Warning Signs parents may need help

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

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

Advance directives – financials

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

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

Courtesy of Pixabay writing (Free-Photos)

Courtesy of Pixabay(Free-Photos)

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

Advance directives – health care

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

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

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

 

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

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!

Senior Financial Literacy

In 2004, the American Society on Aging sponsored a study to test the financial knowledge of Americans age 50+. This included a survey of three simple yes/no questions that assessed the knowledge of the respondents on concepts such as inflation, risk diversification, and interest rates. At that time only one-third of respondents could answer all three questions correctly.*

Since 2009, broader studies have been made within the wider population and the results were similarly dismal. However, there was a clear correlation between age and a failure to understand some basic financial concepts that make up financial literacy. This is especially worrisome given that money and debt management issues are most consequential to seniors.

This may seem an overwhelming topic to tackle for a senior or their family. While getting sound financial advice is one of the first things most money professionals recommend, that can be easier said than done. Many older adults rely on the advice of relatives, friends or neighbors. Yet, this is a strategy that as many as 70 percent of fraud victims report having used. Become more informed and consider learning more from an accredited Financial Advisor. These are the best first steps to improve one’s financial literacy. One online resource for understanding some of the basics is ConsumerCredit.com. This site offers useful tools designed for the 50+ population.

Here are several topics which seniors and their families may wish to consider when evaluating their financial health.

Know where your money is going Do you know where your money is going?

Based on a 2014 survey by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling, over 60% of Americans don’t have a budget. This is the first place to start in developing financial literacy. You cant make informed choices about your money if you don’t know where it is going.

Address your debt 

Now that you know where your money is going, its time to develop a strategy to start eliminating it. This means identifying expenses that you can trim and develop strategies to change your spending habits.

Check your credit report 

Your credit report can impact not only your ability to get a loan but to rent an apartment or land a job. Therefore, it is critical that you check your credit report often and understand the factors that affect it. If your score is low, there are many agencies available to help you start improving it.

Understand your retirement portfolio 

Check your investment choices. For those seniors with retirement portfolios, it is important to understand your risk. While the safety of bonds has always been attractive, a perfect storm may be upon the bond market in the form of anticipated increases in interest rates, tax cuts and a ballooning national debt which will all impact the value of bonds. If your portfolio favors bonds, it may be time to consider a more diversified financial plan. Know whether your total living expenses could ride out a drop in value.

Prepare 

We’ve all heard the rule—you should have three to six months of expenses on hand for an emergency. Even if you don’t think you can get there, start somewhere. Have a set amount put away so if there’s an emergency you have something to fall back on.

* For more information on this study and a more in-depth discussion on the topic of financial literacy, go to asaging.org.

Adapted from The Seniors Choice ‘Improving Senior Financial Literacy’

According to The Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration (AFTD), Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD) refers to a progressive disease process which causes a group of brain disorders. These disorders result in cell damage to specific areas of the brain – the frontal lobes and/or the temporal lobes.  The atrophy of these nerve cells interferes with brain activity and causes a loss of function in these regions of the brain.

Frontotemporal Dementia is different from other types of dementia in two important ways:

  • The trademark of FTD is a gradual, progressive decline in behavior and language with memory usually remaining intact. As FTD progresses it gets more difficult for the person to plan or organize activities, interact with others appropriately, and care for themselves.
  • In the majority of cases, FTD occurs earlier in life in people between the ages of 45 to 65, although it has been seen in people as young as 21 and as old as 80.

Frontotemporal Dementia is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric problem or a movement disorder, such as Parkinson’s Disease. This is because certain symptoms of FTD mimic other diseases and in other cases, individuals are considered “too young” to have dementia.  According to AFTD, Alzheimer’s Disease is another possible misdiagnosis; however, the largest difference is that FTD affects language and behavior, while AD affects memory. 

Brain image of FTD vs Alz: image from medschool.ucsf.edu

Image from medschool.ucsf.edu

FTD makes up about 10%-20% of all dementia cases and the course of FTD ranges from 2 to over 20 years. The average length is about 8 years from the beginning of symptoms. It affects both men and women and, in some cases, can be inherited.

According to HealthLine.com, symptoms of FTD differ depending on the area of the brain affected, but most symptoms fall under behavior or language.

