Life lessons

It’s summertime! This season brings fun outdoor activities and beautiful — but hot — weather. Did you know the senior community is often more prone to the effects of heat and therefore at a greater risk for dehydration? Now is a good time to focus on helping our elderly loved ones stay safe, healthy, and hydrated through the elevated summer heat. 

Causes of dehydration

Dehydration happens when the body does not receive or retain the adequate amount of fluid needed to function properly. If not treated properly, dehydration can cause severe health issues. Common causes include:

  • Intense summer heat
  • Strenuous activity
  • Medications or diuretics 
  • Drinks which contain caffeine or alcohol
  • Illness which cause fever, vomiting, or diarrhea

What should you look for?

Common warning signs of dehydration may include the following: 

  • Thirst
  • Confusion
  • Irritability
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or feeling faint
  • Low blood pressure
  • Dry skin and/or poor skin elasticity
  • Not urinating frequently or dark urine

What you can do to help seniors stay hydrated?

  • Always check with a doctor to make sure your loved one is getting the right amount of fluids for their individual health needs.
  • Create a set fluid intake schedule. If necessary, set timers to help remind your loved one to drink fluids throughout the day. Try to decrease fluids that are high in caffeine or sugar. 
  • Offer sufficient fluids at every meal. This can also include fruits and vegetables with high water content such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and cucumbers. 
  • Keep water within easy reach of chairs and beds.
  • Check urine to ensure it is light in color. 
  • Offer a full glass of fluid with medication. 
  • Monitor skin elasticity each day. 
  • Monitor the environment. Close blinds and windows to reduce indoor heat, and make sure the air conditioning is on a set schedule and working well. If outdoors, make sure there is a cool, shady place to sit. 

It is important to recognize the causes and symptoms of dehydration and know ways to help your elderly loved one stay hydrated. And don’t forget to utilize these tips for your own health as well. After all, you both deserve to have a healthy and happy summer! For more caregiving tips and information, visit our blog.

Before the pandemic that is COVID-19, staying in touch with a loved one in senior living was hard. Now that precautions such as social distancing are in place, those challenges have now become harder. A lack of connection brought on by today’s conditions has elevated stress and created a sense of loneliness amongst both elderly parents and their adult children. Here are eight simple ways to stay connected during these tough times:

Send Them Care Packages

Send your loved on a package filled with their favorite items, personal belongings, and even memorable items such as photos and postcards to make them feel involved. Another way of doing so is by creating themed care packages centered around a memory or even a holiday. Regularly sending thought out care packages can make your loved one feel cared for, thought of, and involved. 

Regular Video Calls

We are fortunate to live in a period in which technology makes it easy to stay connected. Set up a weekly time to video call with your loved one. Video calls are ideal since they allow both of you to see each other. They can make the distance more bearable and will enable you to show them things going on at home. It also allows you to get your family together to video chat together.

Play a Game Together

Smartphones have changed how we play games. With thousands of multi-player games available, you can now bond over even more. Pick out a smartphone game that both of you will enjoy. Games can further enhance how you bond together and give you more to talk about. If your loved one doesn’t have a smartphone, computer games are an alternative. 

Get Them a Pet

Pets are a great way to ease loneliness. If possible, get your loved one a pet to keep them company. If they are able, take your loved one to the store to pick out their pet. Not only will this create a great memory, but it will add even more meaning to the pet. Having a pet will keep them busy and offer a form of companionship.

Photo by John-Mark Smith from Pexels

Collaborate with Their Caregiver

Caregivers offer a unique insight into your loved one’s progress. They regularly interact with them, which makes them a good source of ideas and inspiration. Develop a relationship with your loved one’s caregiver to keep track of their progress, any possible issues, and possible ways to make them happy and content. 

Send Good Morning and Goodnight Texts

This simple tip can make a world of difference. Daily communication can be a struggle considering how crazy life can get. Simple good morning and good night texts can let your loved one know you’re thinking about them. It can also serve as a way to share with them what you’re up to and open the door up for conversation. 

Plan Out Future Trips

Planning out a future trip with your loved one can help take their mind off any current troubles they may be having. It can serve as a way to get through tough times and give them something to look forward to. And because trips often require planning, it provides your loved one something to do to make time pass. A great bonus is planning out trips that may be on their bucket list. Bucket list trips add even more connection and excitement. 

