Category Archives: Holidays

Have A Stress-free Holiday Season

OverwhelmedCaregiving is stressful. Of that there is no denying and when you add the holiday hustle and bustle into the mix, you have the potential to amp up the stress and reduce the joy you should be experiencing this holiday season. When you take a step back and think about it, the holidays are about friends and family and being together; it’s not about perfection and a clean house!

Here are some tips that you can take to heart to help make certain your holiday is enjoyable and as stress-free as it can be:

  • The holidays are not about perfection: the perfect tree, the perfect meal, the perfectly cleaned home. Keep your decorations low-key, you don’t have to outdo the neighbors with your light display. Decorate with items that have particular meaning to you and your family without going overboard with totes and totes of decorations that need to be unpacked and then re-packed once the holiday has passed.
  • If you’re being invited to visit friends or relatives and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in a day – with work, caring for aging relatives and your own family – don’t be afraid to set limits. “We would love to come and visit, but can only stay a couple of hours.” Set the expectations up front and stick to your time frame.
  • You don’t have to do it alone. Would your family disown you if you purchased a pie or two rather than making them? Could you get away with bakery cookies? Try it and see how many hours you could free up from not spending all of your time in the kitchen. If you simply can’t give up that part of your family tradition, then start a new tradition and ask for help. Also, don’t be afraid to delegate. If you need to, hire a housecleaning service to come in and do a deep clean on your home before the relatives arrive. Ask guests to bring a dish to pass – start a new tradition by adding your guests’ favorite dishes to your menu!
  • If someone asks you what you’d like for a gift, don’t say, “Oh, I don’t know or I don’t need anything.” Let them treat you if they want to! Ask for a gift certificate for a massage or a restaurant or tickets to a movie or a play you’d been dying to see. Ask them to pay for a trip to your favorite spa or salon!
  • Take time to share family stories. If you’re gathering family stories, make sure someone is recording them – either digitally or on paper – and take photos so you can capture the memories shared and have them as a physical token of your time together.
  • When you send your greeting cards, include a note that reads, “Mom and Dad are doing XYZ… it’s been a great, or a trying year, but we are moving forward.” Keep the note non-accusatory and you just might garner assistance from distant relatives who truly may not know what you’re doing as a caregiver.
  • Don’t be afraid to say “no.” If you truly don’t have the energy to attend another party or make another of your “famous pumpkin pies” then say so. Don’t make excuses, simply say you don’t have time and leave it at that, but thank them for having asked you.
  • Take time to count your blessings. Yes, the role of caregiver can be an exhausting one, but there are rewards. You are spending quality time with your aging loved ones. You are providing them with love and support and helping them to age in place. Even if they are in an assisted living or a nursing home environment, you will still likely be called upon or feel compelled to visit regularly and that can be a strain as well. Make the time you spend there quality time talking, playing games and sharing memories.
  • Ask siblings or other relatives to help chip in for a Medical Alert System. The peace of mind in knowing that your relatives will have immediate access to a trained professional from  if they suffer a medical emergency or a fall while you are not in attendance may allow you to regain some freedom without having the worry of them being alone.

Take time, amidst the rush of the season to care for yourself and to sit back and simply relax!

 

 

Seven Tips To Make Holidays Enjoyable For The Seniors In Your Life

Along with the traditions of family gatherings and holiday meals, holidays tend to add to the stress a caregiver may feel. Holidays can lead to depression and feelings of isolation and loneliness for the seniors in your life. While loneliness and isolation can be year-round elements, holidays tend to amplify them.

Christmas tree
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the elderly in your life, holidays can be especially hard. The reasons for this are as varied as the loss of mobility or independence, the loss of a spouse, sibling or friend. Aging relatives may remember the times when they used to be the host for the holiday meals and it can trigger a sense of frustration.

