CareAcademy Blog

To Underrated & Overwhelmed Family Caregivers: Thank You.

I did not provide 24/7 care for my mother during her final years with Alzheimer’s.  But I know of many families who do. Being responsible for the care of someone else is daunting, especially for family caregivers.  Ask any parent who has endured sleepless nights with their child.
I vividly remember sleeping on the floor of my ten year-old daughter’s room one night.  She woke me up complaining of leg pain and some tingling.  At 2am all I could think of as a possible explanation was spinal meningitis!  I grabbed my pillow, reassured her it was probably just “growing pains,” and if she felt anything else to wake me up, not that I could sleep anyway.  She was fine in the morning, and I was as relieved as I was exhausted.
The distinct difference between caring for your child and your parent is the expectation that your child will be fine and grow into adulthood.  Your medically-compromised parent or other adult in your care may not “be fine” ever again. What starts out as a full time care commitment of a newborn gradually evolves, as the child learns to feed themselves, dress without help, walk to the bus stop, etc. Naturally parental care diminishes as a child’s skills “improve with age.” Not so when a family takes on the care of an aging parent or other adult.  Depending on the medical circumstances, they are not likely to “improve with age.” What starts out as a part time care commitment of an elderly adult, gradually evolves for family caregivers, as the older adults require increasingly more help with self care, transportation to appointments, cooking, laundry, and other daily activities.  

Family Caregivers Are There “From Cradle to Grave”

My mother had a multitude of phrases, some of which didn’t make any sense.  But I always understood the message with her often-repeated phrase, “from cradle to grave.”  Although I was young, I remember my grandfather living with us for a short time.  He had dementia and other disabilities from multiple strokes.  My father and uncle were making arrangements to move their dad into a more reputable facility after my mother witnessed his nursing home caregiver slap him! During the interim, Grandpa moved in with us. I was too young to grasp the specifics, but I certainly remember the tense atmosphere at our house while he lived with us, while we were his family caregivers.  I distinctly recall snippets of dialogue between my mom or dad and my grandfather.  They were always calm, repeating questions or directions until Grandpa complied or answered. But I also remember overhearing my parents talking with each other about my grandfather’s situation.  Apparently, dad was very busy launching something big at work and felt he had “abandoned” Mom with the responsibility of caring for his dad. I couldn’t hear my mom’s reply, but knowing her as I did, she would have been reassuring and accepting of the responsibility on behalf her husband’s father. I definitely understood and felt the impact of her expression “from cradle to grave.”  My grandfather passed away from another stroke after a few months.

Giving Back to Family Caregivers

Decades later, my dad suffered a moderate stroke, launching my mother into her nine-year role as his selfless caregiver.  Although he described her as his “task master,” her encouragement peppered with her strong will kept him mobile “until the very end.” During those years, my mother was increasingly adamant that should she ever need long term, care she did not want to live with me.  Mom had witnessed and experienced first hand the toll on family caregivers, and she refused to put me in those shoes.  “Just find me someplace nice, and come visit me,” she often said. And when the time came, I did exactly as she had instructed “until the very end.” 

My Kudos to Family Caregivers

I genuinely applaud families who take on the responsibility of caring for an aging loved one.  Kudos to all family caregivers, who are underappreciated and overextended.  It’s often a thankless undertaking. Let me make it clear that it really doesn’t go unnoticed, and I thank you!  

Check out the CareAcademy online class that teaches the best communication practices for family caregivers.

Elaine PereiraTo Underrated & Overwhelmed Family Caregivers: Thank You.
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How Senior Care Agencies Build Relationships With Clients

As an owner of private senior care agencies in Atlanta, Georgia, the topic of how agencies can build relationships with clients truly ignites my passion. Before I can get into explaining building relationships with clients, we must look at the word relate. The word relate is defined: to show or make a connection.

Making connections is one way that senior care agencies build relationships with clients.

One of the ways we make connections with ours elderly clients is having parties where we play Bingo with them. The game Bingo truly excites the elderly community it seems to bring joy to them. They laughed and joke, and we have a meal at the end to wrap up the party with them, looking forward to next time. We have found as an agency that playing Bingo makes a wonderful connection with the senior community that can never be broken. In order for agencies to build relationships, we have to create a bonds with our clients that are not easily broken.

One of the complaints that I get from the elderly community is people don’t care about them anymore.

