blood sugar because the carbohydrates are converted to sugar – this is problematic for diabetics. If you’re craving bread or pasta, eat whole grain bread, brown rice or combine your refined flours with protein to help fill you up and keep you fuller longer.
- Alcohol is very calorie dense, but lacks nutrition. Alcohol can also lead to mindless snacking. If you’re drinking, don’t drink on an empty stomach.
- Processed foods such as potato chips, cakes and pizza are delicious, but are typically made from refined flour and that raises your blood sugar. Processed foods also activate the “reward centers” of our brains and sends us a message of, “wow, that was great, I want more” and it triggers cravings. Stick with nuts and carrots instead of processed foods.
We know that the job of caregiving can affect your eating habits. If you’re aware of your cravings, when they strike and what you are really hungry for, chances are you can choose a healthier alternative. Stop and think about whether you’re craving salt or sweet or something crunchy or cold or hot or creamy and then find a healthy alternative to potato chips or cake; choose nuts or a bite of dark chocolate.
For some, the role of caregiver for an ailing or aging parent is one that has been planned for. For others, being thrust into the role of caregiver, in many cases while still raising your own family and holding down a full time job, is not one for which you’re prepared.
Feeling overwhelmed, underprepared and even unappreciated are emotions many caregivers go through. You may feel guilt, anger, frustration, sadness and anxiety, but these feelings are natural. Along with the negative feelings that may ebb and flow during the course of caring for aging loved ones you will also experience gifts that come with that role including, compassion, courage, forgiveness and a sense of understanding and fulfillment.
Whether you’re trained in the area of health care or if this is your first experience caring for an aging or infirm relative, there are some steps you can take to familiarize yourself with what lies ahead and what you can do to navigate the changing family dynamics.
Below are some tips to help you as you move into your new role:
- Before you can begin helping your aging loved ones you need a baseline of information on what they need, how you can help, what signs and symptoms to look for. Ask their doctor if he’s seen changes in their health or behavior and what you should expect. Ask him to review the medications list and frequency the medications should be taken, it’s best to compare this list with the medications you have found in your parent’s home to make certain they are taking the correct medications.
- If your parents haven’t seen a doctor recently, make an appointment for a comprehensive check-up. There could be underlying medical conditions that could be easily addressed which could make it possible for them to age in place and which may make your role of caregiver an easier one. Also, ask the doctor at the visit whether he feels your parents are able to remain living independently. Keep in mind that if they are borderline with needing in home care or moving to an assisted living facility, simply equipping the home with a medical monitoring device and them with a medical alert pendant you may be able to extend the time they can remain in their own home.
- What exactly do your loved ones need? Are they keeping up with personal hygiene as in bathing and getting dressed for the day? Are they taking their medications as prescribed? Do you notice any signs that may be alarming; such as forgetting to turn off the stove when they’re done cooking? Are they able to keep up with light housework and cooking? Do they need help paying the bills or doing heavier outside yard work? If they are overwhelmed with cooking meals and are perhaps not eating as healthy as they should be? If that’s the case look into a Meals-on-Wheels program or prepare meals for them and deliver them throughout the week. Knowing what your parents need will help gauge the level of involvement.
- Involve your family members in the role of caregiver. Ask for help with items you simply cannot take on. Look into county-offered services for the aging. Make notes and keep a folder of information available for all family members on any signs of deterioration in your loved ones. Put all medical information and prescription information in that folder as well.
- Prepare for any eventuality. In the event your parents reach the point when they can no longer live alone, what will the options be for their living arrangements? Will they move in with a family member? Do they need to explore assisted living or nursing home arrangements? Begin researching these options now as you don’t want to have to make decisions in the event of an emergency and be faced with an untenable situation. Be sure to involve your loved ones in the conversations and ask what their feelings are on where they may eventually be living. Preparing could also mean looking into hiring a part time home healthcare aide or a nursing service to come in and check on their mental and physical health on occasion.
