Elder Care

First and foremost, it is important to understand what hospice care is. The purpose of hospice is to provide the highest quality of care and comfort to those who are chronically ill, terminally ill, or seriously ill and to relieve or lessen the discomfort they may experience. 

Bonnie and Diana Elevation Hospice

Bonnie B. and Diana C. with Elevation Hospice

For those wondering if their loved one could benefit from hospice, Bonnie Bechek, an experienced hospice RN with Elevation Hospice, suggests to look for the following signs:

  1. Health changes, including incontinence
  2. Increased frequency and severity of falls
  3. Loss of appetite or unexplained weight loss
  4. Loss of strength
  5. Increase in sleep
  6. Mental changes
  7. Requiring more assistance in activities of daily living
  8. Increased need for medication to control pain and discomfort

Did you know?

The hospice benefits, which are covered 100% by Medicare, include:

  1. On-call nurse available 24 hours a day
  2. Management of pain and other symptoms
  3. Personal care, homemaker services, companion care
  4. Spiritual and emotional support – Social Work and Chaplain
  5. Incontinence and catheter care and medical supplies (briefs, wipes, etc.)
  6. Durable Medical equipment (wheelchair, etc.)
  7. Medications for pain and discomfort
  8. Respite care, wound care, and bereavement support

Being Mortal by Atul GwandeBonnie also recommends the book Being Mortal by Atul Gwande to all family caregivers who have a loved one needing hospice care. This book is Atul’s personal meditation on how we can better live with age-related frailty, serious illness, and approaching death.

Personal care agencies, like Aspen Senior Care, work hand in hand with the top hospice agencies to ensure our clients are receiving the care they deserve. Contact us at 801-224-5910 to learn more today.

 

 

Holidays tend to add a higher level of confusion and stress for those experiencing a decline in cognition. A change in routine and busy gatherings can be overwhelming and confusing for your loved one. Long-term caregiver, Betty De Filippis, gives her tips regarding her experiences with her mother-in-law, Joan, who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in 2013.

As the disease progressed through four years of caregiving, Betty learned many different techniques that aided — or hindered — Joan’s care. She learned how to help Joan more fully enjoy the holiday season with loving advice from friends, neighbors, and her family physician.  

Let others know what is going on 

“One of the first things that comes to my mind is to not be afraid to tell people what is going on. Explain why they are noticing a change in your loved one’s behaviors, so they understand how to better help or respond. I actually announced it one night at a church gathering of our friends and neighbors. It was so amazing how many people came to me later to offer their advice on how they handled similar experiences.”

Remember, it’s not only your loved one who will be experiencing change. Family from out of town, or those who may not see your loved one often, may be in for a shock when they see changes. Be straightforward and help them learn what may be helpful or not helpful. A family email before a get-together would be a great way to share some information and update your family regarding any changes they may experience.

Keep your expectations realistic and go with the flow 

Fun in caregiving

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Beesmurf)

Events or tasks that may have once been easy and enjoyable for your loved one tend to change when they begin to experience a decline in cognition. You may need to change plans due to your loved one’s struggles. Just slow things down and make sure they feel comfortable and included. Read their body language and give gentle cues to help them if they seem to be struggling.

“Some people at a more advanced stage of dementia may experience ‘realities’ that are not actually happening (hallucinations or delusions). Instead of trying to convince them what is real, ask them about the reality they are experiencing,” says Betty.  “If they ask questions, answer them honestly, but if they disagree, it will be ok if you just go with it. Help them do what they forgot how to do; if they want to do it another way, go with it. It shows caring and doesn’t embarrass them or confuse them further, which could cause them to feel frustrated and act out.”

Be respectful, patient, and kind 

“This is probably the best advice I ever received from our family physician, while he quite literally let me cry on his shoulder,” says Betty. Remember that at whatever stage of memory loss your loved one is experiencing, they are not acting out or being difficult on purpose. “This is not something they are doing to irritate others, they are not just being ornery. This is something that is happening to them. If it is hard and frustrating for us, think how much more difficult it is for them.”