As a caregiver, how can you help your aging relative deal with the holidays and make them happy events for the entire family? Here are ten tips to make the holidays the best they can be for everyone:

  1. Take time to listen. Letting your relatives know that you are available to listen to them if they want to share memories or discuss sadness or loss or how the holiday is making them feel, will help them get through it. Put yourself in their place and empathize with them.
  2. Make certain they understand how important they are to you and how you enjoy having them around on the holidays (and other times of the year). It may sometimes be hard to mask your body language when you’re tired or frustrated but don’t let them feel like they are a burden.
  3. Even in today’s electronic age, spend some time with your mom and dad and hand write and mail some holiday cards. Keeping in touch with friends and family help heighten the enjoyment of the holidays.
  4. Does your parent live in an assisted living facility or a nursing home? If he is healthy enough, and the doctor agrees, ask if you can bring them to the house for the celebrations. If they’re unable to leave the facility, make sure you set aside several hours to spend with them on the holiday.
  5. Decorate their room – not only for the holiday, but year round. Bring cherished items from home to give the room a personal touch. When the holidays roll around, make certain you decorate the room to make it festive leading up to the holidays.
  6. Are your parents involved in a church or other religious or social club? Reach out to their friends and invite them to visit the assisted living facility. Having visitors to help while away the hours is a gift that is long remembered. Ask whether the facility has a room where you could host a holiday gathering and invite friends and family.
  7. Don’t be too concerned with gift giving for the holidays. Chances are, your parents long outgrew the need for gifts or would simply purchase  items they wanted themselves. The best gift you can give is the gift of  your time. Try to set aside a few hours a week and spread your visits out.  A brief visit several times a week may be as welcome as an extended visit on only one day.

Holidays are stressful and busy times for everyone, especially for caregivers. But in the rush of the season, it’s crucial that you step back, slow down and remember what the holidays are for – friends and family – and give the seniors in your life the gift of your time an

Holiday Safety

The holiday season is usually a joyful time of year meant for getting together with family and friends.  It’s a time to reflect on our lives and loved ones, and certainly a time for celebration.  The holiday season, with it’s celebrations and it’s decorations, is not without its health and safety risks.  In fact, it can be one of the most dangerous times of year for seniors.   Here are tips for keeping your loved one safe during the Holidays.

 Be Prepared: the Key to Senior Safety During the Winter and Holidays

From Comfort Keepers.com

Winter is an especially important time to keep an eye on seniors to make sure they are living as safely, healthfully and happily as possible.

Here are a few tips to help seniors during the season:

  • Check on elderly loved ones regularly, or if you live out of town, arrange for neighbors to check in and provide their number to call in emergencies.
  • Help your loved one arrange for someone to keep sidewalks shoveled and de-iced.
  • Make sure seniors have emergency supplies.
  • Arrange for transportation during severe weather to medical appointments or the grocery store.
  • If your loved one is physically or cognitively impaired, arrange for someone to stay with him during weather emergencies.

Holiday Safety Tips

Trees, lights and candles an important part of holiday traditions but pose a danger when not used safely.

Tree and decoration tips:

  • Buy an artificial tree that is labeled “fire resistant.”
  • Choose a live tree that has green needles that do not break when bent between the fingers. The bottom of the tree should be sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, the tree should lose only a few needles.
  • Place trees away from fireplaces, vents and radiators. If using a live tree, remember to keep the stand filled with water.
  • Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant decorations.

Lighting tips:

  • Use indoor and outdoor lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and safety fuses to prevent wires from overheating.
  • Before using, check lights for cracked sockets, damaged wires or loose connections. Throw out broken sets.
  • Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for stringing lights together. UL recommends using no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.
  • Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
  • Check outdoor light labels to make sure they have been certified for outdoor use. Only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
  • Turn off lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

Candle tips:

  • Keep burning candles within sight.
  • Keep candles out of reach of small children and pets.
  • Extinguish candles before going to bed or leaving the room or house. Do not leave children, or adults with dementia, alone in a room with burning candles.
  • Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
  • Always use non-flammable holders.
  • Use battery-powered candles whenever possible to avoid fire risk.

Fireplace tips:

  • Do not burn wrapping paper or plastic items in the fireplace. They can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
  • Place a screen around the fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby materials.

Keeping Walks Clear

Falls are always a concern for seniors. Winter poses a special risk, so put down road salt, cat litter or sand to keep sidewalks, steps and driveways as slip-free as possible.

Persons over age 65 — especially those with a history of high blood pressure and heart disease — should leave snow shoveling to others. The combination of strenuous work and blood vessels constricted by the cold air raises the risk of heart attack. Falls and severe muscle strains are also risks.

However, seniors who are able to shovel walks should:

  • Dress warmly and in layers, along with a hat and gloves, to retain body heat and prevent hypothermia. To avoid slipping, wear boots with non-skid soles.
  • Before starting, limber up with light warm-up exercises.
  • Push the snow in front of you, rather than try to lift it. If you must lift, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Take frequent breaks. If you become dizzy or numb, stop immediately and go inside. Call 911 if you experience chest pain or other heart attack symptoms.

