Tips To Reduce Elderly Depression During The Holidays

Portrait of the old woman in the winter

By: Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS

Although we like to think of the holidays as a joyous time of year, not everyone feels that way. It can be a depressing and lonely time for seniors — especially for seniors who are separated from their loved ones. In addition, some seniors might be reminded of lost friends or family members or for the first time find themselves spending the holidays without their significant other. These losses bring on a lot of strong emotions and can be difficult to face alone.

Those of us that work with the elderly approach this time with trepidations. It is a period when they enjoy time with their loved ones, but may mourn all they have lost in terms of loved ones as well as physical capabilities. I have tried to put together some helpful tip sheets in addition to some concrete suggestions on how we can help the senior loved one, caregiver and their families navigate joyfully through this holiday season.

So, what can you do as a loved one of a senior who might be having a difficult time coping during the holidays?

1. Really listen to your senior loved one when they want to talk.

When your loved one talks, listen. Encourage them to express what they are feeling about the holidays, good or bad. If possible, just check in with them daily either by stopping by, calling or even using Skype to see how they are doing and to be there for them if they need to talk. Often, seniors just want to know that someone cares about them and that they are not alone.

2. Ask them for help and advice.

Seniors often get depressed because they feel they cannot participate in holiday planning the way they used to. If you are planning a holiday celebration, let them know they are a big part of that celebration. Ask for their advice or help preparing for the event. Even something as simple as asking them for a recipe can make them feel included in the process. Most importantly, remind them how much they are loved by everyone in the family.

3. Spend quality time with them.

Quality time with your loved ones is important all year long, but especially during the holidays. It can be a great remedy for seasonal depression in the elderly. Look at old holiday pictures, cards or videos with them. Leave them somewhere visible and accessible so your loved one can take a walk down memory lane when they are alone. Ask to hear their memories of the season or stop by to watch some favorite holiday movies.

4. Plan a family gathering.

There is no better way to brighten someone’s mood and show them how much they are loved than by surrounding them with family. Dedicate a special night for everyone to get together for dinner, view a family video or even enjoy a game night. Invite friends, family and anyone else you think your loved one will enjoy seeing. Conversely, let them have a say in which family gathering they would prefer not to attend.

5. Help them with their holiday planning.

Many elderly seniors cannot get out and shop like they used to. Depending on their physical health and age, they may no longer be driving or may not be able to move around a store or mall without assistance. Offer to take your loved one out to do their holiday shopping. If getting out is not feasible for them, bring over a laptop or tablet to help them shop online. It might be a fun experience for them. You can help them decorate their house, wrap gifts or even make gifts. Also, a little extra help baking or preparing meals might be really appreciated.

6. Help them keep to a regular schedule.

With all that is going on around holiday time, it can be easy to slip out of a regular routine. It is important that seniors stay on as much of their normal schedule as possible including keeping up with their medication, getting about seven to nine hours of sleep and eating their three healthy square meals a day. It is equally important to not overeat or overindulge in sweets or alcohol. Be vigilant or tell their caregiver to make sure they keep up their strength during the holiday season.

7. If they are mobile, take them out.

There is no better distraction than getting out of the four walls surrounding them every day. You can bring them to social activities they normally attend or forums for their hobby. Museums in small doses could be quite manageable and shows are even better since you get to sit down. You could even take them shopping if they are so inclined in the busy season. Even grabbing lunch in the neighborhood could be just the fun outing they need.

8. Let’s get physical!

In addition to all the other physical benefits, exercise is great for mood improvement. It can be as effective as anti-depressants without the ill effects and toxicity. There are plenty of exercises designed for the elderly to do at their level of ability taking any limited mobility and stamina into account. Yoga and Tai Chi are also excellent low impact alternatives. Exercise can enhance their weight bearing, balance and muscle density. A qualified personal trainer that comes to the house might be a good solution for those who are unable to get out to classes or a gym.

9. Get them an iPad.

There are many studies that demonstrate the cognitive and psychological benefits of the Internet for the elderly. It opens vistas for them in terms of connecting with the outside world and like minded people. It is also a great platform for connecting with grandchildren and relatives. Buy them an iPad if they don’t already have one, crack it open and sit together with them as they explore what is a new and exciting technology for them. They’ll learn a new skill that could spark some creativity for you both.