Make Every Conversation Meaningful

Day-to-day conversations can lose their effect because they lack substance. Be sure to make every conversation meaningful by talking about their progress, your progress, reminiscing, showing compassion, and making sure they know they’re loved. It’s essential to do so, so they don’t feel that staying connected is a chore for you.

These eight tips can help both you and your loved one get through these tough times and even strengthen your relationship. It can be overwhelming to get started, but writing down ideas and a list of your loved one’s hobbies and interests can be a great way to get started. 

About the Author

Brandon Landgraf is a digital marketing manager and content creator for Carex Health Brands, a health and wellness brand whose mission is to improve the lives of others. He enjoys writing content that empowers others to live better, be healthier, and lead happy lifestyles.

If you are now living on a fixed income, you’ll probably need to start spending less. However, cutting costs doesn’t mean you have to make major lifestyle changes. You can make simple changes to your habits and still live a full and satisfying life throughout your golden years.

Declutter Your House

Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of stuff that you don’t want, need, or use. Older adults should declutter their homes and part with some of their abundance of belongings. Decluttering doesn’t just free up space and make your home safer; it can also bring in some income. Look to sell items on eBay, Craigslist, or local consignment shops, as clothing, decor, furniture, and other items that you don’t want anymore can bring in a little income. The fewer items you have in your home, the less you’ll have to clean, maintain, or store. Decluttering can be a very freeing experience for many people. Once you’ve sold everything you can, then donate the rest to charity or pass items on to friends or family members.

Concentrate on Energy Savings

One way to reduce your monthly bills is to cut back on your energy usage. Combined utilities are typically the second biggest portion of your monthly bills, after your mortgage or rent payment. There are a number of easy ways to reduce utility costs.

  • Go around the house and unplug items that you don’t regularly use. Appliances and electronics that are off but still plugged in will continue to use energy.
  • Switch out your traditional light bulbs to more energy-efficient CFLs or LEDs.
  • Install a ceiling fan to help cool your home and circulate the air.
  • Replace filters regularly so your HVAC unit doesn’t have to work so hard. Vacuum the coils under your refrigerator as well.
  • Use a smart thermostat to adjust the temperature when you aren’t at home. Also, lower the temperature at night when you can use blankets to stay warm.
Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels - 1
Photo by Rodolfo Clix from Pexels

Seek Out Discounts 

Restaurants, grocery stores, retail shops, movie theaters, hotels, cell phone companies, and various other entities offer discounts for seniors. The Senior List has compiled a fairly comprehensive list of senior discounts, but you also need to check in your local area. You may be surprised which retailers will offer discounts and freebies to older adults. Also, consider signing up for loyalty programs or rewards credit cards to reap even more benefits.

Check Your Insurance

Do you have the best deal on your health, auto, and homeowner’s insurance? Take the payments off auto-renew and start researching better options. For example, a Medicare Advantage plan may be more cost-efficient to you in the long-run than traditional Medicare. When it comes to car insurance, you can save money in a variety of ways. On an older vehicle, you may not need full coverage, but it’s still a great financial safety net to have. Discounts are usually available if you are a safe driver, bundle your policies, have an anti-theft device, and drive under a certain number of miles a year, so find a company the provides competitive savings. Compare prices and get quotes from different companies before it’s time to renew. You could end up saving hundreds of dollars a year.

Refinance Your Mortgage

Refinancing your mortgage can reduce your interest or extend your term, resulting in lower monthly payments. If you need more cash immediately, you can do a cash-out refinance. With this vehicle, you get a new mortgage that is higher than your current one, but you also get the difference in cash. Refinancing doesn’t make sense for everyone because there may be closing costs or other fees involved. So, talk to your financial institution and various lenders to comparison shop and figure out if refinancing is right for you.

When you head into retirement and you are suddenly on a fixed income, it can be an adjustment. However, just because you need to change your budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your lifestyle. Small changes can bring in a little income or reduce your monthly costs so you can continue to do all the things you enjoy as you get older.

Contributed by Karen Weeks. Karen created Elder Wellness as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. She currently resides in Sacramento, California where she enjoys her retirement by trying new things and learning new skills to keep busy and challenge herself.

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!