Protect Against Hypothermia

Seniors generally produce less body heat. That makes them especially susceptible to hypothermia, which if not detected early, can be extremely dangerous. Conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and severe arthritis — even some medications — can limit the body’s response to cold, leaving seniors even more vulnerable.

Hypothermia prevention tips:

  • Limit time outdoors and stay indoors on windy days. Go inside if you begin shivering.
  • Wear warm, layered clothing of natural fibers. To reduce heat loss, wear a hat, gloves, warm socks and boots. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
  • Keep the thermostat at a comfortable level, wear warm clothing and use enough blankets to stay warm at night.
  • To keep your body temperature up, eat hot, nourishing meals and drink warm beverages.

Seek medical attention immediately for anyone you believe is suffering from hypothermia. Keep the person dry and warm with blankets. Do not rub limbs to warm them. Encourage the person to drink hot, nonalcoholic, caffeine-free beverages.

Home Heating Safety

House fires are a special concern for seniors. They also need to beware of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the bloodstream and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, convulsions and even death. The effects can happen even faster for someone with a respiratory or heart condition.

To prevent home heating problems:

  • Have all chimneys and flues inspected yearly and cleaned as needed.
  • Before winter, have the furnace inspected to make certain it is in good, safe operating condition.
  • Install smoke detectors on all floors and carbon monoxide detectors in areas where fuels are being burned. Replace batteries annually.
  • Open a window slightly when using a kerosene stove.
  • Place space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, furniture and anything else that might burn.
  • Keep a fire extinguisher handy, replace as needed and know how to use it.

Winter Driving

Avoid driving during and after winter storms, but if you must drive:

  • Keep the gas tank full.
  • Let someone know your destination, route and expected time of arrival. Bring your cell phone.
  • Keep an emergency travel kit in the trunk, including a snow shovel, blankets, flashlight, water and first aid kit
  • If your car gets stuck, stay with it. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, so fumes do not back up in the car. Keep arms and legs moving to keep blood circulating and stay warm. Keep a window open to let in air.

For more information on winter safety and other emergency preparedness tips, visit the American Red Cross.

Prepare Now For Caregiving Tasks For The Holidays

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Make Holidays Special For Aging Relatives

 

Selecting a holiday gift for your aging relatives, especially those who “have everything they need” requires research and planning. If you’re dealing with a relative that is suffering dementia, the task becomes even more challenging.

To make the holidays special for your aging relatives, especially those who have a diminished mental awareness, means you need to reach back into the past to find a gift they will enjoy. If you spend time with your aging parent or relative, make a note of items they talk about, gift items they might like. If you’re not in close proximity, ask the caregiver for ideas. You will want to make certain the gift matches the condition of the individual who is receiving it. If your relative used to be an avid crossword puzzle enthusiast, he may have had to give it up in recent years due to failing eyesight. If he is still able to see well enough to complete large-print crosswords that would be a suitable gift.

Are there gifts that should be avoided? Ask the caregiver or the doctor whether food gifts are appropriate or whether there are dietary restrictions that mean you can no longer gift your relative with homemade Christmas goodies.

If you’re looking for gift ideas for the senior in your life that is dealing with a faulty memory, Alzheimer’s disease or other diminished mental capacity issues, here are some gifts to consider:

  • A small radio or cd player along with some CDs is a good idea whether your relative is aging in place or whether she is in a nursing facility. If possible, consider purchasing a small television with a DVD player; this could be an especially welcome gift for a relative with limited mobility.
  • Stuffed animals can be a comforting gift for a parent in a nursing home.
  • An oversized holiday card with a picture of the family, one that is suitable for framing, would be a great addition to any wall in either the family home or in an assisted living facility.
  • A photo collage of holidays past will help ignite memories and in many cases the elderly are better able to remember the past than they are current events. Consider laminating the collage and framing it or collect photos and put them into an album for your relative. Electronic photo frames are another way to share photos with your relatives. Photos are uploaded to the device and the pictures rotate, allowing them to see an entire album from the lighted screen.
  • Sweatshirts, sweatpants or bathrobes are always an ideal gift. Buy clothing that is easy to slip on and off and with zippers rather than buttons.
  • Slippers or shoes with non-slip soles are always welcome.
  • Decorate for the holidays. If your relative is able to participate, then by all means get them involved in the holiday decorating and planning. Purchase non-breakable items and consider a small, artificial Christmas tree with LED lights. Add a timer to the lights so your relative won’t have to remember to turn it on and off. If you are helping to decorate the house or a room in an assisted living facility make certain you have the time to help remove decorations following the holiday. Keep in mind too, that the gift of time spent together is one that truly is priceless.
  • Recordable holiday greeting cards are a great way to stay in touch with your relative and allow them to listen to your voice whenever they want.