Holidays are meant to be a time to cherish with loved ones. Although your loved one may be “different” than you’re used to, they are still the person they used to be — they are just dealing with a difficult disease. They are doing the best they can in a situation that may be too overwhelming for them to handle. In some cases, they may not even understand what it is you’re gathered to celebrate or why there are so many people there. Check in with them often, read their body language, and respond accordingly. Most importantly, remember to be patient, be kind, and enjoy your time together.

See Part Two Here

Seniors don’t often call saying they need in-home care. Many times they don’t realize they need additional help, and often they don’t even know it’s available. Usually one of their children seeks services because they’ve been helping their senior loved one and have noticed their needs have grown. Other times these adult children live out of town and come for a visit and are surprised by a few things going on in their parent’s home.

So, what are the signs that your elderly loved one might need some assistance at home? Here are the top signs we see:

1.  The house is no longer clean and organized like it used to be.

Common household chores can become overwhelming and tiresome. The vacuum becomes heavy and a pain to use for many aging seniors. Sometimes their eyes don’t see the dust and dirt like they used to. Other times your aging parents just don’t have the energy to keep up with the cleaning.

2.  You notice that medications are not being taken as they should. 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (27707)

They say that one out of every two seniors over 80 has some type of dementia or memory loss. Even without dementia, it can be hard to remember to take your medications day in and day out, especially if someone is not filling pill boxes every week. Days blend with other days and important medications get missed.

3.  The fridge has minimal or spoiled food and the freezer has a lot of frozen foods.

Many times seniors start turning to easily prepared foods and frozen dinners. I remember one family whose parents were surviving mostly on granola bars and popcorn. It was a sad situation for several months before the family found out and hired a personal care agency to help prepare some hot nutritious meals. Preparing, cooking, and cleaning up all take energy and willpower and many seniors begin lacking both over time.

4.  Your aging parents are having a more difficult time getting around the house.

Joints get painful and muscles start atrophying with many seniors as they sit more and move less. Some begin to stumble and fall, which of course can be very dangerous. We always say, “One fall can change it all!” because we’ve seen it so many times. It’s best to remove any fall hazards in the home, especially loose rugs and items that block pathways. Look at getting a cane or walker to help stabilize your parents as they walk and be sure that all ice is cleared from walkways during the winter months.

5.  Your loved one is coming home from the hospital or rehab after a major fall or illness. Lonely-Senior-Developing-Dementia

The saddest scenario is when an elderly parent comes home after dealing with a hospital stay and they are too weak to get around on their own. Both the kitchen and bathrooms can be especially difficult to navigate while trying to recover. There are so many hard surfaces, slick floors, and sharp edges in a bathroom and kitchen, so one fall can easily result in bad bruises and/or broken bones.

Hiring a personal care agency can make all the difference.

Changes to seniors can be hard to notice, especially if you see them every day or so. Family coming in from out of town usually notice certain changes right away, whether it’s a change in cognition or memory loss or just the cleanliness of the home. Asking for extra help blesses your loved one and you. If you are the primary caregiver, it’s important to recognize if you’ve been feeling worn down and overworked as this is a good indication you may need more help as well.

A personal care agency can make all the difference during these sometimes difficult transitions. It’s always better to seek help before the crisis hits. Although that’s easier to say than do, we encourage families to get a little extra help going as soon as possible. Then, when a lot more help is needed, your aging parent will already feel comfortable having more assistance in their home.

Contributed by Gary Staples, Owner of Aspen Senior Care

 

 

Although a stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the US, very few people understand how to recognize the signs and symptoms. Some risk factors such as such as age, race, and heredity can’t be changed. However, with the right knowledge, risk factors can be addressed and 80% of strokes can be prevented.

Types of stroke

A stroke occurs when the brain’s blood supply is severely reduced or completely stopped. This causes brain cells to become damaged or die due to lack of oxygen. Because the brain becomes severely damaged without oxygen, it is important to act quickly. A stroke can cause long-term damage, disability, and even death.  

Here are the different types of strokes:

Ischemic Stroke – This type of stroke occurs when a fatty plaque clot or mass clogs a blood vessel and stops blood flow to brain cells.

