Being a long-distance caregiver can seem impossible but it can be done. Long distance caregivers are just as important as caregivers that are in the home providing the physical care. As our family member ages, the caregiving that a family member can offer from a distance is vital.Read More
Anyone who has taken on the task of caring for an aging parent faces a difficult decision: should you have them come to live with you?
Your initial consideration may bring up more negatives than positives thoughts to the situation. When you were younger you moved out of their home to live independently and separately from them. If the goal for most of your life has been to lead your own life apart from your family, it can be difficult to consider living, once again, in the same household. That is the natural course of our lives take and it is not without reason. Yet this it is an option that must be weighed as you are planning for the future.
If you are single, living on your own, you might have extra space where you are living. Additionally, you could save a considerable amount of money in combining your homes and lifestyles. Living expenses will be practically cut in half for each of you as you now have only one home to pay the heat, electric, rent, etc. Also, if you do live alone, the company of someone who knows you well might seem like a welcome change.
However, if you do have a spouse, children, or roommate the decision becomes more complicated.
You must anticipate how having your parent living with you will effect these other people in your life. Your children might think the idea of having their grandmother in the house with them would be fun and exciting, but there are responsibilities, sacrifices, and added stress that this change can bring.
There are, of course, positives to letting your loved one live with you that make it a tempting option.
Consider that you would be there at all times to help with medications, sudden medical problems, or even just getting to the bathroom. The worry that weights upon you as a caregiver will be greatly decreased because nothing can go wrong on account of your not being there to help. You won’t have to keep taking trips to their condo, apartment, or assisted living center to see that they’re okay, to see if they need anything, or to prepare their meals. Your family or roommate can chip in and take part in the caring of your parent which can remove a lot of the pressure on you.
This all being said, most experts in the field speak strongly against letting your loved one live with you.
For one thing, parents will be parents. They will not be able to resist involving themselves in child discipline situations or being nosy about marital spats or issues with your teenagers. Teenagers are elusive enough without having to answer to inquisitive grandparents!
Within the context of your family you already have some fairly sophisticated conflict resolution systems. These work because everyone can read each other’s signals. Bringing a grandparent, who is not familiar with how your family naturally functions, can throw things off and cause a lot of stress.
Though there are numerous attractive benefits, the biggest reason against having your aging parent live with you is for your own health and happiness.
You, as a caregiver, need to be able to get away for a while. Caregiver burnout is a big problem when everything rests on you for the health and wellbeing of your loved one.
Your home needs to be a relaxing place away from the stresses and concerns of being a caregiver.
At all costs, that sanctuary should be preserved for the sake of your health as a caregiver, your family, and even the health of your parent. Perhaps your loved on needs time away from you as well!
And when you do make your visits to your parent’s home, you should aim to arrive eager to serve, well rested, and with a refreshed smile; which is hard to accomplish if you cannot leave them and return to your own home as a comfortable place of rest.
Many of us know the value of having a pet in the house, many of us have experienced the joys of snuggling up beside our furry companions. But have you considered that having a pet could improve the overall health of your elderly loved ones?
Studies have proven that a pet can lower the elderly’s blood pressure, reducing the risk of heart disease.
The American Heart Association says, “...people with pets and cardiovascular disease were more likely to survive heart attacks.” In addition to this, having a dog or cat as a companion can also fight against depression, stress, and strengthen the will to live while offering security and companionship.
This is not saying that you should go out and buy your mom a cat for the sole purpose of improving her health. Having a pet in the house can be an enormous joy to its owners but a pet can also be a burden. Dogs and cats have needs of their own and require a lot of time and dedication. Pets are not right for everyone or for every situation, so how do you know if a pet would be a good fit for your loved ones? How do you know if your Nana and Spot would benefit from each other?
Ultimately, only you or your loved one can make that decision, but it’s not a decision to take lightly. There are a lot of things to consider; we will go over a few of them briefly.
- Is your loved one physically capable of caring for a pet?
Depending on the kind of pet you are looking into, pets are a lot of physical work. Dogs need to go outside, they need to run and burn off energy. Cats need a litter box, which needs to be cleaned frequently. They both need human attention so they don’t get bored and become destructive. They need to be fed daily. Any animal you get is going to require work. Consider if this is too much for your loved one’s situation. There are ways that you can make these things easier. Can you set up a dog yard so the dog and just be let out and back in when she’s done? Is there a family care-taker that can take part in the animal’s care? Ask your homecare company if this is part of the services they offer.
- Which pet is best?
A cat is less work than a dog, but some people prefer their loyalty and behavior over a cat’s demeanor. If you’re looking into a dog, it may be best to search into which dogs will need less exercise or typically have less energy (such as Spaniels, Hounds, or Bulldogs.) For both cat and dogs you have to take their fur into consideration. A long haired dog or cat will require more frequent grooming of the pet and vacuuming of the house. The choice is also not limited to cats and dogs. Birds, for instance, make excellent companions. Reptiles and rodents are other options to think on.
- Are there allergies to take into account?
Allergies do not rule out purchasing a pet, they only limit your options. There are both dogs and cats who are bred to be specifically hypoallergenic. A plus side of these non-shedding animals is that they won’t get fur all over your carpet; however, they do often require more attention to grooming. If it’s a fur allergy, then a bird or lizard is also a possibility.
- What age pet should you get?
My suggestion to you is to go to your local shelter and select a pet that is fully adult and in need of a loving home. A puppy or kitten is so tempting because they are absolutely adorable, but they are going to have so much more energy than an adult. A dog does not “Grow out” of its puppy behavior for about three years. Kittens mature sooner and will start calming down from 1 to 2 years. Any young pet will also need to be housebroke. Whether this is training them to use a litter box or teaching them to go outside, house training is a lot of work. Do either you or your loved one have the time or energy for that?
- What if the pet outlives their owner?
This is a sad thing to have to think about, but it’s the reality of owning pets as an elderly person. You need to know if there’s someone who is willing to take the pet if this should happen. Many pets have been known to pass away from depression not long after their owner has passed on. They grow just as attached to us as we do to them and they will not understand what has happened. They will need a loving home to go to.
- Can the pet assist a specific disability?
Guide dogs and service pets are animals that are trained to aid people with certain disabilities or health problems (either mental or physical). Guide dogs are specifically trained to help blind people to get around, but pets can be trained for other specifics as well. Dogs and cats can both be trained to detect low blood sugar and seizers. And dogs can be trained to perform simple tasks around the house such as turning the lights on and off, fetching the mail, retrieving the phone, etc. In addition, Most any dog will act as a guardian to their house, trained or not. If your dad is living alone and wheelchair bound, this can bring a great feeling of comfort and security.
These are only a few of the points that need to be weighed when trying to make this decision. Pets are a lot of work, but they are also a tremendous blessing. Having a pet to take care of, to talk to, to teach basic tricks, and to protect them if need be, can be invaluable to the seniors under your care. Discuss this with your family and loved ones. A companion pet may not be a good fit for you but it could potentially improve your loved one’s quality of life. It is certainly something to think on.
Today is National Stress Awareness Day, Caregiver Stress is a very real problem for those caring for loved ones. There are some things which can be done to manage the stress.
It’s an understatement that being a caregiver for an elderly loved one is stressful.
Caregiver stress is a very real problem and in general, by the time you accept that you are in the role of “primary caregiver”, the need to help your elderly parent is already advanced. You may have some “catch up work” to do so you can establish some controls over your aging parent’s medical situation, finances and lifestyle.
