Quickest Way to the Heart Is Through the…Nose?

aromas and the brain

The scent of chimney smoke on an autumn night, a pot roast on the stove, Sunday gravy, fresh-mown grass, baking bread. By reading these words and recalling these smells, we experience the powerful connection between aromas and the brain. Chances are the mere act of reading about these familiar smells evoked memories and emotions.

This isn’t poetry, it’s biology. Our sense of smell is connected to the limbic system, the oldest part of our brain. Eons ago, our sense of smell was key for knowing when it was time to eat, to sleep, to run, to fight, and even to reproduce. Over time, the human brain has become more sophisticated, adding complex reasoning and language abilities. Nevertheless, our sense of smell can still bypass this more modern brain and evoke a physical response, long before we have “thought” our way there.

The power of smell can be very valuable in caregiving situations. Often, when working with individuals who are anxious, have cognitive challenges, or are struggling with disorientation, the strategic use of smell can trigger memories of safety and comfort.

The web site Senior Care Corner encourages caregivers to experiment with scent when working with clients:

”Aromas, familiar scents and the smell of familiar food cooking can bring back memories; both good and bad, for our senior loved ones. Being able to capitalize on these familiar aromas may be able to help family caregivers keep the mood upbeat and the day calm.”

Aroma is a powerful tool for evoking feelings of calm, comfort and ease. The beauty of this approach is that it engages the individuals in our care in a personal and meaningful way. You can begin by asking a few simple questions like, “Where did you grow up?” or “What was the favorite thing you ate as a child?” or “What did you love cooking for your family?” Your sleuthing will provide clues about the kinds of smells that will be calming and comforting.

And, scent does not always have to come from food. Caregivers can experiment in many different ways. Open the windows on a spring day, bring in a handful of pine needles in winter, or experiment with aromatherapy oils like lavender or citrus.

At David York Agency, we are always on the lookout and dedicated to understanding and implementing the best and most effective techniques in home healthcare. If you are in need of full or part-time in-home care services, we can help.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate home caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you with the assistance your loved one needs as he or she ages. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

 

Elderly and Bathing: Respect and Safety

elderly and bathing

Taking care of an aging parent, spouse, or loved one at home is challenging—some moments more-so than others. For instance, you and your elderly loved one may not agree on a bathing schedule. Often the elderly are resistant in this area. Bathing a parent or loved one can also be uncomfortable, and even embarrassing, for everyone involved. However, cleanliness is a crucial part of health for the elderly, and it’s important to approach personal hygiene with respect, dignity, and safety.

Preparing to Bathe

Dementia Today points out that while baths are generally safer and more acceptable to those with Alzheimer’s or other dementia problems, bath time can still be a struggle. Establishing baths as part of a routine may help, but beyond that, remember to respect your loved one’s privacy as much as possible. Imagine what it would feel like to have somebody else in the bathroom with you, removing your clothes and putting you into the tub. Uncomfortable, isn’t it? Who wouldn’t resist? Allow the elderly person as much privacy and control over the task as possible, bearing physical and mental capacities in mind.

Safety Preparations

Remember that, as with everything, safety always comes first. Make your bathroom as safe as possible by installing a tub that is easy to enter and that features handrails and non-slip surfaces. Also, remember that elderly people often have thin skin. Keep fingernails—theirs and yours—clean and neatly trimmed to minimize the risk of tearing their skin. Draw the water and check the temperature of the bath before helping your loved one into the tub.

During the Process

Staying calm, and encouraging the person being bathed to remain calm, increases safety and even contributes to making the bath more enjoyable. Consider playing some relaxing music or, if you know a favorite song of the person, you might hum or sing it to them. Engage them in an unrelated conversation to distract them from the situation. Keep conversation light-hearted and friendly. Keep the tone very ‘matter-of-fact’ to minimize embarrassment. You may even want to explain what you’re doing, if that makes them feel more comfortable.

Listen to Your Heart

If bathing or other tasks are becoming a physical or emotional struggle, safety is bound to become compromised and relationships may become strained. When you find yourself dreading bath time or simply being unable to handle the task, it may be time to enlist the help of a home health care provider.

At David York Agency, it is our goal to provide in-home health care services that support the health, safety, and dignity of your loved one. Whether you just need a helping hand to better manage certain aspects of the caregiving responsibilities or you’re ready to find a full-time caregiver who can provide the constant care and attention your loved one needs, we can help.

For more information about David York Agency’s qualified, compassionate home caregivers, contact us at 718.376.7755. A free phone consultation can help you decide what services might be best to provide you with the assistance you loved one needs as he or she ages. If you’d like to hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

Elder-Proofing Your Home is Important!

A safe home environment. It’s a must for anyone, but it’s particularly hard for the elderly to obtain. Fortunately, there are a number of different things you can do to ensure your loved ones are safer in their homes on a day to day basis, and these tips can help.

A Word of Advice
Before you begin the elder-proofing process, it’s particularly important that you talk to your loved one. Explain exactly what you plan to do, and why you plan to do so. The chances are good your loved one may feel as if his or her privacy is being invaded without having this essential discussion at the outset.

Helpful Tips 

Accessible bathtub and shower
Accessible bathtub and shower

While elder-proofing can involve extensive remodeling, that’s not always the case. Often a simple weekend of repairs can make the changes necessary to keep your loved one secure in his or her home.

  • Start in the Bathroom: The water in the bathroom makes it one of the most dangerous places in the house. Install grab bars around the tub, shower, and even the towel rack. You’ll also want to be sure you have non-slip rugs on the floor. Inside the tub and shower, install a surface that provides a solid footing so slips can’t happen.
  • Think Floors: Flooring concerns throughout the house are often present, as there are many hidden hazards that can create slip and trip situations. Remove any obstacles that might create a situation where someone could fall. Throw rugs can make people trip quite easily, and low lying furniture is an obstacle that could create a fractured hip or ankle quite quickly. You may even want to consider carpeting over slick surfaces.
  • Add Some Light: Eyesight deterioration is a natural part of aging, and homes that don’t have good lighting tend to become a safety issue. Consider some low voltage track lighting or recessed so you can keep lights on as much as possible. You may even want to add nightlights to keep it bright even when the sun sets.
  • Easy to Reach: Throughout the home, but especially in the kitchen area, make sure everything is within easy reach. Stools or ladders are serious hazards, so make sure your loved one can reach everything necessary to work in any room without a stool of any kind.
  • Keep It Stationary: From chairs to beds to couches, remove the rollers on any furniture that might move. A loved one may reach to grab a piece of furniture for stabilization, but if that furniture moves, a fall is likely.
  • Gas or Electric?: If your loved one has an gas stove, it may be time to consider a electric stove option instead. The sense of smell can diminish with age, and that makes gas powered stoves a fairly serious risk. Electric stoves tend to be far safer in that situation.
  • Stoves: For the elderly with dementia, safety knobs similar to those use for childproofing may be necessary. Dementia patients are at higher risk of putting something on the stove and forgetting that it’s there creating a serious fire hazard.

Not sure you can tackle everything that needs to be done? You may want to consult a home healthcare agency or a geriatric social worker with experience in elder-proofing the home to get a better sense of what changes should be implemented immediately.

David York Agency has done a lot of research about elder proofing homes and has compiled a concise, handy chart for caregivers to use which is available on the caregiver resources page of their website. Call today to learn about the full array of services we offer. Contact us at 718.376.7755 and visit our website.