Hemorrhagic Stroke – This type of stroke occurs when a damaged or weakened vessel ruptures and bleeds out into the surrounding brain tissue. The blood gathers and forms a bruise which compresses the brain cells and causes them to die.

TIA (Transient Ischemic Attack) – A TIA is a medical emergency. It is referred to as a “mini stroke” and mimics the symptoms of a stroke. It is caused by a temporary clot and does not cause permanent damage to the brain. However, about 15% of all strokes happen after a TIA occurs.

Stroke Types 2018

 

How to spot a stroke

Symptoms of a stroke are reflected in the areas of the body controlled by the damaged brain cells. Remember to act F.A.S.T to reduce the damage caused by a stroke.

Courtesy of StrokeAssociation.org

Courtesy of StrokeAssociation.org

Learn to manage the risk factors

Although not all risk factors are preventable, there are many that can be addressed to minimize the possibility of experiencing a stroke. Along with monitoring your overall health, visit a physician to do a yearly health exam.

  • Manage high blood pressure – HBP is the leading cause of strokes and is highly controllable.
  • Control cholesterol
  • Eat a healthy diet
  • Be active and maintain a healthy weight
  • Manage diabetes and control blood sugar
  • Do not smoke

Lack of sleep can have serious negative consequences for both your physical and mental health and this is especially true for seniors. Studies on sleep and people over the age of 65 show that poor quality sleep can:

  • Deteriorate memory and speed up dementia.
  • Increase the risk of heart disease and cardiovascular illnesses.
  • Adversely impact appetite, often increasing the risk of obesity.
  • Weaken the immune system, making seniors more vulnerable to the flu.

Older Americans often have trouble falling asleep, spend less time in REM sleep, and wake up more frequently during the night. If you are over the age of 65 and are experiencing one of these or other sleepless situations — or if you have drowsy days and don’t know why — this article has a few simple, smooth tips for getting better sleep.

Start a Bedtime Ritual

You may need to let your body — and brain — know that it is time to wind down. Nothing triggers yawns quite like creating a bedtime routine. You’ll want this to be something that relaxes your body and lets your brain settle down. Unfortunately, television, tablets, and smartphones do the opposite, so be sure to swap them out for a magazine, music, or a good book (but not one so good that you can’t put it down). Start your ritual an hour or two beforehand. Experiment with different techniques, such as taking a warm bath, using lavender body lotion, meditating for 20 minutes, or practicing relaxing yoga, until you find a combination that works.

Create a Sleepy Space

Is your bedroom filled with distractions, from TVs to bright lights? It could be that your environment is keeping you awake. You can tone things down a bit with some quick, easy, and inexpensive changes. Replace bright, harsh bulbs with soft lighting, and use a white noise or sound machine to block out noisy neighbors.

Temperature plays an important role here, too. Keep the room comfortable and cool with a ceiling or floor fan, and if that doesn’t do it, try wearing pajamas made from breathable fabrics like cotton, chambray, or rayon. And don’t forget the bedding! Sheets and blankets made of breathable fabrics can help you regulate temperature, as well.

Get Diet and Exercise on Track

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(TeroVesalainen)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(TeroVesalainen)

There are definitely types of food you should avoid right before bed— like sugar and caffeine — but how you eat all day can also affect how you sleep at night. Prepare wholesome meals balanced with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. If you’re drowsy, drink green tea instead of coffee or sodas to get a powerful boost of antioxidants. And diet is only one part of the equation — shoot for at least 30 minutes moderate exercise a day. This will help you sleep longer and more deeply because your body needs to recover. Plus, exercise is also a positive coping strategy for the stress and anxiety that often keeps seniors awake at night.

If you find yourself counting sheep instead of getting sleep, you’re not alone. More than 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia. For some, the mind refuses to slow down, and we tend to ruminate on things we didn’t accomplish or conflicts we’ve endured. For others, the body is the culprit, with sleep disorders or chronic pain keeping us up. However, for seniors, it’s often a combination of both. It’s easy to see how making the effort to improve your sleep can also improve your overall well-being.

