Supporting a loved one with Type 2 Diabetes

Supporting a loved one with Type 2 Diabetes

A new diagnosis can mean a new way of life.

You have just found out that a loved on has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. You may feel worried for your family member or friend and are struggling to find ways to help. Your caring and willingness to lend a hand will help you support them, an asset which they will need to move forward. Most importantly, don’t panic. This is, unfortunately, a common diagnosis these days, and there are many things your loved one can do to improve, or even reverse, their condition. It’s important to understand what their current health situation is by educating yourself about type 2 diabetes.

What is type 2 diabetes?

Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes (in addition to type 1 and gestational). People with type 2 diabetes have insulin resistance, which means that their body does not use insulin properly. Insulin is a hormone that helps transport blood glucose into the body’s cells to be used later for energy. Because of their condition, being that they are resistant to insulin, sufferers of type 2 diabetes have higher levels of blood glucose – which isn’t good. Their pancreas is being overworked and can no longer keep up with the misguided demands for insulin production.

Now that you’re informed, you’ll be prepared in going forward so that you can help your loved one adjust to their new lifestyle. Here are some things that you can do to help that special person in your life.

5 things you can do to help support your loved one:

  • Ask, “what can I do to help you care for your type 2 diabetes?” Reach out to your loved one to see if you can help. This will show them that you are available and ready to assist them with anything they need.
  • Help them find answers and solutions to help improve their condition. Learning about options for diabetes treatment can feel overwhelming, so being a support for your loved one will help immensely. Knowing that you are there to help them navigate their treatment options is invaluable.
  • Healthy eating. Why are group challenges so popular? Group challenges are popular due to the community feel and the friendly push to for improvement. You can provide this sense of community for your loved one as they begin to overhaul their food choices. Volunteering to be their accountability buddy can encourage them to make better choices while having fun doing it alongside a partner.
  • Get moving. Encourage your friend or family member to get up and get moving. It doesn’t have to be strenuous – walking is a great, low-impact way to get active. Exercise helps to reduce stress, increase endorphins and help keep blood glucose levels stable. Cheer them on – it will help motivate them to keep at it!
  • Listen. Often times, you’ll find that the most effective way to help your loved one is by simply offering to listen. Be there to listen to their challenges, frustrations and allow them to vent, discuss plans, and share some laughs.

 

Type 2 diabetes sufferers don’t have to go it alone; you can help.

There are plenty of things that you can do to help out your family member or friend that has been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Letting them know that they have a support system in you will help them better deal with their condition.


Ryan Valencic is the senior clinic director at Carolina Integrative Health Care. Dr. Valencic has been practicing functional medicine for several years and has committed himself to working predominantly with type II diabetics.

Celebrating in Senior Living

Celebrating in Senior Living

Home for the Holidays: How to Celebrate in Another City with a Loved One in Senior Living

By Deb Hipp

When you recall past holiday gatherings, maybe you can still see Mom stirring pots in the kitchen and baking cookies, or kids bounding out of bed and running into the living room at dawn on Christmas morning. Perhaps you cherish memories of decorating the Christmas tree or lighting the menorah as a family.

Whatever your family’s tradition, it probably included food, gifts and relatives from near and far.  However, now that your parent or other loved one lives in an assisted living community or a skilled nursing facility in another city, celebrating the holidays as a family isn’t as easy as it once was.

If you plan to travel to visit your loved one but aren’t sure how to make the holidays special, consider these factors, along with a few different options for holiday celebrations.

Consult Your Loved One First

For a loved one in assisted living or a nursing home, the holiday season can be depressing, says Amanda Lambert, owner of Lambert Care Management and co-author of Aging with Care: Your Guide to Hiring and Managing Caregivers at Home.

“Think about how a mom may have always been the person to plan activities for the family around this time and can no longer do so,” says Lambert. “Holidays can be one more reminder of loss of independence.”

Ask your loved one what he or she would like to do for the holidays and give that person the opportunity to be involved in decision making, says Lambert. Don’t simply assume that your loved one wants you to magically transform this holiday season into a replica of past holiday gatherings.

“Accepting that things will never be the way they were can put less stress on everyone in the family to try and replicate something that may be impossible,” says Lambert. “Be flexible. Consider starting a new and different tradition.”

Creating a ‘Home’ for the Holidays

Even if your loved one can’t get out and about, you can still create a holiday setting for someone who lives in assisted living or another type of senior living community. When deciding how to celebrate, here are a few options and important factors to consider.

Celebrate At a Relative’s Home or Rent an Airbnb

If it’s an option, invite family members to celebrate at the home of a relative in the same city as your loved one’s assisted living or skilled nursing community. If that’s not possible, rent an Airbnb house or apartment so you can decorate it and prepare a holiday meal, celebrating in a home-like setting. Ask your loved one if he or she would like to invite a friend or two from the assisted living community or nursing home.

You can even hire a service such as Bells & Whistles, an event and holiday decoration rental company, to deliver and set up a tree and decorations. Perform an online search for holiday decorating services located in the city you plan to visit.

Before moving your loved one to a different location to celebrate, Lambert recommends considering these factors:

  • Does your loved one have cognitive issues that may be exacerbated by a change of location?
  • What medical issues such as mobility problems and medications to be dispensed need to be considered while the person is out of the assisted living or nursing home community?
  • Meet with a nurse at the assisted living or skilled nursing community to go over medical problems that may need special attention, such as if the person becomes lightheaded when standing up.
  • Prepare a plan in case of emergency. Find out your loved one’s preferred hospital and make sure you have the primary physician’s phone number handy.
  • Make sure the home you are going to is accessible. Does it have stairs your love one will struggle to climb? What about a walk-in shower? Will the person need assistance in the shower?

 

Celebrate at the Loved One’s Community

If you determine that your loved one would become agitated or disoriented by moving to a new location for a day or two, or isn’t physically capable of going out, you can celebrate at the assisted living or other type of senior community. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Decorate your loved one’s apartment or room with a small Christmas tree or a menorah, lights, holiday cards and gifts. Set up a device to play holiday music.
  2. Participate with your loved one in activities offered within their living community. Many senior living communities make significant efforts to make the holidays special for residents and their families. For example, in 2016, The Lodge in Alameda in Alameda, Calif., held a holiday tea party, in which each dining room had a holiday theme and a musician playing an instrument such as a harp, piano or guitar. Find out what events the community offers and attend with your loved one.
  3. Plan a holiday party for your loved one’s friends and neighbors in the community. Depending on the size of your loved one’s living quarters, you may be able to bring in a catered feast, holiday music and decorations so the celebration can include friends and other residents of the community who have no holiday visitors.

 

“Be prepared to also embrace those people in some small way to make them part of your family,” says Joy Loverde, author of Who Will Take Care of Me When I’m Old? “Make everyone there your friend.” If you need more room, ask staff in advance about using the community clubhouse or another on-site meeting space.

Whatever you decide, base your decisions on what’s best for your loved one and most suited to his or her physical or cognitive limitations. You’ll never be able to recreate those family holidays you enjoyed for decades. However, don’t let that stop you from being there to celebrate with someone you love. The more time you can spend with your loved one, the better.

Families are busy during the holidays, and it can be tempting to shorten time spent with a loved one, says Lambert. “If anything, spend more time,” she says. “Think about how lonely it can be for someone left at a community during the holidays.”


Deb Hipp is a Kansas City, Mo.-based freelance writer who covers elder and caregiving issues and has more than 20 years of experience as a journalist and writer. She is a contributing writer for A Place for Mom.

Alcoholism and Addiction In the Elderly

Alcoholism and Addiction In the Elderly

Did you know that widowers over 75 have the highest rate of alcoholism in the United States?

An astounding 2.5 million older adults have drug or alcohol problems.

Seniors may not be the first group to come to mind when you think about alcoholism, but maybe they should be. Alcoholism can develop at any life stage, but it can be especially damaging to the elderly.

Higher Stakes for Alcohol Abuse in the Elderly

Senior men and women who abuse alcohol are at risk for all the same alcohol-related problems as younger people, but there are a few more dangers.

Slips and Falls – The elderly are already at greater risk for slips and falls, and they are more likely to land in the hospital when this happens. Add alcohol, which can throw off your equilibrium, and the result could be disastrous.

Metabolic Changes – Once we reach 65, our bodies become less efficient at metabolizing drugs and alcohol as they once were. This can cause an elderly person to get drunk quicker than someone younger.

Other Medications – According to data collected by AARP, people over 65 who take prescriptions regularly use an average of at least four medicines daily. Since alcohol reacts with many medications, drinking with prescription drugs can be very dangerous.

Identifying Alcoholism in the Elderly

Many medical and mental health disorders that are common in seniors have similar symptoms to alcoholism, so alcoholism can be difficult to identify. Diabetes, depression, and dementia may all present similar symptoms to alcoholism. If a healthcare provider suspects one is present, they may be less likely to diagnose alcoholism.

Misguided platitudes are other obstacles that get in the way of diagnosing a senior’s alcoholism. For example, many family members may argue that alcohol is one of the few pleasures grandpa has left. Another may imply that it’s pointless to address the problem this late in life.

The fact of the matter remains that alcoholism in the elderly can be dangerous. Considering the risks, it’s best to address the problem quickly.

Triggers for Alcoholism in the Elderly

The Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services puts elderly alcohol abusers into two categories. The “hardy survivors” have been abusing alcohol for many years, and the “late onset” group’s drinking was triggered by a life event in their senior years.

If you suspect someone you care for falls into the “late onset” group, he or she may have been triggered by one of the following events:

  • Death of a spouse or close family member
  • Mental or physical decline
  • Financial strain
  • Loss of independence
  • Retirement
  • Family conflict

How to Identify Alcoholism in the Elderly

Although alcoholism can mimic the symptoms of other disorders, it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs. Also, look for signs that your loved one may be hiding their drinking. This is a sure sign that something isn’t quite right.

Here are some of the signs of alcoholism:

  • Memory problems
  • Sadness and depression
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Failing to bathe
  • Social isolation
  • Lack of interest in regular activities

If you notice these along with a smell of alcohol on his or her breath, it’s time to talk about alcohol use and/or abuse. If these symptoms seem to appear suddenly, talk to this person about what’s going on. You may need a trip to the doctor to rule out other things, but don’t be quick to dismiss alcoholism.

If someone in your care is abusing alcohol, talk to him or her about the problem. If the problem persists, you may want to involve this person’s healthcare provider in the discussion. Mixing alcohol with certain medications can have dangerous consequences, so it’s best to address this issue head-on.


By Trevor McDonald

Trevor is a freelance writer and recovering addict & alcoholic who’s been clean and sober for over 5 years. Since his recovery began, he has enjoyed using his talent for words to help spread treatment resources, addiction awareness, and general health knowledge. In his free time, you can find him working with recovering addicts or outside enjoying about any type of fitness activity imaginable.

Is caregiving really rewarding?

Is caregiving really rewarding?

I have a secret: I don’t think caregiving is rewarding.

I also don’t think I’m alone.

I’m supposed to talk about how this is what God decided I should do. How much I love my husband and cherish my vow to him. How I live to make him happy.

And that’s what I say to people. They say I’m one of God’s angels on Earth and I say it’s my duty, it’s what I’m here for.

But really, I’m just saying that because I fear how much people would judge me if I was truthful about the way I felt.

Marriage requires a lot of sacrifices. There’s a lot of choosing us over me. And as a woman, there’s even more to give up. My husband has always had the final say and I’ve quietly accepted this, as much as I push and cajole.