To make the stress of the task more acute, in many cases neither the caregiver nor the one being cared for like the situation and often the caregiver didn’t volunteer for the job. The senior citizen receiving the help is often hostile, resistant or even downright disagreeable to the necessary changes that the caregiver must implement. Because it is often the caregiver’s mom or dad being taken care of, there is the added challenge of established relationship norms, such as what they say has always been what goes. But now the caregiver may need to make some decisions and that reversal of roles is hard for both parent and child to get used to.
Caregiver stress can come from a variety of sources including the elderly senior citizen, expectations of other siblings and even from an internal high set of standards.
If you are a caregiver, you may have the attitude that “nothing but the best is good enough for my mommy or daddy”. And while that sounds good in theory, being a caregiver is all about compromise. They may deserve your attention 24/7 but realistically if you can drop by for an hour a day and then spend the rest of your day taking care of your job, your kids, your spouse, your housework and, oh yes, yourself, that is probably a reasonable expectation.
So right up front, it’s good to recognize that as you settle into the job of primary caregiver for an aging parent, there is going to be an increase in stress in your life. Stress has been identified as one of the big causes of physical and mental health problems for adults. Some stress in life is expected and is good for us. But when caregiver stress gets added to everyday stress, it can begin to overwhelm you, you can go through a decline of your own health that is not good for you, the one you are caring for or anyone in your family either.
The family of the caregiver, can assist the caregiver in many ways.
The caregiver is on the forward line of a struggle that really the whole family should be involved with. If you live a great distance from your parent and your brother or sister is doing the caregiving, be aware of the stress they are under and try to be supportive. You can do all you can to help out to take some of the stress off. Perhaps you can coordinate with the other distant siblings and relatives to call your parent regularly and take some of the relationship pressure off the caregiver sibling.
Above all, if you have suggestions for the caregiver, give them in love and without “nagging”. That sibling is painfully aware that she is carrying the load for the whole family so communicate your support and gratefulness and that your suggestions are meant only for mom or dads good, not to criticize the hard work your sibling is doing.
But the one person that can do the most to deal with the stress of being a caregiver is you, the caregiver.
It is important that you view taking care of yourself as much a part of your job as caregiver as any other duties you do. You are a huge resource to your mom or dad so take care of that resource for their sake as well as for yours. If you do, not only will you be a better caregiver, you will live happier and continue taking good care of your family and other responsibilities as well. And that’s a healthy approach to care giving and the only approach that will work if the job goes on for a long time.
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It's Medication Safety Week. That seems like a good time to discuss the importance of medication safety and things you can do for your loved one to ensure medication safety.
“Old people need a lot of pills.”
That was an observation my son observed about his Granddad. And while that may be a bit of a crude way of making that observation, it is certainly a correct observation. The truth is that senior citizens sometimes find themselves taking a vast array of pills and medications. Sometimes the diversity of medications can become hard to keep track of. That is why so often your aging parent may have a pill dispenser kit which allows him to measure out the drugs for an entire week to try to keep it all straight.
The real concern with that much medication being used at the same time is medicine interaction.
If your retired mom or dad takes five, six, seven or more pills at a time, it’s easy to imagine that one of those medications might get into conflict with another. This is not an idle concern. Many drug related overdoes or interaction problems occur with senior citizens every year due to combining their many prescription medications with over the country drugs, or with alcohol and the chemical reaction in their bodies became explosive.
If you are the caregiver for your aging mom or dad, it’s up to you to come up with some strict rules that you have to insist become the law of the land for your mom or dad to assure that there is little or no possibility of a drug related reaction which could lead to hospitalization or death.
Knowledge is power when it comes to managing senior medications.
The two key people you should turn to for that knowledge are your parent’s doctor and pharmacist. Sometimes the problems which arise from conflicting medicines comes from numerous doctors prescribing drugs. Be sure there is one doctor who is primarily in charge of your parent’s health in general. Have him or her review the current crop of medications, their frequency and ingredients to assure there are no potentially dangerous interactions.
Your pharmacist can perform the same function as he is trained in understanding the way drugs work. As with the doctor, it’s good to pick one pharmacist for all your parent’s drugs and schedule a time to go over the entire medication picture with the pharmacist to look for potential problems.
The next important area of focus to avoid potential medication mistakes is the home.
There is a lot you can do to prevent your aging parent from accidentally taking the wrong medications or the wrong dosages, either of which can cause potential problems. If the medicine cabinet where the meds are kept is full of similar looking bottles and the only way to tell them apart is the fine print on the bottles, do your part to make them unique.
You can buy multicolored bottles to transfer the drugs into. Then you can write out your parent’s medicine schedule in clear understandable terms like, “3 p.m. take 2 from the blue bottle, 1 from the pink bottle and 1 from the green bottle.” You can even take the next step of using a label maker to mark each bottle in clear, large print type so there is no possibility that what is in that bottle could be misunderstood.
Alternatively, you could use an automated medication dispenser to control the various medications.
These keep medication locked and only dispense the medications needed and at the correct time. Automated medication dispensers come with various features such as lights, timers, and some even call the family if the medication is not taken. Click here to see the automatic medication dispensers which we recommend.
Take proper care to keep track of medicines and their expiration dates and stay ahead of reorder cycles. A great way to save money is to use online pharmacies or reorder services that can provide you with generic equivalent of prescription drugs. Make sure the medication provider is legitimate so you know you are getting exactly what you ordered.
Your retired mom or dad may no longer have the kind of attention to detail to stay up on their medications and prescriptions. In addition, poor eyesight and mental fatigue can cause him or her to fail at staying on top of a complex drug situation. As you fill in that gap for your parent, in doing so, you will have peace of mind knowing they are getting the medications they need and only the medications they need.
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When you were growing up, your parents were your care givers. They made sure you were safe, well fed, clothed, had medical care and that finances were available for the things you needed. But being your caregiver was about more than just giving you the basics of survival and health.
Now your turn has come to be the care giver for your parents. They need you now as they move into their older years and they are less able to attend to those basic needs of life. You’ll find you need to take steps to assure they are safe and that they have the right food to eat for their diet. You can make sure their clothes are clean and that their medications are there for them every day. You also can look after their finances so there is plenty available to take care of the necessities of life and none is wasted or taken from them by scam artists.
But just as growing up in your family, there is another element of being a care giver and that element can be boiled down to the phrase, “quality of life.”
That is a good phrase because if your childhood had times of joy and happiness because you were part of a loving family, that was because your mom and dad went beyond the physical basics and made your life fun, full of love and laughter and good times that you would remember forever.
Perhaps you reminisce about those times with your elderly parents even today. But as you remember those terrific vacations or all the wonderful, Christmases and the many funny things that happened in your family when you were growing up, two people made sure your life was rich and full that way. And those two people are these same two people you are now charged to care for – mom and dad.
So how can you do all you can to enhance the quality of life for your parents in their retirement years?
If we can find ways to give them happy times, time of laughter and love, that will be a fitting pay back for the loving household they provided to you all those years. Here are just a few things you can make happen to make their lives happier and increase their quality of life…
- Dinner every week. If you have a routine time when you either come to your parents home and bring dinner or have them to your place to enjoy some family time, that will become a favorite night of the week for your elderly loved one.
- Lots of family time. The real value of being in the same town as your parents is they can have lots of time with your family. Let them be part of many of the family things you do such as church, school activities and fun outings during the spring and summer as well.
- Make the holidays festive. What would the holidays be without Grandma? And if Grandpa makes a good Santa Clause, you will surely to make his day as well as that of the other family members around.
- Make their house a home. As a caregiver, sometimes the chore of cleaning and maintaining your parent’s apartment falls to you, but don’t just “settle” for a nice clean look. Dig out those great things mom used to have on the walls and shelves at home when she had her own place. Try to give her room at the senior retirement center, or wherever she is living, a feeling of home as much as possible. Then she will feel comfortable and happy among the things that make this is her place and hers alone and you will have improved her quality of life.