10. Consider getting a pet.

Don’t underestimate the value of pets in the life of a senior. Having a manageable, low maintenance pet can provide not only a much needed distraction and companionship, but a sense that seniors can still love and care for another living thing. These are important factors that can ward off the all too pervasive affliction of depression in the elderly. This is also an opportunity to employ an important form of therapy called therapeutic touch.

11. Arrange time for them to laugh and put on a happy face.

If your senior loved one is not up to going out, invite their friends in. Help them make it a pleasant experience by serving light fare and arranging an activity they can have fun with. Even watching a comedy can provide comic relief for all involved. Remember, positivity is infectious. If you’re able to keep a smile on, you’ll spread that holiday cheer to everyone around you, including your loved one who may be struggling with a bout of seasonal depression.

12. You’re never too old for a spa day.

Of course, there is nothing as relaxing as a pampered experience at the spa. However, that might not be feasible for your senior loved one. As the baby boomers age, house call businesses are burgeoning. You can get everything in the comfort of your home, from manicures to massages. Calling in some spa-like professionals could also be a fun activity with their friends.

13. Hire a home healthcare provider.

If you do not have the time to help your loved one during the holidays, consider hiring a home health aide. An aide can help them with errands, decorations for the holidays as well as preparing meals. Home health aides can also provide much needed companionship. You will feel more at ease knowing someone is covering for you and helping take care of your loved one during what might be a vulnerable time in their life.

Depression in the elderly is a serious problem that is far too often overlooked. If you feel the situation is really serious, consider bringing in a professional. There are support groups for all sorts of conditions which could be extremely helpful for appropriately directing your loved one to get insight and help from those facing the same challenges. One on one talk therapy and supportive counseling can help them work through their individual underlying issues without the risks and side effects of medication. However, when medication is deemed necessary, be sure to monitor their intake since the elderly metabolize medications differently than younger adults. You might want to explore some alternative remedies for depression such as omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, SAMe or St. John’s wort. Also, be on the lookout for any warning signs of suicide. Tragically, when the elderly decide to take that step, they are much more ‘successful’ at it than their younger counterparts.

Anita Kamiel, RN, MPS, is the founder and owner of David York Home Healthcare Agency, licensed by the State of New York. She holds a master’s degree in gerontological administration and is fully acquainted with all factors related to eldercare services and the latest guidelines for seniors. Thirty years ago, she realized the need for affordable, quality home health aide services provided and supervised by caring individuals. You can contact her at 718-376-7755 or at www.davidyorkagency.com. David York Agency is also on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.

7 Quotes When You’re Feeling Caregiver stress

caregiver-stress1

You have either been a caregiver, you are a caregiver, you will be a caregiver, or someone will care for you.” – Rosalynn Carter

The former First Lady, Rosalynn Carter, knew about serving and caregiving from personal as well as professional experience. She was first to hold a caregiver conference that identified issues such as burnout and guilt. Her words focus on the interdependence at life’s foundation.

How we approach caregiving…

The question isn’t will we need care, or will our life call upon us to provide care. We are all part of a caregiving equation in our lives. The question is, how do we manage caregiving, as receiver as well as giver. In many ways, how we received shapes how we give.

And so for some, caregiving is easier and more natural than for others. And for some, caregiving is more natural with one person who requires care and not as easy or natural with another person in their life who requires it. Each experience of caregiving is unique as each relationship is unique.

For everyone, caregiving is an opportunity for growth, for increasing compassion or learning to set boundaries, for setting aside blame of others or for oneself, for deepening the dimensions of intimacy or for recognizing the limits of control.

With that uniqueness of experience in mind,

Here are 7 Quotes When You’re Feeling Caregiver Stress:

Love prevails

To the world you may be one person, but to one person, you may be the world.” Dr. Seuss

“To love a person is to learn the song that is in their heart and sing it to them when they have forgotten.” Thomas Chandler

“Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyway.”Emory Austin

Boundaries and Negative Feelings

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”Dalai Lama

“It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.”Lena Horne

When Love Bonds Seem Broken

“Be determined to handle any challenge in a way that will make you grow.”Les Brown

“Forgiveness is not an occasional act: it is an attitude.”Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Our reality is our interdependence, from birth to death. Our response to interdependence provides our greatest challenge and our greatest opportunity for growth in life. For assistance with your caregiving role, please contact us.