But now that’s no longer enough. I’m supposed to give up everything. All of the things he was supposed to provide, his end of the bargain that gave him the right to veto my desires, is off the table now. He provided the financial security, I worked and maintained the home and my figure and was charming and not a nag and stroked his ego.

Now I have to do both halves of this bargain. While he does nothing. Like another child.

Day in, day out, for years. Forever. Til death do us part.

He isn’t the worst person to care for. He isn’t mean or violent. But he’s also not appreciative. And, honestly, I’m not sure how differently I’d feel even if he was.

Even if he appreciated the sacrifices I make for him, I wouldn’t want to be making these sacrifices.

I miss who we used to be, the life we used to have. He may never be able to have that life again, but I could.

Anonymous

Sad Eyes

Sad Eyes

I wrote this years ago when my mother in law was in an assisted living home and I noticed how many people had no visitors at all…

Sad Eyes

Wheelchairs roll
Down long lonely halls
Hearts are broken
Of the ones forgotten
Who sit
Staring at the walls

Voices of confusion
Echo in the night
Reaching for a gentle hand
Leading to the light

Minutes seem like hours
Hours like days
Vigilant at the windows
For loved ones who I pray
Would visit for awhile
Put a smile upon a face
For sometime in the future
You
May take my place

It wouldn’t be so scary
This burden that I carry
If around me I could feel
Endless love to help me heal

This smothered, dying heart
Tearing me apart

Sad eyes
Peering through
Hoping for a sign … Or sound
Of freedom from this burden

I am bound
I am bound

Theresa Loder


Originally published on our Facebook page.

Do’s and Don’ts for Hospitalization Support

Do’s and Don’ts for Hospitalization Support

My family has reached the “expert” level when it comes to handling major hospitalizations. Each time a crisis hits, I hear the well-meant refrain from kindhearted folks who simply say, “Call me if there is anything I can do.”

Face it. I am not going to call.

It’s not that I don’t need assistance. It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer. It’s just that it is too burdensome to pick up the phone sometimes.

It’s daunting to try to remember precisely who casually said, “Call me.” And I hate to inconvenience people. Everyone is busy, after all, with their own obligations. Besides, it takes precious time to call around. I am certain I am not alone in thinking this way.

Here are some simple, practical suggestions that may help YOU as you help others in a crisis mode.

  • Instead of saying, “Call me if I can do anything,” identify a need and just do it. It is better to say, “I can pick Joey up at school on Tuesday and bring him to practice,” instead of “Call me if you need anything.” Be specific in your offer to help. What are you willing to do? When?
  • Fresh fruit, cold cuts, bread, milk, paper plates and bowls are all things that will be appreciated by family that’s commuting back and forth to the hospital or who has someone home recovering. Caseroles or meals that can be reheated are appreciated. If you don’t have time to cook for your friends, order a pizza to be delivered to their house at a time you know they are home.
  • Patients discharged from the hospital often need prescriptions picked up or medical equipment (such as a shower chair) and it is difficult for the caregiver to get out to obtain them. Offer to stop at the pharmacy or to sit with the patient so the caregiver can do it.
  • Does your friend have pets? Pick up some animal food. If you are comfortable doing so, offer to stop by the house to walk the dog while your friend is inpatient and continue to do so, if possible, immediately following discharge.
  • Laundry tends to pile up. As someone who has had to buy new underwear during a family member’s hospitalization I can attest to that! Spend an afternoon at your friend’s home and wash some clothes. Or, bring it home to your house and return it the next day or so.
  • Do you like yard work? Mow, rake, pull weeds (whatever needs doing.)
  • Is it the time of year to tune up a snow blower? Cover a pool? Put in or take out air conditioners? Move the patio furniture? Chances are these tasks will get overlooked during a hospitalization or recovery period, as will other home maintenance jobs.
  • Remember that commuting to the hospital (gas), parking garages and cafeteria meals are unexpected expenses that most do not budget for. (Some hospitals have fees for TV service for the patient. I once paid $8 per day so Larry could have TV and a phone in his room. And he was there for 3 weeks.) A small gift to offset these costs will be most appreciated.
  • When you go to visit, look around you. Are there dishes in the sink? A litter box? Trash that needs to go out? Take the initiative and put the coffee pot (or tea kettle!) on and tell your caregiver friend to sit. Then, over his/her objection, get the dishes into the dishwasher, empty the trash, etc, all the while lending an ear to your friend. Or, encourage the caregiver to take a nap. Chances are, he or she has been going full tilt since the incident began and can really use the rest.
  • Keep visits short as the patient and the family are often tired following a major illness or surgery. Pain medications can make the patient sleepy. Respect the need for the patient to rest.
  • PrayWith your friend, not just for your friend.

 

It is INCREDIBLY HARD to ask for help. It is humbling. Most are too proud to admit there is a need. Or, like me, they don’t want to bother anyone.

If you do help someone out, DO NOT mention how busy you are. It will only make your friend feel guilty for taking you away from your obligations.

I really miss my Mom. She would help to keep the home fires burning during a crisis. She’d make me a cup of tea, put food on the table despite my insistence that I couldn’t eat (and I always managed to eat what she served!), she’d fold the laundry, do the dishes, encourage me to take a nap, listen when I just needed to vent, etc. Her support was invaluable.

You, too, can be invaluable to your family or friends who are faced with a challenge such as a major illness. Remember, there is a good chance you might need someone to help you out some day. Let’s all try to help one another.

By Valerie D’Apice

Moving on without me

Moving on without me

This is not how I expected to spend my early 30s. My parents had hardly had a minute to enjoy their “empty nest” before I needed to move back in to help my parents take care of my brother.

Right after his accident it was like the world stopped and everything revolved around him. People came out of the woodwork to help. None of us had to cook a meal for weeks.

But gradually people went on with their own lives. For us, it became clear that he wasn’t going to recover. At least not enough to go back to the life he had before. And that meant that we weren’t, either.

My mom was able to retire early. Thankfully, I didn’t move far when I moved out, so at first I tried to keep my own place. After a few months, the driving back and forth got to be too much, even if it wasn’t a long drive. Plus, with all the added expenses and the medical bills that kept arriving, it was clear that my parents were going to need help keeping up with it all.

So I moved back home. Saying that feels like I failed somehow, but obviously this was what I needed to do for my family. Still, it came with a huge loss of independence.

My parents don’t treat me like a child anymore. This horrible change in circumstances has led them to treat me as an equal. With equal responsibilities.

The hardest thing is having my whole life change so suddenly and watching my friends continue their normal lives — the life that used to be mine, too — play out on Instagram and Facebook.

The thing is, I don’t want to accept that this is what my life is. My mom tells me to be grateful that I can at least still go to work. And it’s true. There used to be so many days when I dreaded going into the office and now it’s a reprieve from the stress at home.

My parents are great and I’ve always been close with them, but I don’t want my immediate family to be my only social circle.

There are three of us, so theoretically I should still be able to go out sometimes. And I do. But the whole time I worry about what’s going on at home. I worry that my parents resent that I’m out and they’re not. And I feel guilty for leaving them to do it all on their own after being gone all day at work.

Mostly things are okay. We’re so busy it’s just one moment to the next, one day after another. People say that eventually things will be more routine, fewer fire drills. I’m ready for that day to come.

It makes me really wish I’d gotten married before this happened. If I can hardly make it out of the house to see my friends, how can I date? I feel like not only have I, in a lot of ways, lost my brother. I’ve lost my whole life.

I can’t imagine meeting someone partly because I can’t really relate to anyone anymore. My friends are talking about work and gossip and all the things I used to care about, too, and now it seems so pointless. I just don’t know what to do.


Lyndsey Joy

4 Ways to Appreciate Caregivers This November

4 Ways to Appreciate Caregivers This November

November is National Family Caregiver Month, so as the month is coming to an end, take the time to honor caregivers you know. Since 1994, we have celebrated this month by recognizing caregivers and all the hard work they do. How do you plan on sharing your appreciation with the caregivers in your life? Here are just a few ideas for ways to show them how thankful you are.

1. Provide them with resources.

If you are not a caregiver yourself, it might be difficult to understand the struggles they have. Sharing support groupsforums, training sessions, and informational sites with a caregiver could be a huge help to them. With these resources, they can learn more from others in similar situations about how to deal with issues that arise while caregiving. Additional and more general resources on topics like health, safety, and security sites such as these ones from HealthfinderConsumer Safety, and SimpliSafe are also useful for caregivers monitoring their patient’s wellbeing.

2. Give them a day off. 

If possible, let the family caregiver take the day off by caring for the patient yourself or finding a caregiver in the area to assist. Perhaps the caregiver could use this time to visit their favorite museums or even just to relax at home. Caregiving is often a 24/7 task and can be quite stressful, so surprising a caregiver with a day off might be the best gift you can give them! As an extra gift, give them a gift certificate to their favorite spa or restaurant to make sure they take the day off to get some personal time.

3. Share the importance of caregiving with others. 

One way you can show a caregiver how important they are is by teaching others about caregiving. An example is to share information on caregiving with family members and friends – maybe through a post on social media. You can then get together with others to write a thank you letter or card to caregivers you know. Caregivers touch the lives of many and it would be wonderful to let them know how much they mean to you.

4. Donate in their name. 

It’s likely that as a caregiver, there are causes that affect them and they care deeply about. If they’re caring for a patient that’s dealing with Alzheimer’s, cancer, or some other disease with a foundation, donate what you can to the one they like. If not, ask them for a cause that matters to them, then donate to their favorite foundation. This way, you can pay their good deeds forward.


By Cameron Smith

Goal Setting Tips for Caregivers

Goal Setting Tips for Caregivers

Maggie DragCaregivers are busy individuals, with lists of tasks they must complete each day for a variety of different clients and loved ones. While they are, you should always look for simple ways to achieve specific goals for your client, your personal life and career. Your career should be healthy journey to growth and expertise as a caregiver, and the more you embrace how and when to set certain goals, the easier it will be to achieve them! Check out some tips below on what you can do to get started:

First, set specific goals

Just as in life, every employee in any industry is always looking for a way to grow and expand their horizons. Whether it’s becoming a leader or expert in their field, or simply making enough money to take a fun family trip, everyone always has a goal. Be sure to internalize what goals you are working towards each day. No one should have to have a job that provides no room for growth or reward. Being a caregiver is highly rewarding, and while you can do quite well for yourself through the years financially, the personal bond you develop with clients is most likely what brings you the most joy. Something you can choose to work on is to introduce a new activity to your client, like scrapbooking, learning a new language or aiming to visit a new museum each month together!

Visualize it

This has been studied by so many psychologists over the years. The more you visualize a goal or dream you have, the more of a chance it will actually happen. It’s actually easy to do and can be very fun too! Try keeping a journal detailing all the things you’d like to achieve, day by day, or for the year. Writing things down is a sure way to keep yourself motivated about achieving your goals. Another fun way to do this would be to create a dream board like the one below! You can cut out photos of old magazines of things you may like to buy, places you’d like to visit and messages of inspiration to yourself. Try making one of these with your clients if you have a chance!

Be accountable

No goal could ever be achieved without dedication. All you need is passion, and of course, motivation! Try to do a little every day for yourself or your client to achieve your career goals and personal goals to grow! If you dream of helping your client with memory care in a unique way, realize that it make take some time to get them comfortable with the activity you choose. Soon enough, you’ll see progress, and you’ll be able to motivate them to talk about their past and hopefully remember more things that had since faded away.