If you can create the same joy, the same fun and the same sense of “home” for your elderly parent that they created for you and your siblings growing up, then you will have taken one more step toward giving back a little of what was given to you.
But there is a real value to giving your retired parents the same love and good times they gave to you. Laughter and love and happy times are therapeutic and can do a lot for the health and well being of your retired parent. Put that extra creativity you have into really giving to your parents the quality of life they gave to you and they will blossom where they are planted, just like that opportunity you and your siblings have had in life.
In order to perform the difficult and demanding job of a primary caregiver, it is important to take the time to care for yourself as well. It’s natural for you to feel the anxiety your parent feels and the fears they face as the months and years ahead hold uncertain dangers and a certain outcome. There is an instinct in caregivers to give 100% of your time, your energy and your resources to caring for your elderly loved one. To reduce the stress it's important to take time to take care of yourself.
Do you have a loved one who needs senior assistance at home but they are in denial? This is a common problem. Aging loved ones may slowly need more help with things that were once a normal part of life. Oftentimes home care services are needed for a loved one after an injury or illness. The unfortunate traumatic event often helps them accept the needed care but this is not always the case. No one wants to give up their independence. Many seniors feel like they would burden their family, they feel they are the “parent” and should be taking care of their children, not the other way around. They do not want to be a burden on anyone, especially their own grown children.
Family is often the first to notice signs of a loved one needing assistance. There might be signs such as, the house becoming more cluttered and dirty, instant foods replacing home cooking, and personal care and hygiene declining. When these changes happen slowly, they may go unnoticed by family. An intentional checklist to determine if help is needed should be done regularly, as aging loved ones may be in denial.
Denying, even covering up and hiding any signs of needing help, is common amongst seniors. Who wants to be dependent upon others for help? We have been to Senior Centers presenting our services where one senior looks at another suggesting that it may be a good idea for “them”, but never for themselves. It is somewhat comical to see the argument ensue regarding who needs care and who doesn’t. We have provided homecare services in homes with elderly couples. In order to get them to accept the care in the beginning the family would say to their mom, “this is to help Dad”, and they would say to Dad, “this is to help Mom”. This may sound humorous, but it can be dangerous. If your elderly loved ones need help yet will not accept it, it could result in a fall, injury, or unnoticed illness. After an injury or illness seniors may never have full independence again. Even family may think that help is only needed temporarily. Some may believe they will walk again, when being wheelchair bound is a permanent reality.
Accepting long term care as the new normal takes time, patience, love, and care. As a family member, you can offer offer these types of support. Other things you can do include:
- Speaking gently to them, It's often 'how' things are said can that make a difference.
- Take time to listen and understand their reason.
- Treat them as adults. Many people treat seniors as they treat children. This can be demeaning.
Denial is not only an issue with our aging loved ones; family members need to accept when assistance is needed as well, sometimes this too takes time. If you think your aging relatives need assistance at home, and they are reluctant, give us a call to discuss this with one of our Care Managers. We have dealt with reluctant seniors on numerous occasions and there is often a simple solution.
Our number is (603) 473-2510
It’s rare for me to find someone who does not like to read. To be considered an avid reader, one does not necessarily read just novels. The sky’s the limit when it comes to what written words will attract one’s attention. Who hasn’t read the cereal box while noshing that important meal of the day? Ingredients, nutritional value, even where the manufacturer is located seems pretty interesting as we spoon those tiny oat circles into our mouth. Perhaps it’s the daily newspaper that partners with breakfast. Maybe it’s your favorite monthly DIY magazine that you can’t wait to read. As a Caregiver, I’ve seen seniors who read the paper with their morning coffee, browse a magazine with lunch and peruse a novel during the afternoon. I’ve also been a caregiver for seniors who don’t read at all due to lack of interest, poor eyesight or their mind no longer can focus to keep on task.
I would be a lost soul if I could not read.
To me, reading soothes my troubled spirit when my world is crazy. I thank God I was never a smoker but I confess I am a bookworm; I am addicted to reading. I often said to Rich, my late husband, “reading is my cigarette”. Sometimes I am reading three books at once. There’s a paperback I keep in the car (waiting in my car for a family member who has run into a store is not boring when I can read – it’s like a stolen moment in time!). Umm…maybe my pocketbook is on the heavy side because of the novel I carry. My bedside table always holds at least two to three books – I tend to read according to my mood of the night. The written word takes my hand and leads me into a land where my stress, troubles and fatigue magically disappear.
I learned to read in first grade when I sounded out the words in DICK, JANE AND SALLY. Mrs. Reed, my teacher, let us read if we didn’t want to play in the sandbox or with the make-believe kitchen. She always read to us at naptime – what an awesome way to fall asleep! Ms. Farrell captured the minds of my peers in fifth grade as she read CHARLOTTE’S WEB on snowy school days. Christie, my best friend since second grade, shares my love of the written word. We were both so intrigued with MERRY LIPS by Jean Dixon that we read it many times. That novel was about a little girl who dressed as a boy to get into the colonial Army to find her brother. I always wanted to own a copy. About ten years ago, I finally tracked it down online and bought it. Out of print and no longer available in libraries, I felt like I had found a lost treasure. I wanted my grandchildren to be as intrigued with little Miss Merry Lips as I was.
In seventh grade, I read GONE WITH WIND, probably twice, and then once a year until I graduated high school (and a few times since). I smile as I remember the Librarian at Stillwater Central School telling me that book would be too challenging for a 12-year-old because it had so many pages and was for adults. Not daunted, I read every chance I had and would lose myself among the hanging moss trees in the Old South, sashay down the winding staircase of Tara and yearn for a chance to be Scarlet O’Hara – if only for a day. My love of history was born with the reading of that novel – thank you, Margaret Mitchell.
I also journeyed with Auguste Rodin in NAKED CAME I by David Weiss. This fascinating novel opened my eyes about a rebellious sculptor from the late 1800’s whose passion was to create true-to-nature sculptures. Now that was a hefty book that took me more than a few days to read. I must say that the subject matter was not my “usual read” but it touched the rebel part of my heart and allowed me to identify feelings I hadn’t ever put a name to. That book is on my “must read again” list.
Caregiving gives me the opportunity to engage seniors in conversations about favorite novels – the ones I enjoy and the books they have read or are currently reading. It is interesting to hear their comments when I ask questions, such as “what’s the book about?” I smile at their answers -- “Oh, so and so wants to solve a mystery but I can’t figure out why” or “Not sure, there are too many people running all over the pages who confuse me”. The important part about seniors reading is that their minds are teased into remembering what’s going on in the book. They are able to lose themselves, as I do, in the world of others’ imaginations. They are stepping out of the humdrum of their now less active life and journey with the main character who perhaps has the adventures and lifestyle they once had, or wished they had lived. I smile when I think about Paul, a senior I cared for a few years ago. He had the most remarkable collection of literature about Abraham Lincoln, his favorite inspirational man. Paul often confused what day it was, or what we had done yesterday. However, his recollection of what the books that lined his den’s bookshelves were about – what era, what deeds were part of Lincoln’s life and what was his favorite part of the book -- was absolutely phenomenal. Paul would often spend his afternoons lost in the life of Lincoln. His eyes would shine and his body language reflected his joy when talking about that historical figure. I believe his collection outshone any local village library’s books about that revered man.
If you are a caregiver for a parent, you have an awesome opportunity to give them a special gift. Take some time from your caregiving and read to them – as they did to you at bedtime, so many years ago. Wasn’t it awesome to hear about Peter Pan and his home in Never-Never Land, or laugh at Huck Finn’s trick when he was told to whitewash a fence? Newspaper print may be too small for your Dad to read about his favorite sports team. Why not read him the article about the game and then engage in some banter about the sport? Not only are you engaging in conversation, but you are spending some time with your beloved parent – time that is so precious as their sun begins to set in the land of their life.