For one, they say their family members don’t come and see them as much. They feel like their social lives have become dormant. Another way we have been able to create a successful bond with our senior population is by going into assisted living and nursing homes and have short chapel services. Most elderly would like to go the Church, but because of their condition they aren’t able or other circumstances may be holding them back. So we take Church to them, I reflect on a times I went to read scriptures and sing songs. Now, I do not say that I am a singer, but singing in front of a group of elderly men and women, I felt like Elvis Presley and Nate King Cole. They sung along. They led songs. I really had a great time, and so did they. It’s these types of interaction that really create bonds and build relationships with our elderly community. Our seniors are always looking for outlets to bond with individuals who care for them, love them, and will be patient with them. Another way we find that helps us as senior care agencies to build relationships with clients is to understand their plight. As an agency or an individual you have to put yourself in their shoes. We work and care for some elderly who are visually impaired. So, I sometimes close my eyes for about 15 minutes as if I was blind and begin to feel my way through a large room, so that I would understand for at least a moment and not forget how difficult it is when you do not have your sight. That’s just one example of the way we relate as a caring community. It’s important to do all we can to ensure we understand how seniors are feeling.

One of the best ways to build a connection and a relationship is to listen.

At times we are so quick to just do our job instead of listening. Don’t allow the job duties to come before the relationship and the key point of simply listening. I believe that I am love by senior because I listen to them. I have explained to groups who desire to become senior care agencies, and I have told them that in order to build relationship with clients you must listen. I identify myself as is I was the son of the people that my agency cares for. I tell my caregivers this. It’s my model when we care for them: Treat them as mothers and fathers. You and I both know that as a child, it’s our responsibility to listen to our parents and elders. This strategy of listening has allowed me to grow my senior care agencies by leaps and bounds. Yes, it may take a few hours out of your day to listen, but it’s been proven to grow your business because of the relationships you build.

Another way we as agencies build relationships with clients is to train caregivers to be compassionate, to have sympathy.

We train our certified nursing assistants to do whatever the client would do if they were healthy enough to do it. This has helped us through the years to build lasting relationships with clients family members that in some cases has cause us to to receive referrals because of the connections we made with them.
Darrius ShannonHow Senior Care Agencies Build Relationships With Clients
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Caregiver Tips: Help Yourself to Help Others

You’re away at sea. The deep blue ocean is all you know, and it’s all you can see. Suddenly, you notice a hole at the bottom of your boat. You’re afraid the boat may sink. What do you do? Panic, of course. But what do your survival instincts tell you? Put your own life jacket on and then, assist others. The best caregiver tips make sure you’re better prepared to care for others. Helping yourself first must come first. Only then are you physically and emotionally able to look after others as a caregiver, but it’s something we often forget to do. When you’re looking after others, you forget to look after yourself. You forget to take care of yourself because you’re putting their needs before your own. It’s normal to do this, but it’s also important to look after yourself; this is what makes you look after others more effectively. Ever found yourself nibbling on crumbs of leftover food or struggling to find time to make a well-cooked meal? If you’re running late for work, struggling to wake up on time every morning, constantly forgetting to do other things because you’re so busy trying to rush through the day, it’s time to stop and take care of yourself. Balancing your work life and personal life is tricky when being a caregiver around the clock. When do you get the time to look after yourself when all of your time consists of looking after others? When do you put your own needs before others? You may even feel selfish doing this when you have so many other tasks to complete but it’s important to do so! Self-care can range from napping, meditating, healthy eating to pedicures/manicures, socializing, reading, traveling, and other forms of relaxation. But is this going to relieve any stress or headaches you have? And most importantly, do you even have time for these self-care methods? Truth is, you may not. But I’ve managed to find a few easy tricks to look after myself while caring for my mother.

