Category Archives: Elderly Care

The Link Between Loneliness And Heart Disease

Loneliness is something that many seniors in our society face. The loss of a spouse, immediate family moving away and loss of friends leads to loneliness and isolation. Loneliness can also lead to depression, but did you know it can also lead to heart disease? As caregivers it’s Loneliness & Heart Diseaseimportant that we talk with our aging loved ones and find ways for them to remain engaged and involved as a way to stave off loneliness.

Social isolation impacts your health – whether young or old – and can cause to high blood pressure, weight gain, cognitive decline, and in some cases, heart disease or stroke. University of York researchers discovered that those who are isolated and who feel lonely have close to a 30 percent higher risk of heart disease and more than 30 percent higher risk of having a stroke. Close to 200,000 adults were surveyed and followed for the study.

There are many reasons that individuals feel lonely and may even isolate themselves. There are also many reasons why that isolation can lead to poor health and even poor diets, poor sleep habits and lack of exercise. It was even found that those who were lonely are less likely to see a doctor when they don’t feel well and are also less likely to take their medications as prescribed.

Being alone can also lead to more alone time because it can sometimes feed upon itself. If your aging loved ones begin cancelling appointments or afternoons out with friends or if they are no longer involved in activities they once loved you may want to intervene. Talk with them to uncover the reasons why they are no longer involved and what you can do to help. Being widowed can lead to individuals shutting themselves away because they don’t want to feel like a “third wheel.” Help your loved one find places to make new friends, consider church groups, senior centers or other local resources that may be available.

Caregivers who don’t live locally may want to invest in a simple to use computer for their parents to help them keep in contact. Gift them with an easy to use computer and show them how to log in and accept video calls from you. Being able to talk via video allows them interaction with friends and family that live far away and it also allows the caregiver a way to see whether Mom and Dad are looking healthy. A video chat is also a great way for grandparents to stay in touch with grandchildren.

What can you do to help assure your aging loved ones are healthy, involved and not isolated? Talk with friends and family and put together a plan today!

Artfully Asking For Assistance With Caregiving Tasks

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.

 

A DOZEN WAYS TO RECOGNIZE AN ELDER

We enjoyed this post and thought we’d share it with you!

A blog post by Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Elder Connections

  1. An elder is someone who is older than you, born before World War II and looks like your mother (or grandmother) depending on your age.
  2. An elder is someone who remembers the Civil War, both World Wars and in a few years Vietnam.
  3. An elder is someone who drives slower than you and doesn’t get cited for “reckless” driving.
  4. An elder is someone who almost always has an opinion that you may get whether you want it or not.
  5. An elder is someone who at one time made homemade cookies, jam and never talked about calories or carbs.
  6. An elder is someone who, believe it or not, at one time was young, sexy, in love and a “catch.”
  7. An elder is someone who piloted an airplane, worked in a logging camp, built ships for war, managed a corporation or ran for high political office.
  8. An elder is someone who loves babies and small children preferably in small doses.
  9. An elder is someone who is cost conscious about almost everything but will regale you with travel stories taken during early retirement years.
  10. An elder is someone who has lived a long time, gathered an accumulation of life experiences, has much knowledge to share, and is but waiting to be asked.
  11. An elder is someone who is a role model for our future, a gem to be cherished and appreciated.
  12. An elder is someone who enriches our perspective on life.

Lois Young-Tulin, PhD, is an Assistant Geriatric Care Manager at Elder Connections

 

Caring for a Loved One with Parkinson’s Disease and Dementia

While most individuals with Parkinson’s Disease are diagnosed over the age of 60, a growing class of younger individuals (beginning at age 30) are finding themselves living with the disease. The causes of Parkinson’s are currently unknown, but what we do know about PD is that it is a progressive movement disorder that affects the central nervous system. As of yet, there is no cure.

The onset of PD oftentimes leads to dementia. Hallucinations and severe uncontrollable muscle difficulties make patients more susceptible to cognitive impairments. Dementia only worsens over time. With each passing year, decline gets faster. While dementia is typically associated with Alzheimer’s Disease, there are numerous types of dementia.

It is estimated that 20-30 percent of those with PD will develop dementia, typically after the age of 70. Caregivers looking after someone with PD should be aware of onset signs including:

  • Impaired and slow thinking
  • Decreased memory recall and processing
  • Distraction
  • Confusion and disorientation

If someone with Parkinson’s Disease is going to develop dementia, there is typically a lag time of at least 10 to 15 years after the onset of PD. Knowing the signs of dementia will make it easier to diagnose and treat. If your loved one is experiencing anxiety, restlessness or delusions, it is likely that their dementia is not caused by Parkinson’s Disease.