I’m about to begin reading THE SHACK to a senior I am presently caring for. I had been told that novel has been made into a movie that will soon be in theaters. That book was very, very special to my husband and me. I had first read it in 2008, and then my husband, at my urging, read it. It touched our hearts with awesome emotions. When my husband and I took a road trip from our retirement home in Florida in June 2009, he asked me to read him the book during our drive. He drove, I read. He became teary many times as though the words in THE SHACK were touching his very soul – they were. Unknown to us, this was our last road trip together. We reached our family in upstate New York and the next day my husband met with his former doctor of many years – Rich was not feeling well. He was diagnosed with esophageal cancer stage IV and given perhaps a year to live. I lost the man who was the love of my life, for 43 years, six short weeks later. When we had driven back to Florida after the diagnosis, my husband shared that he felt God had put THE SHACK in his life to prepare him for his journey to Heaven.
When I told the senior I care for that THE SHACK was a great book and explained the subject matter, she became very interested. I asked if she would like me to read it to her (as it is in small print and she can only read large print), she said she would look forward to that. Voila! And so, we’ll soon be walking the path in the woods, smelling the flowers and enjoying the warm weather, as we look for the mysterious shack and discover what role that rustic abode plays in the lives of a grieving family. I will read and she will listen. Our minds won’t be focusing on the cold, snowy wind as it blows across the lake. We’ll be listening to the birds singing as we join a man searching for that old shack hidden in the woods. Perhaps Spring just might come early this year!
Whether you're a caregiver for a family member or an in home care provider, New Years is a perfect time to reassess. Here's some thoughts from one of our senior care providers.
2016 silently tiptoed out for many people who were not into the blowing-horns-saluting-the-New Year-with-bubbly mode. On tiny cat feet, 2016 quietly walked out the door, and gave a hug to 2017 while whispering in its ear, “treat every day with kindness and love”. Those who greeted the New Year with reflections of the past year and a cup of hot cocoa or Earl Grey tea may be thinking of new ways to journey along the path of 2017. Resolutions may include getting more exercise, cutting down on nibbling junk food while watching tv or get started on that endless honey-do list.
I’ve thought about “New Year Resolutions” and realize that despite my good intentions, my resolves to do this or that fall by the wayside a few weeks after the New Year begins. This realization triggered some thought about making an effort to “do better” in small but significant ways. Making changes that would put smiles on the faces of those who are in your little corner of the world would be a good starting point.
When waking up in the morning, focus on the power of positive thinking. Instead of lamenting “Oh, great! My plate is over-filled today. How can I get it all done?” Think, instead, “I should prioritize what I have to do today. I know I’ll be able to do this because, first-off, I like to do these things and secondly, hey, I’m good at doing them!” That kind of thinking will get your creative juices flowing and also make you feel good about yourself. Giving yourself a pat on the back is a gentle push to get moving in a positive direction, not a negative one. This resolution will make your inner self ready to meet the day and give it your best efforts.
Brushing your teeth is part of your morning routine. Why not add another must-do? Make a conscious decision, each morning, to speak kindly to your family as they gear up for their day – whatever it may be. Too often the hustle-bustle of getting breakfast, grabbing important paperwork, feeding the pets, throwing on a load of laundry or figuring out what else needs to be done before you head out the door…result in unkind words being thrown at family members. Criticism spews from a mouth like an angry volcano. Those in the path of such words become defensive and then, in turn, ready to speak unkindly to others. Remember, once spoken, words cannot ever be retrieved! Sure, you can follow up with “what I meant was” or “sorry”, but the damage has been done. The target of your ire just had a chunk taken out of their heart. Now there is a dead spot on that heart where once was a smile. I speak from experience of being on the receiving end of words that went right to my heart and did damage – it hurts! Yes, this will take big-time effort on your part but what a life-changer it will become when you make it routine. Sending your family (and yourself) off to meet the day with smiles is awesome! A great resolution!
Too often we know someone who is experiencing a huge bump in their road and their day is falling apart. We may tell them we are sorry or off-handedly say “let me know if I can help” and then hope they won’t really ask us to do this or that. After all, aren’t we all busy with our own lives? Or so we tell ourselves. Reach out to friends, family or acquaintances when they need help. Put aside some time in your day to check in on them and, again, remind them you really want to help. Caring about others does not have a time limit – it is endless! And rightly so. Sincerity is caring with you going the extra mile. Think about it. After all, when someone reaches out to us and then follows up with a phone call or knock on the door, isn’t our load somewhat lightened knowing that someone really cares enough to want to help – that it just wasn’t an off-hand gesture? Sincere caring is a resolution that will bless them and your own heart, too.
This may sound weird but it’s not! Do you feel unworthy/unable to be loved? Then you need to take a good look at yourself in the mirror and tell that person staring back that they are a good person -- talented, caring, and worthy of love and respect. Don’t be bashful. Don’t think you are being egotistic. You aren’t. Do you know that the hardest person to love is yourself? You know everything about you – what you perceive to be your good and bad points. But - to be able to give love to others, to care about them and to give the best you can whatever the situation -- you need to be coming from a place of inner strength, self-approval and knowing that you are valued. Resolve to take stock of the person who wears your shoes. By doing this frequently, you will be reminded to smile at that reflection in the mirror.
DON’T JUMP TO CONCLUSIONS
How many of us form an opinion about a person or situation only to find out our idea of so and so or some event was totally off track? Rather than being patient, or listening intently or getting the whole story, we jumped the gun, thus putting a negative slant on a certain situation. How often have we hurt a person through word or action because we had formed a wrong conclusion? Make a New Year’s resolution to get all the facts. If you need to ask questions, then do so.
It takes bravery to speak up about a situation that bothers you. It is an injustice to a person if you don’t tell them if something they said or did is always on your mind. I’ve always held to the premise that not saying anything when you need to means you really don’t care. Having something eating at your heart and not talking about it is like an invisible rock hung on a chain around your heart – always heavy and wearing away at you. I am not a person to make waves and I hate confrontation. But, there are times when I’ve had to take that very hard step to let someone know that something is wrong. I tell them that something they did or said is weighing heavy on my heart and we need to talk. When the air has been cleared, I can breathe easier and my heart steps lightly. Resolve to clear the air and the sun will shine brighter for you!
WHAT DO THESE QUALITIES MAKE?
You may be asking how can these resolutions: Positive Thoughts, Kind Words, Sincere Caring, Loving Yourself, Not Jumping to Conclusions and Be Brave have a connection with being a Caregiver? Well, think about it. A Caregiver who starts their day with negative thoughts, biting words, off-handed offers to help, not being able to look in the mirror, making assumptions, or being too timid to clear the air walks into a client’s home dragging any of this name-it, claim-it baggage. Poof! Today’s road starts out rocky, not smooth. Adopting even one of these resolutions into your everyday life will put a spring into your step and a sincere smile on your face. Your head will be ready to think, your hands will be ready to offer assistance and your heart will be ready to truly care about the person who needs you. A Caregiver who is walking their New Year’s Resolution journey will bring sunshine and not gray skies to someone who needs to know they, too, are valued. Unlike winter’s sniffles, spreading these life-changing resolutions around would be awesome!
Whether you're a family caregiver or a homecare provider, what resolutions have you made which might help in your role as a caregiver?
As I look out the windows of the sliders, the December wind escorts snowflakes that are falling onto autumn leaves. Layers of sparkling flakes hide Mother Nature's paintbrush strokes that turned greens into a kaleidoscope of brilliant hues. Another chapter in my Book of Life as a Caregiver has begun.
