Life lessons

Kids are like sponges. They’re eager to absorb new information and they’re very good at catching on to new concepts, ideas, and skills. That’s important as they go to school and gain the skills and knowledge they’ll need during adulthood. But what about learning later in life? Is there such a thing as being “too old to learn?”

Sayings like “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” and stereotypes about older individuals’ capacity for learning have been around for decades. But these are largely misconceptions that have been disproved by new research.

Think You’re Too Old? Think Again

Contributed by Pexels (Startup Stock Photos) design-learn-pattern-247819

As a society, we often subconsciously put an age limit on learning. We encourage learning in kids, teens, and young adults, but often discourage older people from trying to learn new information and skills.

Fortunately, that attitude is starting to change. More people of all ages are seeking out new information and changing their lives. You’re never too old to learn. In fact, learning throughout your lifetime can have some major benefits for your health and well-being.

There’s a Ton of Retirees Heading Back to School

If you’re self-conscious about the idea of taking a class or going back to school because you think you’ll be the only one over the age of 50, you might be surprised to find that your fellow students are more like you than you’d expect.

These days, lots of retirees are heading back to school for many different reasons. Some people just want a fulfilling way to spend their time during retirement. Others want to keep their mind sharp, discover new interests, and socialize with other students. And of course, some older Americans want to continue working and take classes to hone their skills or change careers.

Many schools offer free or inexpensive tuition for retirees, typically on an audit basis. Students won’t earn credit, but they will get the opportunity to learn and engage with a community of like-minded people.

Benefits of Learning As You Age

The concept that learning is only for the young is damaging to people as they get older. Learning throughout your life is actually a great way to protect your brain and stay sharp.

Research shows that people who get a college education live longer, make more money, and enjoy mental health benefits. Men who hold a bachelor’s degree live 12.9 years longer on average than those without a degree. For women, the margin is 10.4 years.

Older men and women can also use education to adapt to the job market and enjoy better financial health later in life. Those with a bachelor’s degree earn more and are less likely to be unemployed than people with a lower level of education. In a rapidly-changing job market, more education can make a positive difference in employability long-term.

Learning Later in Life Can Help Against Depression

Mental health is a huge concern for people of all ages. Anxiety and depression are among the top mental illnesses afflicting Americans, affecting well-being, quality of life, and even influencing suicide in some cases. 18 million people struggle with depression each year in the United States, and although there are many resources to help those who need it, stigma and other factors mean that many people suffer in silence.

There are many ways to help reduce anxiety and depression, including exercise, medication, psychotherapy, and meditation. Some people also use remedies like cannabis extract to reduce their symptoms.

Because of the mental health benefits of lifelong learning, we now know that keeping the brain engaged is yet another way to help fight depression. People want to feel fulfilled, engaged, and like they’re doing something important at every stage of their lives. By continuing to learn and evolve, older Americans can help protect themselves against common mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Unsure of What To Learn? Keep it Practical – Study What You Need to Know

You may understand all the benefits of learning at every stage of your life, but you also might be wondering: what should you learn?

Unless you’re interested in a specific subject or you want to pick up a new hobby, it can be hard to decide what to learn next. If that’s your dilemma, try keeping it practical. Even something as simple as learning better financial management strategies can help you stay sharp and allow you to gain the benefits of learning.

Don’t be intimidated! Taking a class, reading a book on a new subject, and even doing daily puzzles are all great ways to keep you learning and enjoying life.

Contributed by Patricia Monson. Patricia is the Research Coordinator at
Applied Nursing Research and enjoys sharing the latest high-level
research on senior health and care.

You may think that only people who can stand on their heads or touch their toes can practice yoga. Well, it’s time to think again! Yoga boasts a slew of benefits for seniors, from managing arthritis pain to balancing mood and emotions. And you don’t have to have been practicing for decades to reap these rewards. Studies show the benefits of yoga can be felt within just a few short weeks of regular practice.

Even though you understand the benefits, there may still be something holding you back. For many seniors, it’s a combination of time, support and money. Yoga classes cost money and take time, often requiring us to catch rides to and from a gym or studio. While these are totally reasonable obstacles, they can be easily overcome. Here are 10 ways to help seniors build a strong, sustainable yoga practice.