If your relatives are aging in place, you should consider gifting them a home medical alert system and medical alert pendants. These devices offer peace of mind for the relative and the family and caregivers because, in the event of an emergency, at the push of a button your relative can have access to emergency medical assistance. Remember too, that when it comes to the holidays, the gift of time spent together with your aging relatives is one that will be remembered for many years.

 

The Best Gifts For The Elderly: For Holidays And Year Round

Pile of gorgeous gifts

Money may be tight, but the gift of time is one that brings with it amazing rewards. When holidays and birthdays roll around, it is not always easy to know what to buy for your elderly parents or other aging relatives. Raising your family, paying for the costs of commuting and the items that go into your family budget can be a strain and when you add holiday gift shopping into the mix it can stretch the budget to the limits.

Here are some ideas for family gifts that won’t break the bank and will be remembered for years to come:

  • Spend time together with a recording device. Ask your elderly loved ones to talk about what it was like growing up, what they remember the most about your childhood and how they feel things have changed in the decades in between. Don’t avoid talking about a relative that has passed; sharing memories and talking about how you miss that person may be just what everyone needs to truly enjoy the holiday. Rather than pushing back the memories of missing the time you spent baking with your mother, talk about the fun times you shared then plan to start new traditions that incorporate the old.
  • Work on a family tree. Genealogy is a hobby that all family members can get involved with. You can make the family tree a visual hobby by drawing an actual tree on paper on the wall and fill in the branches and leaves as part of a family project. While making this tree, you can also bring up a discussion of family health and medical issues as this can help family members understand who had what illness and this can help shape your own health history.
  • Give your relatives a book of “coupons” for nights spent together watching a movie, cooking a week’s worth of dinners together, a day at the park enjoying the sunshine or even a day of spring cleaning,  yard work or getting the house ready for winter. Time spent together is one of the most precious gifts you can provide your aging loved one.
  • Let your relative know how important they are to you. Offering the gift of gratitude or letting them know how special they are to you is one of the greatest gifts. Put your message in writing or make a video. While your parent may be grateful to you for being his or her caregiver, you should take a few minutes to let them know the difference they’ve made in your life.

As you spend time during the Holidays with your loved ones you may want to start thinking about topics that may need to be addressed. It may not be wise to try to discuss these topics until after the holiday is over.

Once you’ve opened the doors for conversation, ask your aging relatives that they want to do when they can no longer live alone. Once you’ve started a conversation on life and health, your relatives may begin to think about what their future holds. While you may not want to spend the holiday or a birthday party talking about assisted living or other options, the idea that you’re sitting down and talking, in general, may make your relatives more open to discussing the future.

  • Put together a plan of action with your parents. Work with them to make it possible to age in place as long as possible. One way to do this is to gift them with a home medical alert system. These devices, which cost less than a dollar a day, provide your relatives with a way to remain in the home, have access to medical care if necessary and provide peace of mind to all involved. Get together with siblings and make this a gift from the entire family. Along with equipping the home with a medical alert system, talk with your elderly relatives about where their important documents are, whether they have long term insurance, if they have a power of attorney and who will help make difficult medical decisions in the event they are incapacitated. This discussion will alleviate stress in times of crisis and helps all family members feel at ease because all are involved in the decision making process.
  • Open the doors of communication and bury old family fights. Being in a family means you will encounter conflict, but conflict left unresolved impacts all of the family members, not just those immediately involved. Take the step to offer the olive branch and offer, or ask for, forgiveness. Living with the regret of not having made amends can lead to even more stress and unresolved issues. Also, showing your children how to solve conflicts and forgive teaches valuable lessons.
  • Offering the gift of gratitude or letting them know how special they are to you is one of the greatest gifts. Put your message in writing or make a video. While your parent may be grateful to you for being his or her caregiver, you should take a few minutes to let them know the difference they’ve made in your life.

Spending time with your aging relatives is a gift beyond compare and the time spent together will strengthen family ties and open the doors of communication and that is a gift you can’t put a price tag on.

