Blog

How to Plan a Successful Outing for Adults with Alzheimer’s

No comments

Time outdoors with seniors with Alzheimer's.

Adults with Alzheimer’s and Caregivers Deserve Time Out and About

Many of us enjoy the luxury of traveling wherever and whenever we can. We can up and leave the house whenever we want to; if we have an errand to run, we can spontaneously do it. When the sun is shining outside, we can get up and go outside for some Vitamin D. We go for walks, visit the store, travel, and go wherever our adventurous hearts take us. Even with technology accessible everywhere these days, it feels good to get up and go outside. When we’re stuck indoors, we long for a breath of fresh air. We really take advantage of the fact we can up and leave the home whenever we want. Unfortunately, it can be difficult for elderly people, and especially senior citizens with Alzheimer’s, to get up and experience the great outdoors.

There are many benefits of being outdoors, whether it’s in the sunshine or rain. Vitamin D, regular exercise, and daylight are only a few of the benefits of leaving the home, but it can make you feel great. Just by going outside you feel fresh, energetic, and healthy.  For senior citizens with health conditions like Alzheimer’s, a few minutes of daylight and sunshine can help stimulate the brain. A breath of fresh air can help reduce stress levels. Everyone can benefit from this especially those who are cooped up  and have very little social life outside the four walls of their home. Not only can it make patients feel productive, but it encourages socialization and communication.

A 10-15 minute walk or sitting in the front yard from the comfort of their own home can make them feel useful. It stimulates their brain, body, and all of their senses. They will notice people passing by, nature, and all sorts of different stimuli of the city or country. They will also observe other people, especially if you as a caregiver can initiate conversation.

Communication and socialization are some of the skills many people lose as they grow older. This can severely affect people with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other mental health conditions. Once they become reliant on others, it’s hard to maintain their care, as well as helping them socialize, especially if you’re a full-time carer and have responsibilities of your own.

From my personal experience caring for my mom, taking her outdoors usually gets crossed off the top of my list and scribbled down at the bottom. But in this sunny fall, I ensure she takes advantage of the beautiful fresh air. Here are a few tips to consider when visiting outdoors with a senior citizen with Alzheimer’s disease.

Planning the big day out

  • Planning ahead will prove to be the most successful tool here. It’s important you check the weather when taking a senior citizen outside. When planning their day out, be sure to consider where you want to take them (park, library, store, a short walk), what time (plan it around their bathroom breaks and eating schedules) and when (what day of the week is most comfortable for them).
  • Be prepared for things the person with Alzheimer’s will require when being outside. It’s likely they may not have visited outdoors in a while, so the daylight, noise, and people may be too much for them to bear. Wherever you visit, make sure there are bathroom facilities and a place close by to eat, or pack a small snack just in case. Most importantly, if you need to make a quick escape to home, ensure the destination is not so far away from their place of comfort.
  • Is the location accessible for them? My first mistake I made when taking my mom to the local park was forgetting to consider about wheelchair accessibility. When I finally got there, I observed how narrow the park’s gates were. Fortunately, I was able to wheel her into the entrance/exit with only a slight struggle, but I would strongly recommend to all caregivers to check if the location is accessible for your client.
  • Have fun! This is something I often forget. It’s something you can’t plan, but hope for. Whether it’s 15 minutes or a couple of hours, don’t forget to take advantage of the beautiful moment you’re sharing with them. As much as this experience is for them, it’s a great memory for you too.

There are no correct or incorrect ways of encouraging a senior citizen to be outdoors. Everyone is different, and it’s important you meet their needs first. Whether it’s taking them in the front yard for 15 minutes of fresh air or taking them to a coffee shop, they will feel energized. For senior citizens with Alzheimer’s, like my mom, who are unable to be as active as the rest of us, ensure wherever you take them, they have something to observe to keep their brain stimulated.

Register Now

Register now for the CareAcademy Communication Skills online class , focused on engaging with seniors who have communication challenges such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, hearing loss, and more. 

careacademyHow to Plan a Successful Outing for Adults with Alzheimer’s
Read More

Seniors and Home Safety

No comments

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.