Senior Travel-Pixabay(qimono)

Photo by Pixabay (qimono)

#10 Check out Silver Sneakers: Your Medicare plan may cover some or all of the costs of joining a gym that provides yoga classes. Ask your health plan advisor for information on Silver Sneakers, which are fitness classes offered at gyms all across the nation and catered specifically to seniors. All classes are led by a certified instructor to ensure your safety, with the added benefit that they can easily cater the class to your needs and abilities.

#9 Look for Senior Discounts: Gyms and studios often run discounts and specials just for seniors to help them get access to the classes they need for preventative care and health. You can even check out coupon and discount websites like Groupon to find affordable deals, or give them a call to ask about specials. You may also come across some that run ads in your local newspaper. If you have a local studio in mind, stop by and express your interest in learning yoga. They may offer you a free class to help gauge your interest or offer you a coupon or discounted price.

#8 Make a Home Studio: Clear out a room in your home for a daily yoga practice. If you have furniture or boxes gathering dust in an unused bedroom, put them in storage. Another idea is to use your dining room for your yoga space. According to Angie’s List, many people have found alternative uses for their dining room as only 23 percent of homeowners routinely eat meals in this room. Once you’ve cleared a space, store your yoga mat nearby so that it’s always ready. Bring in some relaxing additions such as a scented candle, greenery, or artwork.

#7 Watch Yoga Videos: There are hundreds of free online yoga videos from certified professionals. You can follow along as they practice or watch videos that break down poses so you can work on safe alignment. You can also purchase yoga DVDs in the electronics or fitness section at most stores such as Walmart or Target, making practicing yoga as easy as popping in a DVD.

#6 Focus on Your Breath: If you can breathe then, guess what? You are practicing yoga! Try to pair your movements to an inhale and exhale. You can do this when walking, washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. Mindfulness is central to yoga’s mental health benefits. Sit in a comfy chair or in a seated position on the floor and clear your mind of any intruding thoughts so that you can pay attention to nothing but your breathing. Inhale and exhale deeply and slowly for 10 minutes to start or end your day.

#5 Download a Free Meditation App: There are dozens of well-reviewed free meditation apps that you can download to your phone or tablet. You can use these to learn more about meditation, start a basic practice and to encourage and track your progress.

#4 There are Yoga Apps, Too! You can download yoga apps for your phone or tablet that you can use for free. Try to make it social by inviting your friends to use the app or practicing with your caregiver or a family member. Once you get the hang of it and learn what moves work best for you, you can create your own routine to follow.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(SofieZborilova)

#3 Focus on One Pose: Instead of jumping into a whole series or flow, just focus on one or a handful of poses at a time. You can do them while watching television or after you first wake up. Keep it simple and move deeper into the pose as time allows. Yoga takes time and practice, so don’t be discouraged if you struggle at first. Start with simple moves and use props such as a chair for extra assistance. Should you decide you’d like to try more advanced moves, attend a class first to make sure you are doing it correctly and aren’t at risk of injuring yourself.

#2 Try a Work Share Arrangement: Many yoga studios and gyms will provide free classes in exchange for help watching the register and cleaning the studio. Talk to studios near you to find one that is interested in this kind of partnership.

#1 Take Classes with Friends: Whether you are paying for a class or going to the gym, practicing with friends can reduce the risk of senior isolation and make yoga more fun—and make it more likely you will stick with it. Plus, you can carpool with your friends, which is especially helpful if driving is a concern for you.

Yoga helps seniors stay healthy in both mind and body, and is also a fun, yet relaxing way to spend time alone or with friends. Try out any one of the tips above to make these your golden years for health and fitness.

Harry Cline is creator of NewCaregiver.org and author of the upcoming book, The A-Z Home Care Handbook: Health Management How-Tos for Senior Caregivers. As a retired nursing home administrator, father of three, and caregiver to his ninety-year-old uncle, Harry knows how challenging and rewarding caregiving can be. He also understands that caregiving is often overwhelming for those just starting out. He created his website and is writing his new book to offer new caregivers everywhere help and support.

Have your good health habits slowly turned into bad ones as you’ve aged? Eager to jump over that rut and start anew?

Thankfully, humans have the free-will to make of life what we can, when we can. Breathe easy, senior netizens. There are changes you can start making today to improve your overall health for the coming years.

Eat healthy

Digestion slows with age, so adding fiber by eating more fruits and vegetables can be particularly effective for seniors. However, it is important to keep in mind that anyone who eats more fiber should also drink more water, as it helps flush waste and keeps joints lubricated. Need a guide? This graphic from the AARP shows what your plate should look.