This is the second December I am a Caregiver for a beloved elder in my position with Abundant Blessings. This is my 18th month of watching the sun rise over the lake at dawn, and enjoying the sunset's pink glow in the evening. I believe conversation is a healthy stimulant for not only her, but myself. She enjoys when I reach into my childhood memories to share bits and pieces of my life. These tales may give her a better understanding of why I am the person I am today - or at least I like to think so. Lately, it's natural to focus on Christmas - "it's the most beautiful time of the year" - so the song sung by Andy Williams says. I realize, however, that I am giving myself a gift, bringing what is hidden in my heart to the forefront. While verbalizing about how Christmas was celebrated, I become the twelve year old who is now allowed to stay up "to help Santa trim the tree on Christmas Eve". That was the year my father whispered in my ear, "When the other kids are asleep, quietly come back downstairs". An hour after the eight of us had each opened the present that mysteriously had appeared under the undecorated tree, (a pair of new pjs to wear Christmas morning) and climbed the stairs to our bedrooms, I tiptoed down the stairs to see my father putting lights on the tree. Boxes of ornaments were on the couch and my stepmother was busy wrapping gifts on the dining room table. That was when I knew who Santa really was. Naïve? Maybe, but gloriously so! And oh how my heart is singing when I think about these times.
That magical night, my father placed the old foil Santa Claus face on top of the tree. It had been the same Santa that graced his childhood tree. My main job was to put the tinsel on each branch -- one piece at a time. Now, this wasn't tinsel that was new and shiny, but hefty pieces of shimmering foil that had been wrapped around pieces of cardboard and used year after year. Dad was like the "tinsel police" - watching that I did the hanging just right and admonishing me if I didn't. After what seemed like hours, my tinsel job was finished. I then helped my stepmother wrap gifts, mostly in green or red tissue paper, with Christmas stickers holding the pieces together. In a family of ten, scotch tape was a rare commodity, only to be used very sparingly. Those little stickers of candy canes, elves or angels barely held up through the night to Christmas morning.
On Christmas morning, my father would turn the tree lights on and have "the kids" come down the stairs in age order - youngest to oldest (me). I still see the joy on the faces of my sisters and brothers as they saw the now decorated Christmas tree and the orderly stacks of presents underneath. My Dad was there taking pictures with the old video camera. We'd sit on the floor and my stepmom would hand us each a present to open. I remember all of this to be orderly and not the harried ripping of paper that one generally sees nowadays. We didn't have many gifts, but what we were given made us smile. Money was always tight in our household. Both parents worked on the B&M Railroad in the neighboring town, and my father also held other jobs at the same time - Police Chief, Fire Chief, snowplower in the town trucks. I well remember the trees he would cut "way up north" and haul back for us to sell at my uncle's hardware store or in our side yard. My siblings and I gathered Princess Pine from the woods and made wreaths to sell. We shoveled walks and driveways till our feet and fingers seemed frozen. That was how we earned our Christmas money.
As I share my childhood memories with this wonderful lady I am Caregiver for, she, in turn, talks about her childhood Christmases. Her eyes light up, she laughs, and long forgotten names and places come out of that hiding deep in her mind. I listen with my ears, but it is my heart that is catching each memory she is reliving. There is no sadness, no tears of days long lost. There is only the gifts of sharing and caring. Laughter fills the air. Unlocking wonderful memories is like opening up the door of the past with the key of love. And so the night ends, and we watch the falling snow blanketing the lake. We both smile, lost in the peace of our yesterdays.
As we celebrate this wonderful time of year be sure to share your own Christmas memories and reminisce with those you love. What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?
From time to time a family member may become concerned about a loved ones driving abilities. Although driving ability is not necessarily determined by age and many seniors drive safely and successfully, there are changes which can affect driving ability over time. Many of these changes happen as we age and these can contribute to unsafe driving practices. Some changes can affect the ability to turn the head to check for traffic, or to brake quickly. Other changes affect the ability to respond appropriately to situations as they occur. All drivers must have the ability to react quickly to other cars and people on the road.
How dangerous is it?
Some elderly drivers are a danger to themselves and others on the road. Driving is an activity which requires many thought processes, actions and movements all happening simultaneously. It requires quick thinking and quick reactions, which for many people, diminish with age. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), statistics do show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in crashes. Risk of injury or being killed in a motor vehicle accident does increases as people age. In addition, a senior who is involved in a motor vehicle crash is at greater risk of injury or death than someone younger. If you are hesitant about having the discussion about driving with your loved one, considering the possible outcome could help you overcome your hesitation.
How do you know when the time has come?
There are warning signs to look for if you are concerned about a family members driving or even your own. We have put together a "Senior Driving Checklist" for you to print and fill out. When you notice some of these warning signs it is time to assess the situation. Don't wait for an accident to happen. You can also take a look at the other resources we have listed.
How to talk with your loved one about driving
First of all, do not assume that one discussion will be all that is needed. This is a delicate situation which may require many conversations. You must be respectful of their right to make choices.
Secondly, don’t come on too strong or as a “know it all”, be considerate of their thoughts and feelings, and let them have a say. If your loved one has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia they may be unaware of the changes in their abilities and capabilities. When someone is unaware of the changes, this can result in great reluctance on their part of giving up the ability to drive. They may see this as a great loss of their independence and can be quite traumatic for some people. It is important to consider the person’s feelings.
Ask them questions. Lead the conversation with questions to get them talking. This may help them to see the need to give up driving. Ask them “How have you felt recently when driving or after driving?”, “Have you gotten confused at all recently when driving?”, “Can you tell me about the new dents on your vehicle?” It may even be possible for you both to fill out the “Senior Driving Checklist” together.
What if they are reluctant to give up driving?
Many seniors are reluctant to give up driving because they fear the loss of their independence. In this situation, rather than just taking their keys, a road test would be a good consideration. In some states, the local Department of Motor Vehicles offers testing to determine a person’s abilities when driving and responding to situations when on the road and in traffic. They can also test for vision and distance perception. If your state does not offer this service, there are companies which offer this service. The Alzheimer’s Association or other similar agency may be able to provide a list of resources. Some places offer a Mature Drivers course, if your loved one is reluctant to take the course, remind them that their insurance and their roadside assistance may offer a discount for taking it.
What if they refuse to give up driving?
- If at all possible it is always best to get your loved one to agree to give up driving voluntarily. The loss of the independence can be traumatic and can lead to depression, having that right taken from them can be even more traumatic. Be prepared for this ahead of time. Sometimes however, they simply refuse to do so voluntarily. Then comes to the difficult decision, for their safety and the safety of others, to take drastic measures.
- Involve their physician: Schedule an appointment with your loved one and their physician so you can discuss the situation together, seniors often will listen to and respect the opinion of their physician. If you do go to talk to the doctor, bring alone a copy of the “Senior Driving Checklist” filled out. Sometimes the loss of driving ability is a process and the doctor may recommend some first steps such as the agreement to not drive after dark. Discuss these options together.
- Involve their optometrist/ophthalmologist: as stated above, seniors will often respect their opinion.
- Involve the State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV): In some states, it might be best to alert the department of motor vehicles. The caregiver can often meet with a representative and request a driving test and vision examination, some states do not honor this request. In some states you can write a letter directly to the DMV and express your concerns, or request that the person’s license be revoked. The letter should state that “(the person’s full name) is a hazard on the road,” and offer the reason (Alzheimer’s disease). The state may require a statement from your physician that certifies the person is no longer able to drive. Research your state or talk to a physician who may be able to guide you. Contact your local DMV to find out their recommendation on how to proceed.
- Control access to the keys: designate one person to do all the driving and give them exclusive access to the car keys.