What are some of your goals you’ve set for yourself since becoming a caregiver? What gets you motivated to complete them? Comment below!


Maggie Drag is the owner and founder of a homecare agency located in central Connecticut. With over 27 years of experience in the industry, Maggie shares her knowledge and tips about care at home. Visit www.homecare4u.com to learn more about Maggie Drag.

Innovative Smart Home Tech Solutions for Caregivers

Innovative Smart Home Tech Solutions for Caregivers

With National Family Caregivers Month underway for the month of November, it’s the perfect time to review some new innovative strategies for tending to the needs of elderly or disabled loved ones. Technology has stepped into the limelight by providing solutions that make caregiving more convenient and efficient. Voice recognition software and other smarthome applications have already demonstrated their value, and they’re expected to deliver further benefits in the future.

About Today’s Home Automation Tech

Home automation hardware allows for finer and easier control of all of a house’s systems from a single interface. Being able to dim the lights, turn on the heat and lock the doors from the same control panel is pretty nifty, especially for a mobility-impaired senior, but it gets even more beneficial when voice is added to the picture. Merely by speaking aloud, just as in a conversation with a human, the user can issue instructions and see the appropriate devices do his or her bidding without the need for manual inputs.

The major problem with smarthome equipment has historically been the lack of coordination and cooperation among different manufacturers. However, this is changing because today’s voice agents can manage products developed by a variety of vendors.

Amazon’s Alexa assistant, housed within the Echo line of speakers, is expandable by third parties who can create “Skills” that extend Alexa’s capabilities. The Apple HomeKit architecture meanwhile acts as a unitary framework that enables compatibility across all supported systems and permits interaction with the firm’s Siri virtual agent. Google’s Home speakers operate along similar principles. All of these setups not only allow the user to verbalize commands, but they also talk back to him or her, so two-way conversations are possible.

How Does It Help?

This cutting-edge functionality improves quality of life both for seniors attempting to age in place as well as their caregivers. Remote video monitoring and emergency assistance pendants mean that patients aren’t left on their own if an emergency were to occur. Because these tools can respond to vocal instructions, the senior can activate them even if he or she is injured and unable to move.

Besides being useful when an unexpected event happens, voice recognition systems are also indispensable for performing routine, daily activities. Wireless doorbell cameras improve security for older people who might otherwise fall prey to home invaders or scammers. Televisions and other consumer electronic equipment can be turned on, turned off, and configured without the senior having to get up and move around. Smart lights adjust themselves based on the user’s wishes, reducing the chances of falls and injuries.

It’s perhaps the ability to understand human speech that’s the most appealing feature of these products. They can search the internet for medical information without anyone having to type in search queries, which is quite a time-saver for those with arthritis or poor vision. Medication reminders, like Reminder Rosie, help to ensure that elderly patients don’t forget to take their pills at the times of day that they should.

Especially Useful for Dementia and Alzheimer’s

Patients with dementia or Alzheimer’s experience cognitive deterioration, which can be a challenge under traditional models of caregiving. Fortunately, Amazon’s Alexa can act as basically an external memory upgrade for affected individuals. They can ask what time it is, get answers to general knowledge questions that they’re uncertain about and receive notifications at specified times of day.

Staying in touch with one’s friends and relatives has been shown to improve health outcomes for seniors who might otherwise suffer from isolation and depression. While many elderly people own cell phones, some may find them difficult to use and feel that the text shown on displays is too small to read. The Telikin computer comes with email, video chat and photo-sharing software preinstalled and ready to go without any configuration required. Keystone Connect is a cross-platform portal that lets seniors access social media, video calls and other connectivity features from a single place.

Set up Your Own Connected Home

To install a voice control system in your own home, you’ll need the right hardware to act as a hub, such as the Google Home or Amazon Echo speaker, along with compatible pieces of smarthome equipment. An internet connection is also required; otherwise, your devices won’t be able to communicate with the outside world. For more information, take a look at this article from Men’s Journal.

Caregivers have a challenging and often draining job. However, connected caregiving allows them to fulfill their duties seamlessly and with less effort while expanding the realm of what’s possible. This trend is predicted to grow in the future, and so the benefits for both caregivers and caretakers are expected to expand.

By Beth Kelly


Beth Kotz is a freelance writer and contributor for numerous home, technology, and personal finance blogs. She graduated with BA in Communications and Media from DePaul University in Chicago, IL where she continues to live and work.

If I Could

If I Could

I lost my husband on October 3rd 2017, after many health issues since 2007… Stroke, heart attack, open heart surgery and many others.

I am so glad I made a difference knowing I gave it all I had…
We loved, laughed, and made some great memories through it all…
He was able to see his grandkids grow and they were able to know their grandpa…
We were all together at the end…
I feel calm and at peace knowing this…
God Bless all caregivers

If I could
Hold your hand just one more time
Hear you laugh and call me cutie

Feel the warmth
Of your breath on my cheek
When you kissed me

If I could
I would just one more time

If I could hear you speak
Just anything would do
But I had to let you go
Can’t help missing you

By Teresa Marie Loder, originally posted on Facebook.

When there’s no space for memories

When there’s no space for memories

I moved to be closer to my mom once her health started to decline. She lived in an affordable area, where I could get a cute little house on my modest salary. She kept the house I’d grown up in, which she’d slowly filled with things.

After seven years, her illness had gone from chronic to terminal. I kept her at home until her last moment, thanks to hospice and volunteers from church.

It’s clear that I have to sell her house. Her healthcare expenses have eaten up just about all of her retirement money, so taking my time to go through the things she and my dad accumulated over a lifetime together isn’t an option. I can’t afford to pay for two homes for longer than it takes to sell hers and it needs to be “showable” to put it on the market.

I knew this was coming, but I didn’t have the heart to try to do anything about it ahead of time. Our neighbor cleaned out her mom’s house and it took half a dozen yard sales and endless trips to the town dump to clear it out. It eat up as much time as taking care of her mom when she was alive.

Suggesting we clear things out before she died wasn’t going to fly with my mom. It would have just made her cry. Instead, I’d try to casually ask about one thing at a time.

This looks a bit worn, do you need it anymore?

Should I get this broken XYZ repaired, or should I find it a new home?

You haven’t used this in a while, have you? Maybe I could drop it off at the Salvation Army.

But for her, everything had a memory. I just didn’t have the heart to press the issue.

When a family nearby had their house burn down, I tried to get her to donate the kitchen things she didn’t use. I brought over a list of things the local women’s shelter was asking for, acting like I was doing a general collection.

She had excuses for why she needed everything, even though we both knew she was never going to cook again. She could hardly eat and everything had to be pureed. But she needed all of her serving trays and dusty appliances as if she was going to be roasting a turkey for 20 this Christmas.

So I let it go. We had so little time left, I wanted to enjoy every moment we had together.

Now that time’s up. And all of this stuff has been here, waiting for me.

I loaded up my car for a couple trips to the women’s shelter with the best stuff, the practical things, the clothes in good condition. I’ve been calling around to find a place that wants her furniture and will pick it up, but after endless phone calls I’m not any closer to a solution.

Taking photos of things and posting them to Craigslist and our neighborhood Facebook group has cleared out a few things, but not really enough to be worth the time it takes to post it and coordinate with the people who respond.

I’m torn on what to do. Some of it is useful and probably worth something. Some of it is trash. I’ve taken a bunch of trips to the municipal waste center to get rid of the things that are obviously not going to find a new home, but there’s so much stuff left in that limbo of neither trash nor treasure.

I feel guilty just giving it all away, but taking the time to weed through everything and sell it would probably cost me more in expenses (to keep the house) than it would bring in.

Keeping things, even the things that are sentimental are for me, isn’t really an option. With her gone, there’s nothing keeping me in this (perfectly lovely, but not for me) little town.

As soon as I was old enough to leave for the city, I did. I came back for family, but once this is settled I’ll be transferring back and trading my cute little house for an apartment.

I’m going to be getting rid of most of my own things after this. I’m already sick of clearing everything out, the thought of doing this twice is difficult.

It’s already difficult. Because I miss my mom. And as much as I don’t want a house full of clutter, I certainly don’t just want to let go of everything she owns. I wish there was space for a lot more than there’s actually space for.

I finally understand how hard it can be to let go.


Judy Allen

Honoring my vow

Honoring my vow

I made a vow to love my husband in sickness and health and I’m doing my best to honor that vow. It’s taking everything I have out of me.

Every day I get up and do all the things that need to be done. Including taking care of my husband.

I expected the burden of raising a family, supporting ourselves financially, and keeping house would be a burden we would share. Instead, I carry this burden on my own.

I can’t go out with my friends. I can’t do the things I used to enjoy. I leave the house for work and errands, other than that I feel like a prisoner.

People tell me I’m a good wife, but honestly, I miss being a wife. I miss cooking dinner with him. I miss the every day banter and running errands and the mundane moments no one thinks about until they’re gone. I miss him kissing me, of feeling like a woman.

People think I’m fine, but things are very far from fine. There’s hardly any laughter or joy in my life anymore. I don’t know how much longer I can go on, but I know I will. I have to.

Before he got sick I’d thought about leaving him. I decided I couldn’t, I’d taken a vow. I stayed, worked things out, accepted the way things were. Then they got worse when he got sick.

I’m so busy taking care of everything else that I can’t take care of myself. I can’t take care of my own health, his has to come first. My mental health, my need to leave the house to get a glass of wine and laugh with friends, my need for a few hours of peace and quiet, comes last.

Who would I even get drinks with? What friends are left after these past few years? What hobbies did I even have? That life seems like so long ago.

D. Alexander

When our world turned upside down again

When our world turned upside down again

My son Trammell was paralyzed from the waist down at age of 14. Only a year and 5 weeks after his Dad developed server brain damage from being dead for an hour and twenty minutes due to Cardiac Arrest at the young age of 49.

We were just beginning to get a grip on our new life when our world was turned upside down again.

It was Super Bowl Sunday of 08, around 4pm when Trammell ran up the stairs of our Summerville townhouse to straighten up his game room. Getting it ready for his friends to come over and watch the game.

I was in the next room changing his Dad’s diaper.

Trammell stepped into the bathroom, which was across the hall from where his Did and I were.

As I was finishing with the diaper change, Trammell yelled out, “Mom, I can’t feel my legs!”

Having no idea what was actually happening to our precious son, I yelled back, “Are they asleep?”

“No!” He said as I could now hear panic in his voice. Then he said, “My Back!! My Back Hurts!”

I yelled, “Wait a minute and I’ll get you some Tylenol.” Still not having a clue of what was going on.

I quickly finished changing David’s diaper and cleaned up when I stepped into the hallway where Trammell was now laying in the floor.

It was at that second that I knew something was horribly wrong.

As I looked up I could see through the window at the end of the hall, our neighbors walking to their car. They were heading to a family Super Bowl party. I ran and raised the window and yelled, “Help!! I Need Help! Something’s wrong with Trammell!!”

I then ran down stairs to unlocked the door. I ran back upstairs as they followed.

Poor Trammell had literally dragged himself down the hall and was trying to get down the stairs.

Our friends helped him as I ran up to get David dressed and out of bed, down the stairs and to the car where they had put Trammell in the front seat.


When I look back on all this I keep asking myself WHY Did I not call 911? Was it because of the chaos they and caused months earlier when we had called the for David when he passed out in the shower and busted his head? Was it the outrageous bill they had sent us after that? Or was it the fact that I got all this done quicker than having to wait for them to get there? Or was I just not thinking clearly?