Changing Daily Living Habits

Caring for a loved one with Parkinson’s Disease is difficult enough and adjusting to dementia presents its own set of stress. Caregivers need to assess the way their loved one is cared for along with how the added stress of the disease is playing into their own life. Both the caregiver and the care recipient need to make changes to their daily routine to manage the disease.

  • Instead of asking your loved one what they would like to eat, offer them specific choices. Your loved one may be unable to name a specific food they want, and as a result may feel frustrated. By offering them specific choices they are able to pick an option without having to process too many choices.
  • Establish schedules and stick to them. It may be helpful to create a list that is located next to  your loved one’s bed that provides a detailed list of everyday activities, including waking up, putting on slippers, getting dressed etc. When their daily routine is broken down, patients with PD are better able to avoid frustration since they know what to expect and the order in which they should complete certain activities.
  • Medications may need to be locked away as your loved one’s dementia worsens. If they are unable to remember which medications to take and when, locking away their medication will make their environment a little more safe.
  • Keep your loved one’s living environment clutter-free. By ridding their living situation of extraneous objects their decision-making processes will be a lot smoother.
  • Remove any objects that may cause harm to your loved one. Keeping sharp objects like knives out of sight and out of reach will make your loved one’s living environment less dangerous. Small appliances, ladders and stepping stools should also only be used when under supervision.
  • Utilize card games, puzzles, music and journals to exercise their memory.
  • When it comes to their wardrobe, the less hassle, the better. Clothes with snaps and buttons can present a challenge, whereas slip-on clothing and velcro offer a more user-friendly alternative.
  • Provide your loved one with a medical alert system like LifeFone to ensure help is always available to them at the touch of a button. All of their medical history, preferred doctors, and loved ones to contact in case of emergency will be on hand if they are equipped with a LifeFone pendant or bracelet.

Assessing Finances

Before your loved one’s dementia worsens it is best to develop a plan for finances and assess how their assets will be used. Consider preparing a financial and living will. Consult a financial planner to determine how their assets should be used, dissolved and distributed. You should also look into long-term care options and decide how bills should be paid on an ongoing basis. Assessing their finances in advance will deter added stress in the future.

While many people who have Parkinson’s never develop dementia, it is important to make adjustments and know your medical options for the 20-30 percent of patients who do. You will find that some adjustments can be made gradually as the dementia worsens, while other changes will need to be made right away. Communication with your loved one’s doctor is key in managing the disease as effectively as possible.

Senior Safety Tips And Advice

As we age, some individuals can become the target for a financial crime, identity theft, home break-in or some other scam.  Boomers raised in an era where being rude to a solicitor on the phone or door to door can actually put them in a more vulnerable position.  In some cases, those who would perpetrate a crime against the elderly will either rely on charm or bullying tactics to get the information that they seek. While a financial crime is a devastating time for anyone, it can be even worse for the elderly as they may not only question their ability to remain independent but will become fearful of living alone.

As a caregiver, there are steps you can take to protect your elderly loved ones:

  1.  Make sure the home is secure. Check the locks on doors and windows. Install a home alarm system with motion detectors and automatic indoor & outdoor lights. Make sure to post signs alerting vandals to the fact that the home has a security system. Another safety measure is to equip your relatives with a emergency medical device; these medical alert pendants provide a lifeline to outside help and assistance in the time of need.
  2. Trim all bushes around the house to eliminate any potential hiding places for a would-be burglar. Install doors with peepholes and advise them to not open the door to strangers. Never put keys under a door mat or other outdoor hiding spot. These are too easily discovered. Ask a trusted neighbor or friend that lives close to hold onto the extra key.
  3. Make certain the house number is painted in bright colors and large numbers to make it easy to find if emergency responders need to visit.
  4. Make certain additional cash isn’t left lying around the house. Keep enough cash on hand for daily needs, but keep large sums in the bank.
  5. Warn your elderly relatives to never give any personal or financial information over the phone. Make sure they are aware that no one – other than a family member – would ever be calling to solicit financial information. If your relatives are tech savvy and have signed up for online banking, make sure they are knowledgeable about the scams where it looks like their financial institution is asking them to sign in using the provided link. Their bank would never make this request, it is a scam.
  6. Don’t let your relatives make deals with door-to-door sales people. The scams perpetrated on the elderly involve everything from being overcharged for putting a new roof on the home to sealing the driveway to simply letting someone into the house so they can get the “lay of the land” and break in later. If, for example, your relatives need a new vacuum cleaner or a roof or driveway work, they should talk to you to help them get estimates from reputable contractors or take them to the store to make their purchases.
  7. If your relatives are still mobile and drive themselves to their appointments make sure they never carry more cash with them than what they need for that excursion. Also, advise them to not travel into areas with which they aren’t familiar. They should also always lock their car doors each time they get out. In some cases, it’s a good idea to lock the doors when driving along in unfamiliar locations.