5 Qualities to Look for in a Home Health Aide

home health aideAre you looking for someone who can provide senior care for your elderly or disabled loved one? If so, you might be shopping around for a caregiver to ensure that you choose the right person. Here are five qualities that may indicate you’ve found a good match.

1. Patient

Caring for an elderly person can be a bit trying. They are used to being fully independent and often resent their diminished abilities to the point where they are irritable mush of the time. They may even take it out on those around them. This means that it’s important to look for a caregiver who is patient.

2. Reliable

If your loved one needs care on a regular basis, you’ll need someone who will be able to provide it, without a lot of excuses or the need for a lot of days off. The elderly person and their family are depending on the aide for essential help daily. Make sure they are the type that takes their job seriously and is reliable.

3. Pays Attention to Detail

Day-to-day care of someone else requires individualized consideration. They need to be mindful of the particular eating habits of their patients, be on top of their grooming needs as well as keep an eye out for even slight warning signs of any worsening of a condition they may have. You will want to find a caregiver who pays attention to detail.

4. Easy to Get Along With

You don’t want to bring someone into your loved one’s home who is not friendly or pleasant. After all, a caregiver is supposed to make things easier for your loved one and less stressful for the family. Someone who lets things slide will add positively to the atmosphere. It is best to look for someone who is easy to talk to and get along with.

5. Multi-Tasker

Someone who provides care for an older or disabled person has to know how to do a lot of things, such as light cooking, light cleaning, helping with bathing, and more. Look for someone who can juggle and “keep all the balls in the air”. You will want to make sure that person you hire does not get thrown by multiple responsibilities and is a good multi-tasker.

At David York Agency, we set the bar high and ensure that all of our home health aides offer these important qualities—and so much more. We look for people with common sense and a heart. We continually monitor them to ensure consistent, high-quality service. We do not send anyone to your home that we would not want in ours.

For more information about our qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.

Drug Abuse is Becoming More Common After Age 65

drug-abuse-after-65

It starts slowly and innocently at first. An older adult needs relief from the knee or back pain that so often comes with aging. Or, perhaps a life-changing event, like divorce or the death of a loved one, throws him or her into a pit of depression and an antidepressant is prescribed. Even retirement can bring on anxiety caused by a sudden lack of purpose, structure, and self-worth for which a prescription anti-anxiety medication is recommended.

A Common Problem

Although these scenarios sound relatively harmless, they can be the start of drug abuse after the age of 65. According to the New York Times, there are a number of factors that make the elderly in general and today’s aging baby boomers specifically more susceptible to becoming addicts.

  • the elderly metabolize drugs and alcohol more slowly which means that they stay in their systems longer,
  • tolerance to these drugs increases over time and addiction can begin after as few as 10 days of use,
  • more established folks often have the money to afford their addiction, and
  • Baby Boomers don’t have the same attitude toward drug use as the previous generation. There is less of a stigma.

Pain pills such as OxyContin and Percocet, along with antianxiety and antidepressant pills like Xanax and Valium, are the most frequently prescribed. And since most doctors don’t usually screen for addiction, even low doses can quickly escalate into full-blown addictions. Couple that with the fact that these medications are being used in conjunction with other prescriptions and alcohol, and you have “the perfect storm,” says Brenda J. Iliff, executive director of Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation in Naples, Florida.

Notice the Symptoms

The signs of addiction—like confusion, brain fog, mood swings, and shaking—may not raise red flags when exhibited by seniors because such symptoms are written off as part of aging. Many times, senior addictions are only discovered by medical professionals after they fall or sustain another type of injury. If you notice any of these symptoms and know that your loved one has been taking pills, schedule an appointment for them with a doctor, or try and gently confront them about the issue.

Getting Help

Detox for seniors is difficult and needs to be done slowly and with a lot of monitoring. Cognitive and physical issues can also slow detox treatments down, but once completed, patients can return to living more normal lives, without the debilitating effects of prescription addiction.

Drug abuse is not just a problem faced by young people. It may come as a surprise that as we age, we are, in many ways, more susceptible to prescription pill addiction. At David York Agency, our experienced in-home healthcare providers can help to monitor medication and keep an eye out for warning signs of substance abuse. They are certified and trained in the latest guidelines for eldercare.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

 

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.”