Never the less, all this took a matter of only about 10 minutes. I drove to the nearest hospital which was only 5 minutes away. It was a small local hospital. I pulled up in front, jumped out and ran in the door and up to the desk.

I know the lady heard the panic in my voice as I said, “I Need Help! Something it wrong with my son. He can’t walk!”

She yelled for help and in a second 3 people came running up to me with a wheelchair. They followed me out to our Lincoln Navigator parked at the front door.

They quickly realized that a wheelchair was not going to work as one of them ran back inside to grab a gurney.

They got Trammell out and rushed him inside as I got David out, took him in and sat him down. I asked the lady at the desk if she’d watch him while I went to park our car.

As I ran back inside the hospital a nurse was looking for me. As we quickly walked back to the ER she was telling me they had an ambulance coming to rush Trammell to The Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).

I still remember the numb, disbelief feeling I had as she said, your son is paralyzed and we need to get him to MUSC as soon as possible.

As she and I entered the area where they had taken Trammell, the doctor was standing there beside him. He was saying the same thing to me as the nurse had just told me but at the same time he was rolling Trammell to him side to reveal something that made the nurse and me both gasp.

Something neither of us had ever seen.

Trammell’s skin on his hips looked like it had melted. Everything was just hanging limp.

We could literally see the muscles inside his body.

Everything from his waist down was paralyzed.

I’ll never forget the fear in Trammell’s voice as he was asking, “What is it?”

What would make us react like that.

I didn’t know what to say. I just said calmly, “It’s OK Trammell. Everything’s going to be OK.”


The ambulance was there in no time and began getting him ready for transfer.

I ran to the front and out to the parking lot, got our SUV, pulled back up to the door, ran back inside and got David, thanking the lady at the front desk for watching him, as we walked by then got him outside and loaded up.

We drove towards downtown Charleston.

Keep in mind that this was before we had anything like GPS or Google maps. It was just me trying to figure out where in the world MUSC was. I found myself sitting at a red light, lost with the sun going down.

I looked over at David, his blank stare leading me to believe he had no idea of the tragedy our family was facing at that moment.

I then noticed out David’s window, a lady in the car beside us. I hit the button and rolled his window down as I honked the horn. To my relief the woman rolled down her window.

I shouted, “Our son’s just been paralyzed and is being rushed to MUSC! I am so lost! Can you tell me which way to go?”

She then said the two most precious words.

“Follow Me”.

Even now, as I write this, tears begin to flow.

She lead us straight to the Emergency Room Door. I don’t know who that lady was but I know one thing, she was one of those people I call an “Angel on Earth.”


Linda Byce blogs at The Byce Family Blog.
Activities for Loved Ones in the Later Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

Activities for Loved Ones in the Later Stages of Alzheimer’s Disease

I was a family caregiver for over ten years as my mother moved slowly through the stages of Alzheimer’s disease. As most baby boomers do, I jumped online to become educated about this horrible disease as soon as we heard her diagnosis.

I found many ideas about beneficial activities to do with loved ones in the early and middle stages of Alzheimer’s disease, but found very little written about how to create quality times as they decline and their abilities become much more limited.

As she entered the late stages, in order to figure out how to have meaningful interactions with my mom, I relied on three things – my instincts, my knowledge of her lifelong hobbies and interests, and how I’d want to be treated if I was in her shoes.

My Mindset about Late Stage Alzheimer’s Disease

Because a care recipient’s abilities to process or recall thoughts, walk, and speak diminish greatly, some family caregivers think there is no longer a “real person” left to relate to. I always disagreed with that point of view and continued behaving as if my mom was a full participant in our activities.

Another strong belief I held was that even if she didn’t recall an activity minutes after we finished it, while she was immersed in it her quality of life improved.

Our Activities List

Here are some things I did with my mom to create quality time together when she was in the late stages of Alzheimer’s disease and could no longer walk and hardly speak:

Nature Walks

Because she was previously an avid gardener with a green thumb who could make anything grow, I would take her out in her wheelchair to a park near the residential care facility (or board & care) where she lived. As we strolled along the paths, I observed her head turning side-to-side, with her eyes darting everywhere taking in her surroundings. Various clouds in the sky, the seasonal changes of the trees and flowers, and children playing on the swings, slides and other playground equipment always brought definite, although fleeting, smiles to her face.

Arts and Crafts

Mom and I spent many hours during my childhood doing various arts and crafts projects. She was also a Girl Scout leader in charge of weekly arts and crafts for our troop. Her hobbies included oil painting and all needle crafts. She was a fabulous seamstress who could sew anything – with or without a pattern.

She couldn’t manage even the most basic art after a while, so I’d do them with her “help.” For example, while I was creating a collage from magazine clippings, felt, buttons, and other odds and ends, she would watch attentively and reach out to hold the raw materials I was working with. [Note: I was always on guard to be sure no art materials ended up in her mouth.] I believe just being near and observing the creative process was bringing her joy on some level.

Magazines and Photo Albums

Mom was an avid photographer – not in the professional sense, but as a recorder of family events, trips, and special times. During my visits, I would place a large photo album in her lap made from pictures she took. She would slowly look through it (I needed to turn the pages for her), often stroking the photos lightly. Since she couldn’t converse, I would “talk at her,” describing the people and scenes before her, even if she didn’t remember who the family members were. I believe by the tone of my voice and words spoken that she might have grasped, she knew that what she was looking at was somehow significant and special.

I would do the same thing with two of her favorite magazines, “Woman’s Day” and “Better Homes & Gardens.” We would look through them and again she’d “caress” their pages. Decorating and antique hunting were two other lifelong hobbies, so looking through these magazines may have partially fulfilled the desire for those activities she could no longer do.

Story time

My mom instilled a love of reading in me, and I read aloud to her until close to her last day on earth because I knew she valued the joy found through books. Even when she couldn’t read the words, she still enjoyed the photographs and illustrations. I bought an over-sized coffee table book with close-up, detailed photographs of beautiful flowers that she looked at (again while stroking the pages) until the book’s binding completely fell apart.

I also shared children’s books that I had fond childhood memories of her reading to me, such as “Horton Hatches the Egg” by Dr. Seuss, “Caps for Sale” by Esphyr Slobodkina and “Goodnight Moon” by Margaret Wise Brown. Sometimes she’d have a bemused expression on her face that seemed to say, “Why are you reading this children’s book to me?” But then she’d fix her eyes back on the pages and never closed the book nor stopped me from reading them to her.

Music

My parents both loved music. We had a piano in the living room I took piano lessons on, they took me to Broadway musicals starting when I was in first grade, and they often played records we’d sing along to at home.

While we weren’t anywhere close to being professional singers, I learned music was a high priority.

While she was living in the care facility, I brought CD’s to play for her based on what holiday was coming up or her favorite songs, such as patriotic themes, Big Band music, and favorite musicals. I’d also sing lullabies to her that she sang to me as a child. During our musical times together, her eyes would sparkle, she’d smile slightly, and nod her head up and down. She was totally engaged!

Lessons Learned

Even if sometimes one-directional, I truly believe my mom got great happiness from the various activities we’d “do together.” I wouldn’t have missed these special times for anything.

Don’t think because a loved one’s abilities decline as a result of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, they can’t continue a life filled with sensory richness and beautiful moments in each day. Please give it some thought and try doing some of your loved ones’ favorite things together. See how they respond. They may surprise you with a beautiful gift that’s one of the best parts of family caregiving.


Linda Abbit is the author of The Conscious Caregiver (Adams Media, September 2017), and a family caregiver with twenty-five plus years’ experience. Linda is the founder of Tender Loving Eldercare, an online community that provides information, support, and inspiration for family caregivers. She is a prominent contributor to SeniorPlanet.org, where many of her stories remain in the top thirty articles read on the site. She holds a master’s in education, has worked in the eldercare industry for many years. In 2009, she received the Caregiver of the Year Award by Caregiving.com, and her website was nominated for excellence by Best Senior Living Awards in 2012, 2013, and 2014. Join her online community on Facebook, and follow Linda on Twitter at @LindaAbbit.

Must-Read Memoirs and Nonfiction on Aging and Elder Care

Must-Read Memoirs and Nonfiction on Aging and Elder Care

The saying is, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” And it’s true. Aging — and caring for aging loved ones — requires an inner strength and resilience many people don’t know they have — or need — until late in life.

The aging person discovers things they are no longer able to do. They discover that in the words of Henry Fonda in On Golden Pond, that their “body is falling apart.” And many experience forgetfulness at many levels, from misplacing words to losing people.

The younger person caring for an older one quickly realizes they are caring for two people — the aging relative and their own self as well. Even with excellent home care professionals on hand, the caregiver — usually a child and frequently a daughter — still must manage the burdens of career, family, self and the elderly.

Reading

Both the aging and the caregiver should find ways to feed the mind during this process. Reading memoirs and other non-fiction on the process keeps the mind resilient and helps both know they are not alone in this process. Others have done it before, and their experience can help make one’s own experience easier.

Memoirs and other depictions of aging cannot only give ideas, but inspiration. These types of books may not provide a checklist of things to do, but they can give insight into the quality of life found by being part of the aging process.

A Bittersweet Season

Jane Gross’ book carries many lessons for caregivers. It is a no-nonsense, practical guide to providing the best care possible to the elderly, while still living your own life. She covers a full range of topics, from finances to Medicare to the advisability of nursing homes. Gross enables you to become an advocate for your aging loved one, while still caring for yourself.

One key takeaway from this book is that when you can take the time to plan, you should. Even if an aging parent receives a concerning diagnosis, there is still time to arrange for assisted living, home health care and other steps necessary for the next stage of everyone’s life. The key is open and good conversation and communication.

Being Mortal

Atul Gawande, a Boston-based surgeon, focuses on the medical side of aging in his Being Mortal. He finds that sometimes the conflicts between what medicine can do and what it should do interfere with the quality of life. His focus is on ensuring people live good lives until the end, as that the quality of life matters. He also recognizes many physicians are ill-trained to deal with end-of-life discussions and issues.

Being Mortal addresses thoughtfully and clearly the greatest fear — the things which happen short of death, not death itself. The increased dependence, the hearing loss and the failing body, all present great concern, but also a great opportunity.

The book also is filled with significant facts and figures, some sobering and others exhilarating. Dr. Gawande stresses this may be the best era to be old, because of the choices available to the elderly.

The 36-Hour Day

It’s likely that most people fear extended dementia or Alzheimer’s as they age. Failure of the mind seems scarier than the failure of the body. The 36-Hour Day is a practical guide for caring for people with Alzheimer’s, dementia or severe memory loss.

The book has been in print for over 30 years and has recently been updated and revised. It addresses all issues of concern, from insurance and Medicare to long-term care residence selection to diapering. You will have uncomfortable moments reading this, but as a resource it is unmatched.

Elegy for Iris

Love, they say, makes the world go around. John Bayley’s memoir of his love affair with his wife, novelist Iris Murdoch, and her disappearance into the darkness of Alzheimer’s is an excellent example of this sentiment. It is an unsentimental look at a disease which seems particularly devastating when inflicted on a person whose life was one of the mind. It frankly discusses Bayley’s rage and frustration in providing care, but, despite the lack of sentimentality, it is a heartbreaking story.

Elegy for Iris is in part based on journals kept by Bayley while caring for his wife. One way of caring for yourself as a caregiver might be to keep a journal. You don’t have to have an eye on publication to use the empty page as a shoulder to cry on.

