5 Tips for Serving as a Caregiver for a Loved One

Caring for a loved one can be an emotionally challenging task. Not only is it often a 24/7 job, but it can be especially difficult to find a balance between providing and caring for your loved one and maintaining your own physical and emotional well-being.

21829794_sHere are five practical tips that will help you in your role as a caretaker.

  1. Keep records.

Keeping track of your loved one’s doctor visits, medications, symptoms, and eating habits will help you better manage their care. These records make consultations with healthcare providers more focused on getting the specific care your loved one needs and also give you a more holistic view of their medical history. Strong record keeping is especially essential if you share care responsibilities with another family member or professional caregiver.

  1. Educate yourself.

The best way to support your loved one is to understand their specific medical needs, including any chronic conditions or diseases, and the nature of their treatment. This will help you anticipate potential problems or side effects and prepare for unforeseen challenges in your role as a caregiver.

  1. Understand the insurance.

Know the limitations and allowances of your loved one’s health insurance. This will help you navigate difficult topics such as reimbursement, specialist co-pays, and respite care. By knowing what they are entitled to from their insurance provider, you can advocate for their best possible care.

  1. Plan ahead.

Talk with your loved one about his or her final wishes. Do they have a will or special instructions regarding their estate? Do they have specific wishes for their burial services? These are difficult conversations to have, but both you and your loved one will appreciate the peace of mind, knowing that plans for their future are in place.

  1. Take care of yourself.

Providing care for someone can have a substantial effect on your own personal well-being. If you’re finding that your quality of life is diminished as a result of your duties, consider enlisting the help of a certified home health aide or professional caregiver. This will allow you time to recharge, both physically and emotionally. You want to be there for your loved one, but in order to do that, you need to care for yourself as well.

We understand that taking care of a loved one is difficult. If you need additional support, please call David York Home Healthcare Agency today at (718) 376-7755. David York Agency has provided the highest quality care for the elderly and infirm for over 30 years. We would be happy to give you more information and discuss your case with you. To hear more from us, please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. If you would like to learn more about how our certified home health aides can help provide you the additional support your loved one needs, contact us.

Reversals in Parenting

A recent article in the Deseret News,  recounted the writer’s final months with her father, noting how the roles had suddenly reversed as she found herself taking care of an aging parent. Through it all, it’s important to remember that we are still dealing with the person who raised us and took care of us when we needed them. It can be gratifying to repay them by being there for them as much as possible.

Not only are we living longer, but we are leading healthier and more independent lives. Yet inevitably, there comes a time when we start to slow down. Mobility becomes restricted and sometimes it is even dangerous for an aging parent to be left alone. As eyesight decreases and bones become fragile, moving around safely becomes more of a concern. Aside from physical ailments, mental capacity can also diminish, whether as a consequence of Alzheimer’s, other health issues or medications. As a result, we can often feel that we are parenting our parent.

When the proverbial handwriting begins to “appear on the wall”, sit down with your parent and have a discussion with open and honest questions about choices, so that you can do your best to ensure that your parent’s autonomy is respected. Autonomy is one of the most important factors in an aging person’s life. They worked hard, ran businesses, raised children and took care of homes. They earned the right to make as many decisions for themselves as possible and within reason. This role reversal should not compromise anyone’s dignity.

Parenting our parentsWhen we are caring for a parent, we often find that the time we spend with them is filled with doing laundry and housekeeping, checking to make sure the pantry is properly stocked and ensuring that all their medications are in order and being taken. This can be a difficult time, both for you and for your parent. It’s okay to acknowledge that, but remember that this is also a time to share as many moments together as you can.

That quality time is so important and should be made a priority when possible. “Parenting” activities such as discussing a favorite book, watching a movie or reminiscing over the past can bring a lot of joy to a parent who endures a lot of alone time and can even help them keep alert. Research points to an active mind staving off ill effects of encroaching dementia. Sometimes it’s possible to coordinate with other available family members to ensure that your loved one is not just taken care of, but feeling valued.  Professional caregivers can also free up all involved from mundane tasks in order for you to enjoy quality time with your parent.

Sudden illness in an elderly parent often requires us to rearrange our lives in order to help out. Unexpectedly, our schedules are disrupted. We worry whether or not Mom or Dad is being taken care of or safe when we are not able to be there. Additionally, our parent may live outside our normal radius of travel, meaning that we may need to take some time off work to help out. If we can’t take time off, we need to help make alternative arrangements for doctor’s appointments, trips to the pharmacy and grocery store, and assistance with personal grooming. With so much to think about, frustrations and tensions can often run high, not only for us, but also for the parent who suddenly feels that he or she is a burden.

