Posts Tagged: older adults

How to Care for Your Aging Parents

Many adult children return home for the holidays and notice for the first time that their aging parents are not able to do as many things as they previously could perform. Often they notice the house is no longer well kept, the outdoor garden is overgrown, and old family friends have moved away. As older adults age in place here is four useful tips for helping to maintain health, wellness, and social connections.

1-    Stay in contact

Isolation causes depression,  a major factor in the declining health of older adults. As we age, it is critical to remain engaged and connected to the outside world. Thus remain connected to your older adult. Call once or twice a week and check-in. Many older adults suffer a sense of loss as they age. Thus, hearing a familiar voice on a regular basis can help them realize that they are not alone and others care for them.

2-    Visit in person

Calling and talking on the phone can never replace an in-person visit. A visit can help put a smile on your loved one’s face, and it enables you to determine how they are doing. It may be difficult to visit regularly,  but try to schedule quality time with them as they need you. If you can only see them once or twice a year, try communicating using video call platforms like Skype and FaceTime. While these applications are not as meaningful as an in-person visit, they offer the potential for connections and will be appreciated by your loved one.

3-    Hire a caregiver

Caregiver companionship is another option to consider for older adults who live alone, especially those who are homebound because of frailty or dementia. Companion care is primarily emotional support and companionship for seniors who are generally healthy and who want to remain independent at home. Most importantly, companions function as an extra set of hands, eyes, and feet to the person you care for when you can’t be there. Companions can assist with meal preparation, light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, and errands. Companions provide valuable social benefits, decreasing isolation and improving the quality of life. Warm relationships are often formed when a consistent companion is on the job — a boon for both the companion and the older adult.

However, do not let the presence of a caregiver Companion take your place. It means the world to older adults when young people visit them.

4-    Community social gathering

Many older adults want to stay in their homes as they age. Moving comes with both physical and emotional stress, and many older adults are afraid of leaving behind beloved neighbors and a family home full of memories. Add the fear of the unknown to those concerns and a move to a senior living community can be downright overwhelming. However, the truth is that for many seniors living at home alone can be unhealthy and even dangerous. Spending most of their time at home, alone can increase their loneliness and can make them inactive.

It’s important to encourage older adults to participate in social gatherings and events, designed specifically for older people. Not everyone has a family to count on. So for tens of thousands of older Americans, the solution has been something called the Village, a neighborhood-based membership organization. Usually, the way it works is that older adults pay dues of a few hundred dollars a year. And then the village provides connections to discounted services, anything from contractors to grocery shopping to home health workers. There are also social activities. It’s a lot of things you might find in assisted living except you don’t have to leave your home. A Village can help make those social connections and keep an older adult physically active. It can also put your mind at ease, as you know that they are not alone.

Traits of the Best Caregivers

A caregiver is responsible for the health and happiness of our loved ones. Hence, it is essential to find the most suitable caregiver for them. How do you know who is a good caregiver? When evaluating caregivers, look for the following traits:

Compassionate

While selecting caregivers, it is essential to ensure that they are compassionate. Compassion maintains and sustains a bond between the patient and the caregiver. It also enables caregivers to put themselves in the patient’s shoes and understand what they are going through. Empathizing with the elderly can help ease their discomfort.

Patient

As the elderly grow older, their bodies and minds work slower than they used to. They forget things easily and need to be reminded of even daily chores, repeatedly. For this reason, caregivers must be patient, so that they remain calm and collected while taking care of your loved one. Being patient means that they will understand if things do not go as quickly as planned and if the patient is being stubborn.

Attentive and responsive to situations

It is crucial for a good caregiver to be attentive. An elderly patient needs constant care and attention. It is the caregiver’s job to continuously monitor, and recognize the needs of the patient, even if he/she cannot communicate them.

The caregiver also needs to pay close attention to early warning signs and observe any change in skin color, appetite, physical condition, and behavior. Sometimes, the patient is unaware that they need help and the caregiver, noticing the signs, must respond to them immediately.

