Tag Archives: Elderly Care

Why Tai Chi Is Good For You!

Tai Chi is a Chinese practice and tradition that was originally developed for self-defense but evolved into a graceful exercise that can help reduce stress & anxiety and helps to increase flexibility and balance.

Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints which makes it generally safe for all ages and levels of fitness. It may be especially suitable for older adults who can’t (or may not) otherwise exercise. It also requires no special equipment and can be done inside or out. As with any exercise, it’s always a good practice to check with your physician before starting any routine. Continue reading

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.

Seeking Appreciation As A Caregiver

For some individuals, caring for an aging parent is a rewarding experience and a chance for them to give back to the person who may have played a vital role in their lives. Caring for an aging relative whose cognitive abilities or personality is changing can quickly take its toll on the caregiver and make her feel unappreciated.

It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel they are being taken advantage of or that the time and effort they put into caring for an aging relative isn’t valued by other family members. These feelings, while not easy to address for the caregiver, are common and should be addressed. There are ways to cope with the feelings of depression and the stress that is inherent with being a caregiver.

Put Your Feelings Into Perspective

Caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other illness that diminishes their mental capacity will bring with it personality changes that may be difficult to cope with. Try to keep in mind that their anger or disorientation is a factor of their illness, not an indication of their feelings toward you or the care you’re providing. On the other hand, caring for a relative or senior with full cognitive abilities may simply be frustrated. Don’t internalize your feelings of dismay at the way they behave. Instead, remember the love and attention you share is likely to have great value in the life of the one you are caring for.

Take Care Of Yourself

There will come a time when you simply need to step back and take time away from caregiving. It will likely be a difficult challenge to announce that you need to take care of yourself, but it’s crucial to your physical and mental well-being that you do so. Caregiver burnout is a real side effect of being the sole individual responsible for taking care of an aging relative. This can be even more difficult if you’re not only taking care of aging parents but raising your own family and pursuing your career at the same time. Seek out others who can relieve you for an hour, a day or even a weekend and do something fun for yourself.  Also enlist others to help with daily duties at home so you aren’t so overloaded. You’ll come back a bit more refreshed and ready to handle the tasks at hand.

Ask For Outside Support

Along the same lines of taking care of yourself is your ability to ask for help. Calling upon medical professionals or family members is necessary not only for your well-being but for the well-being of your relative. Seek out caregiver support groups or groups from which your relatives may benefit such as an Alzheimer’s Support Group. Search out federal, state and local organizations that provide assistance and support for the aging. Don’t be afraid to call on the services of a personal in-home caregiver when the need arises. If you’re dealing with a parent that is healthy mentally but is having other health or balance issues, take time to age proof the house and to install a home medical alert device as a way to support them when you’ve gone home at night.

Caregiving can be a time-consuming and mentally draining task, but the ability to spend quality time with your aging relative could be one that brings with it memories that will last a lifetime.

Seeking Appreciation As A Caregiver

For some individuals, caring for an aging parent is a rewarding experience and a chance for them to give back to the person who may have played a vital role in their lives. Caring for an aging relative whose cognitive abilities or personality is changing can quickly take its toll on the caregiver and make her feel unappreciated.

It is not uncommon for a caregiver to feel they are being taken advantage of or that the time and effort they put into caring for an aging relative isn’t valued by other family members. These feelings, while not easy to address for the caregiver, are common and should be addressed. There are ways to cope with the feelings of depression and the stress that is inherent with being a caregiver.

Put Your Feelings Into Perspective

Caring for a relative with Alzheimer’s disease or other illness that diminishes their mental capacity will bring with it personality changes that may be difficult to cope with. Try to keep in mind that their anger or disorientation is a factor of their illness, not an indication of their feelings toward you or the care you’re providing. On the other hand, caring for a relative or senior with full cognitive abilities may simply be frustrated. Don’t internalize your feelings of dismay at the way they behave. Instead, remember the love and attention you share is likely to have great value in the life of the one you are caring for.

