Elayne Forgie

Elayne Forgie

Elayne has been a professional geriatric care manager for more than 25 years. She was a founding member of the Florida Geriatric Care Managers Association, and she is currently a member of the Case Management Society of America and the American Counseling Association. Elayne is a passionate and caring Alzheimer’s advocate, and a professional trainer and educator.

Seniors and Home Safety

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Home safety for seniorsHome Safety and Physical Limitations

If you think about the way your residence or (your loved one’s) is constructed, you may realize that most areas presuppose a moderate level of physical ability. These spaces may include flights of stairs, overhead cabinets, waist-level countertops, and bathtubs. These household spaces can be difficult for aging individuals to use and a threat to their home safety, because certain age- and health-related problems can act as hindrances.

When we get older, our agility, bone density, eyesight, flexibility, hearing, and strength all begin to decrease. How well an individual has taken care of their body over time will determine to what degree these capacities decline. Activities like walking up a flight of stairs could cause a lot of pain to knees and hips; cooking or chopping vegetables may result in injury from declines in dexterity; getting in and out of a bathtub can make balancing more challenging, potentially leading to a fall. The space your loved one once navigated with ease turns into a space with obstacles that can harm them. Thankfully, there are adjustments you and your loved one can make to boost home safety, avoid injuries, and facilitate certain activities.

What to Do for Better Eldercare Home Safety

Keep in mind what your loved one can do to rearrange the house to reduce the likelihood of falling—one of the biggest concerns for aging individuals. Some suggestions (from the National Institute of Health and  AARP) are:

  • Provide enough space to walk: The more room there is in your loved one’s house, the lower the chances they have to trip on something. You can help your loved one rearrange furniture and household items so that they remain out of the way.
  • Make sure hazardous areas are not wet: Such hazardous areas include the kitchen or the bathroom floor, areas that have a higher likelihood of becoming slippery. A way around this home safety hazard is to have mats or carpets in those areas, or to buy comfortable footwear that have slip-proof soles.
  • Install handrails/seat in the bathroom: Handrails or a shower seat will provide support in potentially slippery environments. Built-in shower seats are also an alternative to changing your bathtub into a walk-in shower, which may be costly.
  • Handrails: Having handrails on any flight of stairs will provide more support for balance and alleviate strain from walking up the stairs.
  • Chair lift for stairs: If you or your loved one have a lot of difficulty going up and down stairs, then a chair lift is a great solution, although it may be costly. Certain companies may allow the option to pay in installments so you can finance your chair lift purchase more easily.
  • Rearrange household to make it more accessible: If you know that you or your loved one uses items very frequently around the house, then it is a good idea to place these items in locations that are easily accessible. This strategy will prevent an aging individual from straining to get something if it is stored in an area that is too high or too low.
  • Countertops that are accessible: If your loved one has trouble standing when they are in the kitchen (or in general), then it will be helpful to have lower countertops so they can sit. If they can stand, then buying a padded mat, perhaps, can make standing less harsh on joints.

Adjusting your home safety strategy will take some brainstorming, money, and physical help. Although it may be overwhelming to think about, finding the appropriate resources and answers will help you make informed decisions.

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The CareAcademy team has put together a class on Safety Precautions. For professional and family caregivers. Learn what to do to keep older adults safe. 

Elayne ForgieSeniors and Home Safety
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5 Ways to Avoid Caregiver Stress

Caring for someone with Alzheimer’s Disease can be overwhelming and seeing the person you love struggle with loss of memory, and eventual loss of identity, takes a huge enormous emotional and physical toll on caregivers.