Common Frontotemporal Dementia behavioral issues include:

  • Loss of empathy
  • Inappropriate actions
  • Compulsive behavior
  • Lack of inhibition or restraint
  • Neglect of personal hygiene and care

Common Frontotemporal Dementia language-related symptoms include:

  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words
  • Problems recalling language
  • Loss of reading and writing skills
  • Difficulty with social interactions

Cognitive and Emotional symptoms of FTD include:

  • Difficulty planning, organizing, and/or executing activities
  • Becoming less involved in daily routines
  • Abrupt mood changes
  • Apathy
  • Emotional withdrawal
  • Becoming distracted
  • Reduced initiative

FTD Movement symptoms include:

  • A difference in gait, such as walking with a shuffle
  • Tremors
  • Muscle weakness, or cramps
  • Clumsiness
  • Apraxia (Loss of ability to make motions which are usually common and easy, such as using utensils)

Proper diagnosis is crucial because some medications used to treat other types of dementia may be harmful to a person with FTD. Unfortunately,  AFTD reports no cures at this time. However, research is ongoing and rapidly increasing, and new drugs are beginning to be clinically tested.  

Most importantly, remember that those dealing with any form of dementia are not doing these things on purpose. When providing care, caregivers sometimes trigger behaviors without realizing it. By understanding more about the many different types of dementia, caregivers can begin to improve quality and enjoyment of life at whatever stage of dementia a person happens to be in.

Visit The Association for FrontoTemporal Degeneration

AFTD helpline: 866-507-7222


Learn about different types of dementia in our other blog posts!

Understanding Dementia

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Vascular Dementia?

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Aspen Senior Care provides in-home care for seniors with all types of health challenges, including all forms of dementia.

Aspen Senior Day Center in Provo provides adult day care services (fun activities and personal care) for seniors with all types of dementia.

Contact Karen Rodgers, Family Caregiver Coach, for a free assessment to help you navigate the challenges of caregiving. You can reach her at 801-224-5910.

Visit aspenseniorcare.com or call our office at 801-224-5910 for more information.

Thank you to Marie VillezaElderImpact.org) for contributing this piece to our August blog!

Living far away from a senior loved one can be stressful, especially if they have health issues or limited mobility. It can be difficult to know how to help from afar, but often, finances and commitments keep us from being able to travel.

Fortunately, there are several apps, websites, and services that will allow you to help your loved one no matter how far apart you are. Whether there are health issues involved or you just want to give them assistance around the house, technology has ensured that it can be done. Think about the best ways to help your loved one thrive, then read on for the best tips on how to get started and where to find the best services.

Health-related

Making sure your loved one stays in good health is a priority, but it’s not always easy when you live in a different city or state. Now, they can download an app on their smartphone to help them keep track of their blood pressure; it even allows them to record notes about what they had to eat or drink that day, their weight, and their resting blood pressure. The app uses the phone’s camera to record the pulse in their finger for a readout.

You can also invest in a Fitbit, which is worn on the wrist like a watch and tracks several different bodily functions, including steps taken over the course of the day.

For brain health

Keeping the brain active is vital for seniors, especially those who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or are at risk for it. Playing brain games on a tablet or smartphone can help boost memory and keep brain cells active and healthy.

For seniors who have trouble remembering the little things–like where they parked in a large parking lot–there’s an app that will help them out every time they leave the house. Park And Forget is specially made for people who can’t keep track of the area they left their car in when they go to big places like the mall.

For ease of everyday activities

For seniors who have trouble reading small print even with glasses, there’s an app called Eyereader that enlarges the text in a book or magazine and lights it up through the phone screen. Used like a magnifying glass, this app prevents eye strain and helps seniors have more independence.

Pillboxie is another great app for seniors; it’s a reminder tool that helps the user remember to take their medication. This is perfect for seniors who have a lot of medicine to keep up with, especially if there are some that have to be taken at different times of the day.

Apps aren’t the only way you can help your senior loved one; you can also take advantage of services online, such as Rover.com, which allows you to set up a dog walker to come and take care of their pet. Although many seniors enjoy getting out and exercising with their dogs, some have limited mobility and can’t always do it safely. Hiring a dog-walker ensures that your loved one won’t have to choose between endangering their health or keeping their pet from going on its daily walk.

With so many apps and services to choose from, it can get a little overwhelming. Try not to stress; simply help your loved one set up the ones they want to try and show them how to get started. Once they’ve gone through the steps a few times, it will become much easier, and you can rest assured that they are in good hands even if you can’t be with them all the time.

Author: Marie Villeza (Author: ElderImpact.org)

What is Dementia?