Good Communicator

Caregivers should have good communication skills such that they can communicate well with the patient and you. The caregiver should share crucial details regarding the patient’s care and inform you about any change in plan or condition.

Enthusiastic and Passionate

Having the passion to do what you love can make a huge difference. A passionate caregiver’s work will be evident in how they treat your loved one. They will be working not for money, but out of genuine interest.

Passionate caregivers will be motivated to improve the health of the elderly and will, therefore, be innovative and creative as they plan activities. 

Dependable and trustworthy

Trust plays an imperative role in building strong relationships.  If the patient knows they can rely on the caregiver, they will communicate and participate more with them.

If the caregiver you are interviewing possesses the above-mentioned traits, then you have found the best caregiver for your loved one.

10 Summer Activities for Older Adults

Leisure time for older adults helps promote mental, social and physical wellbeing. It also helps prevent depression-related problems that may arise from a sense of isolation and disconnection from society. Not sure how to entertain your senior loved ones during the hot summer season? Take a look at these ten outdoor and indoor activities that can keep your loved one entertained, while promoting positive mental and physical health.

1- Go swimming

Splashing around in a private or public pool is a fun and relaxing way to spend time with a variety of people. Swimming is an excellent physical activity that is light on the joints and helpful in strengthening muscles.  Swimming strengthens core muscles, improves body posture, and reduces the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Water exercise is the only non-weight-bearing workout that eliminates the risk of accidental falls during exercise. It is a wonderful summer option to beat the heat of the summer while staying in shape.

2- Go fish

Fishing is a great activity that is accessible even to those who are restricted by a wheelchair or walker. It’s easy to drop a fishing line from a dock (pier or along a riverbank), cast a rod into the water, and socialize while waiting for the next catch. Make an afternoon out of this outing and don’t forget to pack your snacks, drinks, and a blanket.

3- Get your hands dirty

A great summertime activity is gardening. It provides an opportunity to take in the fresh air and engage in physical activity, which is not that strenuous.  Individuals may garden in a backyard or community garden where volunteers are highly appreciated.

4- Work for a cause

Find a good organization to volunteer your time and energy. Volunteering is extremely beneficial. Working for others gives a sense of purpose, something we all question as we age. Philanthropic organizations, churches, schools or green societies are some organizations that can help keep your loved one engaged while offering a sense of purpose.

5- Check your local newspapers

Engaging in outdoor community events is an excellent way to socialize. Many communities sponsor car shows, musical performances, flea markets and bingo nights. Choose an event that best suits your needs and spend your day making others smile.

6- A book of memories

Now and then, staying inside is a wonderful option to beat the heat. Stay at home and go down memory lane. Scrapbooking is a fun and creative way of documenting memories immortalized in photographs and memorabilia. This activity also assists with cognitive exercise and stimulation as it triggers recalling important events. Making a scrapbook is not only an affordable and simple activity, but it provides significant health benefits. A recent study found that scrapbooking can help older adults cope with loss and grief as it helps to relive cherished memories.

7- Get Creative

Getting in touch with your creative side is another fun way to spend time. Painting, drawing, coloring, and sculpturing are all delightful diversions that can channel a person’s thoughts and emotions. It also helps in improving eye-to-hand coordination and in boosting confidence. Research has found that these creative activities can help battle chronic illness by decreasing negative emotions and increase positive ones, reducing stress and anxiety and improving medical outcomes. Another fun option to consider is creating mosaics out of flower pots, eggshells, tiles, and other tiny items. Eye and hand dexterity is essential for this art activity. Mosaics hone imagination and creativity skills as they create colorful masterpieces out of assembled pieces of art.

8 – Dine al Fresco

Good company, food, and a lovely ambiance are all a recipe for success. Satisfy your palate and take time for some quality bonding. Grab a meal outdoors and enjoy the world as it marches by.

9 – Invest in a Bird feeder for Bird Watching

Birds provide beautiful entertainment, and birds chirping signals an opportune time to invest in a feeder. Whether blue jays or hummingbirds, bird feeders attract nature to you. For added fun, there are loads of kits and instructions on the internet for building your own bird feeder.