Tuesdays with Morrie

One of the more well-known memoirs of aging, Tuesdays with Morrie, focuses on the relationship between a man around 40 and his former professor, dying of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. Their “semester” together — 14 Tuesdays — allowed them to reconnect and explore together the meaning of life.

Tuesdays with Morrie reminds everyone that the way to know another person is to engage in conversation.

Being My Mom’s Mom

This memoir of dementia and a daughter’s care is based on the years the author, Loretta Anne Woodward Veney, took care of her aging mother as she slipped into dementia. One key takeaway from this book is self-care. The caregiver must attend to her own mental health, finding patience and seeking moments of tranquility. She also points out the ability to find humor in any situation and to make sure that laughter is part of the process.

The Fifth Season: A Daughter-in-Law’s Memoir of Caregiving

All good novels and memoirs feel like visits with friends. Lisa Ohlen Harris’ Memoir of Caring for her mother-in-law, suffering from COPD, provides a loving and helpful look at what needs to be done. The book focuses on the advance directive — which is never as thorough as one hopes.

Addressing end of life issues requires honesty with both yourself and your loved ones, whether that end is years, months or days away. This visit with friends helps ground the reader in the real-life application of the issues raised in self-help books.

Conclusion

Growing old is indeed not for the faint-of-heart. But grow old we will. The variety of experiences discussed in these books will help you, and your loved ones, manage all the stages of elder care. Because of the many choices, from home health care to skilled nursing homes, we all have diverse ways to achieve the same goals.

Aging presents both difficulties and opportunities. These books help you handle the former and take advantage of the latter.


Gary Simmons is a Senior Care Advisor and the child of aging parents. He writes about his experiences for a blog on aHandtoHold.com.

More Than “Just Keep Swimming”

More Than “Just Keep Swimming”

Wisdom From Dory and Hank About Caregiving

Although I lost myself when I was caregiving, I also found myself in caregiving. I might have fought it when things were difficult or devastating, but I also learned to embrace the beauty of caregiving and to recognize the strength that I do possess when I am in the role of caregiver. I have lost my dad and Ben, but my role continues and it is a perfectly imperfect fit. That became especially clear to me over the past few days, while caring for my ailing cat, Disney.

Disney is almost sweet 16, and sweet she is. She is the most gentle, loving girl, and a little bit of a spoiled brat, but as Ben would say, I created that monster. She’s got a lot of medical issues- diabetes, thyroid, arthritis, heart murmur. With each diagnosis or complication, I’ve channeled my inner Dory and I “just keep swimming.”

Disney was originally diagnosed with a thyroid problem and diabetes just two weeks after Ben passed away, and the news sent me reeling but I was not going to let the undertow drown me. I was told that I would manage her condition by administering injections of insulin twice a day. I am a squeamish person and this had me terribly nervous. But, I reminded myself of all the very ugly and messy things I had to do for my dad and for Ben. “You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” Yes, and thank you, Christopher Robin, I am. Disney is a wonderful patient, and she makes things pretty easy. She has begun to eat the pill pocket containing her thyroid medication, leaving the pill visibly displayed for me, showing that I have not outsmarted her. But, as her caregiver, I have to ensure that she gets what she needs.

A couple of days ago I took Disney to the veterinarian for a follow-up visit, pointing out that she was not eating as well as usual. The vet suspected some kidney damage and an infection. Her blood sugar was also very low. She stayed in the hospital overnight for glucose infusions and monitoring. Then, it was determined that she should have an ultrasound. I was able to visit her during her two night stay, and when I was with her she curled up against me and closed her eyes, because all is well in Disney’s world when her mommy is with her. I love the quiet, sweet moments when I know that I am comforting her.

We were sent home with new medications, including one to be given with a syringe, and fluids to be administered under her skin with what looks like an IV drip. I think her vet thought I would pass out or break down as I wrote down all the notes and when I saw the set-up. As Dory says, “You can do whatever you put your mind to.”

When we got home and before we went to sleep she was not acting right. She had two accidents on the bed, which I attributed to the infection. But, she was extremely lethargic and wobbly. Then, she had what turned out to be a seizure. I held her in my arms and she calmed down. After another similar episode, I decided that I had to call the Emergency Room at around 4:30AM. The doctor asked several questions and heard Disney’s distress meow, and said that I should get her to the ER. I sat and waited for a report, as I had done so many times with my dad and Ben. I felt that same exhaustion and worry. And, I realized that although I was distraught, I only wanted to care for and console this little girl whom I love so much.  I am most comfortable in the role of caregiver. It is who I am.

It turned out that Disney’s blood sugar was super low, and had I not taken her to the ER, she might even have died. I am still having trouble wrapping my head around that. She was kept in the hospital for several hours for monitoring while they intravenously administered dextrose. She perked up and was doing much better, so I was allowed to bring her home.  We are adjusting her insulin dosages but I must carefully watch her behavior and reactions. As I cancelled my weekend plans with friends to be with her, I had flashbacks of the many plans I had to cancel or postpone due to issues with my dad and Ben. Of course, there were times I was very disappointed about not going out, but caregiving was my priority and, at the time, because of so many conflicting emotions and so much chaos, I don’t think I even realized that I took pride in being the person they trusted and on whom they depended. It is only in retrospect that I began to realize that it was through caregiving that I really knew who I was and what I was meant to do. As Dory says, “What’s so great about plans?” Now, I know that Disney will feel better if I am home with her and I love that I make her feel better and that I will be able to give the vet necessary information to inform the treatment plan as we move forward.

Just as I experienced during Ben’s ALS episodes, I was afraid to go to sleep last night for fear that something would happen with Disney. Eventually, we both fell asleep. I awoke to her on the bed staring at me. She did not want to eat much of her breakfast, which has me concerned, but I will be in touch with her veterinarian. She definitely was not thrilled with all of the medications, but was very cooperative. She has been very cuddly and purring a lot, which is a good sign. As I’m writing this I am smiling, because although this is stressful, it is the normal with which I am most comfortable. This is who I am. And, for the first time, I’m feeling proud of it.

I admit that I am terrified of losing Disney. Intellectually, I know that she has health concerns, and that she is a senior cat. Emotionally, she is just such a lovely cat and she has been there for me as I cared for and lost my dad and then Ben. At my loneliest, most frightened and most inconsolable, she was there with cuddles. She is the cuddliest cat I’ve ever met. People who don’t love animals don’t understand. People like me, who love our pets, don’t understand people who don’t understand the love we feel for our furbabies. But, I was raised in a family that unquestionably valued our dogs as family members. My dad loved my cats, too, though he did unabashedly compare them to our Schnauzers! Some people might take offense at my comparing caregiving for Disney to that of my dad and Ben. I can tell you that my dad would have had it no other way and he would be flattered. Ben would completely understand and he, too, would be flattered. The bond that is felt when caring for someone you love, human or otherwise, is profound and priceless, despite the difficulties.

I summoned the courage to ask the vet if she felt that I should brace myself for losing Disney soon. Thankfully, she said that we do not yet have to make that decision. But, she said that with all of Disney’s health issues, it is a challenge to manage all of her conditions. It is a lot of medication, additional vet visits and always the risk of ER visits. This is a big financial and emotional expense and challenge. In my mind, if she has a good quality of life and just needs management of her conditions, I am up for the task. Disney has always risen to the occasion of comforting me and giving me joy and laughter. She did that for Ben, too. She was definitely affected by the way he changed as a result of ALS and in her own way, she was protective of him. When he was in the hospice in his last days, I was allowed to bring her to visit him. At first, she didn’t like being on the bed with him because her arthritis renders her uncomfortable at times. She sat on the chair next to him and intently watched him. At one point he asked me to lift her and put his hand on her. When I put her on my lap to bring her closer, she pulled herself onto the bed and curled up on him. I put his hands on her and she turned on her side. They both closed their eyes. I believe that in that moment they said their good-byes. It was beautiful. For me, Disney represents a very close remaining connection to Ben.

I will never be selfish and prioritize my desire to keep Disney with me over her quality of life. But, once again, I am lovingly, proudly and purposefully, though sadly, in the position of caregiver, and I will do whatever I can to give her a good quality of life and a lot of love, as she did for my dad, Ben and me.


My name is Abby and I spent six years as the caregiver for my husband, Ben. Ben had ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease and he passed away in August 2015 after a very brave 6-year battle. During that time, I was also the primary caregiver for my father, Jacob, who had prostate cancer and passed away in February 2014.

Ben and I were huge Disney fans and Disney remains my comfort and joy. During his illness, I started to jot down Disney movies, characters, quotes, lyrics, etc. that I related to as a caregiver. And, there were many wonderful memories from our visits to Walt Disney World that also provided cheer. These were things that motivated me, validated my feelings, or just made me smile when I didn’t think I could. Some of these relate to my work as a caregiver and some of these apply to the grieving process.

Read more at Pixie Dust for Caregivers.

The Caregiver

The Caregiver

You used to see him quite often at the social club events. He’d usually sit at the end of the table, listening to the conversation but rarely making a comment, he looked tired and there was always an aura of sadness about him. You glance his way and wonder why he’s always by himself just watching the fun and hearing the laughter as the other people socialize the night away. At some point in the evening, he gets up and quietly slips out the door and back to his empty home.

No one takes notice of him because, maybe, he seemed just a bit creepy. He continued to show up until, one day, he disappeared forever. Unnoticed by most, a few of the people may ask what became of him.

No one knows. Few cared.

You needed to hear his story. If only he would have spoken of it but he wouldn’t.

Eight years ago, when his wife developed Early Onset Alzheimer’s disease, his life changed forever. Little by little, he took over the daily chores she used to do. Cleaning, paying bills, laundry, cooking. He had made the decision that home care would be best because he couldn’t bear the thought of sending his bride away. He also couldn’t afford the high costs of assisted living. He tried in home help but, after the agency sent three different people in four months, she was getting upset at the strange new faces.

So, he did it all by himself.

After bills were paid and the housework done, he would sit and read to her. She always asked him to read one article over and over about Alaska from an increasingly dog eared National Geographic. She had always wanted to go there but, they never had the extra money. He reads to her every evening until she falls asleep. She never grew tired of hearing about her beloved Alaska, a magnificent place burned indelibly into her fading memories.

As time went on, she became more difficult. In the early evening when it started to get dark, she would get agitated and very confused. She would ask him to turn on the outdoors light because she couldn’t see her car in the driveway. She demanded the keys even though she hadn’t been driving for five years and her car had been sold.

Reading the Alaska story helped calm her down and, although tired of reading the same article over and over, doing so brought a little peace to his life.

His nights were often interrupted by her restlessness and wandering. One night, after discovering she had left the bed, he found her in the back yard sitting on the garden bench, stark naked and singing a lullaby.

The next day, as if nothing had happened, he did the same ritual of helping brush her teeth, and getting her dressed. On “good days” If they went out, he would brush her hair, make her sit still while he tried to put on some makeup but after numerous failed attempts, he gave up on that.

Eventually she became incontinent and needed help in the bathroom. He took care of it and led her into the shower and cleaned her up, something he had to do several times a day.

Even after she started to forget who he was, he would continue to read about Alaska every night and, on occasion, show her pictures of people she didn’t know. He called them her children and grand kids.

One day, she started to have difficulty swallowing and after a few weeks inhaled food into her lungs that caused an infection.

“Aspiration pneumonia”, the people at the emergency room called it.