If you are a caregiver, pay attention to the following signs of caregiver stress:

  • Excessive stress and tension
  • Debilitating depression
  • Persistent anxiety, anger, or guilt
  • Extreme irritability or anger with the person with memory loss
  • Change in sleep habits
  • Change in eating habits

Ways you can help avoid caregiver stress:

  1. Exercise regularly
Walking, yoga and jogging are all great ways to help reduce stress. As your brain and heart receive the benefits of exercise, the caregiver will feel more relaxed and find they have more energy.
  1. Keep a journal
Keeping a journal can help reduce stress and you don’t have to worry about being a professional writer. Your journal is for your eyes only, and gives you the opportunity to express your feelings and emotions. It can be very healing.
  1. Talk to people you trust
Having a close friend or family member you can talk to, without holding back, can be very therapeutic. Turning to the people you trust will provide you with the emotional support you need while helping to reduce your stress and anxiety.   
  1. Learn to Relax
Taking the time to learn deep breathing techniques, meditation, and practicing mindfulness, can be very beneficial in reducing stress. They have both immediate, and long term benefits and can help you learn to relax when your stress and anxiety is at its highest.
  1.  Learn to Let Go
Be willing to let go and delegate some of your caregiving responsibilities to others.   As you become more comfortable allowing others to chip-in and help you care for your loved one, you’ll discover that by doing so, you are taking better care of yourself.  Use this time to exercise, talk with a friend or practice your relaxation techniques.  

CareAcademy’s online classes help family and professional caregivers learn tips and skills to excel, including ways to manage caregiver stress. Find out more!

 
Elayne Forgie5 Ways to Avoid Caregiver Stress
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6 Tips to Avoid Family Conflicts

One of the most trying aspects of life comes when a family member is aging. Whether the argument is over driving privileges, housing options, or financial issues, getting older can definitely take its toll on even the closest of families. In order to avoid these kinds of family conflicts and trying arguments, verse your family in these tips to make getting older a less frustrating process. Be Open Arguments build over time when the people affected do not speak up soon enough. Avoiding family conflicts becomes easier when everyone understands how someone is feeling. If your mother or father do not want to give up their right to drive a car, it is important that he or she says so. If your children think it is important for you to stop driving for your safety, it is also important that they say so. Heated arguments can be avoided, if you just take a little time to listen and communicate how you are feeling. Be Sensitive Now that you have learned to communicate your feelings, it is also important to be sensitive. Aging is a hard process for everyone, and there is no right way to settle your affairs. Be sure to be patient and kind when discussing matters such as housing, diet, exercise or driving. This way, elderly family members are more likely to come to compromises with their children or other relatives. Be Gracious Finally, remember that things change. While one situation may have worked out for you and your family in the past, it may be time to move on to new and better things. By understanding that aging happens to the best of us, you are that much closer to still living your life.

Tips To Help Your Family

Here are 6 tips to help avoid family conflicts:
  1. State the problem and determine who needs to work together to develop the solution. When family members clearly identify a problem, they can begin to work on it. However, when people don’t acknowledge the problem, or avoid discussing it altogether, a successful resolution becomes impossible.
  2. Establish ground rules for resolving the problem. Before discussing ways to resolve the problem, set some rules for the discussion. For example, agree that no one will call anyone names, or ban yelling. Encourage small breaks from the discussion if tempers flare, and emphasize the importance of resolving conflict peacefully.
  3. Brainstorm solutions to the problem. Allow everyone involved to offer input into potential solutions. During the brainstorming process, don’t judge whether each solution is good or bad, but instead, create a list of potential solutions.
  4. Evaluate the risks and benefits of each potential solution. Listen to each family member’s input about the pros and cons of the solutions.
  5. Reach a solution as a team. Try to reach a consensus about which solution will best resolve the conflict. Be willing to negotiate, and encourage family members to be open to new solutions.
  6. Identify what each family member will do to work on the solution. Each person should identify action steps he or she will take to work toward the solution.
There are many ways you can prepare your family for the transitions that come with aging together. Want to learn more about professional caregiving, conflict resolutions, and solving family conflicts? Check out CareAcademy’s Eldercare Classes for more.
Elayne Forgie6 Tips to Avoid Family Conflicts
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Overcoming Resistance: Difficult Conversations with your Aging Parents