10 – Plant an Herb Garden

To go along with healthy eating, a modest herb garden provides not only gardening fun, but healthy and tasty ingredients for your favorite dishes. You don’t need a lot of space to grow a herb garden. Pots of all sizes can accommodate herbs such as rosemary, chives, basil or thyme. 

Daily engagement in activities can improve everyone’s well-being. While these ten suggestions offer some great activities to engage in, be mindful of the health conditions of your loved one and participate accordingly.

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.

How to Beat the Summer Heat for Older Adults

As summer rolls in, the number of older adults who suffer from heat stroke and dehydration increases. Those 75 and above, are the most susceptible to heat because it takes their bodies longer to cool down. Dehydration diminishes a person’s ability to regulate their body temperature, thus placing them at a higher risk of developing a heat illness. That’s because when we age, our bodies become less efficient at regulating temperature. Older adults don’t sweat as much as young people, which is one of the body’s most important heat-regulation mechanisms.

There are a variety of lifestyle and health factors that increase the risk of developing a heat-related illness among this population:

  • Dehydration
  • Chronic illnesses such as heart and kidney diseases; blood circulation conditions
  • Prescription medications that reduce sweating
  • Salt-restricted diets
  • Overdressing
  • Lack of airflow or access to air conditions

Help your older loved one beat the heat by taking the following steps.

Proper ventilation at home

Try to maintain a cool environment at home. Central air conditioning is the best option, but if that is not possible, a window air conditioning unit will also work.  Alternatively, fans can also provide relief. Make sure to position fans near windows while keeping all windows in the house open to allow continuous circulation of air.

Make use of air-conditioned public spaces

If air conditioning is not an option in the home, then take your loved one to public spaces with air conditioning. Some great options include a shopping mall, library, restaurant or even a local senior center.

Hydrate!

High temperatures in the summer make us sweat more, which can cause heatstroke. To avoid this affliction, keep your loved ones hydrated by encouraging them to drink water. Also, include foods in their diet that have a high water content such as cucumbers, melons, and berries.

While drinking eight glasses of water is a goal to strive for, also incorporate beverages that have electrolytes as those replace the minerals that a person loses while sweating.

Studies indicate that when you feel thirsty your ability to regulate heat begins to decline. For older adults, who already struggle to manage internal body heat, dehydration can block the body’s natural cooling process even more.

Older adults need to drink water and juices regularly. A good rule of thumb is to drink fluids at every meal, as well as sipping fluids throughout the day.  Avoid alcohol as well as caffeine including coffee, tea, and soda as they are a diuretic and can cause more dehydration.

Beat the heat by planning ahead

If outdoor activities are on the schedule be sure to time your outing for before noon or after 4 pm. The hottest portions of the day are typically between noon and 4 p.m. Instead, take a walk early in the day or late in the evening when temperatures and humidity are at their lowest points.

Change your wardrobe

Wear clothes that are loose fitting, containing natural fibers such as cotton and allow room for circulation. A light colored, long sleeved, loose-fitted shirt, paired with a wide-brimmed hat and a pair of sunglasses is the ideal summer fashion statement. This attire allows the heat from being trapped close to the body while keeping the sun off the skin.

Be aware of early warning signs

Check on your loved one at least twice a day. Early warning signs of heat exhaustion include excessive sweating, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache and muscle cramps. If untreated, heat exhaustion can progress within 10 – 15 minutes into heat stroke (a more serious condition). Heat stroke is caused when the internal body temperature rises faster than it’s able to lower naturally.  Symptoms of heat stroke include nausea, vomiting, fainting, headache, rapid heartbeat or excessive sweating. If symptoms of heat stroke are present, call 911.

To help those suffering from heat-related illness here what you can do immediately: First, have the person lie down in a cool place, and if you can put a fan directly on that person even better. Then take steps to lower body temperature. Air-conditioning, offer cool fluids, or providing access to a cool bath will also help.