Dementia is not a specific disease, it is the term used to describe several different diseases of the brain which affect:

  • MemoryAspen Senior Care. We love our clients!
  • Language skills
  • Visual Perception (being able to see and understand what is being seen)
  • Capability to focus and pay attention
  • Capability to reason and make decisions

About Dementia

It is important to understand that dementia is more than just memory loss, it is brain failure. Dementia is caused by damage to brain cells thru a head injury, blockage to the blood flow, or certain types of proteins that build up and interfere with brain function.

Different parts of the brain are responsible for making different parts of the body work.  Therefore, the type of dementia a person has is determined by how and where the cell damage occurs in the brain. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, when the cells in the brain are damaged it prevents the brain from communicating efficiently. This can affect behavior, thinking, and feelings.

There are many different types of dementia. Dementia is an “umbrella” term used to cover many causes of brain failure.

The four most common types of dementia are:  Dementia is the term used to describe several different diseases of the brain which affect memory, language, and more.

  • Alzheimer’s Disease
  • Vascular Dementia
  • Dementia with Lewy Bodies
  • Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)

It is not uncommon for a person to have two types of dementia combined, and this is called Mixed Dementia.  However, different brain imaging tools (PET Scan, MRI) can help determine which type of dementia one is dealing with. These scans can help solidify a diagnosis and are less invasive and more definitive.

Caregiver and client at an Aspen Senior Care event.

How can you support someone with dementia?

It is important for caregivers to have a general understanding of how dementia affects seniors and their families. While all dementia has some common characteristics, it’s helpful for caregivers to know the distinguishing characteristics of each type of dementia.

The more a caregiver knows about the type of dementia a senior has (if a diagnosis has been given) the more they will recognize and understand behaviors and learn how to use the positive approach when working with them.  However, it is important to remember that each person is unique and the course their disease follows will be unique.

Most importantly, remember that those dealing with dementia are not doing these things on purpose. When providing care, caregivers sometimes trigger behaviors without realizing it.

When they understand more about the many different types of dementia, caregivers will begin to improve quality and enjoyment of life at whatever stage of dementia a senior happens to be in.


Learn about different types of dementia in our other blog posts!

Understanding Alzheimer’s Disease

What is Vascular Dementia?

What is Lewy Body Dementia?

What is Frontotemporal Dementia?

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Aspen Senior Care provides in-home care for seniors with all types of health challenges, including all forms of dementia.

Aspen Senior Day Center in Provo provides adult day care services (fun activities and personal care) for seniors with all types of dementia.

Contact Karen Rodgers, Family Caregiver Coach, for a free assessment to help you navigate the challenges of caregiving. You can reach her at 801-224-5910.

Visit aspenseniorcare.com or call our office at 801-224-5910 for more information.

Preventing Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse

This month we had the opportunity to learn about Adult Protective Services and the prevention of abuse for vulnerable and elderly adults.  Debbie Booth from Adult Protective Services taught how we as professional caregivers can prevent abuse, neglect, and exploitation of the seniors in our care.   

Who is considered a Vulnerable Adult?

  • An elder adult, defined as anyone 65 years of age or older.
  • An adult 18 years of age or older who has a mental or physical impairment which substantially affects that person’s ability to:
    • Provide personal protection
    • Provide necessities such as food, shelter, clothing, or mental or other health care
    • Obtain services necessary for health, safety, or welfare
    • Carry out activities of daily living
    • Manage the adult’s resources
    • Comprehend the nature and consequences of remaining in a situation of abuse

What can Adult Protective Services do? 

  • Investigate reports of abuse, neglect, or exploitation
  • Perform needs assessments
  • Coordinate with and refer to community resources for services

What can Adult Protective Services not do?

  • Take custody of an adult.
    • Adults have the right of self-determination unless there is imminent danger of injury or death
  • Under APS authority, place an adult in a nursing home or other facility.
  • Provide any service without the voluntary consent of the alleged victim or their guardian/conservator unless court ordered to do so.

“…Caretakers are our eyes and ears in terms of protecting this very vulnerable population.”