Change is difficult for most of us. It often means moving on and leaving something behind — a place, a person, a routine, a job, or sometimes even ideas you’ve held fast to for a long time. It is not unusual for others to see a need for change in someone else’s life before the person sees that their situation has become unworkable or unsafe. With older adults, they perceive the appropriateness of their living situations, activities and daily routines through distorted, rose-colored glasses. Often, adult children are the first to come to the realization that their aging parent is not functioning as adequately in their own home as they used to. You may be like most adult children and hope your parents, as they age, will make sound decisions about their lives on their own. You want them to recognize their limitations and make necessary adjustments as smoothly as possible. However, if your parents don’t observe their needs and make changes, you might expect that just telling them what you think they should change about their lives will be enough to get them moving in the “right” direction. After all, you are suggesting these changes out of love and a desire to reciprocate some of the caring they have given you all your life. Your ideas are for their own good and should naturally be reasonable to them. For example, you may sit down for difficult conversations with your aging parents about: explaining that it is time for your dad to stop getting on the roof to hang holiday lights, that it’s time for your mom to stop driving, or time for them both to move to a facility that can care for their daily needs. Well, rarely is any discussion about change easy, especially when suggestions come from someone else and imply that you are less capable than you want to be. However, it is often up to adult children to broach difficult conversations with your aging parents and recommend changes, large and small. But be prepared; despite your love and concern, your parents may respond with a lot of resistance. What is logical to you may be tantamount to “giving up” to them. Once a parent, always a parent. Your mom and dad may be entrenched in that identity; the idea of reversing roles with you feels degrading and wrong. You, the “giver,” may feel very frustrated, rejected and even angry by their response. Loving reciprocity is the furthest thing from their sense of personal order –”I’m the parent, you’re the child,” is their psychological mantra. Even if your mom lives under your roof, she may still resist your suggestions. Here are some tips to make it easier to deal with resistance and find successful solutions for everyone involved.

How to Approach Change and Difficult Conversations with your Aging Parents

  1. Be patient! Keep in mind that change will occur slowly, in small steps
  2. Try to avoid drastic changes all at once whenever possible
  3. Keep a respectful attitude
  4. Maintain clear communication (LISTEN to the concerns expressed and try to address them)
  5. Acknowledge their fears/concerns and talk about what might ease their mind
  6. Keep things in perspective
  7. Let go of things that don’t really matter
  8. Don’t get in a power struggle, be flexible and try to listen to the core concerns being expressed
Sometimes your parents will insist on keeping things the way they are no matter how respectful or creative you are when having difficult conversations with your aging parents. You feel the situation is on the track towards disaster — but, from your aging parents’ point of view, things are just fine. Remember, people make choices and take risks every day…Just because you’re older doesn’t mean you can’t take risks anymore. Your parents have a right to make risky choices (not hire help, not move, not see the doctor, not taking medication etc.) as long as they are mentally competent to understand and weighthe risks. If you think your parent has dementia or you question if he or she can fully understand the risks, seek help from a professional like a geriatric care manager. Keep in mind, your older family member has survived many years and has had to develop endurance, faith, resourcefulness, and creativity to get through life…these traits can sustain your parent through difficult times.
Elayne ForgieOvercoming Resistance: Difficult Conversations with your Aging Parents
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8 Warning Signs of Hearing Loss

More than 50% of Americans over 65 suffer from hearing loss; it is more common in older men than in older women. Problems can be small: missing certain sounds, or large: not hearing anything at all. Unfortunately, not many older people with hearing problems visit a hearing specialist or wear a hearing aid; this results in many older people not understanding what others are saying. Hearing loss occurs gradually. One of the first signs to watch for is that that the older person turns up the volume on the television. He or she may frequently request you to repeat yourself or may not clearly understand what you have just said. When you do repeat yourself in a louder tone, the older person may ask you to stop yelling. This is because the problem isn’t that you are speaking too quietly but that the older person is having trouble hearing and understanding certain sounds. High-pitched tones may sound fuzzy and certain consonants such as “s,” “f”, and “t” are not clearly understood. Infections, certain medications and exposures to very loud noises over a long time can also lead to hearing loss. However, for the most part, hearing loss in older people is the result of age related changes in the ear. While hearing loss may be permanent, there is help available to help compensate for the loss. Amplification devices for the telephone and radio, hearing aids, and certain techniques like lip reading can help lessen the effect of hearing loss. Hearing loss in of itself is not an emergency, however sudden hearing loss or hearing loss in combination with other symptoms may be serious.