Warm temperatures can be a welcome shift, especially when dealing with aches and pains, but older adults need to protect themselves against the dangerous effects of hot weather. When it comes to warm conditions, too much of a good thing can become a health hazard.

The holiday season is a joyous time for most to share the delights of family life and friendships.

Unfortunately, many older adults may find the holidays hectic, confusing, and even depressing, depending on their mental or physical conditions.

With all the “hustle and bustle” of the season, remember to be sensitive and loving. It is always best to plan for these occasions.

The good news is that everyone can help to make sure your loved ones enjoy the holidays by doing the following:

1. Take a stroll down memory lane. Many seniors enjoy speaking to their families about their previous experiences and memories. Younger family members and friends love to hear about how grandmother/grandfather lived her/his life “when I was your age.”. We suggest using pictures, videos, and even music to help stimulate their memories and share their experiences.

  • For example – Create a collage of old photos in a Memory Book. This is a great activity for the family and gets everyone involved. Bring over some joyous Holiday music and have fun singing along.

2. Plan a break. Most seniors are not used to the commotion and noise from youngster visiting during the holidays. Make sure to keep an eye on them. Escort mom/dad to a quiet place for a few minutes so they can take a break. Use this time to talk to them and perhaps encourage them to have a one-on-one conversation with a family member.

  • For example – Bring your loved-one to a community library or a quiet café to enjoy a nice warm treat.

3. Remove any obstacles. If the Holiday party is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, please don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery rugs and other items that could cause them to trip and fall.

  • For example – Do not move your seniors couch on the opposite side of the room. Try to keep things where they have always been.

4. Be inclusive. Include everyone in holiday meal preparations. Split-up holiday tasks to make sure everyone stays involved. Older adults with physical limitations can still be included in kitchen activities by asking them to do simple tasks.

  • For example – folding napkins, reading holiday cards, assisting with place settings or arranging flowers are some of the helpful and fun ways to participate during the holidays.

5. New memories. Help your loved ones create new memories this holiday season.\

  • For example – Take them window shopping, take a drive through the neighborhood to look at holiday decorations and lights, and even inviting them over to help decorate the tree.

6. Be thoughtful and understanding. Many seniors will experience memory loss, so make sure to keep that in mind when you are telling a story and they find it hard to remember. If your family member seems not to remember an experience, then refresh everyone’s memory and don’t single them out for not remembering a past event.

  • For example – If your family member seems not to remember an experience, then refresh everyone’s memory and don’t single them out for not remembering a past event.

7. Check on them. Connecting with your loved ones is important during the holiday season. If your senior family member lives alone, check on them and make sure to include them in all your holiday events. Always keep a positive attitude when you are around them and make sure to reassure them how important they are to you and the entire family.

  • For example – Call or stop in for a couple minutes just to see if they need any groceries or see what time you will pick them up for the holiday festivities.

8. Stay on the sunny side. Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that’s related to changes in seasons. SAD is usually referred to as winter depression which can be provoked by the shortage of sunlight. It is important to make sure your loved ones stay active and complete activities in the daylight.

  • For example – If your loved one suffers from SAD make sure to take them on daily walks in the sunlight or play a game with them during the daytime.

9. Monitor medications and alcohol. Make sure to help your loved ones take their medications on their regular schedule during the holidays. During the holiday season, it can be easy to forget to take medications. Also, pay attention to their alcohol consumption during the holiday parties. Alcohol can provoke inappropriate behavior, interfere with medications, and make depression worse.

  • For example – Set a reminder on your cell phone for the times your loved one takes their medication. If you notice your loved one consuming a large amount of alcohol, recommend the lemon water you made or “mock-tail”.

Hopefully, the facts above will help you and your loved ones this holiday season. The holidays can be so hectic and busy it can be very easy to forget about the needs of the senior family members in our lives. Remember it is important to spend as much time as possible with them and consider their feelings. Sometimes the holidays can be too much for your loved ones and remember to be sensitive and understanding of their situations.

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