Try to remember that there is help out there. There are support groups available for those who find themselves caring or helping to care for an aging parent. These groups can offer advice and support when dealing with scheduling, finances, medical care and respite care. And, a home healthcare agency can help find caregivers for all or some of the time. Hiring a professional does not completely remove the burden of the responsibility, but it can be a lifesaver. Professional caregivers are also trained to spot signs of concern about their health. It’s always best to research home healthcare agencies until you feel comfortable with your decision.

When home healthcare becomes necessary, David York Agency provides skilled home health aide services. David York Home Healthcare Agency is abreast of all the latest guidelines for seniors and can satisfy all your questions. We would be happy to give you more information and discuss your case with you. Visit our website at David York Agency – providing healthcare professionals to the elderly and infirm, with the highest degree of personal service. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn. For any of your questions concerning elder care, contact us.

 

Make Elderly Taste Buds Tingle with Good Nutrition

Eating is a sensory experience on so many levels. Not only does a good meal nurture our bodies, but it also awakens all of our senses. Beautiful food has amazing visual appeal. The aroma of home cooking literally makes the mouth water. The texture and crunch of food make our taste buds tingle. When mealtime is fun, it also feeds our souls.

Healthy eating keeps our bodies in better working order, lessens the effects and duration of illness, and increases energy. Leafy green vegetables, nuts and fish rich in Omega-3 fatty acids can increase mental acuity and may even stave off memory loss. The fact is, when we eat better, we feel better.

Nutrition in the elderly

Our appetites naturally decrease with age as does our sense of thirst.  Thus, many of the elderly do not get the nutrition their bodies need.  Sometimes this is simply because eating has ceased to be an enjoyable experience. The elderly actually experience a decreased sense of taste and smell and the side-effects of certain medications can intensify this. Older adults are also prone to digestive issues that make them cautious and less adventurous about what they will eat. Slower metabolism, poor dentition and depression can also contribute to seniors not getting the recommended daily vitamins and minerals for their age.

The United States Department of Agriculture lists 10 tips for older adults who would like to improve their nutrition.

1. Drink plenty of fluids especially since some medications can dehydrate you.  It’s best to stay away from sugary drinks likes juices and stick to water or even add more soups into the mix.

2. Turn mealtime into a fun social event! Make eating a pleasant experience by sharing the time with others either in your home at a senior center. You can even listen to music as you eat.

3. Plan healthy meals in advance and the National Institute on Aging has a handy tool ChooseMyPlate.gov for building a balanced plate that includes fruits, vegetables, grains and protein.

4. Have an idea of how much to eat – both too much and too little.  There is so much emphasis on how obesity carries health risks that we can sometimes forget that deficiencies in the frail elderly can be just as dangerous. 

5. Vary your vegetables using the old rule of thumb. Follow your mother’s advice and make sure different colored vegetables are amply included in your diet as each is composed of different and important nutrients.

6. Keep your teeth and gums healthy both in terms of what you eat to strengthen them and proper hygiene and maintenance.  Losing teeth can also affect your taste buds, so it is best to take care even in your choice of hard to chew versus softer foods. 

7. Use herbs and spices to counteract any new sense of blandness to your food. A bonus is the newly included spices can bring with them added nutrition such as turmeric with its anti-inflammatory effects and mental acuity. 

8. Keep food safety top of mind.  Often seniors forget how old something is or are hesitant to throw out food due to financial constraints.  Better to be safe than sorry – don’t eat anything that can jeopardize your health.

9. Read those nutrition and ingredient labels.  In addition to calorie, carbohydrate and fat content, they will clue you into the important nutrients contained. 

10. Ask your doctor about personal nutritional requirements and deficiencies and speak to him/her about vitamins and supplements. Many necessary prescription drugs have side effects that deplete your body of important nutrients which are important to replace.  For example, it is important to beware of anemia which can actually contribute to dementia or to take CoQ10 while on cholesterol reducing statin drugs which can zap your strength. 

Healthy eating is a lifestyle choice that promotes good nutrition in the elderly. For additional tips on helping our senior family members stay active and productive, contact us.  David York Agency could provide direction as to how to manage the total care of your senior loved one. Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit us on our website DavidYorkAgency.com to become acquainted with all we offer. Please like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter, Google+ or LinkedIn.