Register Now

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
Read More

Family Caregiver: How Do You Make a Basic Estate Plan

No comments
Family caregiver helps make an estate plan

Family caregivers today face a wide variety of challenges as their loved ones age, including preserving dignity and independence to the greatest degree possible. Family also wants to ensure that their loved one has continued care in the event of disease or advanced aging conditions, like loss of cognitive ability.  How does an estate plan fit into a senior’s plan for the future?

A plan is meant to be used!

One of my office’s key phrases for estate planning is that “A plan is meant to be used.”  It’s not at all uncommon for folks to create an estate plan and throw it in a box.  

Perhaps, the biggest takeaway from this post is that any planning you do for yourself, and especially, on behalf of your loved one, should be something you actually intend on using.  

What is an “estate plan”?

Estate planning is more than planning for death; it is also the planning for life.  An estate plan, from a legal perspective, contains tools that encapsulate the wishes of its creator related to dispositions of property during life and after death, tax planning, and charitable giving. It designates agents to act on your behalf if you’re unable to conduct your own affairs, gives agents access to your public benefits planning like Medicaid planning, and much more.

What might be included in a basic estate plan?

Any basic, or, as we often refer to it in the estate planning world, a “simple estate plan,” should include a last will and testament that directs the disposition of property at death, medical powers of attorney, financial powers of attorney, a living will, and HIPAA release.  

Other ancillary documents may be included, but the core documents discussed above ensure that during a person’s life others may act on his or her behalf for financial and medical decisions, providing a directive to loved ones and caregivers in the event of terminal or irreversible conditions.   

Of growing importance for many seniors and their caregivers is the selection of the person’s caregivers, who are agents under powers of attorneys, trustees, and their successors. One of the keys to estate planning is that someone in these positions should be someone you know AND trust. Simply going with a family member or friend you know can lead to horrible results, if the family or friend is not someone you trust.

How do I get my loved one to make an estate plan?

Planning for an aging loved one who may soon need or is receiving senior care services places a high premium on getting it right as soon as possible.  Loss of ability to actually execute or finalize an estate plan can create family tension, unnecessary expenses of a guardianship or conservatorship, or gaps in elder care services.  

These days many people are turning to online solutions for estate planning; however, an estate plan is NOT just the documents—it’s also the advice on how to “use” it when appropriate.  Moreover, a qualified attorney can also ensure that your documents meet your state standards to be what they say they are.  

As legal practitioners, we encounter so many people that have turned to self-help remedies that have failed because they don’t meet statutory requirements or they simply are not appropriate in an individual’s case. As a family caregiver, assisting a loved one who is able to create or modify an estate plan, find an attorney to assist with their planning objectives can be the key to ensuring their future success that reflects their goals and wishes.

A good and periodically reviewed estate plan creates comfort in providing the assurance that someone has taken the steps necessary for themselves and for those whom they care about.  

Register Now

For more information about the legal rights and obligations of Family Caregivers, check out the CareAcademy “Basic Skills” track of care courses. 

This post is intended for general information purposes only.  As always, consult a licensed lawyer near you to ensure you achieve your estate plan goals and objectives.

John B. Henry III, EsqFamily Caregiver: How Do You Make a Basic Estate Plan
Read More

7 Ways To Practice Self-Care While Caring For Others

No comments
Schedule time for self care

No Care Without Self-Care

Caregivers in the United States are a diverse group of individuals that represent approximately 17% of Americans. Nearly 40 million people that differ in age, gender, socioeconomic status, and racial/ethnic background have taken on the responsibility of caring for the needs of someone living with a chronic condition, a disability, or the impacts of old age on their own self-care.

Caring for a loved one can be one of the most rewarding acts you may perform in your lifetime, but it can also be one of the most challenging. Typically, family caregivers wear multiple hats; you are the nurse, the banker, the psychologist, and the chauffeur. Due to the wide range of responsibilities, your role is vital to the sustainability and longevity of your care-receiver.

In contrast, studies have shown that caregivers need to maintain their own self-care, as caregiving can have negative impacts on a caregiver’s health, both physical and emotional.

To ensure caregiver burnout does not occur, you must practice emotional hygiene with the same diligence you take when caring for your loved one.