Understanding a Lewy Body Dementia Diagnosis

lewy-body-dementia

Lewy Body Dementia (LBD) affects 1.4 million people in the United States and is the second leading cause of dementia, according to the Lewy Body Dementia Association. LBD is a combination of two distinct diagnoses, Parkinson’s disease dementia and dementia with Lewy bodies.

Lewy bodies are clumps of abnormal proteins in the outer layer of the brain, the cerebral cortex and are associated with both forms of dementia. When dementia develops after the established motor disorder, it is called Parkinson’s disease with dementia (PDD). When dementia occurs at the same time as the motor disorder, it is called dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB). They are both on the continuum of the same disease. These two conditions can cause the same underlying biological changes in the brain. In the later stages, the two diagnoses exhibit similar behavioral, cognitive, physical, and sleep symptoms. Sufferers also frequently experience hallucinations and bouts of ongoing depression.

Getting the Right Diagnosis

Despite being widespread, LBD is frequently underdiagnosed and misdiagnosed by health care professionals. It can resemble other causes of dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease. James E. Galvin, MD at Florida Atlantic University has developed a way to assess and diagnose LBD. The system is known as the Lewy Body Composite Risk Score (LBCRS).

The LBCRS system of diagnosis is based on a rating scale. The assessment is one page long and features six questions that quickly outline whether the patient suffers from six non-motor symptoms that are distinct to LBD, but not other forms of dementia. The physician can quickly determine if the person suffers from rest tremors, rigidity, bradykinesia, or postural instability by asking a few questions.

Getting the Help You Need

A clear diagnosis of LBD is imperative to help prevent patients from being misdiagnosed and, therefore, misprescribed. In fact, taking the wrong medication could possibly have serious adverse consequences and will not help to treat LBD.

A definitive and prompt diagnosis of LBD gives physicians the chance to quickly begin medical therapies that may help or improve the quality of life for the LBD sufferer. Usually, a combination of the Lewy Body Composite Risk Score System, PET scans, CSF biomarkers, high-density EEG, and MRI tests are used to arrive at a clear diagnosis of LBD.

Facing a Lewy Body Dementia diagnosis can be frightening for both the patient and their loved ones. If you need extra help caring for a loved one who suffers from LBD, our in-home health care services, whether part time or full, can offer you additional support.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn. For more information on discharge planning, contact us.

The Importance of Vitamin D by Dr. Sarah Brewer

Dr. Sarah Brewer is a medical nutritionist, nutritional therapist and the author of over 60 popular health books. We are excited about her guest blog post on this vital topic. 

At one-time, vitamin D was all about ensuring good calcium absorption from the diet to maintain healthy bones. Researchers now realize this important vitamin does a lot more than that and has beneficial effects all over the body.

vitamin-d-brewer2

What is it?

Vitamin D, or calciferol, is the collective term for five different, fat-soluble vitamins. The most important for human health is vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) which we can make in our skin to some extent. Vitamin D3 is also obtained from animal-based foods such as liver, oily fish, meat, eggs, and dairy products and is added to some fortified foods. We also obtain small amounts of vitamin D2 (ergocalciferol) from a few plant foods such as mushrooms.

What does it do?

As well as regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphate from the diet, and helping to maintain strong bones, vitamin D helps to stimulate immune cells to reduce the susceptibility to infections such as pneumonia. It’s no coincidence that sun exposure was once a leading sanatorium treatment for tuberculosis before antibiotics were available.

Vitamin D helps to reduce calcium deposition in arteries, is involved in memory and mood, and has a strengthening effect on muscle fibres that improve stability and help reduce falls.

Studies have also found associations between good vitamin D status and reduced risks of:

  • breast cancer[i]
  • type 2 diabetes[ii]
  • depression[iii]
  • Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease[iv]
  • stroke[v].
The difficulty with making vitamin D

Even in youth, it’s difficult to make all the vitamin D3 you need, which is why it is classed as an essential micronutrient. Its synthesis depends on the presence of a cholesterol-like building block (7-dehydrocholesterol) in the skin, and exposure to sunlight when the UV index is greater than 3.

People living at a latitude of 52 degrees N (which passes through the center of the UK and Canada) are not exposed to enough UVB radiation to make vitamin D between October and April. Those living at a latitude 42 degrees N (which forms the northern limit of Spain and part of the border between Canada and North America) are unable to synthesise vitamin D3 between November to February.