The infection grew worse and the nice people from hospice came and took her to their facility. They were very kind and allowed him to be by her side, which he never left for the next five days. She grew worse and could not eat.

He Continued to read her Alaska story which seemed to brighten her steadily dimming eyes.

Her breathing became shallow and would suddenly stop for what seemed an eternity.

Sensing the end was near, he gathered her frail body in his arms, and whispered in her ear. “Good bye my love” as she strained to take her last breath.

Dementia caregiving, for anyone, is an extremely difficult task. Even from the very start of symptoms and the earliest stages of the disease, the grinding heartbreak and severe depression of seeing a spouse slowly fail is beyond comprehension.

For a man, it’s much worse. They are among the loneliest people on the planet. Women often have a support group of friends who, due to their natural ability for nurturing, can sometimes help provide the emotional support they need. Most men have very little if any. Their buddies stay away and, if they do stop by, the sports and testosterone charged conversation offers no solace.

So, if you remember this loving, gentle guy, who some considered creepy, try to find him. Seek him out because he just might be the finest man you’ve ever met.

You might try the cemetery where, with a broken heart, he sits, every day for an hour, and reads aloud from that old dog eared magazine,

…trying to bring a little peace into his life.


Bruce Michael Williams is a semi retired Engineer and care giver for his wife with Early Onset Alzheimer’s Disease. Even before she was diagnosed, he started writing about his observations and the changes that were taking place in her brain. One piece was published in a Chicken Soup for the Soul book, Living with Alzheimer’s and other Dememtias. Now, almost seven years into our journey, he continues to write about her struggle with this debilitating disease.

4 Ways to Move to A New Groove this Fall

4 Ways to Move to A New Groove this Fall

Maggie DragWe’re always stressing the importance of staying active in every way possible – especially outside of your work hours. Fall is exactly the perfect time to get yourself to make this a habit! Say goodbye to heat waves and trips to the pool or beach to get a swim in here and there… and say hello to a fall filled with a more consistent workout schedule.

Here are some tips on how to always be prepped and embrace a variety of simple but effective workouts during these lovely, much cooler, fall afternoons!

1) If you wear it, you can work it

If you feel unmotivated to make magic happen, grab a pair of light weights or head outside to take a brisk walk: always have a pair of sneakers, pair of socks and a fabulous workout gear in a gym bag that you can keep with you in your car or your client’s house. As soon as you get a moment, change into the comfortable clothes and you’ll see how much easier it will feel to actually embrace your plan to work out – even if it’s just for a few minutes!

2) Walk it out

If the idea of “working out” makes you nervous, know that a brisk, 30-minute walk around the neighborhood can burn from 90 up to 200 calories! Just be sure that you have on proper, supportive footwear like a pair of New Balance sneakers, or super comfortable Asic Gel Quickwalks! Remember that the more support your footwear offers, the less of a chance you or even your older clients will have of falling or spraining an ankle while picking up the pace during your walk. In fact – always remember to amp up your walks by speeding up and slowing down, and even skipping to improve the effectiveness of your workout.

3) Dance it out

But not just any dance…try Zumba. It’s taken the world by storm as everybody’s favorite, high-energy form of exercise that incorporates your favorite dances, teaches you new moves – all suiting a variety of age groups. Zumba Gold is a great option for mature audiences, but if you’re up to it, check out YouTube to find any Zumba video you’d be comfortable trying. We guarantee you’ll work up a sweat while having plenty of fun.

4) Bike ‘n Spin

Just as Zumba has taken the world by storm, so has biking (or, if you ever wondered about the difference, spinning!) Spinning is the same thing as biking in place, usually done in a studio at gyms as part of a high-energy fitness class. Spin classes vary in difficulty and style, but are led by a “team” instructor, who coaches and gets the class to pedal away on their stationary bikes to today’s top hits. If you’re curious, check out this video on YouTube to fall in love with biking again!


Maggie Drag is the owner and founder of a homecare agency located in central Connecticut. With over 27 years of experience in the industry, Maggie shares her knowledge and tips about care at home. Visit homecare4u.com to learn more about Maggie Drag.

The caregiver’s guide 6 activities to keep a dementia patient busy

The caregiver’s guide 6 activities to keep a dementia patient busy

As a caregiver for a dementia patient, you are likely to be both worried and frustrated given the needs and requirements of this job. Looking after someone with dementia is a very demanding task and requires a lot of efforts on the caregiver’s part.

Research has it that it is very important to keep people with mental illnesses physically and mentally engaged and occupied. While coming up with appropriate and interesting activities and pastimes is yet another challenge, there are certain things that almost always work.

Here are the 6 activities you should plan to keep your dementia patient busy:

Play board games

Board games are always fun and entertaining and they can keep patients engaged for a couple of hours. They also provide a wonderful opportunity for patients to have fun and relax their minds.

Research suggests that one of the most effective and ideal board games for people with dementia is Bingo. It is a great game that provides mental stimulation and is extremely beneficial at a cognitive level since the game asks players to match and distinguish between shapes and colors.

And this kind of mental stimulation is beneficial for dementia patients.

Reading activities

Reading doesn’t only have to revolve around story books, novels or newspapers. You could simply pick up an old photo from your patient’s photo collection and talk about it. You could also read aloud to your patient or they can read with you which is not only enjoyable but also soothing for the mind.

Reading together can lead to great conversations and discussions between you and your patient, which may be sparked by the words and photos on the page. These conversations may even take you both to a whole new place.

Moreover, this is also a great way to start a one-on-one interaction with your patient which is quite essential to their well-being. Shared group reading sessions can also stimulate creativity and memories, and improve mood and concentration in dementia patients.

Cooking sessions at home

It is fairly common for a dementia patient to lose interest in food and dislike mealtimes. In such a situation, you should plan a baking or cooking session with them to stimulate their senses and reawaken their love for food.

A fun, enjoyable and engaging cooking session may include making your patient’s favorite food or perhaps following a popular family recipe. You can get them to do things like cutting and chopping, washing and peeling vegetables, or perhaps decorating cupcakes or any dessert. For some patients, even setting up the dining table could be fun.

Doing this won’t only help the two of you spend some fun time together but it will also activate their senses and make them feel involved and useful. Because dementia can often lead to sensory changes like sight difficulties and a person’s ability to smell or taste food, an activity like this can help them enjoy food and mealtimes.

A day at the zoo

For both children and adults alike, a fun-filled day at the zoo can be extremely rewarding and gratifying. Besides, who doesn’t like animals? Research suggests that having pets is very beneficial for the health and can lower blood pressure and boost levels of serotonin, the feel-good hormone. So, if you or your patient don’t own a pet, take a trip to a petting zoo or a family farm with the patient where she can touch and communicate with animals.

They can also connect with these animals, feed them and simply spend a pleasurable and a soul-soothing time with them. This is also a great way to keep the patients involved and make them admire God’s beautiful creation.

A walk in Mother Nature

Living with dementia often creates feelings of disconnection and isolation in patients who may have lost touch with nature and reality. As a caregiver, you can simply take your patient outdoors and enjoy a walk in nature.

Use nature to activate their sensory experiences. Perhaps, bask in the sunshine, listen to the humming of the birds, feel the wet grass beneath your and smell the sweet flowers.

Or, strike a conversation with them about their favorite outdoor or nature-based activities and help plan those activities for them. This will give both of you immense peace of mind.

Sing songs and listen to music

When all else fails, put some soft music on. Music can stimulate your patient and is also likely to keep them busy singing, dancing or just taking a trip down memory lane. Music has a therapeutic effect and is also said to be a great way to get through to people with dementia and help them cope with their situation.

Music has also been found to help patients recall memories and emotions. Singing show tunes from TV serials and classical hits also greatly enhance their mental performance.

 

Living with dementia is just as challenging as looking after someone who has the disease. However, not all hope is lost and as a caregiver, one can make extra efforts to deal with the patient in ways that are efficient and effective.  Try to engage your patients in mentally stimulating activities every day.

If you or a loved one are going through memory lapses or signs of mild cognitive impairment, take the brain test immediately for early medical intervention.


Kamil Riaz KaraKamil Riaz Kara is a Writer with a Masters in Administrative Sciences. He frequently blogs on technology, lifestyle and health.

 

A day in the life of a spousal caregiver

A day in the life of a spousal caregiver

Caregiving is physically exhausting and my priorities are not yours: Don’t judge my sloppy housekeeping, delayed responses to phone / texts, declining to socialize, dirty car, un-styled hair, simple dressing, or yard that needs attention: my spouse who needs care COMES FIRST.


Today: THREE medical related appointments, scheduling 4 more for follow ups over the next two months, (O’ and one annual check up for me!) Now need to also schedule two blood lab appointments, for various rebellious or worn out body parts (they don’t play well together anymore)…

(We will skip the toileting, grooming, breakfast details – see how nice I am?)

Appt #1, drove 8 miles, 10 a.m. waited 45 min, for a 15 min appointment, to go over the spinal surgery he had in April, med changes (two new ones) and current situations with bladder (indwelling cath fail problems) with hubby’s primary care doctor (good guy, busy office).

Hmmm, his 400 pound power wheelchair is acting up… what’s going on with that thing, it keeps shutting itself off like it has a short. Okay working now… O’ Lord please keep it working… O’ you want McDonald’s, sure, its on the way!

Appt #2, 12:30 pm, new Physical Therapist came to the house (yea!) to have hubby stretch big rubber bands and move his neck (preparing for the brace to come off in a month), while I ran to get groceries, and birthday gifts. Picked up: a card, two potted plants (he loves plants) and small tiramisu cake (his favorite). Got home, presented gifts (happy hubby!)

Answered some work emails. I am retired, but work 30 hours outside the home. We have a backup caregiver through ALTCS who comes when I work – I love this lady! Thursday’s are my off day, but work emails are urgent and they pile up. Oh and its the first of the month, pay the bills!

Appt #3, 3:40 pm, drove 25 miles to the Urologist to deal with a recurring catheter fail issue. Took 20 minutes (after waiting 40 min) trying to get the Urologist to truly understand that we cannot AFFORD a third week, the specially compounded $150 a week, $150 A WEEK ($600 a month), super duper bladder medication that is inserted in the catheter, that has to be used every single day (only works when its used, doesn’t linger around at all) regardless of how well it works. Super duper med, by the way, is not covered by TWO insurances he has: Medicare or ALTCS. Oh, there is another kind you say, a pill, that only costs us $25 a week, also not covered by his insurance… sure, we will try that one.

Oh, he needs two blood tests: one in two weeks to see if its strong enough, and then one in two months, got it. We wait 20 minutes for paperwork to get done to fax the script to the ONLY PLACE IN THE VALLEY that makes it, but they DELIVER (nice) – can we see that fax to verify our address? No, sorry, we don’t live on YIELD street, wrong address, YALE Street. They would have had a hard time finding us. Oh yes, so glad we asked! Wait until they REFAX.

Getting on the lift-equipped van: the electric wheelchair dies… Its 102 degrees outside, and the van is about 115 degrees… Put it in manual mode, okay, muscles get er done. Got him in and secured, only took 15 minutes. Sopping sweat, drive 25 miles through rush hour traffic to get home to make dinner. Praying the whole way home that the wheelchair can be fixed. O Jesus!

Get home: go get the Allen wrench to see if I can fix the wheelchair, otherwise we are calling 911 for big strong fire fighters to get the 400 pound wheelchair and 225 pound hubby out of the hot van…. I FIXED IT, Thank you JESUS! (Loose connection on the switch), no 911 today! Dinner will be ready soon! And I need to prepare for work tomorrow…. Happy Birthday Love!