Emotional hygiene refers to the practice of being mindful of our psychological health and adopting brief daily habits to monitor and address psychological wounds when we sustain them.

As caregiver burnout can manifest itself in a variety of ways, a few common signs to look out for include:

anxiety, depression, irritability, new or worsening health problems, difficulty sleeping, trouble concentrating, drinking, smoking or eating more, or neglecting your self-care, health, and wellness.

Optimize Your Self-Care

Although there is no one-size-fits-all remedy for caregiver burnout, there are a number of things you can all do to ensure you are optimizing your own personal health and wellness. To those that believe there is just not enough time in the day for self-care, ask yourself, “What good will I be to the person I care for if I become ill?”

Once you’ve answered that question, consider the following strategies to improve your quality of life:

  1. Make Your Wellbeing A Priority

We often try to postpone our happiness and wellbeing for a more convenient time. Others may decide that their happiness will be achieved with the completion of a milestone. However, if you continue to delay your happiness, you will find that your days become weeks, weeks become months, and months become years. By the time you may feel ready, too much time will have passed. Do your best to live in the present moment, and choose happiness, now.

  1. Take Inventory

I encourage you all to make this important step when beginning your journey to self-care. Sometimes we just don’t know where to begin, and if that is the case with you, begin by taking inventory. I encourage you to examine 3 major aspects of your wellbeing – spiritual, mental, and physical – and rank them on a scale from 1 to 10. If any particular area ranks below 5, then prioritize that as your initial area of improvement.

  1. Establish A Morning Ritual

Time is a barrier for most people, even those who are not caregivers. Allocating even just 10 minutes to yourself in the morning can have profound impacts on your mood and outlook on life. You can take those 10 minutes to tend to your spiritual, mental, and physical wellness. Things to consider doing include meditation, writing down personal development goals, and stretching.

  1. Create A Happiness List And Practice It

When we become consumed with the wellbeing of others, we tend to forget about the things that bring us joy. I encourage you all to create a happiness list of 10-20 items.Identify things that cost money, and those that do not. Give yourself permission to indulge yourself with the items on your list, even if they cost money. Remember, you work hard. An occasional treat is a good self-care investment towards your happiness. Whether it be a manicure or a walk around the park, pick a few items on your list and practice it at least 1 hour a week.

If you’re feeling really low, try to pick an item from your list and do it every single day.

  1. Create A Daily Self-Care Log

Use a daily self-care log as a tool to help you summarize various components of your self-care. It should break down the essential components of your day that contribute to your overall wellness. Try to keep track of the following items and monitor changes in your behavior and how they affect your wellbeing:

  1. Meals for the day
  2. Physical activity
  3. Medications
  4. Sleep
  5. Daily goals
  6. End of day recap
  7. Goals for tomorrow
  1. Establish An Evening Ritual

Turning off our brains at the end of the night can sometimes be a challenge. Implementing an evening ritual can ease the transition into sleep mode. When you have a million tasks to complete the next day, doing some planning the night before can help you get a jump start.

Also, it is a good idea to avoid technology (cell phones, computers, and television) at least 1 hour before bed for optimal self-care. Avoiding electronics can help your brain transition into a state of rest.

Incorporating restful activities before bed can be useful as well: deep breathing, prayer, and meditation can help bring your body and mind to a restful and peaceful place which can enhance your quality of sleep.

  1. Guided Meditation

Incorporating guided meditation into your daily routine can significantly improve your state of mind and outlook on life. Not only has guided meditation been known to reduce stress, it also increases happiness, improves your concentration, and has positive impacts on your cardiovascular and immune health. Although it may be difficult to get your mind to calm itself, taking a few minutes away from the stress of life can provide a calm alertness that can motivate you to continue your journey to a happier life.

There are as many ways to practice self-care as there are caregivers. Find what works to relieve your stress and help you decompress from the stresses of your life, and make an effort to practice self-care activities, and you will find that your ability to care for others improves as well.

CareAcademy online classes help caregivers take care of themselves and others.