Self-Care Caregiver Tips

Facial masks, manicures, pedicures and resting your eyes all sound like the perfect “me” time. But there’s no time to get these things done and when we plan for these occasions, it feels like a chore. Instead, here’s what I would advise:
  • Multi-task: When I’m cleansing my mother’s face, I wash mine at the same time. I’ll put on facial masks and nose strips for the both of us so we can enjoy it together. I always anticipate her chuckle when she sees me covered up in a mango scented face mask with a big white strip plastered across my nose.
  • Take things slow. My biggest mistake is planning to complete all my tasks and chores in one single day. At first it seems manageable, but once 5 o’clock hits, and I haven’t finished folding the laundry or started cooking dinner, my stress levels hit the ceiling! Be more organized and plan your week ahead so you have plenty of time to complete chores and have some time to spare for yourself.
  • Help yourself first. They say you have two hands: one for helping yourself, the other one for helping others. Looking after yourself comes first, everything else can come second. When looking after a patient, all you can think about is their health and their needs. As a caregiver, we don’t have time to asses our own needs or we make up excuses. Do all the little things for yourself that help you throughout the day. Schedule in a haircut appointment or a social night during the week.
  • Ask for help. Caring for someone everyday is difficult, not everyone can do it. Most of us can’t even look after ourselves! It’s fine to say “I can’t do this” or “it’s too much”. But never give up, never let that terrible feeling inside you get to your mind and make you think that you can’t do this anymore. Ask other caregivers for help, advice, and their best caregiver tips.
  • Think positive. Set yourself some goals for the week that motivate you throughout the day. This way, you’re looking forward to something that’ll keep you going and help you stay positive. I love eating out, and I always plan to go out to eat on Friday nights. So I’ll be sure to plan my week ahead and ensure all my responsibilities are completed by Friday night at 7pm!
These are just a few ways to look after yourself. Self-care isn’t just for caregivers; it’s for every single one of us, regardless of career choice. You must take care of your emotional needs as well as your physicality. Self-care isn’t easy, but it is healthy.  

Learn more of the best caregiver tips with CareAcademy’s online classes for family and professional caregivers. 

Siddiqa KhalifaCaregiver Tips: Help Yourself to Help Others
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How to Pay for Home Care

The vast majority of Americans say they plan to live at home in their old age. In fact, most of America’s frailest older adults live at home. Only a small fraction live in assisted living or nursing homes. But, paying for needed home care can be tough Our families make it possible for us to live at home in old age – by providing the vast majority of in-home support to frail older Americans, often at high cost to their own physical, emotional, and financial well being. Families provide this care, in part, because it’s challenging for them to find paid home care workers they trust. The good news is that organizations like CareAcademy are creating new and better ways for families to vet and prepare paid helpers. But also, families worry how to pay for home care. On average nationally, a home care aide can cost about $20 per hour. And, unfortunately, Medicare – the U.S. health insurance program for older adults – does not pay for these services. This price tag leaves many Americans wondering what to do. Like this daughter who says,
 “My mom has some income from social security and less than $10,000 in savings. I live in a different state and have a full time job I need to keep. Mom was doing fine until recently – but now she’s in and out of the hospital and having trouble taking care of herself. My sister and I are worried and wondering what we do next.”

What do you do if you’re trying to figure out how to pay for home care?

Well, in the absence of a national insurance program for home care, here are some options for Americans who want to find a way to pay for care in the home for themselves or their loved ones. Medicaid Home Care Medicaid is a public program that pays for home care services for older adults and is run by states. It’s not to be confused with the health insurance program, Medicare, which – as I said above – covers none of this. Medicaid is important because it’s the safety net for when everything falls apart and you are out of options. You may have heard of it as a provider of health insurance under Obamacare. But, it’s also a program that has paid — traditionally — for nursing home care when families run out of money and options. Nearly every state Medicaid program also offers home and community-based services programs to help frail older adults (and younger adults with disabilities) stay at home and out of an institution. But, the complexity of these programs can be challenging. States usually tightly control eligibility, benefits and access. Medicaid home care is only available to individuals whose income and assets are relatively low, or whose resources have been drained by large medical and long-term care costs. And, very important — no two states are alike. That’s why it’s really important to understand how Medicaid home care works in your state. One good place to start is the aging and disability resource center (ADRC) in your area. Google this term along with the name of your state (e.g., “Minnesota Aging and Disability Resource Center”).

Private Long-Term Care Insurance

Very few Americans own a private long-term care insurance policy. But, if you are one of them, the insurance will usually pay for home care services. The catch is that, in order to qualify for benefits, you must be very frail. That is, the insurance will pay only after you are no longer able to handle two of six very basic activities of daily living (like eating, bathing, and dressing) by yourself. Also, nearly all long-term care insurance policies have daily dollar and lifetime limits. The average long-term care insurance policy pays for up to $150 in services per day over about three years.