These safety tips that will provide both the caregiver and the aging relative with peace of mind as they continue to age in place.

 

Long Distance Care-giving Tips For Your Aging Relatives

As an adult in the “sandwich generation” the idea of taking care of your own family while trying to take care of your aging parents can be daunting. Caregiving is complicated even further when you don’t live in close proximity to your aging relatives. The ability to check on their health and daily well-being is impacted as is the ability to help them with healthcare, managing money or keeping up with housework and cooking meals. Taking on the responsibility of caring for your aging parents is a difficult task in the best of times, but when you add distance into the mix, it’s complicated even further.

There are steps you can take to care for and remain involved in your aging parents’ lives even when you live hundreds or even thousands of miles away:

  • Solicit help from others. It’s almost impossible to go it alone when trying to care for elderly loved ones when you’re not in the same area as they are. Look for friends, family members, church friends, or neighbors on whom you can rely to check in on your relatives and report back. Look for someone that can help them with daily tasks if necessary.
  • Uncover community resources and take advantage of them. Look for federal, state and local senior resources in their hometown and give them a call. Find out what kind of services they provide and how you can get your parents involved in those services. They could range from a Meals-on-Wheels meal delivery service or shuttle rides to and from shopping centers or doctor visits.
  • Make certain you are involved in your parents’ medical conditions and that you are listed as a health care proxy and that you have interaction with their physician. Also, keep an up to date list of the medications and health issues your parents are dealing with and keep all of this vital health information together in one place. Ask the doctor for advice on helping your parents manage their health even though you’re not in the area.
  • Keep all important documents in a safe place in the event you’re called upon to be a health care proxy or exercise a power of attorney. You should also have copies of your parent’s driver’s licenses, home ownership and legal papers, medical insurance and other critical documents.
  • When you’re visiting make certain you schedule enough time to spend with them so you’re not feeling rushed. You want to be able to gauge their health and living conditions and address any issues you may become aware of. Don’t let the visit be all about “checking up on them.” Plan time for a movie or a dinner out or a day excursion.
  • Do a visual inspection of the home when you’re there. Is it clean? Is there food in the house? Are there any possible health hazards or trip and fall hazards? Are there minor repair items that need to be addressed? Take care of this when you’re visiting. Would your parents benefit from the installation of a  home medical monitoring device? If they’re having health issues and are not comfortable using the telephone, giving them a medical alert device could be a literal lifesaver and will provide the family with peace of mind.

As a caregiver, whether you live close by or out of state, you need to know your own limits and gauge where your strengths lie. If you have other family members that are involved spend some time divvying up the tasks and assign them to the person with the greatest skill in that particular area. Remember, at some point a decision may have to be made to move your aging parents out of the family home and into an assisted living facility and that process is easier if the entire family is involved.

Health Tips For Preventing Falls In The Elderly

Because falls are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the elderly, it is crucial that steps are taken to prevent both falls and the health issues that could lead to a fall. It’s also estimated that close to three million people, aged 65 and older, are treated in the emergency room for falls annually.

Death rates from falls in the elderly rose more than 55% between 1993 and 2003 and that could be because people are living longer, living alone, and are more frail, all factors which increase the likelihood of falls. One of the main reasons cited for admission into nursing homes or assisted living facilities is because of a fall.