Low vitamin D levels are frequently seen in people living at northern latitudes, especially in those who cover up in the sun, use high factor sun protection, or who stay indoors most of the time – which includes many older people, especially those who are frail or relatively immobile.

People who are taking a statin drug are also at risk of vitamin D deficiency as they produce less of the cholesterol-like precursor in their skin.[vi]

Skin synthesis falls with age

Over the age of 50, the ability to synthesise vitamin D3 reduces so that skin concentrations fall by at least half between the ages of 20 to 80 years. One study showed that people aged 62 and over synthesised four times less natural vitamin D than those in their 20s.[vii]

Due to a combination of less sun exposure, and less ability to make vitamin D3 even when the sun is shining, vitamin D deficiency becomes more common with increasing age.

Vitamin D3 deficiency has wide-ranging effects on health

In older people, lack of vitamin D is associated with the bone diseases, osteomalacia and osteoporosis, and has been linked with muscle weakness, falls and bone fractures.

In the Health, Aging and Body Composition study, involving 2,099 older people (average age around 75 years) who were initially well-functioning, a low vitamin D level was associated with increased risk of developing mobility limitation, disability and poor physical function. [viii]

In the United States, the CDC Injury Center estimates that the number of fatal falls in older people will rise to 100,000 per year by 2030, but that these future fatal falls could be reduced by nearly a quarter through screening for fall risks, reviewing medications, and recommending Vitamin D supplementation.[ix]

Vitamin D deficiency may also play a role in constipation and increase the risk of common age-related conditions such as type 2 diabetes, arterial calcification, hypertension and heart disease as well as some cancers.

What’s the answer?

Despite the limitations mentioned, it’s important to encourage the elderly to spend time out of doors, to obtain some sun exposure, and to eat food sources of vitamin D regularly. The most important intervention, however, is to offer them a vitamin D3 supplement.

Elderly lady using a walker in the garden standing on a pathway with buildings in the background smiling at the camera.

What’s the best dose?

Opinions vary, with recommendations ranging from 10mcg to 50 mcg vitamin D3 per day. Some researchers have found that the United States, for examples, studies show that an intake of 100 mcg (4000 IU) is needed to maintain vitamin D levels in all older women. [x] This intake is equivalent to the currently suggested EU Upper Safe Level.[xi] If in doubt, blood tests can predict the best dose.

Safety

Intakes above 100mcg vitamin D3 are best taken under medical supervision. Excess can lead to side effects associated with high calcium levels, such as demineralization of bone, kidney stones, headache and weakness.

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Read more about vitamin D and health here: https://drsarahbrewer.com/a-z-of-vitamins/vitamin-d

Subscribe to my newsletter to get a FREE 46-page PDF Do You Need A MultiVitamin? at nutritionupdates.subscribemenow.com

For more information on diet and supplements, visit my Nutritional Medicine website at www.DrSarahBrewer.com.  Read my general health articles at www.MyLowerBloodPressure.com and www.ExpertHealthReviews.com @DrSarahB  

References

Warning Signs and Treatment Options for Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's disease

 

Nearly one million people in the U.S. suffer from Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder. Symptoms can vary from person to person. However, in general, people with Parkinson’s disease lose control over their range of motion which gets worse over time. The good news is that Parkinson’s can be managed and many people live with it for decades.

Here’s what you need to know about the condition if you suspect you or a loved one is showing symptoms:

What It Is

Parkinson’s generally affects the brain’s neurons. The neurons malfunction and die, and when they die, the amount of dopamine—a chemical that sends signals to the brain to control movement—decreases. The progressive death of neurons means that less and less dopamine gets sent to the brain, which is why symptoms get progressively worse over time.

Symptoms

Common symptoms include the following:

  • Tremor of hands, legs, arms, jaw, and face
  • Slowness of movement
  • Stiff limbs
  • Imbalance and loss of coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Muscle pain
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Freeze attacks

To be diagnosed, doctors generally look for at least four motor symptoms. Some people experience tremors first, while others notice their imbalance before anything else. If you or someone you know has any of the above symptoms, it might be worth a visit to the doctor for a diagnosis.