Out-of-Pocket

Americans finance most of their home care spending through out-of-pocket. In fact, recent research shows that two-thirds of all spending on home care is paid for out-of-pocket. There are ways to mitigate these costs. The best thing you can do is consult the services provided by your local senior center (also called an area agency on aging). These agencies offer programs such as meals on wheels, senior classes and family respite. Find your local AAA here. Also, consider deliberately choosing to live in a state with better than average services and environments for older adults. There’s a wonderful resource on the AARP website for evaluating states who have their act together in creating supportive environments for older adults.  It’s a state scorecard on long-term services. Also, determine if there are already communities or services that you can tap into. For example, check out the Village movement. The Villages are communities that come together to pool financial and volunteer resources to support older adults. See if there’s one near your parents and/or consider starting one in your area. Read This: How the Village Movement is Helping Seniors Age in Place Consider ways to alter your existing home to make it more accessible. For example, you can replace home entry steps with ramps, and bathroom grab bars with towel racks. Just doing a few things to prevent falls can be a very cost-effective way to extend your time at home, and your money. Families are the backbone of the long-term care system in this country, but their work is harder than it should be. It’s important for us all to be aware of our options for how to pay for home care, and how to work together in community to make old age easier on everyone.  

Find out more about Professional Caregiving from our CareAcademy online course. 

Anne TumlinsonHow to Pay for Home Care
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Senior Health: The Hydrating Benefits of Coconut Water

When my senior aged mother was diagnosed with cancer May 2011, it was devastating. After a very rough summer and a fall spent in a rehab center. Mom came home and started intravenous chemo. One of the problems we had was the fact that cancer and chemo were causing her to be dehydrated, She just didn’t want to ingest anything. This affected her blood pressure. She would often have low pressure. If it got too low it meant time in the hospital getting rehydrated.

Sheriene, her nurse (a native of Jamaica), suggested we get her some coconut water. This really helped her blood pressure to level out, and she had not nearly as many problems with it as before. The nurse told us that coconut water not only improves  hydration and has electrolytes, it also causes the body to increase hydrating from other liquids.

What problems can dehydration can cause an elderly person?

Low Blood Pressure: Low blood pressure can lead to weak limbs and dizziness,  which can lead to falls Urinary Tract Infections: Urinary Tract Infections can lead to fever, disorientation and confusion. It can also lead to increased hospitalization.

Poor Body Temperature  Regulation: Poor Body Temperature Regulation can cause confusion, over heat, loss of appetite, and death.

Brain Fog/Confusion: Confusion can be dangerous when it comes to remembering medication, where they are or are going, where they live, etc.

Tiredness: Tiredness can take away from living a full life. Keeping folks from participating in events which can give life meaning and purpose.

Weakness: Weakness is the greatest danger to quality of life. Broken bones can lead to long and uncomfortable stays in rehab, an increase in weakness, and a severe loss of mobility.

Kidney Issues: Kidney issues people who are on dialysis or who have poor  kidney function are very limited in the amounts that they can drink. Coconut water is a great plus for them because it causes the body to hydrate more effectively. Thus, helps them with not only their kidney function but the rest of their body and processing a low amount of liquids.

These issues are very serious issues. Keeping senior adults hydrated is important.

>When you have a loved or patient who is dehydrated from medicine, chemotherapy, and other kinds of chemically induced dehydration; coconut water is a great way to naturally rehydrate the body. Or better  yet, keep from becoming dehydrated.

  According to WEbMD, “There are some health benefits to consuming coconut water. It’s an all-natural way to hydrate, reduce sodium, and add potassium to diets. Most Americans don’t get enough potassium in their diets because they don’t eat enough fruits, vegetables, or dairy, so coconut water can help fill in the nutritional gaps.”

More Effective Hydration for Seniors & Every Body

Being more effective in hydration is actually the name of the game. It is much easier to stay hydrated than it is to combat dehydration. Therefore if you have a parent who is entering into their late sixties early seventies, it might be a good idea to start drinking coconut water now. Getting into the habit of drinking coconut water will help the body prevent dehydration.

There’s an old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.” Meaning that it’s better to prevent something from happening than it is to correct it after it has happened. Coconut water is an acquired taste so it may take some time to find one.

Choose The One You Like Best There are several brands of coconut water
  • Zico
  • Vita Coco
  • Harmless Harvest
  • Nirvana
  • Naked Juice
  • Coco Libre
Mom never really found one she loved, but ended up preferring one. There are some with flavors and some plain. If your senior loved one likes an Arnold Palmer, I like Vita Coco’s lemonade and tea.

Coconut Water Recipes

I suggest you also make drinks with coconut water rather than regular water as the base. Here is a recipe for nectarine frozen punch.
  • 2 nectarines juiced (you can process the blender and work through a strainer. Leave the peel on for a gorgeous color.)
  • 1c OJ
  • ½ c lemon juice
  • ¾ sugar or equivalent sweeter
  • 16 oz coconut  water
Put 6 ice cubes in a blender with the other ingredients. Pulse until ice is,crushed. Makes 2 servings.   Ginger Limeade
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 2 cups regular water
  • 1/2 cup of lime juice preferably fresh squeezed
  • 1 cup sugar or sweetener
  • 2 cups Coconut Water
  In a small pot add 1 inch of ginger in 2 cups of water bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes  and turn off, add the cup of sugar stir until dissolved. Leave to cool.

