Monthly Archives: February 2011

Bathroom Safety

I believe most of us try our best when caregiving duties for our parents emerge. And since many of our parents are opting to stay at home…here are a few tips to keep them injury free.

Many times we are not paying attention to those obstacles that may be hazardous to our elderly parents so bring your ‘keen eye’ and let’s review what steps you might take to eliminate some of the bathroom dangers:

Replace a standard toilet with a comfort-height version

Add grab bars in the shower, tub and toilet areas…proactive support saves unneeded injuries from occurring

Replace knob-style faucets with lever-handled faucets.

If your parent uses a wheelchair, replace a standard vanity with one designed for wheelchair use and height

Replace counter tops in the bathroom with rounded-cornered versions…nothing hurts more than banging into a sharp corner

Increase the lighting

Make sure the shower valve is a non-scald version

Add a bench to the shower stall…shaving legs standing up just isn’t that easy after 60!

Replace the tub with a shower and make it a walk-in version

Check the vent fan… is it working properly …mold hazards cause illness among even the healthiest of people

Replace smooth, slick flooring with a more textured tile…there are many options on the market today that have a ‘stick-like’ quality to them…more abrasive so wet feet don’t slip and slide

Decisions Can Be Tricky and Emotional Regarding Senior Care

Decisions that concern the care of your aging parents can often be tricky and emotional. Each family will have its own solutions in regard to what’s best for them and their loved ones.

Your family may decide a move to a senior housing facility works because your aging parent no longer needs so much space or cannot manage the home. Or you decide your aging parent requires hands-on senior care in a long-term care facility.

In the case of long-distance caregivers, the notion of moving can seem like a solution to the problem of not being close enough to help. For some caregivers, moving a sick or aging parent to their own home or community can be a viable alternative. In other cases, an adult child moves back to the parent’s home to become the primary caregiver. Keep in mind that leaving a home, community, and familiar medical care can be very disruptive and difficult for your aging parents or aging relative.

Older adults and their families have some choices when it comes to deciding where to live, but these choices can be limited by factors such as illness, financial resources, and personal preferences. Making a decision that is best for your aging parent and making that decision with your aging parent can be difficult. Try to learn as much as you can about possible senior housing options.

Older adults, or those with serious illness, can:
· stay in their own home, or move to a smaller one,
· move to an assisted living facility or retirement community,
· move to a long-term care facility for seniors, or
· move in with another family member.

Experts advise families to think carefully before moving an aging adult into an adult child’s home. Consider the following issues before deciding whether or not to move your aging parent to your home:

1. Evaluate Your Aging Parent’s Needs

Evaluate whether your aging parent needs constant supervision or assistance throughout the day, and consider how this will be provided.

2. Identify Activities For Your Aging loved one

Identify which activities of daily living (eating, bathing, getting to the toilet) your aging parent can perform independently.

3. Know Your Caregiving Capabilities
· Determine your comfort level for providing personal care such as bathing or changing an adult diaper.
· Take an honest look at your health and physical abilities, and decide if you are able to provide care for your aging parent. If not, you might want to look into hiring a good CAREgiver for your aging parent.

4. Familiarize Yourself With Your Aging Parent’s Medical Condition
· Expect changes in your parent’s medical or cognitive condition.
· Consider the type of medical care your parent needs and find out if appropriate doctors and services are available in your community.

5. Know Your Senior Housing and Availability of Senior Care Homes
· Explore the availability of senior services such as a friendly visitor, in-home care, or adult day services.
· Investigate back-up senior care options if living with your parent does not work or is not your choice.

Talk to your aging parent regarding their situation, before deciding on whether to move your aging parent to a senior housing such as assisted living, nursing home or other senior care homes. Remember, it’s important that your aging parent is in the decision-making process. It is their life after-all.

To learn more about senior care options for your parents or aging relative

Communicating Made Easier…

Being a caregiver can be challenging. The difficulty is compounded when your loved one has limited communication ability that may be impaired by a stroke, medication, dementia, or other cause. When the person cannot express needs or emotions readily, anxieties may increase, heightening tensions.

Communication is a vital human need so be prepared to go the extra mile for a loved one whose speech may be incapacitated. Doing so will enhance his or her quality of life, and thus make you feel better as well.

Learn to interpret the person’s facial expressions and physical gestures. Body language is key to understanding someones state of mind or comfort level. Grimacing, head shaking, and hand clenching are common symptoms of discomfort. If you notice this ask your medical provider for more information about physical manifestations of discomfort. You also can check with a local community aging office or senior support center, as well as a medical association like that for stroke victims.