- Undertake a financial check-up and review legal documents. While your parents may be hesitant to share bank account or credit card information, impress upon them that sharing that information can help with long term care planning needs. If you, and other family members, have an understanding of their financial situation you will be better able to navigate the roads that lie ahead. You will also want to ask if your parents have a will. Where they keep their life insurance and medical insurance papers. Who do they want to designate as a healthcare proxy or power of attorney? This information needs to be decided upon prior to deterioration in mental or physical health as you don’t want to be making decisions under duress.
- Safety proof the home. If your parents are determined to age in place, then your role as caregiver could mean doing a safety check up of the home to make certain it is safe. Mobility issues plague many seniors and removing trip and fall hazards, making sure there are clear walkways and that the rugs are non skid and are securely in place can go a long way in keeping trip and fall incidents to a minimum. Make certain smoke alarms are installed and working. Check that hallways and rooms have proper lighting and consider installing motion activated lights. Check the water temperatures to make sure that hot water isn’t going to scald them. Make certain they have access to adequate healthy foods and that they are, in fact, eating the food you’ve shopped for or prepared. Post a list of emergency phone numbers by the telephone and in other locations around the house where they can easily access them. Keep in mind, though that in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall accident they may not be able to reach the telephone and may be in too much pain or unable to dial the telephone – this again, is a reason to give them access to a medical alert pendant. At the push of a button emergency medical personnel are summoned and your parents will have access to an experienced call center representative from LifeFone who will stay with them until help arrives. LifeFone representatives will also call family and doctors to alert them.
Caregivers sometimes find themselves toiling in isolation. It may make sense to interact with other caregivers, ask them how they address particular situations and just simply talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. Being a caregiver for your parents, is one that may be fraught with tension but it can also be a time to reconnect and build new memories that will carry over for a lifetime.
It may seem like it’s too early to begin thinking about the holidays, but once October hits the months tend to become a blur. If you’re a caregiver that is in charge of caring for your own family, holding down a job and caring for sick or elderly parents, planning and preparation is crucial to an enjoyable holiday for all involved.
What steps can you take now prior to the busyness of the holiday season so that you can enjoy both the holiday and time with your friends and family? Here are a few suggestions:
- Make certain your aging relative is healthy before the holidays roll around. Do they need to get a flu shot or an annual check-up? Schedule those before the season picks up. Ask their primary care doctor about the medications they are on and whether they’re still up to date with everything they’re taking.
- Know all that you can about how the stress of the holiday might impact your loved one. If your mom or dad has been recently widowed, the holidays could be a painful time for them. Be cognizant of that fact. Understand what other medical conditions they might have that could make it difficult for them around the holidays – dementia could mean they could be fearful in situations in which they aren’t accustomed to.
- If your relatives will be traveling for the holidays, be aware that their home medical alert system with LifeFone can travel with them. You need only contact LifeFone to let them know the new location and the duration of the stay. Having their personal medical device with them when they travel is a great idea.
Caring for yourself during the holidays is as important, if not more so, than caring for the health of your aging parents. What can you do to make certain you’re healthy? Here are some tips:
- Have a check up with your family physician and get a flu shot if necessary.
- Make certain you take time to eat healthy meals, even if you’re on the run with errands. Pack healthy take along snacks and prepare meals at home so you’re not tempted by fast food.
- If you can’t make it to the gym, get a piece of exercise equipment for your home that you are sure to use. Whether it’s a treadmill or a DVD of exercise routines, staying fit, healthy and active will help you deal with the holiday madness to come!
- Take time to enjoy those holiday traditions that are solely yours and those that are part of your extended family. If you need to excuse yourself for an afternoon to work on holiday crochet projects or to do some scrapbooking or to simply wander the malls by yourself, you need to make time for yourself – your mental health will thank you.
- Connect with other caregivers and ask how they handle holiday and family and caregiving. Caregiving can be stressful during the best of times during the year but for many of us, the holidays add additional pressure. Talking to someone in your same situation can be more than beneficial.
- Don’t forget to ask your aging relatives what they’d like to do for the holidays. Do they have a special tradition that they’d like to incorporate? Try to make that happen so that the holidays are as memorable for everyone as they can be.
Start today, putting your holiday plans in place, whether it’s looking at a calendar and determining who will be cooking the holiday meals and when the more pre-planning you do, the more enjoyable the months ahead will be.