Take Care Of Yourself

There will come a time when you simply need to step back and take time away from caregiving. It will likely be a difficult challenge to announce that you need to take care of yourself, but it’s crucial to your physical and mental well-being that you do so. Caregiver burnout is a real side effect of being the sole individual responsible for taking care of an aging relative. This can be even more difficult if you’re not only taking care of aging parents but raising your own family and pursuing your career at the same time. Seek out others who can relieve you for an hour, a day or even a weekend and do something fun for yourself.  Also enlist others to help with daily duties at home so you aren’t so overloaded. You’ll come back a bit more refreshed and ready to handle the tasks at hand.

Ask For Outside Support

Along the same lines of taking care of yourself is your ability to ask for help. Calling upon medical professionals or family members is necessary not only for your well-being but for the well-being of your relative. Seek out caregiver support groups or groups from which your relatives may benefit such as an Alzheimer’s Support Group. Search out federal, state and local organizations that provide assistance and support for the aging. Don’t be afraid to call on the services of a personal in-home caregiver when the need arises. If you’re dealing with a parent that is healthy mentally but is having other health or balance issues, take time to age proof the house and to install a home medical alert device as a way to support them when you’ve gone home at night.

Caregiving can be a time-consuming and mentally draining task, but the ability to spend quality time with your aging relative could be one that brings with it memories that will last a lifetime.

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.

 

Five Eldercare Resources You Need To Know About

Baby Boomers are being faced with the responsibility of caring for their aging parents and when the need arises, it’s typically in the midst of a crisis situation. Being faced with an emergency and being in panic mode is not the time to seek out care giving assistance or resources for the elderly.  The process of gathering the information needed to secure elder care services is one that will take time and resources.

In most areas of the country, there are resources and agencies to whom you can go for help and advice. Here are five to get you started:

  1. Office of the Aging or Agency of Aging – these agencies are run under the auspices of the United States Department of Health and Human Services. This department is charged with helping seniors and their families obtain resources and information on a wide variety of issues that face the elderly. This agency has access to both printed materials and phone numbers and websites for senior service providers that you can contact.
  2. 211 – many major cities in America offer the 211 telephone service as a way to connect individuals with elder care services in your particular community. The services available – from both the phone number service to the information it provides – vary by municipality. If it’s available it can put you in touch with support services for the elderly such as rental and utility assistance, home health care or adult day care facilities, food banks, respite care and Meals-on-Wheels providers.
  3. National Institute on Aging – this site offers a “one-stop shop” for service providers for the elderly.
  4. Senior ministries – the church or other religious organization that your aging parent belongs to can be a resource for services for your relative. Many religious organizations provide volunteers that will visit your aging parents in addition to providing you with contact information on other services in the area that are available.
  5. Your employer – you may not have thought about it, but your employer could be a resource and many large organizations provide access to free eldercare guidance through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP). Ask your human resource department for information on social agencies that can provide resources for caring for your elderly.

Caring for an aging parent will certainly change your life in many ways but it can be a rewarding time for both of you providing a chance to connect and help them out in their time of need. Many individuals find that a valuable gift for an aging parent is to equip their home with a home medical alert device and then pick up the monthly tab. With this device, your parent is equipped with a medical alert pendant and in the event of a health emergency or a trip or fall, they can press a button and summon immediate medical help. These devices offer both peace of mind and allow your relatives to remain living independently in their own homes for a longer period of time.

How to Prevent a Stroke

Although strokes are equal opportunists, there are various risk factors that can increase the chances of your loved one having a stroke. As a caregiver, one of the greatest gifts you can offer your care recipient is knowledge and help for prevention. Despite the fact that stroke is the leading cause of death and disability, and four out of five stroke victims have no apparent warning signs, strokes can be prevented 80 percent of the time. Those are some very good odds.

Published by the nation’s leading experts on stroke prevention, The Stroke Prevention Guidelines are an amazing source for helping you and your loved one learn how to lower the risk of stroke.