Assistive Computer Technology for the Elderly

With more and more of the elderly using technology, especially our aging Baby Boomers, assistive computer technology can go a long way in helping those whose abilities begin to wane. Useful options like automation, voice commands, and dictation, for those in need of assistive technology, could make otherwise difficult tasks much easier.

assistive technologyApple has made several assistive technologies and customization options standard in its operating system – from the simple, like choosing higher-contrast color combinations to the more complex, like a sophisticated text-to-speech tool. Below are some of the tools available on Apple products that can aid the elderly who begin to experience visual, hearing and motor challenges.

  • VoiceOver is a screen reader or text-to-speech tool that comes standard with every Mac. This tool allows the user to fully interact with the computer, using gestures, a keyboard, or a Braille display as it reads what is on your screen.
  • Zoom is a built-in magnifier which allows the user to enlarge the screen better by magnifying the display up to 20 times its original size.
  • Dictation, as the name suggests, lets users talk where they would normally type. Users can reply to email messages, search the internet, or even dictate in documents using just their voice.
  • Inverting Colors is a simple way to allow for better on-screen comprehension and recognition, because a higher contrast helps users better see what’s on the display. Once colors are determined, settings apply system-wide, allowing for a uniform experience in every app and program.

Microsoft products offer similar options in many of their products, through its Ease of Access Center. Centrally located on Microsoft computers, this file allows users to set up the accessibility settings and programs available in Windows. Programs to assist in accessibility on Microsoft machines are similar to those of Apple:

  • Speech Recognition
  • Narrator
  • High-contrast and customizable display settings
  • Filter Keys which can steady a user’s hand by ignoring brief or repeated keystrokes made accidentally, as in the case of a tremulous or shaky hand, which could be extremely useful for those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

Microsoft also has a database of information and tutorials online, dedicated to specific operating systems such as Windows XP, and programs like Office and Internet Explorer, as well as PDF entitled, A Guide to Transitioning to Windows 7 for People with Disabilities.

As computers become increasingly easy to use, accessible technologies will continue to improve, making it easier for people of all abilities to communicate.

At David York Agency, we understand that caregiving is a process that demands compassion, caring, patience & expertise. Our office staff is up-to-date with the latest technology and caregiver techniques and is ready and available whenever you decide to begin service. If you would like more information about home health aides, please contact us at 718.376.7755 or www.davidyorkagency.com and visit our Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter pages.

A Tool to Diagnose Depression in the Elderly and Type 2 Diabetics

According to a recent article in Home Healthcare Nurse entitled “Diabetes, Depression, and OASIS-C”, among the population 65 years and older, one in six suffers from depression and this is especially true among elderly adults who receive home care.  Identifying depression in the home bound elderly and effectively treating it may be key to decreasing their hospitalization rates and all its associated health and financial costs since the effects of depression can send the elderly adult down a path of negative complications. 

depressionAn additional finding that has some serious implications for our aging population is that research indicates depression is higher among adults with diabetes than the general population.  In fact, diabetics are twice as likely  to suffer from depression.  Under the best of circumstances, our senior citizens have increased chronic and acute diseases; with the interplay of diabetes and depression the rate of mortality, cardiac problems, diabetes related problems, functional impairment as well as hospitalizations increase.  A significant reduction in the overall quality of life ensues due to the resulting combination of events of poor self care, functional impairment and significant nutritional issues. 

Depression is a very treatable condition.  New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene research has shown that 70% to 80% of patients respond well to treatment and good medical care. 

As an essential start, before this issue can be adequately addressed, the patient must be seen by trained nurses and clinicians and a medical doctor should screen for any endocrine disorders.  After other medical issues have been ruled out, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has mandated using a new diagnostic assessment tool in the form of a PHQ-9 questionnaire which is a validated instrument used in primary care to screen for depression in home care patients with Type 2 diabetes.  The questionnaire is an upgrade from the one formerly used because it measures the physical symptoms of depression as well as the level of interest in activity and mood.  With a score of 3 or higher, the patient is referred to a clinician by the home healthcare team

Training a home healthcare provider to recognize symptoms of depression will greatly increase the prospect of its treatment, especially in Type 2 diabetics and home bound elderly patients where its prevalence is so much higher.  Cooperation and communication between all the healthcare disciplines is essential in order to achieve successful diagnosis, treatment and follow-up care. 

The home healthcare team at David York Home Healthcare Agency is on the lookout for the signs and symptoms of depression in the elderly and is eager to be an active player in the treatment plan of the total elderly caregiver team.  Please call us at (718) 376-7755 or visit our website at http://davidyorkhomehealthcare.com/.  You could also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn.