Posts Tagged: caregiver

Meditation for Older Adults

For many families and their loved ones, COVID-19 has not only brought on fears of health, safety, and physical wellbeing but also has negatively impacted current living arrangements and relationships among families and loved ones. For older adults, living alone has become even more burdensome as social visits, fitness and exercise, physical therapy visits, and limitations to healthy food options have been limited if not non-existent. Families that have taken on caregiving duties for their loved ones have been experiencing increased anxiety, tension, and a decline in personal health. Meditation during this time has become more important for older adults, their families, and caregivers during this time.

Research supports the many benefits meditation can bring. Meditation can help memory, cognitive abilities, anxiety, stress, loneliness, depression, circulation, and digestion to name a few. The website U.S. News Health section supports these benefits. You can visit the website here U.S. News: Health

Below are a few tips for first-time meditators and beginners as well as different meditation techniques to try. Meditation can be an activity done at home alone or even virtually with your loved one. Start slow, 5 minutes, and build your way up to 15 minutes a day. The more you practice the easier meditation will become and the more beneficial it will be to your overall health.

The Basics

  1. Schedule 5 to 15 minutes of your day when you will not be distracted by others, phone calls, or other distracting noises. Think of meditation as a “daily vitamin” that you need to take for your health and let others in your household know you are going to meditate and cannot be bothered at this time. It is important for others in your household to appreciate and understand this time is important for you.
  2. Get comfortable. Either lay down or sit where your body feels relaxed. You do not need to be in the quintessential meditation poses if your body feels relaxed and comfortable then you are ready for meditation.
  3. Close your eyes and breathe! Breathe in deeply through your nostrils, filling your stomach with air, to the count of four. If able, hold for a count of four and then release your breath through your mouth to the count of 8. This may take some time to work up to. The idea of meditation is to clear your mind. Focusing on this breathing technique prevents any daydreaming and wandering of thought. Again, the more you practice meditation the more you can clear your mind easily and prevent your thoughts from wandering. Do not be frustrated with many different thoughts coming and going and the complete ability to stop them. This is natural. Just go back to focusing on your breathing and the repetition of the breathing technique
  4. Slowly open your eyes after your meditation has ended. It is also important to slowly move your body from the position you are in. Like waking from a deep night’s rest, let your body adjust back to the external stimulus.

Types of Meditation

Here are a few types of techniques and ways to meditate.

  1. Mindfulness Meditation

This relates to being present in your current situation. This type of meditation helps you feel grounded and secure in your current situation. Overthinking, worrying about the future, fears of the future, and appreciation of where we are and what we have is a focus of this meditation.

  1. Meditation for Anxiety

Imagery and guided meditation are very helpful for anxiety and stress. A trained instructor guides you in a calm voice on how to breathe and an imaginative situation to envision. Through their words and instruction, you can follow along and feel relaxed and at ease at the end of the meditation session.

  1. Meditation for Sleep

We are all aware of the physical and mental benefits of a good night’s sleep. Still, many of us can attest to needing more sleep and constantly not receiving enough. Personally, I have found that meditation, whereas I am waking 2-3 times throughout the night, is the best way to get back to sleep. I do this with Body Scan meditation techniques. First, I take 3-7 deep breaths using the breathing technique I mentioned above. Second, I start envisioning my feet and toes. Internally I tell my toes to relax. Sometimes I will clench and then relax. I then proceed with every body part I think of, moving slowly from my feet to my legs, from my torso to my neck, and so on. Each body part and area I tell to relax and envision these parts as being weightless. Chakra meditation puts these parts of the body into zones that you can also focus on through meditation. With the Body Scan technique, I am usually fast asleep by the time I reach my head.

By starting with 5 minutes a day and incorporating meditation into your daily schedule, you will be providing the many benefits stated above to not only yourself but the ones you love and care for as well. Meditation truly is a win-win!

7 Helpful Answers About COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic escalates, we are reminded repeatedly of what preventative measures to take. Social isolation, holding a 6-foot distance from others, and proper handwashing to name a few. However, like many I know, I have also wondered about other preventative measures to take in the new way of living we are all experiencing. Below are some tips that I have found helpful while isolating at home.

  1. Can the virus spread on paper or cardboard?

Many of us are using Amazon and Instacart as well as other delivery services for groceries and items to avoid in-person visits. We know the virus can spread through physical contact and through mucous membranes (eyes, mouth, nose), but what about other surfaces? The length of time the virus stays on surfaces does vary, however, the risk is of obtaining COVID-19 through commercial goods or packages is low, per the CDC.

  1. Can my pet transmit COVID-19 to me?

You may have heard the recent news of the Tiger at the Bronx Zoo testing positive for COVID-19. The tiger showed symptoms consistent with the virus. Animals and our domestic friends have been an important topic at hand as it relates to the virus. Many want to know if animals can transmit the virus to humans and vice versa. As it stands now, these reports and studies have concluded that animals can contract the virus from humans, however, it does not appear that humans can contract the virus from animals.

  1. What do I do if I don’t have an N-95 mask?

N95 Face masks are nearly impossible to find and if you do find them, it’s possible they are counterfeit. The N95 masks filter 95% of airborne particles. It is important to note that the masks are mainly to help persons wearing the masks to not transmit their germs to others. The importance of the mask diminishes once touched and should be removed and replaced with a new mask. Healthcare workers need these masks and are most knowledgeable on how to appropriately and safely wear them. Let’s leave the N95 masks for them and make our own. Below is a great video recently posted by the Surgeon General on how to make a face mask at home. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the fabric blocks out the sunlight from coming through. If you do reuse your mask, fold it inwards to prevent the outside from touching other surfaces and place it in a sealable bag.

Link to Video:

  1. My disinfecting supplies are running low. What should I do?

Groceries stores are limited in supplies, especially disinfecting products. Fully in the throes of the virus, personal supplies of disinfectant wipes and products will be running low. The EPA has a great website on other products to use as household disinfectants. Click Here. You can also dilute household bleach as an alternative!         

  1. Is drinking tap water safe?

As it stands now, yes. Per the CDC website, the virus has not been found in drinking water and should not be of concern at this time.

  1. Can the virus spread through produce I purchase?

COVID-19 is a virus causing respiratory illness. To date, there is no evidence suggesting the virus can be transmitted through food and food packaging. While we know that the virus can remain on surfaces and be transmitted, this is not believed to be the reason of the main factor of the virus spreading. Once the virus is airborne and is on a surface rather than a person, the percentage of the virus being transmitted from that surface diminishes greatly and becomes harder to be transmitted the longer it is in the environment. The FDA (The U.S. Food and Drug Administration) gives facts on the virus and how it relates to production. The website can be found here https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/food-safety-and-availability-during-coronavirus-pandemic.

  1. Which sources are the most reliable on information regarding COVID-19?

There are many websites, blogs, press releases, etc. sharing information on COVID-19. I am inundated with information and have often questioned which facts are true and which are opinions. Regarding general information on the virus, the CDC (Center for Disease Control) website is the best. However, the World Health Organization is reliable also. They have just implemented an alert system to bring the public facts on COVID-19. Check it out here https://www.who.int/news-room/feature-stories/detail/who-health-alert-brings-covid-19-facts-to-billions-via-whatsapp. Regarding your specific county and state interpretation of the virus, regulations, policies, and safety measures, it is best to go to the Department of Health. The Maryland Department of Health website and information resources can be found here https://health.maryland.gov.

Fall Prevention

Falls are common. We all trip and hurt ourselves, but as we grow older, the risk of serious injury increases. Experts estimate that approximately one-third of older adults 65+ fall one or more times a year. In fact, falls are the leading cause of injury among older adults. As we age, physical changes and health conditions — and sometimes medications — make falls more likely. While fear of falling does not need to rule your life, there are ways to prevent falls. Here are six simple fall-prevention strategies.

Make an appointment with your physician

Begin your fall-prevention plan by making an appointment with your primary care physician. Review with your doctor:

1). All prescriptions and over-the-counter medications and supplements you are taking with your doctor and discuss side effects. Do any increase your risk for falling? You may want to ask your physician to consider changing medications or weaning you off those that may make you tired or affect your thinking.

2). If you’ve fallen within the last year, discuss how and where you fell. If you almost fell but were caught by someone or managed to grab hold of something just in time, be sure to discuss with your physician. These details may help your doctor identify specific fall-prevention strategies.

3). Discuss all your health conditions and how comfortable you are when walking. Your doctor should evaluate your muscle strength, balance and walking style as well as examine your eyes and ears. Your physician may also verify that your vitamin D levels are within the normal range, to ensure strong bones and muscles.

4). Schedule an appointment with your optometrist and have your eyes examined.

Physical activity

Keep moving. Physical activity can go a long way toward fall prevention. Once you have the “all clear” from your physician, engage in activities such as walking, water aerobics or tai chi. Such activities improve strength, balance, coordination, and flexibility.

If you avoid physical activity because you’re afraid of falling, tell your doctor. Your physician may recommend carefully monitored exercise programs or refer you to a physical therapist who can create a custom exercise program aimed at improving your balance, flexibility, muscle strength and gait.

While exercise is important, it’s also important to maintain a healthy diet, drink plenty of fluids and maintain a regular sleep schedule.

Wear sensible shoes

Consider changing your footwear as part of your fall-prevention plan. High heels, flip-flops, and fancy dress shoes with slick soles can make you slip, stumble or fall.  The best option is to wear properly fitting, sturdy shoes with nonskid soles. A sensible shoe may also reduce joint pain.

Improve indoor safety

Take a look around the inside of your home. Spend time examining your living room, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, hallways, and stairways for potential hazards. To make your home safer:

  • Remove boxes, newspapers, electrical cords and phone cords from walkways.
  • Move coffee tables, magazine racks and plant stands out of high-traffic areas.
  • Secure loose rugs with double-faced tape or a slip-resistant backing or better yet — remove loose rugs from your home.
  • Repair loose, wooden floorboards, and carpeting right away.
  • Store clothing, dishes, food and other necessities within easy reach.
  • Immediately clean spilled liquids, grease or food.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower. Purchase a bath seat.

Shine a light on your living space

Keep your home bright and well lit to avoid tripping on objects that might be hard to see.

  • Increase lighting, especially near the stairs and bathrooms. Use plug-in-night-lights and movement-sensitive lights.
  • Place night lights in your bedroom, bathroom, and hallways.
  • Put a lamp within easy reach of your bed.
  • Consider replacing traditional switches for glow-in-the-dark or illuminated switches.
  • Turn on lights BEFORE going up or down steps.
  • Store flashlights in easy-to-reach locations in case of power outages.

Use assistive devices

Your doctor might recommend that you use a cane or walker to keep you steady. Other assistive devices around the home to consider include:

  • Handrails on both sides of all stairways
  • Nonslip treads for hardwood steps
  • A raised toilet seat
  • Install grab bars in the bathroom as bathroom tiles can be slippery especially when wet.
  • Use nonslip mats in your bathtub or shower.
  • Purchase a bath seat for the shower or tub — plus a hand-held shower nozzle for bathing while sitting down

The good news about falls is that most can be prevented. The key is to know where to look. Some solutions are easily installed and relatively inexpensive. Others may require professional help or a larger investment. If you’re concerned about the cost, remember that an investment in fall prevention is an investment in your independence.

Top Tips for Finding the Right Caregiver

Most people want to continue to live in their own homes for as long as possible. For those who are older or dealing with a disability, remaining in their home can often be a challenge without outside help. For many individuals requiring assistance with their daily activities, they often rely on unpaid care provided by family members and friends.

More and more, older adults and their families are recognizing the benefits of hiring paid caregivers. Professional caregivers help seniors not only remain in their homes longer, but they provide additional comfort and safety. They also offer families peace of mind. More people are finding that they can afford paid caregivers because many state governments and insurance policies cover the cost of private outside help.

So how do you find the right caregiver for your particular situation? Here are a few tips for choosing an in-home caregiver:

1.     Assess home care needs

Before you go out looking for a caregiver, know exactly why a caregiver is needed. Is there a requirement for more assistance with health care, personal care or household care? Is home health care the primary focus with the additional support required for physical therapy or medication management? Or is there more of a need for non-medical personal care such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and meal preparation? Maybe the focus is on providing a companion to escort or drive the older adult to appointments and outings. Do they want someone to help with housecleaning, shopping, running errands, bill paying or money management?

Determining what is required and the type of experience and skill sets a caregiver has to offer is a crucial component in finding a caregiver who is the right fit. Selecting a caregiver that matches the needs of your loved one is crucial for helping their overall health and wellbeing.

2.     Prepare a job description

Take the time to write a job description. Be sure to include details such as a certain level of healthcare training (for example, Certified Nursing Assistant, Licensed Practical Nurse, Registered Nurse) being able to drive or able to operate special equipment. Making a list of what the job entails can help the caregiver make an accurate decision about the duties required after the interview. For all parties involved it’s crucial, to be honest, and upfront about what tasks will need to be undertaken by the caregiver. You don’t want to hire a caregiver only to find out later that they are not qualified for the job. 

3.     Ask around

Research and get to know the resources in your community that hire caregivers. It is essential to ask family, your church group, neighbors, medical professionals and members of your local Village about the positives and the negatives of a caregiver agency to narrow down options. Read online reviews for agencies. If you know someone who has used a caregiver from an agency, follow up on that lead.

After determining which caregiving agency you’ll work with, ask to interview the potential in-home caregiver. Don’t go exclusively on a resume. Many caregivers can look good on paper, but will not be a good fit for your situation because of cultural, religious, social or some other reason. Once it’s time to schedule an interview, prepare a list of questions to ask a caregiver. You may wish to invite another family member or friend to provide a second opinion. An interview is a powerful tool for determining a person’s personality as well as how the caregiver will interact with your loved one. Be sure to ask any potential candidates if they have done the types of tasks required and about their qualification. You may wish to introduce your loved one during the interview and assess how the caregiver interacts to determine if this is the right fit. 

4.     Follow up

Once you have agreed upon a caregiver, be sure that the agency has checked references and conducted a criminal background check. You’ll want to be sure that the caregiver is licensed and bonded by the agency. If they are not, you may want to look somewhere else.

After, the caregiver has started to work, set up a schedule to monitor the quality of the services the caregiver provides. Schedule informal meetings by making regular home visits. Get periodic reports from the agency. If there are any problems, address them immediately. Do not wait around. Also, be sure you have a backup plan in case the caregiver or the agency fails to follow through or if problems arise.

At some point, you or your family may also want to hire an independent care manager to monitor the situation if you are unable to do it yourself.

Finding a caregiver that matches the personality and the needs of an older adult can be life-altering.  The right caregiver can enhance the quality of life for a senior while also putting the family at ease knowing that a loved one is in good hands.

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