Stroke Prevention Guidelines:

  • Hypertension: Having your loved one get his or her blood pressure assessed is vital to their health. If left untreated, hypertension is a major risk factor for stroke. At their yearly checkup be sure to have their blood pressure checked. They can also use an automatic blood pressure machine at the pharmacy or supermarket.
  • Atrial Fibrillation (Afib): Identifying if your loved one has Afib, or an abnormal heartbeat can majorly reduce their risk of stroke. Afib increases stroke risk by 500%, and must be diagnosed by a doctor.
  • Smoking: Smoking increases the risk of stroke by 50%. It makes the heart work harder by damaging blood vessel walls, speeding up artery clogging and raising blood pressure.
  • Alcohol Use: Numerous studies have linked alcohol consumption to stroke. Doctors recommend drinking in moderation.
  • Cholesterol Levels: High cholesterol levels can clog the arteries and cause a stroke. Consult with your loved one’s doctor if their cholesterol level is higher than 200.
  • Take care of Diabetes: If your loved one has diabetes make sure they are properly taking care of it. Many health problems associated with diabetes are also risk factors for stroke.
  • Exercise and Diet: For the elderly exercise can include stretching, lifting light weights, balance exercises and cardio. (Read more about safe exercises for the elderly.  Also make sure your loved one is eating a well-balanced diet low in calories, salt, saturated fat and cholesterol.
  • Circulation Problems: Fatty deposits can block arteries carrying blood to the brain and lead to stroke. If your loved one has circulation problems make sure they are properly treated by a doctor.

The repercussions of avoiding stroke prevention are definitely not worth the agony. Do your loved one a favor and make sure they take the proper steps to lessen their chances of experiencing a debilitating stroke.

* As with all medical suggestions and advice, you should be sure to consult your personal physician for recommendations as they pertain to your care and not rely on material provided herein.

6 Great Benefits from Regular Exercise 

Getting Over Your Anxiety to Visit the Nursing Home

Mustering up the willpower to visit your loved one in a nursing home can be a little challenging. Nursing homes have a bad rap when it comes to soliciting visitors. Oftentimes people complain that nursing homes smell bad, or that it is depressing to see so many elderly people in poor health with not much time to live. Loved ones often feel pangs of guilt for not visiting their family members in nursing homes and then experience more guilt for loathing the idea of visiting. There is no better time than the holidays to show your loved ones how much you care.

Like most things we dread, the prospect of visiting the nursing home is much worse than the actual process of doing it. More often than not you feel extremely gratified after visiting loved ones, and chatting with other residents truly lifts their spirit and consequently yours as well.

If you still need more of an incentive to visit your loved one, think of your visits as checkups to make sure that your loved one is in good hands and satisfied with his or her care. You can view your visits as a way to improve your loved one’s life in the nursing home, making their experience that much more enjoyable. By having a mission to accomplish with each visit you will begin to feel like your visits have a purpose and that you are using your time constructively.

  •  Come prepared with questions when you go visit your loved one. Allow them to reminisce on the life they led and regale you with stories from specific incidents. Ask your mother or father about their wedding day, about their profession, about their proudest moment, the list goes on and on. We often view our parents as entities that have existed as long as we have, but they had an entirely different life before you were born. Ask them about their life prior to your existence and about the incidents that occurred when you were too young to remember.
  • Bringing old family photo albums and/or music from your loved one’s prime are also ways to get communication flowing. Photo albums are especially significant among people with dementia, who can often recognize childhood faces even if they can’t remember the person standing in front of them. It is also a good idea to find out what kind of music your loved one liked to listen to. Bring in cds or your laptop to play songs that they will enjoy. Their whole mood will change once they hear an old favorite they haven’t listened to in years.
  • While at the nursing home you can also take the time to make sure that your loved one is being properly cared for. How fast does the staff respond to accidents or clean up spills? You can monitor how your loved one is being cared for and view how others in the facility are cared for as well. Confirm that the rooms have medical alert buttons like LifeFone, to ensure that help responds immediately.

When contemplating visiting your loved one in the nursing home the best motivation may very well be to put yourself in your loved one’s shoes. One day you may be living in a nursing home and you will want visitors. You will also appreciate it if your loved ones check up on you to make sure you are well cared for and happy. Next time you feel a sense of dread in regards to visiting the nursing home remember how good it actually feels to see your loved one and how satisfied you feel after you leave.