Once cooled remove the piece of Ginger and add the ginger syrup to a pitcher. Add lime juice and coconut water, stir to mix pour over ice. Makes 4-8oz servings.

  When it come to our senior loved ones, staying hydrated is akin to staying healthy. Coconut water is no cure, and it’s no miracle drink. It is a simple tool that can be used to keep your body hydrated on an ongoing basis.

Barbara HarveySenior Health: The Hydrating Benefits of Coconut Water
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Aging in the 21st Century: High Tech and the Human Touch

89% of Americans do not want to leave their homes when they age. Most of these people will live alone and receive support from health and community-based providers or family caregivers. How will the home care system provide care to a growing number of seniors living in increasingly scattered locations? Technology has the potential to play a critical role in launching a new model of geriatric care that allows older people to live independently for as long as possible, supports family caregivers in the important work they do, and gives health care providers the tools they need to deliver high-quality care at a reasonable cost. Some of the useful types of technologies available for eldercare services include:
  • Home Monitoring Systems – connect monitoring devices with web interface including: emergency response, fall detection, passive motion monitoring (for persons with Dementia/wander risks), bed monitoring (for fall risks and incontinence).
  • Tele-medicine Devices: Blood pressure, weight scale, pulse oximeter, all blue-tooth devices connected to a main platform that communicates information to the caregivers or medical centers.
  • GPS Shoes: footwear designed with a built-in GPS device that could help track down “wandering” seniors suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This will provide the location of the individual wearing the shoes anywhere on the planet and provide a virtual fence around the elder, enabling them to walk to familiar places but alerting others if they veer off track.
  • Medication Monitoring Systems that range from electronic pill boxes  to the “smart” pill dispensers that work with sensors to alert them to missed dosages and give reminders of the appropriate time to take their medications.
  • Walking aides like walkers that steer away from obstacles and can be retrieved by remote control. Canes that detect warning signs when a person is in danger of falling
  • Intelligent phones helping people with memory problems to remember the name and relationship of the person calling
  • Robotic nurses developed to help nurses, home health workers and caregivers lift people who cannot walk or help older folks with other activities. A prototype is developed by Vecna Technologies of College Park, MD, with funding from the U.S. military
More research needs to be done on the value of technologies for older adults. Designers should involve older adults and caregivers in product design.

Seniors Use Technology More Than You Know

A common belief is that seniors do not use gadgets or Internet, but research shows that older people are doing more online. The largest age group to increase their internet use in the past decade is the 70-79 year old group. As people are confined to their homes, they seek new ways to communicate. Although technologies are badly needed, we also need to remember the human factor. People need to be involved with other people.  Sometimes in the discussion of new high tech devices, the human side of high tech gets left out. Common sense and the human touch in caregiving can save lives and keep elders safe at home. The mix of caring people, technology, and expertise in eldercare is the key to being able to keep people living and aging within their own homes regardless of whether they are healthy and engaged or dealing with chronic physical illness or dementia.  

Communication skills are essential in every role as a caregiver for senior adults. Increase yours with online classes from CareAcademy.

Doris BersingAging in the 21st Century: High Tech and the Human Touch
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How to Communicate With Someone With Alzheimer’s.

  It’s tough looking after an elderly person especially, someone who has a condition that doesn’t allow them to be as independent as they used to be. I’ve been caring for my mother who has Alzheimer’s for over 5 years now, and as her memory and motoring skills become worse, the most significant difficulties I’ve experienced while caring for my mother, is communication. Whether it’s asking what she wants for her dinner or reminding her who I am, I’m always struggling to find a way to talk to her. This should be easy though, right? She’s my mother, I’m her child. She raised, she fed me, she clothed me. She attended all my doctor and dentist appointments with me. Well now it’s my turn to take on the maternal role. However, there are just times I cannot find a way for her to understand me, and vice versa. Whilst juggling laundry, grocery shopping, feeding and clothing my mother, I’ve found some time efficient ways on how to take things one step at a time.