The triumphs and challenges of caring for your loved ones is intense, but well worth it. If you read through this far, thank you. May you be Blessed.


Please understand, I am NOT complaining, just recounting what caregivers do. O’ and today is hubby’s birthday! Happy Happy! (After typing this I better understand why I am falling asleep in the recliner, at 7 p.m. after making hubby’s favorite meal for his birthday.)

By Michele Stokes

Originally posted to our Facebook page.

Even though he’s a match, past mistakes prevent a dad from donating a kidney to his son

Even though he’s a match, past mistakes prevent a dad from donating a kidney to his son

Kidney donation A Georgia man’s criminal history is currently being used to prevent him from donating a kidney to his son, a life-saving treatment for the toddler. Anthony Dickerson’s 2-year-old son, AJ Burgess, was born prematurely without a functioning kidney. He currently weighs 25 pounds, is in and out of the hospital, and even suffered a… (more…)

Unnecessary trouble

Unnecessary trouble

How do you care for someone who refuses to let you help them?

My mother refuses to have outside help. It needs to be me, her daughter, who helps her. But she really wants a servant.

She raised me to be a woman who’s practical. Who thinks about what people might need and gets it for them. Who does what needs to be done. You’d think that would make me a good caregiver. I want to make things as easy as possible for her.

That’s not what she wants.

She’s been having trouble getting around on her own, even in the house. The doctor suggested we minimize her fall risk. I reorganized the ground floor of the house according to the instructions in the pamphlet he gave us. Rolled up the throw rugs, moved furniture over so nothing was blocking the doorways, anchored the bookcases into the wall in case she grabbed onto them. She was livid. She insisted everything be moved back, safety be damned.

And she keeps falling. She tripped on the rug. At first I thought she didn’t call for help so I wouldn’t know she fell. Perhaps she hoped she’d be able to get herself up and I’d never know, never be able to tell her I told her so. Which I wouldn’t say, but we both are thinking it.

But she can’t get herself up when she falls. She’ll try, though. She will sit there for hours, refusing help, straining and failing to hoist herself up. She won’t use a walker. She won’t make the house safer. Instead, she falls and lays there until she soils herself.

That’s usually when she’ll give up and let me help her to her feet. She’ll wait until she needs to use the toilet urgently before she agrees to let me help her up. And then with the strain of getting up, even with me lifting her, she’ll have an accident on both of us.

I thought she’d learn that lesson the first time and not repeat it. I was wrong. The third time I tried to, delicately, suggest she should let me help her up sooner because of what had happened the last two times. That did not go over well. Apparently it’s disrespectful for me to try to prevent her from having an accident — both the falling and the soiling both of us — but it’s not disrespectful for her to choose to harm herself.

Who has to clean up after this? I do. Who has to take hours from my day to deal with this every time? I do. Hours when I should be doing other things to care for her. I am willing to care for her, but she insists on making this job much more difficult than it needs to be.

K.K.

Reduce Your Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

Reduce Your Out-of-Pocket Healthcare Costs

Patients are shelling out a larger amount of their income to healthcare providers now more than ever. In fact, according to Forbes, patient payments account for over one-third (35%) of revenue for providers.

This makes it the third highest revenue stream, with Medicare and Medicaid taking top spots. Even when patients have company-provided healthcare coverage, most still have to fork over payment for deductibles, copayments, premiums, and other out-of-pocket expenses.

With the trend in healthcare on the incline, it is safe to say that costs aren’t coming down anytime soon. Patients though can still take healthcare into their own hands and lower out-of-pocket healthcare costs by using these two tips. Read on to find out what they are!

1. Choose Generic Over Brand Prescriptions

Companies of brand prescriptions and over-the-counter medications would like you to believe that their products are the best in the healthcare industry.

And, with the number of advertisements pushing brand name medicine to consumers on a daily basis, it can seem like those companies are right.

However, the frequency of those advertisements is the only main distinction between brand and generic medicine.

 

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), general medications are just as effective as name brand medicines in terms of safety, quality, strength, how they are administered, dosage, strength, and their performance characteristics.

The FDA also has its Generic Drugs Program perform rigorous reviews on generic medications to ensure they comply with all necessary requirements.

On top of this, the FDA inspects approximately 3,500 drug manufacturing plants per year to make sure they meet the FDA’s standards.

So, the next time you are at your local grocery store shopping for cough medicine, choose the generic brand over a name brand; it will help with your cough and your wallet.

2. When Not an Emergency, Go to Urgent Care

Both the emergency room and urgent care are places to go to when you need your illness or injury treated at that moment, however, there are clear distinctions between the two. Knowing them could save you a trip to the emergency room, which can cost as much as 40% more than your monthly rent.

Emergency Rooms

Emergency rooms are for emergencies. They are facilities equipped with the latest machinery and staffed to handle the direst, most life-threatening situations, including severed limbs, heart attacks, facial wounds, and other critical injuries and illnesses.

Urgent Care Clinics

Urgent care clinics, while sounding similar to emergency rooms, aren’t intended for emergencies.

They are facilities for those who need to visit their primary care provider but can’t get in because it’s after normal business hours or appointments are booked up for the day or week.

According to Scripps, individuals can go to urgent care facilities if:

  •      their symptoms happen gradually and/or they already know what their diagnosis is
  •      fever minus a rash
  •      it’s painful to urinate
  •      ear pain
  •      persistent diarrhea
  •      throwing up
  •      sore throat
  •      Sprain or shallow cut (minor trauma)

Again, if it’s an emergency, go to the emergency room. Knowing the difference between the emergency room and urgent care could save you thousands of dollars, with you (or a loved one) going to urgent care for that sore throat instead of taking a costly trip to the ER—even when you work for a company that provides healthcare for employees.  

Final Thoughts

With healthcare insurance on the up and up, it’s important to know how you can cut healthcare costs, even when you have company-provided healthcare insurance.  

No matter what healthcare reduction tips you use, one of the best prevention tips is eating a balanced diet and exercising at least 150 minutes per week.

In doing so, you will save you that trip to your doctor’s office in the future. What other healthcare saving tips do you recommend? Leave a comment!


Wendy Dessler is a super-connector with Outreachmama who helps businesses find their audience online through outreach, partnerships, and networking. She frequently writes about the latest advancements in digital marketing and focuses her efforts on developing customized blogger outreach plans depending on the industry and competition.

 

8 Tips for Gentle Decision-Making for Your Aging Elders’ Care

8 Tips for Gentle Decision-Making for Your Aging Elders’ Care

Caregiving is a relentlessly shifting landscape, predictable only in its unpredictability. Each change requires new research and new decisions. Caregiving is rife with decisions, and at times, some might have the potential for sadness or disagreements.

You may be in a position of being required to make decisions for your loved ones, but the smoothest path may be to help your elders make their own choices. They are vulnerable, losing their sense of being in control of their lives, facing an uncertain future; at our best we, as caregivers, can try to guide and respect their choices.

Your parents or loved ones may not see the future as you do. Most of them did not grow up in a world with self-determined choices. Their lives were scripted: they served in the military, got jobs, married, and had kids. They do not function in a future of possibilities, of “what ifs.” When they start to fail they may only have desperate thoughts of nursing homes reeking of urine and disinfectants.

In my book, While They’re Still Here, I discuss my personal experiences with caring for my aging parents. Becoming their fulltime caregiver was not easy, and there were some bumps along the way, but I was able to find my way and help my parents in a way that worked successfully for all of us. Here are some tips for gentle decision-making when you know the house is on fire and your parents say they don’t mind a little smoke.

Decision making based on the teachings of our childhoods:

1. Respect your elders. Keep your mouth shut and your ears open. When decisions must be made, first listen. Then listen some more. Chat. That’s what you’ll miss the most “later.” Act as an advocate not as the decision-maker. Be as respectful as you would be of your best friend’s parent. I couldn’t begin to fix my parents’ problems until they could explain them, and they couldn’t explain them until they felt their opinions and ideas would be valued by me. Maybe I knew I was actually nodding in disbelief, but at least they felt heard and thought I was agreeing. I hoped by the next day I could come up with a reasonable, logical proposal rather than the blunt retorts running through my brain right then.

2. Patience is a virtue. Haste makes waste. Proceed as slowly as circumstances allow. Present an idea and let it soak. I often reminded myself that it took my parents eighty years to create their problems, and I wasn’t going to solve them overnight. If you’ve walked a lifetime on a rocky road together, maybe all you can do today is help take some gravel out of their shoes. But it will matter tomorrow when their feet aren’t so sore.

3. Because I said so. Time has changed their memories. Let them tell their stories the way they want to be remembered. Let them be the people they wish they’d been. Find the pearl in the bad memory. If in the worst year of your life, the only highlight was Uncle Henry’s goat eating all the laundry off the line, laugh it up. Uncle Henry bought you all new clothes; then your dad got the goat to eat the threadbare old couch . . .Let go of the past and start decision making from where they are now.

4. It’s about time you grow up. Be the grown up, even if you have to leave the room and scream in a pillow. Your roles have reversed. Be the parent everyone wished they’d had. Maybe yours weren’t the best parents way back when, but be your best now. Let time heal.

5. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. Avoid potential regret. Frame every thought with as much kindness as you can muster. You can’t ever take back harsh words. If you are always doing the best you can, then later you can trust that you did the best you could. This promotes sound sleep “later.”(Do not expect to sleep well while caregiving.)

6. Hold your horses. Approach decisions as if no decision is imminent. Try not to give opinions. “Do you think you’ll still want to stay here someday when you don’t want to drive anymore?” Put it in the future, empower with “don’t want to drive,” not “can’t drive.” Try to be vague. While you’ve been up all night on your computer trying to find solutions, they’ve only been frozen in fear. You could continue the conversation with, “I kinda think I’d want to be somewhere that they had transportation, like where Aunt Hilda lives.” Then make a sandwich or open the mail; just be normal. Let your elder start to think about it. In an hour or a day or a week, they may say, “Can I afford to live somewhere else?” Be their helper, not their overseer. Just casually respond, “I’m not sure. But we can check it out just so you’ll know if it’s an option.” Your adrenaline may be shooting through you while your brain makes a to-do list, but act as if it’s a dinner choice. Italian or Thai? Anything else will build pressure.

7. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it .Try to understand the priorities from your loved one’s frame of reference. What can they no longer do right now—Pay bills? Grocery shop? Clean the house? Get to the doctor? What are they grieving right now? Stand in your parent’s shoes and guide decisions from their perspective. There is no way to plan for the unknown anyhow, so you may as well just deal with what is in front of you.

8. Let nature take its course. You can’t stop this train called aging or prevent it from derailing no matter how hard you try. But with compassion and kindness as your engineer, you may be able to enjoy the scenery as you take this last ride with your elder. Just remember, they’ll be deciding the route, not you.

Aging and elder care can be intimidating for elders and caregivers alike. However, it can be peaceful if you keep in mind your elder’s fears, concerns and needs, and help them take as active a role as they are capable of taking in their care. By following the tips above, you can help ease your elders’ worries, foster positive conversations on their needs and care, and reduce some of your own stress and tension as their caregiver.