Caregivers, who are being celebrated in the month of November, understand the stresses of holding down a job and caring for their children in addition to caring for and worrying about their aging parents. There are several steps that can be taken to help relieve the burden on all involved and also help keep your parents engaged and involved.
Whether your parents or other aging loved one needs full time care or simply a way to get out of the house and be under supervision while you work or run errands, an adult daycare facility might be the ideal option. If you’re employed you may want to talk with your human resource department as many employers offer an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) which can provide valuable resources for family caregiving.
Check with your local Office for the Aging or other entity that provides senior services to inquire about costs for the program, services provided and whether there is transportation provided to the program. You will likely need to have an intake session with the program so they can understand your parents’ needs and you can decide whether it’s a good fit.
During your research you will find there are two main types of adult day programs:
- One that offers intensive health, occupational and physical therapies and cater to those individuals with more severe medical issues, or
- An adult day care program that is a way for aging individuals to spend time with peers, socialize and enjoy healthy meals in a medically supervised setting
Isolation is a factor that faces many seniors especially if they’ve lost friends to illness or death and especially if they can no longer operate a vehicle. Being involved in an adult day program is a perfect way to help your aging relative find and make new friends and partake in the planned activities. These programs also work to keep the senior moving and active as this can help them to better age in place and is ideal for good mental and physical health.
An adult day care center will provide the caregiver peace of mind and allow him or her to continue to work with the knowledge that their parent is being cared for in a safe and healthful environment.
Asking for help is not something that everyone is comfortable doing. Even if you’re comfortable asking for it, there are some people in your family who will simply not hear what you’re saying.
When it comes to being a caregiver, it is easy to take on too much especially if you’re in the Sandwich Generation (those caregivers that are caring for their own families while caring for aging parents). It is easy to suffer caregiver burnout and as such it’s crucial that steps be taken to relieve some of the burdens prior to that happening.
How can you ask your family members to become involved in the tasks of caring for aging parents? Here are some tips:
- Ask for help prior to needing it. Set up a time to speak with all of your family members at one time, if possible, to solicit help. Ask for their ideas on how the tasks can be more evenly divided. Do you have a sibling that would be happy to do yard work but really doesn’t want to have to cook, clean or pay your parent’s bills? Then take him up on the offer of the yard work. Utilize the strengths of each of your family members as a way to help you get back some of your own time and be better able to care for yourself and your family.
- Don’t start the conversation with accusations of who’s doing more than someone else. If possible come prepared with a list of the items you, as the caregiver, are currently responsible for. Being armed with a detailed list makes it easier to determine who can help with what and also makes certain that major as well as minor tasks are accounted for. Use the meeting time as a way to come together for a mutually beneficial solution for your parents not as a finger pointing session.
- Be prepared for push back from siblings and be prepared for someone to bring up the idea of “putting mom and dad in a home.” These are sometimes natural inclinations when faced with elder care. If your parents are still able to live independently, that should be encouraged. If your parents are on the borderline of being able to age in place, consider gifting them with a home medical monitoring device and a personal alert pendant; this is a way to provide peace of mind to all involved in the event of a trip or fall or other medical emergency. Perhaps the family will need to come up with a plan for hiring a personal care aid, or a housekeeper or even someone to help with meal preparation or driving them to doctor’s appointments. Once you know what your options are, you can better plan.
Even though you may be facing burnout as a caregiver, you still need to approach the meeting with siblings with focus on helping mom and dad in addition to relieving some of your burden. Because everyone in the family is working toward the same ultimate goal – caring for your parents – the conversation should flow smoothly. If not, here are some tips on how to negotiate:
- Be prepared with what needs to be done
- Don’t be accusatory
- Present the problem as one that is shared by all family members
- Ask for suggestions other than ones you may have posed
- Be flexible in addressing issues and don’t feel you need to provide answers to all of the tasks that need addressing. Getting suggestions from family members might just open the door to a solution no one had thought of previously
Don’t forget to invite mom and dad to the conversation and get their input on the tasks they feel they can take on themselves, and those for which they need assistance.