Tips for communicating with a person with Alzheimer’s

  1. Let them know you’re there. It might sound obvious enough, but patients with disorders may not be aware of their surroundings or people. A gentle “hello, how are you doing?” or a simple touch to the hand every now and then won’t go unappreciated
  1. Distract them if they get upset. This is what I’ve found to be the most useful method had there ever been one! It’s often difficult for caregivers to figure out what’s wrong or what the problem is when the patient is distressed, but it’s incredibly frustrating for them when we can’t figure out the cause. Instead of investing time to find solutions, distract them with something they can relate to. For example, my mother loved getting dolled up to attend weddings and events, so I would show her all the fancy dresses she used to wear and remind her she can wear them on our next outing
  1. Make them feel involved. Inform the person with Alzheimer’s of current events and affairs, or make them help you fold the laundry. It may be meaningless to their lifestyle, but it’ll feel nice for them to feel involved with daily routines. Making polite small talk helps them to feel included. It’ll remind them of times in the past where they were active contributors to society. This is also a good way to pass time.
  1. Don’t be a fuss pot. Sometimes, they like to be just as they are. It’s important to give them their independence and space. This is as important to them as it is to you.  Giving them space will also improve your patience with them. Let them hold that glass of water all by themselves. Teach them how to hold a spoon or plate during dinner. This way, both you and the person with Alzheimer’s are helping each other, and this creates a special bond during these difficult times
  1. Patience goes a long way. Cliché, I know, but it really does go a long way! A lot of people think caring for an elderly person is a lot like looking after a child. It is. But it’s far more difficult than that. Children can be taught how to dress themselves; they can remember events from the day before. Elderly people can’t necessarily do these things anymore, or not as well as they used to. It takes time and a whole lot of patience to care for any person and the best way to do so, is to take one day at a time, one step at a time.
Some motivation for caregivers of adults with Alzheimer’s: At the end of the day, you, the caregiver, are there to provide the best care you possibly can for the person suffering from symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease. It’s the little things you do that help them throughout the day. They may seem likes chores at times but you’re making a huge difference in their lives. Although they’re a big part of your life, you’re the main part of theirs. You may be the only person the person with Alzheimer’s can remember or the only person they have to talk to. But, my final piece of advice as someone who is quite experienced in looking after the elderly (adults with and without Alzheimer’s) as well as children – don’t forget to look after yourself!  

Want to know more about working with someone with Alzheimer’s? CareAcademy’s professional online caregiver courses jumps-start your eldercare career.

Siddiqa KhalifaHow to Communicate With Someone With Alzheimer’s.
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How to Help Elderly Adults with Transportation Challenges

It can be tricky to help elderly adults who have limited movement, or people who don’t understand instructions well, to get positioned comfortably in the car.

Common Transportation Challenges in the Older Adult

Many conditions may occur more commonly as we age. Several of these changes can cause transportation and travel challenges. Be patient while assisting.

Vision Impairment

  • When transporting an older adult with a vision impairment, explain exactly what you are doing and why.
  • Ask if they would like assistance before providing it.
  • If they use a cane, always lead by standing on the opposite side of the cane, and stay one-half pace ahead.
  • If possible, have them exit from the non-traffic side of the car.

Problems with Balance

As people age, they are more likely to lose some muscle strength, develop arthritis and have changes in the inner ear, all which affect balance. This can make getting in and out of a car and positioning in the car difficult for some elderly adults. Allow an older adult plenty of time to enter and exit the car. Also give plenty of time for them to regain balance when shifting positions, such as moving from sitting to standing.  

Pain 

People with joint pain, such as arthritis, may find it painful to enter and exit a vehicle. Give your passenger extra time and provide assistance with a gentle touch. People with dementia often will not be able to tell you they have pain, or where they pain is, but they can become very agitated. If you ask them directly if they are having pain, they may be able to correctly answer yes or no.  

A few tips to help elderly adults dealing with transportation challenges.

Positioning an older adult in a vehicle

  • Make sure that the older adult’s seat belt is securely fastened while in transit and that they do not unfasten it until the vehicle has come to a complete stop.
  • Provide assistance when the person enters or exits the vehicle, but do not make them feel rushed. Give the older adult extra time to do what is needed.
  • If the older adult has had a stroke and has right-sided or left-sided weakness, seat his affected side nearest the door (i.e. if a left-sided weakness, then seat on the driver-side of the back seat). This can help with balance and allows you to position the weaker side into the car and also encourages the older adult to assist.
  • It may be helpful to keep a pillow in the car to help with positioning. A shoulder strap seat belt can also help.