Patricia WilliamsPatricia Williams grew up in Elyria, Ohio surrounded by relatives and friends, then spent a few unforgettable years in Cumberland, Maryland. She is now retired from a long and satisfying career as a dental hygienist and lives in Olympia, Washington, where she has enjoyed gardening, crafting, tracing genealogy, reading, caring for pets, and entertaining visitors on the same parcel of paradise since 1977. She lives with her spouse, Katy Murray. Her new memoir, While They’re Still Here, releases in November 2017. Learn more about Williams at www.patriciawilliamsbook.com.

How Social Interaction Plays a Principal Role in Dementia

How Social Interaction Plays a Principal Role in Dementia

Dementia is an umbrella term for a progressive age-related disorder which is primarily seen in senior patients. It is associated with deterioration of the patients’ memory, cognition, behavior and a decline in their ability to perform activities of daily living. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common type of dementia that makes up nearly 70 percent of the cases.

One in ten Americans aged 65 years and older suffers from dementia. 2017 statistics reveal that an estimated 5.3 million senior Americans are living with dementia related to Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, nearly 28 percent of seniors aged 65 years and older are living alone. Seniors with dementia are at a higher risk of social isolation, leading to serious consequences for the patient.

If you have a senior loved one who is suffering from dementia, it is crucial that you engage him/her in suitable social activities to make him/her feel loved and cared for.

Here are five ways in which social interaction can affect your senior’s health positively and boost his/her longevity and mental wellbeing.

1. Social Interaction Preserves Cognitive Function

Research has found a strong connection between loneliness and impaired cognitive function. Patients with dementia are often pessimistic about their future and tend to feel lonely owing to social isolation. This happens mainly due to retirement, the death of a spouse and/or close friends, and the lack of mobility.

Numerous studies confirm that seniors with dementia who have a strong social network experience delayed cognitive impairment. Larger social circles have a protective influence on the comprehension and reasoning ability of seniors battling dementia. Seniors who have a considerable amount of support from their families are at a lower risk of developing memory-loss symptoms.

When seniors interact with other family members, relatives, and friends, they have to think of ways to converse and respond. Scientists believe that this basic exchange is a form of exercise that stimulates the brain cells and the formation of brain synapses, thus fueling the creation of new nerve cells.

Encourage and help your senior to build a social network by participating in voluntary and social service activities and cognitive rehabilitation programs. These activities can be a valuable source of social connection for your elder, making him/her feel valued.

2. Meeting People Comes with Psychological Benefits

Dementia is often associated with psychological conditions such as stress, depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. Researchers estimate that nearly 95 percent of seniors living with dementia suffer from behavioral and psychological symptoms such as agitation, aggression, depression, delusions, hallucinations, and sleep disturbances. These symptoms are commonly referred to as the neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia.

Seniors with strong family and social bonds tend to have a positive outlook as they have someone reliable to talk to. Remaining socially active can significantly reduce the risk of psychological disorders and improve sleep quality.

Getting quality sleep is crucial for dementia patients to calm their psychosomatic symptoms of depression and anxiety. The National Sleep Foundation states that undisturbed sleep relaxes the brain and helps it focus and retain information better.

Plan meaningful activities for your senior, keeping in mind his/her physical abilities, leisure interests, past work life, and social preferences. Take your senior for a movie or a play, invite family and friends for a game of cards, or go through a photo album and talk about old times. These activities will improve your senior’s mood and reduce challenging behaviors.

3. Get-Together Offer Physical Health Benefits

Engaging in social interaction offers numerous physical benefits to patients with dementia. Participating in group physical activities improves the patients’ ability to perform activities of daily living and reduces the risk of falls.

Group activities like exercising, walking, and playing games offer social interaction opportunities and can be adapted to suit a wide range of physical limitations of seniors.

Take your senior for regular walks in the park. Encourage him/her to join yoga, meditation or exercise class. Engaging in group exercises builds a strong social circle, improves mood, boosts physical strength, and reduces the risk of age-related ailments.

4. Socializing Improves the Overall Quality of Life

Dementia can significantly impact your senior’s quality of life, causing him/her to feel isolated, agitated, frustrated, depressed, and embarrassed. Your senior’s inability to perform daily tasks and remember simple things can affect his/her emotional wellbeing as well.

Patients with dementia often land up in hospitals mainly due to fractures, urinary tract or chest infections, or strokes. These patients have twice as many hospital stays every year compared to other seniors, contributing to a total annual healthcare cost of $259 billion.

According to a research paper presented at the Annual Alzheimer’s Association International Conference, social interaction can significantly improve the quality of life of patients with dementia, ease their agitation, and reduce overall healthcare costs. Support from family, friends, and relatives can go a long way in building the confidence of elderly patients.

5. Social Stimulation Promotes Independence

Seniors with dementia need assistance with personal and domestic tasks. Moreover, they often feel frustrated about and guilty of not being able to help with household activities. This increased dependence on others and feeling of being incapacitated often makes them irritable and damages their confidence levels.

Having compassionate loved ones who celebrate happy times with them and listen to their frustrations and offer solutions can be extremely comforting for seniors with dementia. This social stimulation fosters their independence as they feel connected and secure about their support system that assists them when required.

Involving your loved one in simple domestic activities like sorting out the post, organizing the laundry, arranging fresh flowers, and laying the table for a meal can make him/her feel involved and boost his/her confidence.

Seeing a loved one live with dementia can be painful. Fortunately, personal relationships and social environment can play a principal role in improving the patient’s cognitive skills and overall quality of life. Caregivers, family members, and friends can help their ailing loved one feel more valued by being around him/her during this tough period.

Conclusion:

There is mounting evidence highlighting the role social interaction plays in improving the lives of seniors with dementia. The above points will help you encourage your senior to engage in activities that will build and strengthen his/her social circle, enabling him/her to live a fulfilling life.

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Evan Thompson, CEO and founder of Senior.One has a long standing interest in finding solutions for seniors. He helps connect senior citizens and their family members with elder care service providers and find the resources they need in one place. He offers information on nursing homes, hospice, financial planning, adult care, lifestyle and assisted living facilities in Albuquerque. He provides information on housing, medical professionals, financial planning services, and lifestyle options.

Why thank you can’t wait

Why thank you can’t wait

Our son, Ben, is responsible for bringing the most remarkable people into our family’s life. They’ve come in the form of teachers, therapists, bus drivers and service providers – all caregivers who have shared their life with ours. I’ve learned that there’s no good reason to wait to say thank you.

Ben was born with severe cognitive, physical and speech development issues that require 24-hour care. If not for his caregivers, I don’t think Ben or our family would be in the good place that we are today.

The relationships we’ve developed with Ben’s caregivers have helped us establish a strong network of support. We are grateful for them and their willingness to care and love him as much as we do.

They’re caregiving has extended further than their job duties. When I’ve needed advice about how to approach a situation or vented about bureaucratic issues that prevented Ben from receiving services, they’ve provided insight or a listening ear to help get me through the tough times.

They hear the words, “thank you,” from me on a regular basis, but I also attempt to do something special for them as well.

Here are 5 ways to say thank you throughout the year:

Create a care package

Put special items in a box or reusable bag to show your appreciation for their work. Bus drivers and bus monitors are often underappreciated for what they do. A care package with a box of tissues, baby wipes, paper towels and glass cleaner will make them feel appreciated and help them be prepared for eventual situations. It also saves them having to buy these items with personal funds.

Consider making a “survive the first week” box for a teacher. Send in a tote bag with lip balm, mints, aspirin, a chocolate bar and other personal items that the teacher can have at their disposal during that hectic first weeks of school.

Give a gift for the road

Therapists often drive throughout the day traveling to different schools and homes to work with clients. Purchase a small lunch bag and fill it with a drink, snack and a magazine for a treat in between clients.

Many caregivers would appreciate a gift card to a local coffee shop or cafe so they can have a moment alone.

Volunteer your time

In some cases, giving a bit of your time can help ease the pressure off a caregiver or give them the opportunity to attend a special event.

I’m active with a leadership team at my son’s school because his teacher asked me to a be a part of the group. His teacher represents the interests of the special education program, and I can show my support of her and advocate about issues that affect her class.

Make or bake something

My favorite gift is a handmade bookmark that has the poem, “You’ll never know” printed on it. Add a bookmark to a book by a caregiver’s favorite author, a paperback for the beach or a volume of inspirational poems.

Not crafty and don’t have the time to bake? Pick-up store-bought muffins or cookies. It shows someone that you care about them.

Write a note

Most of us worry about stumbling over the right words to say how we feel about someone. In fact, that apprehension sometimes prevents us from ever writing the note. But words can mean so much to the receiver. Say thank you, pick one thing you are grateful for and sign it with your name. That’s it.

At the end of each year, I write the bus driver and monitor a note telling them how much it’s meant for me to know that Ben was in safe and capable hands while on the bus.

 

Are you waiting to say thank you to someone special in your life? Try one of the ideas above or use one as an inspiration to develop your own unique thank you.

Doing this already? Tell us who you show appreciation to. How do you say thank you? Add your ideas in the comment section.


vanessaVanessa Infanzon is mom to three beautiful boys. Her oldest son, Ben, is a smart, funny and determined 14-year-old. He doesn’t let anything stop him from doing what he loves – swimming, being outdoors and eating out. Vanessa is also a contributing writer for Ross Feller Casey.

 

Advocating for a family member in the hospital

Advocating for a family member in the hospital

It’s incredibly stressful to have someone you love in the hospital. Not only are you worried about their health, it almost seems like hospitals were designed to be as stressful as possible! Constant interruptions, florescent lights, beeping and blinking machinery, and incredible levels of crowding guarantee we’re all on edge.

Sometimes, especially with teams of medical staff coming and going at random, I wonder if my son is getting the best care. Are these staff members familiar with his medical history? Do they have all the information they need? Are they ordering tests he doesn’t need and skipping over ones that might be more appropriate? Medical staff are rushed and exhausted…and only human.

After more than a decade of being in-and-out of hospitals with my son, I feel confident in my ability to advocate for him to get the best care possible.

I always keep a notebook with me. I take notes when I’m talking to the doctors, including their names and titles, so I can keep track of things. I ask questions of the doctors at the time, but I also have the details I’ll need to look things up on my own later and ask follow-up questions.

I ask staff members if it’s okay to contact them with questions and how they prefer to be contacted. If someone is okay with me emailing them questions I make sure not to abuse the privilege and be respectful of their time.

I stay calm. Yes, it’s an emergency for me and my son is my top priority. But I recognize that’s true of just about everyone in the hospital. Hospital staff need to balance the needs of all of their patients, so I’m firm in asking for the care he needs, but also remember that things can’t always happen on the timeline I’d like.

I’m persistent. It’s tough to find the right balance of making sure things aren’t forgotten without becoming that mom.

I’m open to suggestions. My son and I know his health best, but we’re in the hospital for a reason — these people are experts, too. It can be difficult, but I try to make sure we’re working with his medical team and not just trying to convince them to take the course of treatment we think is best.

I appreciate the staff. Hospital staff are people. They have good days and bad days, too. I try to remember this, thank them for their help, and cut them slack when they drop the ball. Treat others like you’d like to be treated.

Susie Miller

Family Caregiver Alliance launches an online service for family caregivers of adults with serious health conditions

Family Caregiver Alliance launches an online service for family caregivers of adults with serious health conditions

For the first time, family caregivers can get support and information tailored for their situation–free, secure, and accessible 24/7 SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 12, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Family Caregiver Alliance (FCA) announces the launch of FCA CareJourney™, a dynamic online service, mobile-ready that delivers specialized information directly to family caregivers. Based on FCA’s 40 years of service… (more…)