Treatment

To date, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are many medications available to ease some of the symptoms. Some patients have also experienced relief from a surgical option called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) in which an impulse generator is implanted into the brain.

While the surgery does not do anything to stop the progression of the disease, it can increase the quality of life for some patients. As with any brain surgery, it does come with certain risks, including bleeding and stroke. Be sure to learn all about the procedure and speak to a doctor and surgeon to see if this is the right treatment plan for you or your loved one.

Reach Out

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be scary, but knowing what to expect can ease some of the anxiety associated with it. At David York Agency, we know understand the unique challenges of Parkinson’s disease, and we’re here to help you and your loved one as you navigate them.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the assistance they need.

If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+, or LinkedIn.”

A Toolkit for Promoting Positive Behavior in Dementia Patients

Toolkit for dealing with dementia

About 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s Disease and 90% of those are abusive.  This is important because this situation puts these patients at higher risk for institutionalization, greater functional decline and domestic abuse.  Up to this point, the preferred method for managing the Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) has been to prescribe medication to control it.  However, adding to the already hefty arsenal of drugs currently taken by most senior citizens is not to be entered into lightly since they are often accompanied by significant and dangerous side effects.  Clearly, we need better mechanisms for handling these patients.

An article in January/February 2014 issue of Geriatric Nursing entitled “Promoting Positive Behavioral Health:  A Non-Pharmacological Toolkit for Senior Living Communities” unearths a great find:  a toolkit which was peer reviewed and endorsed by experts and designed to centralize the most up to date best practices for handling these challenging situations.  A team of clinicians assembled data on how to deal with BPSD beyond the parameters of the antipsychotic medications normally prescribed.  The goal is for these methods to be the first course of action in treating dementia.  The toolkit can be accessed at http://www.nursinghometoolkit.com/ and you can navigate through the tabs on top and get to an area of interest.  Searching through the site will yield a plethora of information including non-pharmacological approaches to dealing with dementia. A helpful graph of approaches can be found in a document entitled “Review of Non-pharmacological Approaches for Treating Behavioral and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia“.

This meshes with a program which began in March 2012 by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the “Initiative to Improve Behavioral Health and Reduce Antipsychotic Use in Nursing Homes” where it partnered with associations such as the American Medical Directors Association (AMDA)  for a comprehensive approach for limiting the use of dementia controlling medications in this population as part of their overall “Partnership to Improve Dementia Care in Nursing Homes”.

We owe it to our seniors and their loved one and caregivers to explore any adjunct or replacement treatments to alleviate the often devastating symptoms of Alzheimer’s and dementia.  This handy tool is worth a look.

 

Caring for the Family Caregiver by Kathy Birkett

We are happy to host this guest post from noted eldercare activist, caregiver consultant, and Senior Care Corner blogger Kathy Birkett.

As more of our population ages, the need for caregiving continues to skyrocket.

Family members have been called to take the lead in caring for family members across the country whether they live nearby or at a distance.

Family caregivers are answering the call but need help.

Rise of Family Caregivers

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, in 2015 almost 43.5 million caregivers provided unpaid care.

In 2015, 34.2 million have provided unpaid care to an adult over 50.

15.7 million adult family caregivers take care of someone who has Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

They estimate that family caregivers spend:

  • 13 days a month on shopping, housekeeping, laundry, transportation, giving medications and food preparation
  • 6 days a month on dressing, grooming, bathing, walking, toileting and feeding
  • 13 hours a month managing healthcare and financial concerns and learning about a disease

Somehow family caregivers need to find strategies that help them manage their time so they can care for themselves.

Caring for the Family Caregiver

Family caregivers are often responsible not just for their senior loved ones, but also their own families, children and grandchildren. Managing two households can be overwhelming.

They are also holding full-time jobs. Many are family caregivers from a distance which makes it all more difficult.

Juggling multiple priorities often means that caring for ourselves as family caregivers is last on the list.

It needs to be first on the list to continue to care!

How can you make yourself first?

Here are some things family caregivers can do to help put themselves at the top of the list and protect their own health.

1. Build your network!

It is important for family caregivers to find and nurture their network. You need a backup system and an extra set of hands to help get everything done. Your senior’s safety is a priority and you can’t do it alone. Find helpers, paid or unpaid, who can help you accomplish tasks. In-home care providers can help accomplish household chores or even personal care duties for your senior. Get your own maid if needed to relieve your personal household chores to free up your time. Have family and friends contribute time during the week for your senior loved one to bring meals, take on appointments such as haircuts, and visit for socialization.