FYI: Senior centers often provide a healthy lunch, either free or at a greatly reduced price, via state or municipal programs. Check if yours does – it’s a guaranteed healthy meal during the week!

Get more sleep

Photo courtesy of Pixabay(Pexels)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay(Pexels)

If you wake up tired or have insomnia or sleep apnea, it is imperative to change your sleep habits. You need 7-8 hours each night, so turn off smartphones, tablets, and TVs two hours before bedtime, as the blue light mimics daylight and tricks your body into thinking it should be awake. It is also important to keep your room temperature cool (68 degrees) and to make sure your bed is comfortable enough for a good night’s rest.

QUICK FIX: If you’ve been sleeping on the same mattress for at least 7 years, consider looking into a new one that’s more accommodating (i.e. less harsh on joints) for seniors.

Focus on disease/illness prevention

Don’t wait until you’re sick to address your health – which is great advice for seniors and caregivers alike. It’s easier to prevent illness than to heal it. Caregivers should do this by helping elders stay on top of appointments, medications, screenings, and vaccinations.

REMINDER: Seniors are more likely to develop pneumonia or shingles. Ask for those shots the next time you are seeing your doctor.

Exercise

No one is saying to sign Grandpa up for a 5K after a hip replacement. What we are saying, however, is that there are exercises that can be extremely beneficial, at any age. Walking is a great example, and there are exercise routines (on a chair, in a pool) that will keep limbs moving and hearts pumping regardless of mobility level. The National Council on Aging recommends 30 minutes per day, five times per week, devoting two days to muscle strengthening.   

BONUS: Exercise relieves depression. Seniors can feel lonely and isolated, so it is important that we all are aware that exercise is a wonderful, free, effective antidote.

Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)
Photo courtesy Pixabay (silviarita)

Make new friends and stay busy

Many seniors experience losing friends due to age or illness, or because it’s harder to get around. They’re retired or unable to work. Without stimulation, their bodies and brains can atrophy. They need friends and activities: Sudoku, crossword puzzles, playing chess with children or grandchildren. Regular interaction at a senior home or center. Help them make connections in both their brain and the world.

Aging is not always going to be easy, but it is important to keep in mind that there are some helpful tips and tricks to staying healthy as we do get older.

Guest Contributor:

Elise Morgan has always loved writing and enjoys covering numerous topics. She got into writing about seniors, aging, and caregiving because she was a volunteer caregiver in Asheville, NC. She enjoyed it so much she started writing helpful tips and for seniors and caregivers alike.

You worked hard to put money away for retirement, so it is important that you understand the various strategies available to you to make sure you maximize that savings by minimizing taxes and avoiding penalties. Here are several tips to maximize your retirement savings:

Avoid early withdrawal penalties. Over and above the income tax due on your withdrawals, you must wait until age 59 ½ before tapping your retirement savings to avoid the 10% early withdrawal penalty. However, you can take penalty-free 401(k) withdrawals beginning at age 55 if you leave the job associated with that 401(k) account at age 55 or later.

Roll over your 401(k) when changing jobs. If you withdraw money from your 401(k) when you change jobs, 20 percent will be withheld for income tax, as well as paying a penalty for early withdrawals. The mechanism to avoid these costs is to roll over your 401(k) into either a new 401(k) or an IRA.

Mixing your types of retirement accounts. If you qualify for a Roth IRA, these accounts have a variety of benefits a traditional IRA does not, including more flexibility on penalty-free withdrawals and no required minimum distributions. However the biggest difference between the two types of accounts is how they are taxed. IRAs are tax-deferred, so they provide you with an immediate tax benefit, but you must pay taxes when you withdraw the money during retirement. Roth IRA accounts require paying taxes when you deposit the savings, but that means you don’t pay taxes on them during retirement. Diversifying your money in a traditional IRA as well as a Roth IRA will allow you to moderate your tax burden during retirement. Also, if you expect to be in a higher tax bracket during retirement, maximizing your retirement funds in a Roth account will allow you to lock in today’s low tax rate.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay-1(stevepb)
Photo courtesy of Pixabay (stevepb)

Understanding minimum distribution. You are required to withdraw money from your traditional 401(k) and IRA after age 70 1/2. If you miss a required withdrawal, you must pay a 50 percent penalty on the amount that should have been withdrawn. Make sure you mark your calendar for that cutoff date and make arrangements with your financial institution to remind you automatically about your required distribution.