- Disable the car in some way: Discuss this with a mechanic.
- Give the person a set of keys that looks like his or her old set, but that don’t work to start the car.
- Consider selling the car: Discuss with your loved one the potential financial savings which comes with selling the car. There could potentially be enough savings to pay for any public transportation or even taxi rides. There would be savings on insurance, vehicle payments, gas, maintenance, etc.
If you have increasing concern about your loved one’s driving, the above information should give you some ideas for how to begin the conversation. If you are in our area and need transportation services, feel free to call us to discuss some options for your family.
- Drivers 65 Plus: Check Your Performance A Self-Rating Tool with Facts and Suggestions for Safe Driving https://www.aaafoundation.org/sites/default/files/driver65.pdf
- How to Help an Older Driver: A guide for planning safe transportation by AAA
- We Need to Talk: family conversations with older drivers by The Hartford Group
Please join us at the Senior Health and Wellness Expo on April 6th from 10am-2pm at the Langdon Place of Dover. There will be many great vendors offering freebees, refreshments, offers, and great information on goods and services available to Seniors. Stop by and see our booth, meet some of our staff, take a moment to do our free Alzheimer's and Dementia Screening Test, and enter for a chance to win our beautiful gift bag! See you there!
A beautiful song by a 15 year old boy singing about his relationship with his precious Nan who battles Alzheimer's and his love for her. This goes out to anyone who's life has been impacted by this terrible disease. We understand, and we're here. Well done Harry!
Not Alone by Harry Gardner
In 2010, pneumonia, combined with influenza, was the eighth leading cause of death in the United Sates, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. On top of this, 1 out of 20 adults who get pneumonia dies, according to the Centers for Disease Control. This makes preventing pneumonia in the elderly a serious matter.
"Pneumonia is an inflammation of the lungs usually caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or other organisms," says Dr. Norman Edelman, the chief medical officer for the American Lung Association. This inflammation causes an outpouring of fluid in the infected part of the lungs, affecting either one or both lungs. The blood flow to the infected portion of the lung (or lungs) decreases, meaning oxygen levels in the bloodstream can decline.
"This decline is more likely to happen in an elderly, sick, and/or debilitated 85-year-old. The body attempts to preserve blood flow to vital organs and decrease blood flow to other parts of the body such as the GI tract," says Dr. Joseph Mylotte, a professor of medicine at the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University of Buffalo. "The effects [of pneumonia] are widespread even though the infection is localized to the lung." The complications of pneumonia in the elderly can be life-threatening, from low blood pressure and kidney failure to bacteremia, an infection that spreads to the bloodstream.
Elderly people are more susceptible to pneumonia for several reasons. Often they already suffer from co-morbid conditions such as heart disease, which means they don't tolerate infection as well as younger people, says Mylotte. Age also causes a decrease in an older person's immune system response, so his defenses are weaker. "Some virulent organisms can cause infection in younger people, but the infections can be worse in older people," says Mylotte.
Pneumonia is caused by more than thirty types of organisms; these different strains mean that symptoms can vary from case to case. However, the following symptoms can signal a bout of pneumonia:
- Malaise or feeling weak
- Green or yellow sputum
- Pain in the chest
- Shortness of Breath
Often, a person may think she is simply suffering from the cold or flu. Also, it is widely believed that the signs of pneumonia in the elderly can differ from the general population. An older patient might not have a fever. "The symptoms and signs are sometimes not as specific. They may be more sleepy and lethargic, or lose their appetites, or they may suffer from dizziness and fall. If there is underlying dementia, they might not be able to tell you how they feel. But it's all related to something going on in the lung," says Mylotte.
People are often exposed to the organisms that cause this disease, but the lungs' defense mechanisms usually protect people from infection. Sometimes these organisms break through a person's immune system, infecting the lungs' air sacs. Each lung has a major airway (bronchus) that divides into twenty-two tubes; these tubes further divide into more than one hundred thousand tiny tubes (bronchioles) that end in clusters of tiny air sacs (alveoli), where the transfer of oxygen to the body's bloodstream takes place. When a patient has pneumonia, the affected air sacs become inflamed and filled with fluid. This leads to breathing problems, a lack of blood flow to the infected sections of the lungs, and a decrease in the bloodstream's oxygen level.
PNEUMONIA CAUSES & DIAGNOSIS
Simple diagnostic tests can confirm a case of pneumonia in the elderly. A doctor who listens to a patient's lungs may hear bubbling sounds called rales and rattling sounds called rhonchus, which signal infection and inflammation in the lungs. A pulse oximetry test computes the blood's oxygen levels. A chest x-ray or CT scan is often the definitive diagnosis, telling the physician where the infection is and the degree of the illness. Sometimes a doctor will have the patient's phlegm or blood analyzed to decipher which organism is responsible for the infection.
Although pneumonia can be caused by more than two dozen organisms, pneumonia in the elderly is usually caused by bacteria or viruses. The streptococcus (or pneumococcal) pneumonia bacteria is responsible for an estimated forty thousand deaths every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The elderly are more likely to catch this strain of pneumonia. Streptococcus pneumonia can come on slowly or suddenly. It can damage the lungs, cause bacteremia in the bloodstream, and meningitis in the brain.
Viruses also trigger this disease, and are thought to cause about 50 percent of pneumonia infections in the general population. Usually viral pneumonia is less severe, but complications can include bacterial pneumonia.
Atypical pneumonia-causing organisms-such as mycoplasma and chlamydia-rarely cause pneumonia in the elderly. In the nursing home population, a small percentage of people suffer from severe pneumonia strains caused by organisms such as Gram-negative bacteria and Staphylococcus aureus, which can quickly end in death or with the patient on a respirator, says Mylotte.
PNEUMONIA TREATMENT & MANAGEMENT
Patients are treated for pneumonia depending upon which organism triggered the disease. Your loved one's medical provider can ascertain this through analyzing a phlegm or blood sample.
For a case of viral pneumonia, some patients may receive antiviral medications, but these are not commonly prescribed. And antibiotics are not used because they aren't effective against viruses. Bouts of viral pneumonia usually heal without medication, provided the patient rests, eats healthy food, and takes in plenty of fluids. If new symptoms arise, it is important to contact your loved one's doctor, as bacterial pneumonia is a possible complication.
Bacterial pneumonia is always treated with antibiotics. If a patient is in the hospital, it is typical for the hospital to follow strict treatment guidelines. These guidelines are part of pay-for-performance programs, meaning the doctor will get paid a better rate if she follows the guidelines, says Mylotte. Both the American Thoracic Society (www.thoracic.org) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (www.idsociety.org) have standard treatment guidelines available on their respective websites. These are based on where the patient acquired the disease-in the community, in the nursing home, in the hospital-and these guidelines can be found on each organization's website. Whether at home or in the hospital, patients are usually administered a once-a-day therapy. Effective antibiotic treatments include respiratory fluoroquinolones such as moxifloxacin, says Mylotte, although there are several antibiotic therapies that work as well as these.
Treating bacterial pneumonia has become more complicated due to antibiotic resistance: The organisms that cause this disease mutate and can become resistant to drug treatment. This is one reason that it is important for a patient to finish her entire course of antibiotics; stopping treatment early actually encourages antibiotic resistance. Up until a few years ago, antibiotic resistance associated with bacterial pneumonia had been increasing, but it has recently decreased, according to Mylotte.
Both mycoplasma and chlamydia pneumonias are also treated with antibiotics. Mycoplasma pneumonia is also known as walking pneumonia. If your loved one has this strain, he or she usually will have milder symptoms, but it can take four to six weeks to heal completely.