Providing Assistance to Agitated Passengers

Agitation in older adults with underlying memory issues may be due to a number of issues including pain, illness, inability to verbally communicate what they need (such as the need to go to the bathroom), or fear or frustration at the current situation. For example, they may be agitated because they forgot who to enter the car or where they are going. Being patient and offering simple directions in a calm way can help to diffuse the situation. If an older adult becomes agitated, resistive or argumentative, it is usually best to stay calm and agreeable, as if you are going along with their desires. Validating their current feelings, and incorporating why a car ride is necessary, is much more effective in leading to cooperation than disagreeing, re-orienting or arguing. ask the older adult why he does not want to get in. In an older adult that frequently gets agitated during a trip, it is a good idea to:
  • suggest they use the bathroom before each trip
  • Seat the older adult in the rear passenger-side seat so that the steering wheel is out of reach, and he is not directly behind you. This way you can avoid being startled from behind when you are driving.
  • f your car has child safety locks, it’s always a good idea to have them on – allowing the rear door to be opened only from the outside. This will ensure that the door cannot be opened by the older adult while the car is moving.
  • Using a seat belt buckle cover can discourage unbuckling the seat belt during your ride.
If agitation persists during the ride, try playing music, or offering a book, magazine or photo album of family pictures. It’s also a good idea to have snacks and water available.  

Communication is essential in transportation and other every day caregiving. Be able to communicate with elderly adults like a pro with CareAcademy’s online caregiver course.

Madhuri ReddyHow to Help Elderly Adults with Transportation Challenges
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How to Safely Lift and Transfer Elderly Adults

When lifting, moving, and assisting elderly adults, you need to use good and proper “body mechanics” to reduce the likelihood of injury to yourself or the other person. Follow these tips to make sure you are safely and correctly moving transferring people.

Proper Body Mechanics When Moving Elderly Adults

Stand with your hold head up, shoulders back, chest high, and back straight. Place your feet hip-width apart. Shift so one foot is in front of the other. With your knees bent, lift using leg muscles rather than pulling with your arms. Do not turn from the waist. Do not reach out when lifting. Allow the person you are assisting to do as much of the moving as possible  

Proper Moves to Turn or Position Reclining Elderly Adults

When moving a person reclining in bed, be aware of your competencies. Communicate with the adult as much as possible as you move around the room and position yourself and the person. First, always wash your hands. Provide as much privacy as possible. Remove pillows from under the older adult’s head Have the older adult bend both legs and put feet on the bed. Ask the person to push down with his/her hands and feet, to help move toward the top of the bed on a count of three. Allow the older adult to do all or most of the work. Pulling the person with your upper body is likely to cause injury to yourself or the elderly adults. Ensure that the older adult has enough room to roll. If needed, have the person bend both legs and put feet on bed to allow them to assist with scooting over. Ask the older adult to help perform the roll by reaching in the direction of the roll. If the older adult’s legs are bent, it will make the roll easier. Put one hand under the older adult’s shoulder. Put the other hand on the older adult’s hip, then gently roll the older adult toward the other side of the bed. Make sure the older adult is comfortable.  

How to Safely Transfer an Older Adult from Bed to Wheelchair

When lifting a person from a bed, be aware of your abilities and limits. Communicate clearly with the person as much as possible as you position yourself and them. First, wash your hands thoroughly. Always make provisions for privacy. Bring the wheelchair close to the bed, positioned so that stronger side of the older adult is closer to the chair you’re moving to. A cushion is best for comfort for most elderly adults when sitting in a wheelchair. Fold the wheelchair’s footrests out of the way. Use proper body mechanics while assisting the older adult to move. A gait belt or pants belt will give you the most control when you’re assisting an older adult to stand. Pulling on someone’s arms during a transfer may cause injury to the adult’s joints or bones. Ask the elderly adult to push up from the surface they are standing from on the count of three ensure the older adult uses their gait device as part of the transfer

Use of Assistive Technology and Specific Adaptive Equipment like Mechanical Lifts

Make sure to have a therapist or equipment company demonstrate the specific lift to you first, so that you will understand the safety steps involved. Position the wheelchair so that there is room to turn and move the lift. Ensure that the wheelchair’s brakes are locked. Always look for obstacles or objects which could cause injury if elderly adults bump into them Explain what you are going to do, so that the person knows what to expect. Move slowly while turning an adult in a lift, to minimize risk for injury and to allow time to spot potential hazards.