 

Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.

Infections in the Elderly

Did you know that almost a third of all senior deaths are caused by an infectious disease? This is often due to the difficulty in discovering and diagnosing these illnesses, as the standard warning signs of infection materialize differently in a senior’s body. Furthermore, new strains of bacteria are continuously developing a stronger resistance to antibiotics, which doesn’t help the already aging immune system of your loved ones.

Because of these concerns, it is imperative for all caregivers to familiarize themselves with these common infections in the elderly and their warning signs, as well as what treatments are available. Here is a list of the most common infections you need to be aware of.

Urinary Tract Infections

A UTI is the most common form of infection found in seniors. Usually, this term is used to refer to a bladder or urethra contamination, but this bacteria can also spread to the kidneys which becomes a much more dangerous problem.

Senior’s who suffer from diabetes or use a catheter are at a higher risk, but other causes (such as an enlarged prostate, an increase in vaginal pH, or not emptying the bladder properly) are also widely reported.

The standard symptoms of urinary tract infections (such as pain, discomfort, fever, and persistent desire to urinate) are not always immediately evident in seniors. Rather look out for confusion or increased dementia symptoms, and if any vomiting occurs, seek immediate help.

The correct treatment depends on the infection itself, which is why a proper diagnosis is essential while ensuring the patient is properly hydrated.

Skin Infections

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(DarkoStojanovic)

This is an umbrella term for a myriad of ailments such as shingles, pressure ulcers, fungal foot infections, or the Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus. Seniors are less able to fight off these infections as their aging skin does not heal as quickly as it used to. Diabetes also plays a negative role.

These skin conditions can come from an array of sources, including a weakened immune system, lack of mobility, moisture, or human contact (which includes communal showers).

Look out for any pain, itching, unfamiliar marks, or rashes. Mild fevers have also been reported. As always, the prevention of superficial infection is your best approach. Good hygiene is a must especially in a communal environment, so encourage hand washing and regular bathing schedules.

Vaccines and the proper disposal of all bodily secretions are also important considerations. If someone is already infected, isolate them from any other human contact and treat their contamination with antiviral agents.

Influenza and Pneumonia

An unattended respiratory infection (influenza) may develop into a severe lung inflammation (pneumonia) where the air sacs fill up with fluid and harden. This is the fifth leading cause of death for seniors due to diminished lung capacity, exhausted immune systems, or pre-existing conditions (such as cardiopulmonary disease or diabetes).

These germs are usually spread from person to person, transmitted via a cough or a sneeze, and then inhaled into the lungs. Community settings and closed environments are a definite reason for increased concern.

Be on the lookout for any obvious signs (such as the chills, coughs, sore throats, and fevers) but be aware that these symptoms are often less clear in seniors. Sudden headaches and a weakened demeanor are early red flags, while subtle changes in their behavior (including confusion and delirium) should also be watched carefully.

Routine checkups, pneumococcal vaccines, and a strict no-smoking policy are some of the best methods of prevention, while antibiotics from a doctor should be used to treat an existing condition. And remember that the sooner someone gets diagnosed, the better their chance of a swift recovery.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(geralt)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(geralt)

Gastrointestinal Infections

There are various types of bacterial infections which affect the stomach and/or the small intestine, but Helicobacter pylori and Clostridium difficile are the most common.

These outbreaks can be passed on from individual to individual or introduced to the system via means of undercooked food/contaminated water. The risk of infection is increased when traveling to foreign regions which contain viruses that their body is not accustomed to.

The standard symptoms of gastrointestinal infections can be expected here, and include abdominal pain, fever, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. This rapid loss of liquid means that you need to continuously hydrate the patient while making a quick diagnosis. If other people feel unwell who also consumed the same meals, then it is safe to assume that this is a food-related outbreak and you can take it from there.

Stomach troubles such as these usually clear up on their own within a few days. However, always speak to a medical professional just to be safe, and use this threat as a good incentive to thoroughly clean your hands before eating anything.