As a caregiver, it’s crucial that you remain cognizant of the most common reasons the elderly suffer a fall, they are:

  • Medications that can cause disorientation, sleepiness or sleeplessness and dizziness
  • Visual impairment caused  by cataracts or glaucoma
  • Cognitive impairments caused by either Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • Balance issues which could be caused by mobility issues, loss of muscle strength or diminished      flexibility
  • Blood sugar or blood pressure issues that could lead to dizziness upon standing

If your relatives are determined to remain independent and age in place, there are steps they can take, and you can help them with, to make that a possibility. Here are some steps you can take to help them avoid a fall and help maintain a stronger body:

  • Eating a balanced diet and drinking milk or getting calcium or Vitamin D from the foods they eat will help keep their bones strong.
  • Bone-strength building exercises such as walking, dancing, aerobic exercise or resistance training helps build both bone and muscle strength. You should check with their physician first to see if they are healthy enough to undertake an exercise routine. Even if your elderly relatives use a walker or a cane they can still become more active simply by getting up and moving every hour.
  • Balance can be improved by practicing yoga and daily stretches
  • Annual hearing and vision exams will detect any issues before they cause a trip or fall accident.
  • Ask the pharmacist whether any of the medications they take can cause any dizziness issues, especially when used in combination with each other.
  • Avoid using alcohol as it can interact with medications and add to drowsiness or dizziness

As part of your elderly relatives aging in place, make certain the home has been age-proofed to prevent trips or falls. Here are some measures to take:

  • Make certain hallways and closets are well lit. Install motion sensor lights with timers that will turn on and off upon entering or leaving a room.
  • Keep all walkways clear of clutter and power cords
  • All rugs should be secured to the floor with non-slip tape
  • A lamp should be next to the bed where it can be easily reached during the night. A touch lamp is a great option and prevents having to fumble around in the dark to find the switch.
  • All stairways should be in good repair and should have non skid treads on them.
  • Handrails should be installed on all stairways and even next to the toilet.
  • Grab bars should be installed in the shower and bathtub.
  • The bathroom should also have non skid rubber floor mats to prevent stepping onto a wet floor.
  • Put items that you use regularly within easy reach. Waist height is ideal placement for items in the kitchen and bathroom.

Helping your elderly relatives age-in-place if a gift for all family members. You can also help your relatives remain independent by offering them a home medical alert device. These devices can be a literal lifesaver in the event of a trip or fall or other health emergency.

Tips To Keep The Cost Of Healthcare Within Reach

Did you know there are close to 50 million Americans that don’t have health insurance or that do have health insurance coverage but are so buried in the ever-increasing costs of healthcare that they forego medical treatment? A Gallup survey, released in December 2012, showed more than “one-third of Americans (and more than half of those with no health insurance) delay seeking healthcare either for themselves or their family member – simply because of the cost.”

Individuals in need of medical care but who don’t have health insurance can still get an appointment at a primary care physicians’ office. When calculating the cost of healthcare, the highest priced options continue to be visits to the emergency room or the hospital; because these options are designated for those with dire need or true emergency situations, they have the highest price point.

Medicare certainly provides healthcare coverage but there are still times when seniors on fixed incomes find it difficult to afford medical treatments. What can you do if you’re in need of medical attention, but you’re not in an emergency health situation? Here are some options to consider:

  1. Many communities offer clinic care and in many areas of the country, pharmacists are providing non-emergency treatment for minor ailments. For example going to the pharmacy for a flu shot will typically cost less than $100 and will not have an additional co-pay feature associated with it. County run clinics are typically staffed with physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners and they are medically equipped to address routine ailments and offer treatment. Make a call to the local health department. There are some communities that offer information on healthcare at reduced costs based on household income.
  2. Urgent Care Facilities are popping up across the country and are a viable option for those suffering an injury or acute illness. These centers charge a flat fee for to see a physician and are a low cost medical alternative to heading to an emergency room for care.
  3. Just as you can ask for a discount for other service providers, it cannot hurt to ask your physician if they provide any kind of discount. There are some physicians that are willing to negotiate fees. Remember too, that a doctor that doesn’t have to complete paperwork and navigate the maze of health insurance providers may see a benefit in treating a patient without health insurance.
  4. Shop around for prescription discounts and reward options. Many pharmacies provide lower-cost generic alternatives to medications. There are also some pharmacies that offer monthly discounts to regular customers and if you deal with a pharmacy that offers reward incentives, you may find other money-saving options within in the store. Also, never be afraid to ask the pharmacist for a lower-cost prescription alternative; he will likely do so as long as it won’t cause any interaction with other medications you may be taking.
  5. If a visit to a hospital or emergency room is inevitable, ask to speak with someone about financial assistance as this is a way in which you may discover you’re eligible for a discount based on your income. Also, ask about negotiating a payment plan for the medical bills you may incur.