Understanding the rules on your first distribution. Your first required minimum distribution is due by April 1 of the year after you turn 70 ½. All subsequent distributions must be taken by Dec. 31 each year. If you delay your first distribution until the same tax year as your second distribution, you will be required to take both distributions in the same tax year, which could result in an unusually high tax bill.

Start withdrawals in your 60s. While you must begin traditional retirement account withdrawals at age 70 ½, you can lower your tax burden by take smaller distributions starting at age 59 ½, which can spread the tax bill over more years, potentially allowing you to stay in a lower tax bracket and reducing your lifetime tax bill. Check with your financial advisor to find out if this option would make sense for you.

Calculate your tax burden with added Social Security or Pension Benefits. If you’re going to be receiving Social Security benefits or regular payouts from a pension, it’s important to incorporate them when planning your withdrawal strategy. Even if you’re receiving a relatively small amount each month from these sources, the extra income may increase your tax burden.

Keep tax-preferred investments outside retirement accounts. Investments that generate long-term capital gains receive preferential tax treatment when held outside of a retirement account. However, if you put them in a retirement account, you will pay your typically higher regular income tax rate when you withdraw the money from the account. In contrast, you can lower your tax bill by holding more highly taxed investments, including Treasury inflation-protected securities, corporate and government bonds and funds that generate short-term capital gains, inside retirement accounts.

Contributed by:

Caren Parnes for the Senior’s Choice

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

 

 

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!

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!

In any relationship, it is important to foster trust, communication, and respect. This is especially true in a caregiving relationship. There are many ways to strengthen the caregiving relationship, and here are 3 essential keys to consider:

Respect-

Creating a relationship with the client and their family based off of mutual respect is one of the most important steps towards a strong caregiving team. Learning about the client and their needs builds a stronger understanding of what makes them feel safe, comfortable, and valued. Ren, an Aspen Senior Care client, mentions how this helps her grandfather. “The caregiver is sympathetic, accommodating, and has gotten to know my grandfather so they have a friendship. She brings newspaper clippings she finds funny and they sit and talk about life and the past.”

Respect in Caregiving Pixabay (Beesmurf)

Photo by Pixabay (Beesmurf)

Trust-

In caregiving, each person must know that they can count on one another and that they will be looking out for each other’s best interests. Kirsten, a caregiver with Aspen Senior Care says, “Trust is essential in caregiving because we want our clients and their families to be at ease knowing we will be dependable and honest in providing the best quality of care for them and their loved one.”

Communication-

It’s important for the caregiver and client to communicate well by listening to and understanding one another’s needs. Together you can determine what goals should be accomplished and ensure that each person is receiving the care they need. When both individuals know what to expect, misunderstandings and frustrations can be avoided.

Gary Staples, Owner of Aspen Senior Care recalls a situation where respect, trust, and communication turned a problematic situation with a client around for the better. 

“We had the opportunity of helping with a senior couple in their home. The husband was caring for his wife but was also dealing with his own dementia. At times he would become frustrated with the caregiver and accuse her of stealing his Irish Spring soap. Although she did not take the soap, he would insist she was stealing from him and he was quite upset.

The caregiver communicated with the daughter of the couple and the office staff to discuss the situation. The daughter understood that her father was confused and that the caregiver had not stolen anything. Unfortunately, her father would continue to accuse the caregiver each time she visited the home.  

The office staff thought long and hard about ways we could ease his worries and repair his trust in the caregiver. We came up with the idea of putting together a large tower of Irish Spring soap on a nice platter and tying it up with a large ribbon. We presented him with the gift and he was so delighted and grateful!

The tower remained on his coffee table where he could see it each day. From then on did not have any worries that the caregiver was stealing his soap!

Irish Spring Soap

By building a tower of Irish Spring soap, ‘a monument of trust’, we were able to show respect and sensitivity for our client and give him peace of mind in a way that he knew we cared.”

At Aspen Senior Care we value being professional in-home caregivers our clients can trust and rely on at all times. Going above and beyond to create a healthy relationship with our clients and their families is our number one priority.

To learn more about us or get caregiving support, call our office today at 801-224-5910.