8 Hearing Loss Warning Signs to Look Out for:

  1. Sudden and complete hearing loss in one or both ears
  2. Sudden hearing loss in combination with nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or unsteadiness
  3. Misunderstanding words
  4. Trouble following a conversation
  5. Turning up the volume on the television so loud that others complain
  6. Avoids parties or restaurants because of hearing problems
  7. Does not answer the door or phone
  8. Does not respond to conversation
Be sure to see your doctor to discuss any of your concerns. It is also important that a child of the aging parent or eldercare provider go with the hearing impaired elder to the doctors so that information is not lost. If you would like to learn more about offering proferssional eldercare, please check out CareAcademy’s newest, online eldercare classes
Elayne Forgie8 Warning Signs of Hearing Loss
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6 Signs that Your Elder Parent is Overmedicated

Did you know that 70% of Americans take at least one prescribed medicine and around 50% of them take two medicines based on research from the Mayo Clinic? By looking at these statistics in conjunction with others, there is no doubt that overmedication is a huge problem in America and throughout the world. The reality is that it is much more lucrative for big drug companies to treat illnesses rather than cure them. In fact, the prescription pill industry splits a whopping $85 billion dollars among the top 11 pharmaceutical companies. The elder population along with children, are the two groups that are overmedicated most often. Seniors frequently take several medicines due to various illnesses and medical conditions. In fact, statistics say that one out of every three Americans over 65 take five or more prescriptions and the average 75 year old takes more than ten medicines. The most frequently prescribed pills in the world are opioid painkillers, anti-depressants, and antibiotics. The bad news is that this problem will not stop unless a patient or her family takes control of their medical treatment; so be proactive if you believe your elder parent is overmedicated.

Here are 6 possible warning signs that you or your  elder parent is overmedicated:

  1. Fatigue: Are you frequently tired and have low energy even when you have hardly done anything at all? Do you find that you are out of breath at the drop of a hat?
  2. Recurring falls, injuries, or accidents: Are you falling more often than before and/or are you becoming more accident- prone?
  3. Unexplained weight loss or gain: Are you suddenly gaining or losing weight and have no idea why?
  4. Lack of personal hygiene: Do you suddenly have no interest in taking a bath or shower, wearing deodorant, brushing your teeth, and keeping up your normal hygiene?
  5. Difficulty concentrating and memory problems: Have you noticed that you cannot concentrate on even the simplest things or that you are having a lot of trouble remembering how to do normal tasks?
  6. Changes in sleep patterns: Do you have trouble sleeping at nighttime because you are wide awake? Is it hard for you to stay awake during the day because you frequently feel groggy or drugged?
If you or your elder parent is experiencing some or all of these signs of being overmedicated, please make an appointment with the doctor to address all of your concerns. Be their advocate and be on alert to see if your elder parent is overmedicated.
Elayne Forgie6 Signs that Your Elder Parent is Overmedicated
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How to Be a Successful Long Distance Caregiver For your Aging Parent

Caring for your aging parent when you live at a distance, can pose some real challenges. You’re no longer just a devoted daughter or son, you’re now what we call a “long-distance caregiver.” Thrust into what is often a new world of intricate responsibilities, you may find it hard to see the personal rewards ahead. But they are there, as is the help available to assist you on this caregiving journey.

Gather all of your Aging Parent’s Information

There is not a single right way to be a caregiver; as everyone’s situation is different. You will find that, among a host of things, family dynamics, financial resources, and the ability of your parent(s) to provide guidance for the support that they desire will shape your situation. It will help you immensely if, before there is a crisis, your parent(s) provide you with information to locate their important records, phone numbers, email addresses and other essential contact information. If a crisis has already occurred, such as a stroke or traumatic brain injury, this information is still important to gather, but it may require more detective work on your part.

Keep a Long Distance Caregivers Notebook

To keep things in order, long-distance caregivers will benefit from keeping a care notebook — a central place for the important information that you gather. A number of care notebook templates (hard copy or digital) are available for purchase or you can create your own, either a digital version or by using a good old three-ring binder with pocket dividers. Be sure your notebook contains current information on your parent’s prescriptions.   If paid caregivers are employed to provide care to your aging parent, you will want them to maintain a separate notebook documenting medication administration, vital signs and other key physical and mental health status information.