Become a good listener. Ask “yes” and “no” questions that the person can answer with a nod or shake of the head. Be patient as difficult words are stuttered or sounded out. Use supportive sounds like “um-hum” or “I can imagine” in response to the person’s expressive comments. Use body language of your own to help ease the person’s tensions; a wink, a smile, or a nod, go a long way to alleviate concerns.

Encourage the person to use and repeat a few key phrases or words. While a routine vocabulary may be inaccessible for the speech-impaired, a handful of words can be enough to get the message across. “Hurt,” “bad,” “sick,” and “here” (accompanied by pointing) can alert the caregiver to a problem.

If the elderly person can write, keep a notepad and pen handy at all times and in several places, such as the dining area, bedroom, living room, and even the bathroom. Writing a short message like “thirsty” will convey a clear message to the caregiver.

Most of all put yourself in that person’s place and remember that a little kindness and understanding goes a long way….

Mental Exercise!

Remember the good old days when your mind was as sharp as a tack and you could remember the phone numbers of multiple people with no effort at all… when an important date never slipped by you?
Don’t fret … Health experts suggest that the mere fact that we notice our forgetfulness is probably a good indication that we aren’t really in serious trouble. The problem comes not when we misplace a library book, but when we can’t remember how to find the library to return it!

Knowing that occasional lapses in memory are not usually serious, doesn’t help us feel better when we experience them, so what can we do? Just as our bodies need physical exercise to keep us limber, our mental faculties also need exercise to remain sharp. There are countless ways to give your mind a workout; most of them costing nothing but a small investment of time each day. Select several…practice for a few weeks, and see if your ability to remember things, as well as your enthusiasm for life, doesn’t improve dramatically.

1. Get plenty of sleep, exercise regularly, and eat well.

2. If you are depressed, talk to your doctor. People who maintain a positive outlook on life are less likely to suffer from lapses of memory.

3. If you smoke, stop. If you drink, do so in moderation.

4. Join a club or organization where you interact with other people. Discussion groups do wonders to stimulate even the most sluggish minds.

5. Get curious. Choose a subject each week and find out everything you can about that subject.

6. Every day…start by writing a short story…just a few paragraphs or so about something interesting you did…or want to do.

7. When someone calls on the telephone, try to guess who it is before they identify themselves.

8. Read the daily newspaper, and try to share information from one or two of the articles with a friend.

9. After a visit with someone, review the conversation in your head.

10. When you finish a chapter in a book, write a one or two sentence summary of it.

11. Do crossword puzzles, jigsaw puzzles, cards.

12. Memorize a short poem

13. Pick up an old math book and try doing the problems in it. Work your way up to more and more difficult examples.

14. Pick up a book of simple riddles or word games from your bookstore.

15. Read, read, and read some more

Seniors and Exercise Do Mix!

As we age, we need to consider the many factors that relate to better health and consider taking the time we need to take care of ourselves as best we can. We want to make sure that we enjoy life and are able to be as independent as possible for as long as possible. Just know that exercising is important to everyone…Seniors included !

Exercise increases your blood circulation and causes endorphins (feel-good chemicals) to release in your body. PLUS weight-bearing exercises increase bone density! One of the easiest and most inexpensive weight-bearing exercises is simply walking. All you need is a good pair of walking shoes. Resistance exercises will improve muscle mass and stretching exercises will increase muscle flexibility. Swimming and bike riding are great aerobic exercises that can help increase your endurance. In fact, exercising is often a preventative measure for many ailments or diseases. Exercise is one of the very best ways to prevent osteoporosis, which can be a debilitating disease.

Remember exercise is not something that you should do once or twice a month…Exercise needs to be done on a daily basis otherwise the benefits are quickly lost. So, it is very important that when you make an exercise plan you add variety, mixing it up a bit…so you don’t get bored and quit. A good exercise program should become a part of your lifestyle.

BEFORE YOU BEGIN ANY EXERCISE PROGRAM, IT IS IMPORTANT TO CONSULT WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN!

This Isn’t The Person I Remember!

It can be soooo difficult to be in the presence of someone you love and not see any resemblance to the person or the attitude that family member once was or had. And although there can be many challenges to caring for an older person, the rewards are also great. Use your time with your senior parents or loved ones to create special memories…plan an afternoon of reminiscing childhood events, reviewing photo albums, and recording stories of the past…this is a great opportunity to ‘frame’ the family history and pass down something of value to the next generation. If an elder parent has lost their memory and is suffering from Alzheimer’s or dementia and/or has lost control of their basic bodily functions…the caregiver can become overwhelmed and depressed that the person they remember is no longer ‘actively’ present. When this happens, the caregiver, friends, adult children and grand-children must keep in mind that this IS the person they once knew and find a way to embrace the changes; as difficult as it may be. It can help to cherish those small moments of connection, when an unexpected ‘happening’ causes the senior’s smile to light up the room!