How to Assist Elderly Adults with Walking

Ensure that supportive footwear is in place. Discourage slippers or sandals which are not strapped around the heels. Always utilize a gait device, if recommended by a doctor or therapist. Position yourself alongside the person’s weaker side. Use a gait or pants belt if the older adult is not fully steady. Make sure to have the elderly adult turn fully and back up before attempting to sit. Encourage the adult to reach back with one or both arms before sitting.   Making sure that elderly adults are as mobile as possible is a huge part of being a great caregiver. It’s important to keep everyone safe during any process of moving an adult from one position or location to another. Always remember that safety comes first.    

CareAcademy offers online classes to help professionals and family learn to prepare for all aspects of personal care for elderly adults.

   
Madhuri ReddyHow to Safely Lift and Transfer Elderly Adults
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How to Spot Changes in Older Adults

Caregivers for older adults need to understand when and how to get assistance. In particular, non-medical caregivers should be clear on when to refer to a registered nurse, and when to call 911 in an emergency.

Identifying Changes in an Older Adult’s Condition

When you are a caregiver, things can happen any time and you always need to be prepared with a plan of action in case of emergency. The older adult may stop breathing, have a heart attack, stroke, a diabetic complication or other physical or mental emergency.
If you ever feel that the older adult or you are in any immediate danger, you need to call 911.
You may also consider completing a first aid or CPR course, which can be enormously helpful.

Early Identification is Key to Best Response

Early identification of changes in an older adult’s daily routines, behavior, ways of communicating, appearance, general manner or mood, or physical health can save his or her life. When you have spent time with a person, you get to know what is normal and usual for them, and you will be able to tell when something has changed. Some of the changes you can observe yourself, and others the older adult themselves will complain of.
What is most important is a CHANGE in the patient’s condition, or something different than usual.  
Look for changes in their functional ability, body, mental status and environment.

How to Spot Physical Changes in Older Adults

For physical changes, you should first ask yourself:   Are there any changes to any part of the older adult’s body that you notice? Physical changes in older adults to pay attention to include:
  • Overall: fever, lethargy (tiredness), chills
  • Head & Neck: headache, stiff neck, dizziness
  • Skin: redness, swelling, cuts, rash, new numbness or tingling
  • Eyes: redness, drainage, swelling, reports of pain or burning
  • Ears: pulling at the ear,ringing in the ears, diminished hearing, drainage, dizziness or pain
  • Nose: runny discharge, rubbing the nose, congestion
  • Mouth & Throat: eating less, redness, white patches at the back of the throat, hoarse voice, fever, toothache, facial or gum swelling, bleeding, pain when swallowing
  • Muscles & Bones: limited mobility in a leg or arm that the older adult could previously move, stiffness, pain, limb out of alignment with the rest of the extremity, joint swelling
  • Heart & Lungs: chest pain, new or changing cough, shortness of breath, wheezing, new numb or cold hands or feet, swollen ankle
  • Abdomen: abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, loose stools or diarrhea, constipation, blood in vomit or stools, painful or burning urination, changes in urine color
  • Women: new or changing vaginal discharge, itching, unusual odor, burning, bleeding
  • Men: discharge from penis, pain, itching, redness burning.

Paying Attention to Mental and Emotional Changes in Older Adults

For mental and emotional changes, you  should ask yourself the following questions: Does the older adult appear to be “himself” or “herself”? Has their ability to communicate change? Have they lost interest in taking care of themselves or doing any activities they previously enjoyed? Has their mood changed and do they want to be alone more? Mental & Emotional changes in older adults to pay attention to include:
  • Overall attitude: An older adult who is usually very friendly becomes quiet and to themselves; an older adult who is usually very talkative suddenly wants to be alone more.
  • Behavior: an older adult who is usually calm is more irritated or aggressive than usual.  It could also be the opposite – they may become less active than usual.
  • Ways of communicating: an older adult who usually is talkative stops talking; speech becomes garbled or unclear; the older adult doesn’t seem to understand you, but they usually do.
  • Relationships: The older adult may act distant or afraid when certain family members, visitors or professional caregivers are around.
Changes in the older adult’s home environment to pay attention to:
  • Finances: see if their are any obviously unpaid bills, utilities cut off, and if there is sufficient food available.
  • Cleanliness: Ensure the older adult is able to continue their previous level of housekeeping chores
  • Home maintenance/safety: See if there are any repairs that need to be done that could cause a health or safety hazard.
 

Top communication skills help caregivers give better care. Check out our online course for Communicating with Older Adults.

Madhuri ReddyHow to Spot Changes in Older Adults
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