Life lessons

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.