It Might Be Time For Mediation

They are disputes that start quietly but brew into volcanic pressure and believe it or not they can split families apart.

Mom’s left a pot boiling on the stove again, so her daughters want her to give up her house.

An elderly father is getting forgetful and isn’t paying his monthly bills. His children who live far away find out that dad’s heat and electricity were turned off. One son wants to get his father declared mentally incompetent, so the family can take control of his finances. Dad gets angry when the kids try to help. He doesn’t want his kids to know how much money he has and how his finances are organized.

Dad’s got more scrapes on his car than the grandkids do on their knees so let’s take his car keys. The kids warn their father that they are going to take away his car keys. He threatens to write them out of his will. The father knows he isn’t driving well anymore but he just doesn’t want to give the keys up, especially to his children.

Might be time to call in a family mediator. Mediators come in as a neutral third-party to help families negotiate difficult situations and choices. With mediation, the family members, along with the parent, can usually come up with a unified solution.

Trickiest of all are the family dynamics. Unfortunately it is fairly common to hear one sibling reacting bitterly towards another. Long-established family roles can play out the minute siblings walk into mediation.

Good mediators make sure that the parents’ voice is heard… even if that person has Alzheimer’s or dementia and might have trouble following the conversation. Even with limitations on their capacity, people still have the ability to say whom and what family member they are most comfortable with…whom they respect, and trust, and where they like to live. They may not have the capability to make substantial legal or financial decisions, but they certainly have the ability to express opinions, wishes and desires.

The field of elder mediation is growing and has benefits over taking family disputes to court. Mediation provides an opportunity to come together, make decisions that tend to work as opposed to litigation that can be more expensive and more contentious. Mediation allows the ‘family’ to remain connected and feeling good about the consensus they have reached.

Although the field of ‘elder mediation’ is new and so far has little regulation, there are avenues to research:

State and community mediation centers.

Ask your local Council on Aging or Home Care Service for assistance in locating someone who has experience in this field.

And always feel free to contact us at Home Instead Senior Care….

Person of the Week: Caregivers Allow for Dignified Living Situations for Aging Parents

Did you know that nine out of 10 people older than 60 want to stay in their homes as long as possible and that they are able to do that thanks to new technologies — like sensors alerting family members of a problem — and the help of neighbors and caretakers? According to the AARP seniors are opting to stay in their homes more often…

In an earlier post I had mentioned that Diane Sawyer was running a week-long series on Senior Care…today’s episode (Friday) highlighted Home Instead Senior Care. To hear the entire segment click here…Home Instead Senior Care highlighted on CBS…with Diane Sawyer

How to Talk to Senior Parents About Driving

As the oldest baby boomers turn 65 next year, many of them see their parents still behind the wheel and wonder if it’s time to put the brakes on mom and dad.

As part of a continuing “Senior Moment” CBS News series, in conjunction with their print partner USA Today, News correspondent Michelle Miller took a look at aging drivers. For the entire story and video

Resources on senior driving:
• Bring the older adult to the DMV and have them take the written, vision and driving test.

• Reach out to DMV to find out the guidelines and if your parent can pass the components to be a safe driver.

• AARP sponsors a driver safety program to help people deal with aging issues and driving.

• Association for Driver Rehabilitation has specialists that can help improve an older person’s driving or test to see if he/she can still drive.

• The AARP and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

You Are Not Alone…No One Told Us These Things

We were NOT told that any home with multiple stories would wreak havoc on the kneecaps or that a steady banister on each side of the stairs would actually be useful.

We were NOT told that anniversaries, holidays and birthdays need to be celebrated with a designated driver. No one wanted to admit that one alcoholic beverage could knock them out or that caffeine would keep them up all night.

We were NOT told to put our house or car keys in the same spot every day so we didn’t have to rely on memory to find them.

No one told us to beware of identity theft or mentioned the invasiveness of security checks at the airport because of terrorism..no one wants to admit that their finances and body just ain’t what it used to be…

We were NOT told about constant maintenance and more maintenance of the mind, body and spirit. We were NOT told about the exhaustion that came with all that constant maintenance as well as a waistline that would continue to bloom regardless of what we did to decrease it.

Finally, We were NOT told our parents were going to NEED us or how we should take care of them. Thankfully…the Baby Boomer generation has made head way in that direction…For information on how to better care for yourself and aging parents…click here.