Staying active and eating a healthy diet are two of the best ways to help assure you remain healthy and can avoid visits to the doctor or emergency room.

Plan For Eldercare Before A Need Arises

Seeking resources to care for aging parents isn’t a task to be undertaken when in crisis mode. By the time an aging parent needs additional care, you may not know where to turn and you don’t want to have to make uninformed decisions on care for your aging relatives. If you’re in regular contact with your aging relatives it will likely be easy to see when they are reaching the point where they need additional assistance if they’re to remain in their own home.

As a caregiver, it will fall to you to make difficult decisions, but if you work with your parents, siblings and other family members prior to a need arising, you can have a plan in place for the time when emergency care may be necessary. In many cases, caregivers find it difficult to round up the care their aging relatives need because there typically isn’t a central location to find all the services necessary.

Here are a few agency names, services and contacts to search for in your particular part of the country to find assistance for your aging relatives:

Office or Agency for the Aging. These agencies are run under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and are available in all municipalities. The Office for the Aging is a clearing house for local aging services. The individuals that work there can also help you become acquainted with the services available in your particular region of the country.

  1. 211 is a telephone service available in most major cities. This number can quickly put you in touch with critical elder care services in your community such as agencies that help with utility bills, food banks, adult day care facilities, respite care and more.
  2. Ministries in your area. Check with the religious organization that your parent belongs to and see if it provides any services for the elderly. Many large churches provide ministries that cater specifically to senior citizens. Your church may also be able to arrange for volunteers to come and either visit with your aging relatives or even help with light housework or cooking.
  3. Ask your employer if it offers any type of services to caregivers. Many caregivers don’t think to ask their human resource department if there are any resources available to them for helping in seeking out care for aging parents. In some cases, the company’s Employee Assistance Program may provide access to services to provide relief to both the aging relative and the caregiver.
  4. Home medical alert system providers. Equipped with a medical alert pendant, these devices provide peace of mind knowing emergency assistance can be easily accessed at the push of a button.

Six Tips To Choosing A Caregiver

There are close to 50 million Americans with conditions that limit the daily activities in some fashion, according to the Department of Health and Aging. The report further finds more than 10 million individuals aren’t able to live independently.  One in five seniors over the age of 85 are in need of long-term care and help with everyday tasks ranging from cooking meals, feeding themselves and taking care of personal hygiene.  As boomers continue to age, the need for caregivers increases so adults with aging parents will at some point have to make a decision to either hire an in-home caregiver or find a place for them to age with full or limited assistance.

When you’ve reached the point where you simply need to admit that you need help caring for an aging relative, here are seven tips to consider:

  1. Determine your needs before beginning the search for a caregiver. Does your aging relative need specialized care like physical therapy or pain and medication management? Will you need to bring in a non-medically trained individual to help with meal preparation, personal hygiene tasks and dressing or does your relative need a companion? Will you want the caregiver to provide light housekeeping, help running errands or bill paying? List all of the items you believe you will need help with.
  2. Begin the search for a healthcare provider by asking friends, church members and the physician’s office. Check with senior care agencies in your area as well for advice and referrals.
  3. Before interviewing caregivers, write a job description for him or her. Include the amount of health care training you believe the individual will need; it may be a good idea to speak to your relative’s physician for advice in this area. Once you’ve created a job description, work up a contract that fits the job description and come up with an hourly wage that fits into your budget.
  4. Put together a list of questions for the candidates. Make certain you write down their answers, collect a resume from them and note your first impressions. You should also have the potential caregiver meet your aging parent as well.
  5. Gather a list of references from potential health caregivers you are considering. You are leaving your aging relative in the care of this individual and you need to make certain you have made the best possible choice. Even though you may need to hire help quickly, you need to hire thoughtfully to ensure the person you hire had the necessary skill set to care for your loved one.
  6. Ongoing monitoring of your aging loved one’s health should be a priority for the family.  You may be hiring a healthcare giver to offer you respite, but you still need to monitor the care the senior in your life is receiving. Make time to meet with the caregiver at the home on a weekly basis, at the least to gauge progress and how the caregiver and your relative are getting along.

Make certain the caregiver also understands the importance of the home medical alert system that you have for your parent. Regardless of the amount of time both you and the caregiver spend in the home, the medical alert device offers peace of mind for those times when neither of you are in attendance.