Most pneumonia patients heal at home. About 15 to 20 percent of people with community-acquired pneumonia are treated in the hospital, while about 20 to 30 percent of people withnursing-home acquired pneumonia are also admitted to a hospital, according to Mylotte.
Whether a patient stays at home or in a hospital, she may take medications to ease fever, aches, and coughing bouts. Because coughing actually helps rid lung infection, this action shouldn't be entirely reduced. However, if the patient isn't getting any sleep, a low-dose cough suppressant can be prescribed. Patients with severe strains may need oxygen therapy to increase blood-oxygen levels. Caregivers should make sure a loved one is receiving proper hydration, eating at least a small amount of healthy food, and reporting worsening or new complications, says the American Lung Association's Edelman.
Complications that can arise from pneumonia include:
- Bacteremia: The possibly deadly infection invades the bloodstream and can infect the body's organs.
- Pleurisy and Empyema: With pleurisy, the membrane that covers the lungs (pleura) becomes inflamed. Empyema occurs when fluids causing inflammation become infected.
- Lung Abscess: A pus-filled cavity can develop in the infected lung area.
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS): When the lungs become severely injured due to pneumonia, respiratory failure can occur. Treatment includes the use of a mechanical ventilator (vent) and supplemental oxygen.
Pneumonia in the elderly as well as younger people occurs when a person's immune system is weakened. Although it can be transmitted via the air or hand-to-hand contact, if a person's immune system is strong he can fight off this infection. Preventing this disease with the following steps can keep it at bay:
- Pneumococcal Vaccine: This vaccine helps prevent twenty-three different strains of bacterial pneumonia (although there are many more strains of bacterial pneumonia out there). "It doesn't always engender a good immune response in adults, so it doesn't always work well," says Mylotte. He also points out the vaccine is effective for a shorter amount of time in older people. Experts recommend getting your first dose when you are in your 50s and your second dose at age 65, and then a new dose should be administered every five years.
- Influenza Vaccine: This vaccine is just as important as the pneumococcal vaccine. It doesn't work as well in elderly people, says Mylotte, but if an older vaccinated person gets the flu, it is usually a milder case. Pneumonia is often a secondary infection after an initial bout of influenza; people who receive this vaccine have less risk of developing pneumonia as a flu complication. Older adults should get a flu shot every year.
- Hand Washing: "I always tell people to wash their hands as much as they can. If your hands aren't raw in the wintertime, you are not doing a good job," says Mylotte.
- Dental Hygiene: Pneumonia infections can occur around infected teeth, says Edelman, so dental work should be kept in good repair.
- Good Health Habits: Exercise, rest and healthy eating can all increase resistance to pneumonia.
Edelman also recommends that frail elderly people who are already susceptible to infection should stay away from anyone who has the flu or a bad cold. Of course, preventing pneumonia in the elderly is always preferable to treating it. But if you suspect your loved one is suffering from pneumonia, quick intervention can be a life-saving occurrence.
By Michelle Perez
Yes, you can buy a present for a loving grandparent from a store, but they can be very impersonal. Why not make one with your kids? Kids will love the craft time and grandparents will love having something homemade.
"When a grandchild makes a handmade gift, the present is unique and the grandchild is giving of his time," says Sue Johnson, a grandmother of six from Lancaster, Virginia, grandparenting expert and author of Grandloving: Making Memories with Your Grandchildren. "It's also meaningful because we know they have been thinking about us when they made the gift, and it contains something of himself."
Like Johnson, Kimberly Jo Ellingsworth, a grandmother of five in Monterey, California, understands the significance of a handmade gift. "I always remember the look on my oldest grandson's face when he would bring something he made home and give it to us," she says. "He was so excited, and then even more excited because we used it rather than putting it on a shelf somewhere."
With the help of some very creative grandparents, we came up with eight fun ideas for things your little one can make (sometimes with your help) for this special person in their life.
- Create a Collage
- Grab your family photos and laminate them to place mats to send to grandma and grandpa. You'll always be there with them bringing joy to each meal.
- Make a CD
- Record the kids telling their grandparents about their favorite times with Nana and Papa "as a reminder of the importance of being together," Johnson says.
- Share Some Sunshine
- Have the kids draw grandma's favorite flower, then cut it out and have them paste their photo on it. Draw a big sun with your child's photo in it, and caption it "You are my sunshine!" Teach your kiddos the words to the song and put it on a CD to accompany the gift.
- Assemble a Coupon Booklet
- Have the kids come up with 10 things they can do for their grandparents -- everything from raking the yard to baking their favorite cookies -- and make each idea a coupon to put in a book.
- Personalize Magnets
- Get some magnetic tape and put pieces on the back of family photos to create instant fridge magnets.
- Film a Homemade Video
- Grab the video camera and record your kids being goofy. Or, as Johnson suggests, ask the kids to relay "our family history from the eyes of your grandchild."
- Puzzle It Out
- Paste a photo of your child on cardboard, cut it into pieces and send with instructions saying, "Put this together and see who loves you!"
- Make a List
- Write a list of "I love you because ..." statements to send to the grandparents to let them know how special they are.
- Plan an Activity or Outing
- Yes, physical gifts are nice, but grandparents often treasure the gift of memories with their grandkids even more. Your child and their grandparent can organize something fun for them to do together. For example, create a family trivia game with facts about each person, set up a scavenger hunt or get messy with an afternoon of finger painting. You can take photos of the special day and put them in an album from grandparents to look over.
Handmade gifts can be a tradition that grandkids and grandparents alike can look forward to. Get the little ones thinking of a new gift idea weeks, or even months in advance. This will make for a rewarding present the grandparents won't forget.
Michelle Perez is a freelance writer covering all things Denver. Her work can be found here.
There's an old saying about the eyes being windows to the soul. But the latest medical and dental research shows that the mouth truly is a window into one's overall health. Looking out for a loved one's health means not only keeping an eye on their nutritional intake and physical capabilities, but also on their teeth and gums. Senior dental problems can be common, from dry mouth to periodontal disease, and since oral health directly impacts the health of the rest of the body, these issues need to be taken seriously. Taking care of elderly teeth and gums is just as important as heart or digestive health.
COMMON DISEASES WITH ORAL SYMPTOMS
Researchers have found that many diseases in the rest of the body have oral symptoms. With careful examination of the teeth, gums, and tongue, dentists have found evidence of heart or liver disease, eating disorders, diet deficiencies, anemia, diabetes, arthritis, HIV, osteoporosis, and even some autoimmune diseases. "We're now realizing how they're interrelated," explains Dr. Cynthia M. Carlsson, assistant professor of geriatrics and gerontology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.
Not only does the mouth tattle on the rest of the body, oral health can actually affect overall health.
For example, recent studies show a correlation between gum disease and heart disease. In fact, risk factors for periodontal disease and cardiovascular disease are similar: smoking, stress, poor diet, excessive weight gain, and low exercise levels. One study suggests that people with severe periodontal disease face double the risk of fatal heart disease, and severe periodontal disease also is associated with higher rates of stroke in some studies. And in certain circumstances, a tooth infection has the potential to cause bacterial endocarditis, which is an infection of the heart's inner lining or the heart valves. Bacteria in the bloodstream can lodge on the valves or damaged heart tissue, and it could be serious enough to damage, or even destroy, the heart valves.
Periodontitis also appears to share risk factors with chronic degenerative diseases such as ulcerative colitis, and lupus. If a patient has severe gum disease, they may be advised to take antibiotics before undergoing invasive dental procedures such as gum surgery or tooth extraction.
Conversely, other diseases can affect the mouth. For example, diabetes affects healing, so if a diabetic senior has gum disease, it may take quite a bit longer to treat that gum disease.
Researchers now urge both doctors and dentists to be alert to overall health problems when taking care of elderly patients and encourage behaviors that will promote a healthy body from head to toes.