Two Key Long Distance Caregiver Functions:

  • Information gatherer — from your parent(s), websites, books, word of mouth, etc.
  • Coordinator of services — contacting potential service providers, scheduling, coordinating payment and monitoring medical care. Plan on traveling and spending some time on the phone to arrange care and services

Here are four tips to keep in mind as a long-distance caregiver:

  1. As much as possible, involve the one who needs care in any decision-making process, especially issues related to care and housing. Be sure to listen to his or her preferences and respect your parent’s known values, even when these differ from yours. Instructions to paid caregivers should be in writing.
  2. Learn what kind of help is available. Educate yourself on the care and services in the area. Similar kinds of services are found throughout the U.S. (e.g. adult day care, home care, case management, etc.). Eldercare Locator at 800- 677-1116 can direct you to the Area Agency on Aging appropriate for your parent(s).
  3. Remember to take care of yourself. Caregiving can be stressful, so create a support network for yourself. Talk with friends and family. Allow yourself to hire help or involve other family members. Trying to do it all alone is not healthy for you or your loved one.
  4. Understand that care needs will change over time. It’s not too early to think about possible future needs. Once you locate resources, speak to a social worker who has experience in planning for eldercare. There are many options to be considered, and you’ll want to make informed, well-thought-out decisions about your parent’s care.
If you feel overwhelmed at any point, never hesitate to call in a friend or professional to help. No one can master everything, not even the people who are experts in their field. The solution lies in putting together a team and using each team member’s strengths — including yours. If you’re an eldercare agency, register for a demonstration and free class from Care Academy. Go to our site and click Request a Demo.
Elayne ForgieHow to Be a Successful Long Distance Caregiver For your Aging Parent
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The Benefits of Helping Elders Stay Active

Activity is important to each of us, regardless of age. However, a sedentary lifestyle aggravates the loss of physical capacity that accompanies aging. Activity is the only way to prevent wasting away and the only way to maintain the physical capacity for strength, speed, and coordination that is so important to help elders stay active. Motion increases blood circulation, which improves function of all body parts, particularly the cardiovascular and respiratory systems. Motion also helps maintain and even increase the range of motion in joints, prevents deformities, maintains and increases muscle strength following sickness and injury, aids healing, and prevents swollen feet/legs and skin breakdown.

Benefits to Exercising when Elders Stay Active Include:

  • Improved oxygen consumption during exertion, for better conditioning
  • Lowered heart rate while resting, so organs work more efficiently
  • Increased muscle tone
  • Decreased body fat
  • Maintaining flexible joints
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Release of muscular tension
  • Reduced pain
  • Increased strength and mobility
Regular exercise makes smooth, relaxed movement habitual and prevents “contractures,” or permanent shortening of muscles, tendons and scar tissue.  Contractures cause elders to move and do less and feel uncomfortable. Aging slows all body activities. Unless a plan of activity is carried out, an elder loses more and more of his ability to perform all motion. Exercise does not need to be painful and should not loom as a hated chore to be endured.  Attitude affects physical therapy. The greater the elder’s initiative, self-motivation, and positive attitude, the more effective the therapy. The goal should be to help elders stay active by replacing range-of-motion repetitions with walking, while performing household activities, or swimming thereby increasing not only function but socialization, self-image, and body awareness. Physical therapy should involve safe, consistent, and effective completion of purposeful tasks. Mastery of exacting movements and completion of artificial tasks is not necessary. It’s never too late to reap the benefits of fitness. Most of us are unduly negative about what elders can physically accomplish. We must all be more optimistic. Working aging muscles strengthens them; and extra strength improves quality of life. Those who are physically active every day are less depressed, more mobile, more likely to participate in activities, and sleep better! If you’re an eldercare agency, register for a demonstration and free class from Care Academy. Go to our site and click Request a Demo.
Elayne ForgieThe Benefits of Helping Elders Stay Active
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