– Debbie Booth

Debbie also taught our team how to spot and report abuse, neglect, and exploitation of vulnerable adults by being aware and watchful of the following signs:

ABUSE

  • Unexplained bruises or welts
  • Multiple bruises in various stages of healing
  • Unexplained fractures, abrasions, and lacerations
  • Multiple injuries
  • Low self-esteem or loss of self-determination
  • Withdrawn, passive, fearful
  • Reports or suspicions of sexual abuse

NEGLECT

  • Dehydration
  • Lack of glasses, dentures, or other aides if usually worn
  • Malnourishment
  • Inappropriate or soiled clothes
  • Over or under medicated
  • Deserted or abandoned
  • Unattended

SELF-NEGLECT

  • Over or under medicated
  • Social isolation
  • Malnourishment or dehydration
  • Unkempt appearance
  • Lack of glasses, dentures, or hearing aides, if needed
  • Failure to keep medical appointments

EXPLOITATION

  • Possessions disappear
  • Forced to sell house or change one’s will
  • Overcharged for home repairs
  • Inadequate living environment
  • Unable to afford social activities
  • Forced to sign over control of finances
  • No money for food or clothes

In the state of Utah, it is the law that any person who has reason to believe that a vulnerable adult is being abused, neglected, or exploited must immediately notify Adult Protective Services intake or the nearest law enforcement office.

 

To Report Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse, Please call:

Salt Lake: 801-538-3567

Statewide: 800-371-7897

Click here to learn more about APS
Visit our website at aspenseniorcare.com for more information regarding in-home senior care.

**All information was provided by Debbie Booth from the Division of Aging and Adult Services for the State of Utah Department of Human Services**

 

 

One of the most challenging tasks adult children face is convincing their parents that it may be time to accept help in the home. No one likes to be told they can’t do things that they’ve been doing independently for decades, especially from their own children! But when signs show that elderly parents are having difficulty maintaining their health,their home and/or their daily activities, it is time for children to step in.

The following suggestions from SeniorAdvisor.com might be helpful in approaching such a difficult subject:

  1. Consult with siblings or other family members who may have an interest in their loved one’s well being before bringing up the topic with them. It will be helpful to get everyone’s input and work out differences of opinion before talking with parents.
  2. Talk with their doctor, clergy or parents’ friends to get their insight and support. No matter how much parents love and respect their children, they are still their children.  Hearing they need help from their peers or someone they view with authority will carry more weight than coming from their children.
  3. Listen to their concerns and respect their feelings. While it might seem obvious that aging parents need help, they may think they are doing just fine or be afraid to admit something is wrong. Take time to really listen to them and acknowledge their concerns. Some common fears seniors have about accepting help are:
    • Fear of losing independence
    • Having strangers in their home
    • The cost of care
  4. One small step at a time. If elderly parents have a positive experience with a small service such as house keeping or meal preparation once or twice a week, they may be open to accepting more help as it becomes necessary.Daughter and Elderly mother checking medicine

Aspen Senior Care works hard to make the transition from independence to receiving some extra help at home run smoothly. We recognize that seniors want to be as independent as possible and we train our caregivers to never do for seniors what they can do for themselves. But when a little additional help is needed in the kitchen or with personal care, we are there to ensure seniors are safe and well cared for.

Call us at 801-224-5910 to find our about our services and how we can help your loved ones.

Age has a way of sneaking up on everyone.  Your parents may have seemed fine the last time you saw them but on the next visit, some things just didn’t seem right, even though your dad was insisting they were fine.

Physical and mental decline can happen so gradually it’s practically unnoticable, but as these small signs become more apparent, families may be able to make some changes now that will prevent serious problems from happening later. Some signs to look for:

  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Spoiled food in the fridge or food left out on the counter
  • Cluttered or dirty house
  • Changes in mood
  • Weight loss
  • Unexplained bruising
  • Wearing soiled clothing
  • Broken appliances
  • House and yard are in need of care
  • Dings or scratches on the car
  • Forgetting appointments
  • Confused when doing regular, routine tasks.
  • Trouble getting up or down from a seated position
  • Unopened mail or late payment notices
  • Medication taken in correctly or not at all.
  • No interest in things that they used to enjoy doing
  • Losing things or getting lost

kitchen-clutter-300x214Seeing some of these signs gives you the opportunity to talk about how your parents are really doing, see if they need medical help or just help around the house with cleaning or meals being prepared. It’s sometimes difficult for elderly parents to ask for help. They have been independent all of their lives and have always taken care of themselves and others, including you.  Now it may be time for you to gently and candidly address some of these observations and see if you can help find some solutions. Once the conversation has begun, it may actually bring some relief and peace of mind to them.download

Aspen Senior Care has options for in-home care and information on other services available to help seniors living at home stay safe and cared for. Give us a call at 801-224-5910.