MAKING ORAL HEALTH A PRIORITY
It's easy for someone to let oral health slide a bit when they're distracted by other ailments. Perhaps arthritis makes tooth brushing painful, or they can't stand at the bathroom sink very long. "They're maybe not quite as vigilant because of their frailty, which leads to a quick decline in oral health, and this could be a detriment to systemic health," explains Dr. Marsha A. Pyle, director of the Training Center for Geriatric Oral Health and associate dean of Education at the Case School of Dental Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio. "You can't just treat dental disease in isolation."
It's best to brush after every meal, says Pyle, not just in the morning and at night. If a patient is at risk of periodontal disease, a dentist can prescribe special toothpastes or gels that help combat dental disease, as well as a daily treatment of high-fluoride gel or anti-bacterial rinse.
Carlsson advises encouraging your loved one to visit their dentist on a regular basis either to have their teeth cleaned or to have their dentures refit. Missing teeth or dentures that don't fit well can lead to potentially serious senior dental problems. "They may aspirate the food, where food goes down into the lungs and causes pneumonia," Carlsson says. Besides encouraging good nutrition and regular dental visits, watch him eat to see if he's avoiding something, and try to notice if any of his teeth look loose or broken.
Ill-fitting dentures can be a culprit in poor nutrition among seniors. When a person loses his natural teeth, his jaw bones begin to shrink away, leading to the jaw continually "remodeling" itself. Dentures that once fit well start slipping. So, a senior may start limiting the kinds of food he eats because it's too hard to eat, or because he's embarrassed that others may see him having trouble chewing.
"And it happens during a really important stage of a person's life. These really frail seniors really need their nutrition," Pyle says.
If a senior does lose her natural teeth, instead of traditional dentures, she could have implant-supported dentures. These implants are attached to the jaw bone, and a special denture snaps onto the implants. These implant-supported dentures fit more snugly than traditional dentures, so eating different foods shouldn't be a problem.
A less drastic measure places a softer material on the gum side of traditional dentures so they're more comfortable.
Just a few decades ago, 50% of all seniors had no natural teeth remaining, according to Pyle. That number has now dropped to 27% of those over age 65. "It's not a natural part of aging, I'm happy to say," says Pyle. "People now are aging with a full set of teeth."
Whether or not your loved one has his natural teeth or dentures, a little help from you can go a long way toward ensuring that he maintains good dental hygiene. A healthy smile may affect a person's confidence and self-image, but, more importantly, it will pay off not only in her oral health, but in her overall health as well.
DRY MOUTH: A COMMON ISSUE FOR SENIORS
According to Pyle, one of the major senior dental problems is dry mouth. "If they have a chronic disease managed by medications, one of the side effects is dry mouth. There are 400 medications known to cause dry mouth," Pyle says, including medications for common problems such as high blood pressure and depression.
While a small amount of gum recession is normal as seniors age, dry mouth increases that recession dramatically, leaving the mouth more susceptible to root area cavities. And those root surface cavities advance more quickly on the soft surface of a tooth.
There are many ways to treat dry mouth including:
- Increase liquid intake
- Rinse mouth frequently with water
- Use a commercially available saliva substitute
- Use specially-formulated toothpastes, chewing gum, or non-alcohol-based mouthwashes
- Apply lip moisturizer frequently
- Suck on tart, sugarless hard candies
- Avoid dry, salty foods
By Sarah Stevenson
Being stuck indoors due to winter weather can put seniors at risk of social isolation and poor quality of life. Find out what you can do to keep your elderly loved ones engaged and healthy.
The wild winter weather across much of the country is keeping many people indoors more than they would like, and being stuck inside can be a particular problem for seniors living alone– putting their mental, emotional, and even physical health at risk. Not only is it more difficult for the elderly to leave without risking winter dangers like the cold, falls, and dangerous driving conditions, it’s also harder for visitors to reach them. Winter weather can also have an effect on senior nutrition, if someone is unable to leave the house and shop for food. An even more distressing result of being trapped inside, unable to come or go, can be social isolation and loneliness.
Loneliness Affects Elderly Health and Well-Being
We often think of the elderly as residing in a senior community, with family, or in other shared housing situations, so it may be hard to imagine that loneliness is an issue for seniors. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, however, the probability of living alone actually increases with age. For women, the likelihood of living alone is 32 percent for 65- to 74-year-olds, but this increases to 57% for those aged 85 years or more; for men, the corresponding proportions are 13% and 29% . Even for centenarians—seniors who are 100 years of age or older—the numbers are astonishingly high: about a third of centenarians live alone at home.
Isolation in the elderly can lead to some distressing health outcomes, and even increase the risk of death. A 2012 review of the scientific literature, published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, stated that “social isolation has been demonstrated to lead to numerous detrimental health effects in older adults, including increased risk for all-cause mortality, dementia, increase risk for re-hospitalization, and an increased number of falls.”
Recent research reports shows how it effects seniors: at the 2014 annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science earlier this month, University of Chicago psychologist John Cacioppo reported that feeling extreme loneliness can increase an older person’s chances of dying early by 14%. “Feeling isolated from others can disrupt sleep, elevate blood pressure, increase morning rises in the stress hormone cortisol, alter gene expression in immune cells, increase depression and lower overall subjective well-being,” stated UChicago News.
What You Can Do If Your Loved One Is Isolated
According to Cacioppo, the danger isn’t necessarily solitude itself, but a subjective feeling of isolation, of lacking social engagement and face-to-face connections with others. Age-related health issues like vision loss, hearing loss or incontinence can increase this sense of isolation. So what can families and caregivers do to address the issue if we fear our loved ones are isolated? Here’s a list of suggestions for preventing senior loneliness and keeping our loved ones healthy and happy this winter:
1. Address Any Underlying Health Issues
Whether it’s arranging for the delivery of incontinence supplies or making sure your loved one has regular hearing or vision tests, being proactive about seniors’ health can help them feel better on a day-to-day basis. What’s more, it can diminish the social anxiety related to hearing, vision, or continence concerns.
2. Reach Out to Family, Friends, and Neighbors
If the weather makes it impossible for you to check on your senior loved one as much as you’d like, enlist the help of others who may be nearby and more easily able to visit. Can a neighbor knock on the door and check in? Don’t forget to call or email your loved one often to keep those connections strong even when you can’t visit in person.
3. Prevent Senior Malnutrition With Food Delivery
Seniors who live alone may be at greater risk of getting poor nutrition when the weather turns nasty. Consider getting food delivered by an online grocery service, or by an organization such as Meals on Wheels, which can provide not just nutritious food but social contact.
4. Encourage Safe Transportation and Mobility
Encouraging your loved ones to use the adaptive technologies they may need, from hearing aids to walkers, which can help them become more active and socially engaged. When it comes to getting outside the house, though, storms and snow can present a challenge. Give senior relatives rides when you can, or arrange safe transportation for them, whether it’s senior-friendly public transit, an ambulette or paratransit service, or a taxi.
5. Connect Older Loved Ones with Necessary Local Services
You can use the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator website to get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging. The AAA will know where your loved one can find senior centers, transportation services, and other helpful programs for the elderly. “Some AAAs even have volunteers who call and check in on home bound seniors living alone,” says a recent article by the AARP.
6. Consider Respite Care or Assisted Living
Sometimes our loved one needs more care than we are able to provide, especially in cases where the weather throws a (literal) roadblock. One option in this case is to book your loved into a short-term stay in a facility that offers respite care, so that their day-to-day needs are taken care of for the duration of their stay. However, if a senior requires ongoing help that is beyond your abilities – for instance, if they are cognitively impaired, or their physical care needs are increasing – this could be a sign they are ready for assisted living.