Contributed by Vive Health Writers

How can you find the fun in caregiving? It’s common to focus on certain aspects of your loved one’s care (safety, medications, finances, medical treatment, nutrition, etc.) Often you busy yourself with monitoring their progress (or decline) and doing everything in your power to keep them comfortable. Worrying about their reduced energy level, increasing fatigue, physical weakness and changing mental status is important. But it’s also important – for you both – to just have fun! Here are a few ways to laugh and live in the moment as you find the fun in caregiving together!

Fun in the home

You don’t have to go out to have fun. Activities are available in the home to enjoy. Keep favorite games handy. Whether a deck of cards, a jigsaw puzzle or a scrabble board, provide access to games that you can enjoy playing together. Try to set aside time to share some of these activities with him or her a couple of times a week, or set up get-togethers with his or her friends if possible. Set aside at least a day a week to watch a special movie together and make an “event” of it with popcorn and beverages.

Small outings

Seniors look forward to getting out, but as they age, they may no longer have the stamina or mobility for all-day trips. Still, they may be able to go out for an hour or two at a time. These can be outings that might seem every day to you: a trip to the supermarket or some local stores to window-shop. Adopt the old-fashioned concept of a “Sunday drive” through scenic areas or attractive neighborhoods that can culminate in a stop for a treat or a bite to eat. What does your loved one enjoy doing? If a gardener, take her to a local nursery or flower shop. How about to a bookstore or the local library for an avid reader? A local matinee is a great idea for a movie buff. A morning at the Farmer’s Market can be very enjoyable for those who love being outdoors and enjoying great food. All of these outings can be done in a couple of hours and provide your loved one with stimulation, a change of pace, and create enjoyable memories for you both.

Getting involved in the community

If your loved one is home-bound and has limited access to the stimulation of company beyond family members, consider finding community-based activities that he or she can enjoy on a regular basis. Most communities have senior centers that offer regular classes on topics of interest to him or her that generally only meet an hour or two at a time. This can offer an outing your loved one can look forward to weekly and allow them to make new friendships at the same time. There may be other community activities hosted through local churches and town-sponsored events that offer new opportunities for fun and socializing.

Music

Fun in caregiving

Photo by Pixabay (Beesmurf)

If your loved one is musical, play their favorite music or plan a karaoke night with their favorite songs.  According to the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America, when used appropriately, music can: alter mood, manage self-induced agitation, stimulate positive interactions, encourage cognitive function, and coordinate motor movements.

Projects

Set up projects at home that you might enjoy doing together. Find old photos or photo albums and help them create new scrapbook pages full of memories (or create them online!) Gardening, quilting, knitting, drawing or painting are other great options!

Talk about it

These are just a few suggestions for activities that can bring more fun to both you and your loved one’s life. So break out of your routine and discuss what you both might enjoy doing together that will bring joy and fond memories to you both!

Alzheimer’s disease robs the mind and memory and leaves those afflicted confused and helpless. It’s a painfully slow and debilitating process that makes mothers and fathers unrecognizable to their own children and turns long-married spouses into virtual strangers.

When a family member is diagnosed with the disease, important decisions about finances and personal care should be made before their mental faculties begin to diminish. With the involvement of their caregiver, who can provide important details, the transition can be made smoothly. Seek the expertise of a financial planner or lawyer to ensure that nothing is overlooked and that the decisions of a family member gripped by Alzheimer’s are carried out as intended.

Advance directives – financials

Financial directives must be written and made official while the individual is still able to make independent decisions. They’re important to the financial well-being of the patient’s family after their death because they spell out the exact details for how their financial assets are to be distributed. The most fundamental of these directives is the last will and testament, which addresses such matters as naming a will trustee, gifts, and how they are to be distributed. It also details any funeral arrangements, including how the individual’s remains are to be disposed of. Consequently, it is for good reason that experts recommend that an individual who’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s should have a will made as soon as possible.

There are also advance financial directives intended to clarify financial arrangements once the disease has reached an advanced state. A durable power of attorney for finances is a directive that designates a trusted individual to render financial decisions so that legal action doesn’t become necessary after the individual has died. A living trust provides direction concerning the individual’s estate and appoints a trustee to manage property and funds on behalf of their beneficiaries. This is a role that a caregiver may be best suited to fill.