Gearing Up For Holiday Travel With Your Senior Relatives

Planning a holiday trip with your aging relatives is a great plan… in theory. Traveling with, or making travel arrangements for, your elderly relatives takes forethought and planning to make it as stress-free as possible.

Regardless of whether you’re taking a cruise, a cross country car trip or flying to stay with other relatives for the holidays, here are some steps to take to make the trip as smooth as possible:

  • Plan ahead. Making reservations and confirming the itinerary is crucial to a successful trip. Research airline, bus and other travel providers’ departure and arrival times and find out the optimal time to begin your travel. Ask whether the travel provider offers discounted senior fares.
  • If special services are needed, request that when making reservations. If you are dealing with a disabled individual or one that requires a wheelchair, request free wheelchair service at the airport and at all connecting sites. Ask for meal service options especially if your relative has special dietary needs.
  • Make certain all travel documentation is in an easy to reach place in the luggage. Make copies of all travel and personal documentation in the event something gets lost or stolen – driver’s licenses, insurance cards, travel tickets, passport or other identification.
  • Pack for the destination. Pack light to make it easier to put luggage into overhead compartments or if you’re traveling by car to make it easier to accommodate everyone’s luggage. If flying, make certain all prescriptions bottles are labeled and in a carry-on bag and that any liquids or gels are in zipper lock bags in an easy to reach spot as it will need to be removed when going through security. Never pack prescriptions in checked luggage. Remember too that shoes need to be removed when going through security so have your aging parents wear shoes that are easy to remove and get back on.
  • Plan for downtime. Simply making it to the destination could wear your parents out. Allow time for them to simply rest and relax. Don’t overplan events and visits with other relatives or to theme parks. Offer them options to either go along or stay home and recuperate from the travel.
  • Make certain the destination is prepared for your parents arrival. If you’re the primary caregiver, the sibling you’re visiting may not be fully prepared. Advise them of what special accommodations your parents need such as specific foods or whether they may need to sleep in a first floor bedroom if possible.

Traveling with your parents can be a rewarding experience for everyone involved and the change of scenery will be great for both the senior and the caregiver. Begin travel plans early and take meticulous steps to make the trip successful but make certain to leave space in your itinerary for unexpected delays. Remember too, if your relative uses a medical alert device you should contact the service provider and to inform them that they will be in a different location for the duration of the vacation or discuss the use of the Emergency Medical Card.

 

 

Thoughtful Gift Ideas That Are Perfect Year-Round

Pile of gorgeous gifts

 

When it comes time to choose a gift for the senior in your life, it is sometimes a difficult decision; what do you buy for the “person that has everything” or the “person that can simply buy what she wants”? There are items that you can give that they may never have even considered and these gifts are perfect for any gift-giving occasion.

 

 

 

  • Fruits, breads or sweets. It’s been said that dark chocolate provides many health benefits and if the loved one in your life is able to enjoy chocolate, receiving a gift in the mail on a monthly basis is a perfect sweet treat. There are also companies you can sign up with that will send a “fruit or bread of the month” to your loved one.
  • A movie rental subscription. These subscriptions allow you to go online, choose movies which are sent in the mail to your relative. If they don’t go online, make certain you talk with them to help them choose the movies and then send it back when done. In addition to the subscription offer to come over for a dinner and movie night!
  • A night out on the town. If your relatives like to go out on the town, provide them with a certificate to dinner and passes to a movie. If they can’t drive themselves, offer your services as chauffer and participant in the evening.
  • Book or magazine subscription or a gift of books on tape. If you know that your relative loves to read, this is a perfect gift. If he or she has a hard time reading, a book on tape could be a great way to provide them with the books they love without having to worry about the size of the text.
  • If your relative was involved in gardening and can’t get out because of the weather or health constraints, provide them with indoor plants that they can nurture. If they love to spend time in the kitchen, consider adding herbs or even vegetables to the plants you give; if they have an easily accessible outdoor patio area this is an ideal gift.
  • Puzzles or other games. If your senior has a lot of time on her hands, gift them with puzzles or brain teasers to keep their mind active. This gift is also one that you can help them with when you’re visiting. Choose large print puzzles, dominoes or even playing cards when looking for ways to keep your relatives entertained and engaged.

 

 

 

One of the best gifts you can give to your relatives, especially if they are unable to drive or get out to socialize and if they live alone, is the gift of time!