2. Learn about resources!

Connect with the resources available to your senior loved one and you as a caregiver such as local area resources on aging, adult/senior day care, community education or health fairs, and support groups. Community resources can fill gaps for you that can help improve the quality of your senior’s life so they will be less dependent on your time. Resources also include financial help that you can take advantage of such as long-term care insurance benefits your senior may carry that can help pay for in-home care or equipment to make activities of daily living easier and safer. There may also be government benefits for which your senior is entitled. You can check your senior’s eligibility for a variety of government funded benefits at BenefitsCheckup.org. Also, begin learning more about the disease process and treatment options for your senior’s personal conditions so you can plan appropriately and create interventions that will help you both.

3. Get respite care!

Sometimes family caregivers need a break. There are respite programs available for you and your family members. Locate resources such as day programs, overnight respite or in-home care to give you respite. If you want to take a vacation but insure that your senior is safe, there are also respite resources that you can find to allow you to recharge your battery to be a better caregiver.

It may seem that doing some of these tasks takes time you don’t have, but doing some of these things will pay back in time over the long run and make your caregiving responsibilities easier.

It also gives some peace of mind that your senior loved one is properly cared for even when you can’t be there.

Taking care of yourself as a caregiver is a gift to you and your entire family!

Kathy

Kathy is Senior Care Corner’s expert on the lives and care of senior adults, expertise she has gained through over 30 years working with seniors, families and other caregivers in both her professional and personal lives. Kathy has worked with seniors in their homes as well as in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, rehabilitation and hospital settings. Kathy has a passion for advocacy, education and improving the life of seniors and has shared this passion to her connections in Senior Care Corner and a variety of community-based and online support groups. Kathy is a champion for the caregiver and works to help them be able to meet the needs of those for whom they care while also meeting their own needs. Follow Kathy on Twitter, Facebook, or her website www.SeniorCareCorner.com

4 Tips for Traveling With the Elderly

traveling with the elderly

Family vacations can be a wonderful way to bring everyone together for some much needed rest and relaxation. But, when traveling with an elderly family member who has special needs due to debilitating disease or dementia, it’s important to plan ahead and take special care to ensure that everyone stays safe and happy during your trip.

Keep these tips in mind as you plan your next family vacation with your elder loved one.

  1. Make a Plan. Create a detailed itinerary of where you plan to go and what you plan to do throughout your trip, so your loved one feels more prepared. Go over the itinerary with them and keep copies on hand. If possible, choose a destination that is already familiar to them, in order to minimize the stress and disorientation they feel.
  2. Be Prepared. When traveling with a loved one who suffers from dementia, be sure to have a bag of essentials handy at all times, including medications, a list of emergency contacts, your travel itinerary, water, snacks, etc. Be sure you’ve packed enough medication for their entire trip, along with an updated medical record and any important legal documents.
  3. Consider Their State of Mind. When traveling with your loved one, be considerate of their mindset. Be patient with them if they get confused or overwhelmed. Also, be aware that being in an unfamiliar environment can trigger wandering behaviors in dementia patients. Keep your loved one close and take special precautions to make sure they stay there.
  4. Be Mindful of Physical Limitations. Traveling can be stressful for anyone, but especially for those who suffer from dementia or Alzheimer’s. According to an article from the Alzheimer’s Association, families should take care when deciding whether or not their elderly loved one can handle the challenges of travel. Consider the special needs of your loved one and also to what stage their disease has progressed. Early on, dementia patients may be perfectly capable of handling a vacation and could even benefit from one. However, if they already experience significant disorientation in their normal environment, dragging them along to an unfamiliar place may make things worse.

Decide if Travel is Right for Your Loved One.

You may need some additional assistance when on vacation with your senior loved one and that is when a home health aide can be a godsend. Consider taking your regular aide if you already have one or contacting a local agency to help provide one for you on locale.

At the David York Agency, we are dedicated to providing the resources, advice, and high-quality home healthcare services that can make caring for your aging loved one more manageable, whether you’re at home or on the road. For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate caregivers and how they can help your family on your next vacation, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you and your loved one with the support you need.

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