Courtesy of Pixabay writing (Free-Photos)

Courtesy of Pixabay(Free-Photos)

Consider recruiting a financial advisor to look at more specific aspects of your estate, including your life insurance and whether it’s worth settling a policy or keeping it over the long-term. A life insurance policy settlement can provide family members with needed funds at a difficult time. For example, if the beneficiaries are deceased or otherwise out of the picture, it may be worthwhile to settle the policy. Just be sure to do your research to understand the process completely before making any decisions.

Advance directives – health care

Advance health care directives are essential for clarifying an individual’s wishes concerning final health care dispositions. A living will details how an individual wants to be medically treated at the end of their life or if they are incapable of making their own decision in the event of a medical emergency. In some situations, a durable power of attorney may be the best option for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. This designates a trusted caregiver to act as the proxy in making and executing decisions once the disease has robbed the individual’s ability to make decisions on their own behalf.

The do not resuscitate order is another very important health care directive that instructs healthcare professionals when to cease performing CPR. It’s a legal means of ensuring that one doesn’t lapse into a persistent vegetative state. One important detail that people often overlook is to give permission for a loved one’s caregiver to communicate directly with lawyers and doctors concerning their care subject’s wishes and last days (specifically, this is intended to avoid the possibility that some mistake is made concerning the Alzheimer’s patient’s final wishes).

Memory loss and confusion are hallmarks of the way Alzheimer’s affects people. This can place an unnecessary emotional strain among loved ones if health care and financial arrangements aren’t addressed while the patient is still in possession of their mental faculties. A good rule of thumb is to begin working on advanced directives as soon as your loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

 

Contributed by Lydia Chan. Lydia is the co-creator of Alzheimerscaregiver.net, a website that aims to provide tips and resources to help caregivers. Her mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and Lydia found herself struggling to balance the responsibilities of caregiving and her own life. She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and experiences with caregivers and seniors. In her spare time, Lydia finds joy in writing articles about a range of caregiving topics.

Taking care of an elderly parent or relative is a heartwarming experience and it can enhance the lives of those you care for ten-fold. But even the most patient and attentive caregivers need a break from time to time. While some might argue that spending every minute you can with an ailing parent is the best use of your time, others would point to the growing concern around self-care and encourage caregivers to take time away as needed to replenish and regroup. Taking care of someone you love is a lot of work, and while it is incredibly rewarding, you need to take a break sometimes too. You might be worried about how to leave a family member you care for to take a vacation or break, but with these tips, you can be on your way.

Plan in Advance

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Free-Photos)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay (Free-Photos)

You can’t know how long you are going to be caring for an ailing loved one, so it’s important to take the time you need when you need it. Start planning your vacation in advance so that you have plenty of time to ensure that everything is in order and looked after before you head out. Because you will need to find someone to care for your family member while you are away, you’ll want to give yourself plenty of lead-time to arrange for that additional care. Plus, if you are being paid for your time as a caregiver, consider how you can earn money to cover your time away from “work.” Giving yourself a few months notice allows you to save some of your money for such a vacation.

Talk to Other Family Members

When it comes to being paid for your time and effort as a caregiver, you’ll most likely need to plan to offer some form of payment to another family member who takes over. If your family member in care receives CDPAP, or another benefit, you may want to start putting some of those funds away now to ensure you have enough to cover the time away for additional care. You’ll want to organize a family meeting to discuss options for care while you are away. Keep in mind that family members might not want to take on the responsibility of caring for aging parents, even for a week, and they might expect you to find someone else to do the job while you are gone.

Hiring an Outside Source of Help

If it happens that your existing family members don’t want to pitch in to care for your aging parents while you are out of town, you might have to consider hiring an outside source of help. There are a number of home care services that can come for short or extended periods of time. You’ll need time to place an ad or contact an agency and arrange for an interview before leaving on your vacation.

Walk Through the Day

Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)

Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)

When you do find suitable care for your family member, whether that is another family member of an outside source of help, you’ll want to take the time to walk them through a typical day of care. It’s important to do this once or twice so that everyone is comfortable with the temporary situation. Remembering that this is just temporary will put everyone at ease. Elderly parents or family members might not want you to go away for a week or even longer, but because it is so important to maintain your self-care as a caregiver, you’ll need to come to terms with what leaving for a period of time means and decide to do it anyway. Taking time to acquaint new caregivers and your family member is important.

Finally, talk to your family member about how important it really is for you to be able to take time away from your job there and come back ready to tell them wonderful stories and share adventures with them. You need a break and while you might feel guilty about what that could feel like for your parents, remember again, that it is just temporary. And if you are really worried about taking time away from your family member, don’t go far so you can come at a moment’s notice if necessary. That way, you get a break, and you can sleep at night if you are worried about your parents or family members.

Contributed by Baruch Leifer

Freedom Care

Why is Decluttering so Beneficial? 

There are obvious reasons to declutter. Safety: Clutter can trip us up. Efficiency: With declining eyesight, it gets hard to find things we use every day. Focus: Messy environments can make it hard to process information.

Clutter is a growing problem today among all populations, and especially the elderly. To help your loved one downsize, create more room in their home and/or just make it safer to age in place, it is important to note the difference between hoarders and clutterers. Hoarders are obsessive and will often need a trained professional specializing in obsessive-compulsive disorder to let go. Clutterers, the more common type, are more apt to let go with a little encouragement and support. This article deals with the latter.

Why Is It So Hard to Do?

Whether you want to pare down the stuff in your home, garage, or a storage unit, one problem is knowing where to start. The more we have, the more overwhelming it is. And for some of us, the idea can be extremely anxiety-producing. A recent Yale study found that for some people, a part of our brain reacts the same way to the anticipated loss of valued possessions as it does to the idea of quitting an addiction. And there is the additional factor for  the elderly of not wanting to lose a connection with the past, whether that be old school papers or a favorite jar opener you’ve had in the family since 1969 (most of us have at least one of these things still hanging around the house!)

Some Tips for Success

  1. Get “buy in” from your loved one. Discuss the benefits of paring down, including potentially making some money from reselling your “stuff.” That can be through a yard sale, consignment shop, Craig’s List, or eBay. According to the New York Times, a well-planned garage sale typically nets between $500 and $1,000.
  2. Share the process. Come up with ways to make it an enjoyable activity you share, such as reviewing old photos or school papers together, or doing a “fashion show” to see what clothes to keep. Create incentives—such as an outing or meal after doing a certain amount of “work.”
  3. Don’t try to tackle too much at once. Help your loved one develop a strategy that addresses a room at a time, and then a single task at a time, so they are not overwhelmed. A good rule of thumb is to do no more than three hours of sorting a day, which is about how long we can sustain focus without a break.

    Photo by Pixabay (geralt)

    Photo by Pixabay (geralt)

  4. Get organized. Consider preparing three bags or boxes and labeling them Keep, Toss, and Sell/Donate. You might add a fourth box for things that need repairing, mending or dry cleaning, but don’t add more options than that. Put away what’s in your Keep pile at the end of each day and throw out or recycle what’s in your Toss pile.
  5. Be decisive. When in doubt, throw it out. Organizers often use the rule of thumb that if you haven’t used it/worn it/looked at it in a year, it’s time for it to go. When it comes to ornamental items or keepsakes, the other common standard is to only keep those things you really love and that give you pleasure. If that knick-knack your Aunt Marge gave you makes you cringe, it has no place in your home, regardless of the sentiment attached to it.
  6. Get professional help. If the job is just too big or you need direction, consider hiring a professional organizer. They can give you an overall strategy, or guide you through the process. Do a local search for “Certified Professional Organizers,” if you don’t have a referral for a professional.

Going through our possessions and ridding ourselves of things that no longer fit our lives is a process we can all benefit from. You may find that going through this process with your loved one will be a positive and rewarding experience for both of you. And you may just find you are motivated to do it for yourself as well!