Register Now
Andria Reta7 Ways To Practice Self-Care While Caring For Others
Read More

4 Tips to Manage Medication

Pill box to help manage medication

Organization, dedication and commitment are all the skills you need to be a competent caregiver. It requires your time, efforts, and most importantly, your utmost attention when it comes to taking care of the elderly. Knowing how to manage medication is important for our day to day life.

From my personal experience, I have found that managing my mother’s Alzheimer’s medication requires most of my time and patience. Whether it’s collecting medication from the pharmacy or storing it safely at home, medication needs to be supervised constantly.

Tablets, liquids and other painkillers are vital if you’re looking after someone who relies on their medication as it gets them through the day. More often than not, I’m constantly chasing up my mother’s doctor or pharmacist about receiving her medication before it runs out. I like to ensure I’ve got a full batch of her painkillers, Alzheimer’s prescription, and anything else my mother requires in case of an emergency.

More medication, more problems

As a caregiver, the most complicated part is the list of medication my mother requires on a regular basis. As years pass and her condition drastically changes her mobility, the list of her medication has grown! Doctors prescribe new medication almost every other month. It’s my job to keep up to date with it all, but at the end of the day, I’m only human, and some things can get left forgotten.

More lists are the last thing I need in my life. However, my mother’s medication is imperative to her life, which is why I’ve created a few tips to consider in order to manage medication effectively:

Pill Boxes
Pill boxes are a great little storage box to organize daily medication. Whether it’s taking medication during the day or at night, pill boxes are easily accessible and can be brought from your local pharmacy or supermarket.

Medication Alarms
A medication alarm can be great reminder when to give medication if you have thousands of errands to run daily. Although a little expensive, substitute a medication alarm with calendar alerts on your Smartphone.

In Sight, In Mind
Keep it visible to yourself. I’ve often found that when my mother needs her medication, I’m frantically searching for her painkillers in a bag full of other medication. Now, I’ve created her very own medicine cabinet which I have easy access to, but I make sure it’s out of reach from her for her own safety and protection. All medication should be stored in a cool, dry, secure place.

Use Your Daily Routine
Combine it with another daily task. Some medication requires to be taken with, or just after eating food. This is one of the most convenient times I have found to give my mom her medication. By combining it with another daily task, this leaves me more time to plan and complete other responsibilities.

These are just some general tips on how to manage medication. Of course, you have to take into consideration the different types of medication for the individual you are caring for. Keep topical medication away from oral medication. It’s important not to mix medication as this can lead to health related problems.

Medication can, and does, incorporate a more comfortable and better life for the individual. Not only does it prevent other medical problems, but it can contribute to longer life spans. Therefore, it is essential to handle and manage medication responsibly.

CareAcademy’s online class “Assisting with Personal Care” provides caregivers thorough direction
on how to manage medication for all types of patients.

Now registering!

Siddiqa Khalifa4 Tips to Manage Medication
Read More

Planning to Age Well: Age Planning & Caregivers

So you want to stay in the family home until you die? “Age Planning” will help you achieve this goal. We are all clear that savvy financial planning optimizes choices and promotes financial freedom. Today, let’s discuss “Age Planning,” which is designed to prepare your home and personal networks for the physical, mental, and social changes that occur with aging.

Why Should I Be Interested in Age Planning?

The process of age planning is best done with a professional who understands the social, housing , and medical challenges of aging. When done properly and in conjunction with your wealth manager, it is a powerful process that protects your autonomy throughout the aging process.

While research shows that those who create a personalized Age Plan are significantly more successful in living their older years according to their own wishes and values, many people put off making concrete plans and find themselves losing control of their living environment.

Over the years of running Living Well at Home, my team and I frequently meet people who have become frail and who did not make a plan for aging. Too often, these elder people’s homes and social environment have not been adapted to meet their changed needs, and instead of being a source of support, these environments have become a danger to the older person’s well being. Sometimes, people move out of their homes prematurely, because they did not understand their options.

How Do I Start an Aging Plan?

An Aging Plan starts with identifying your key values and desires for where and how you want to live when you are older. It also identifies the type of medical or social support you would want if your health declines or your family situation changes. Then, it reviews your current living environment and identifies how it can be adapted to support you as you age.

People’s choices for the location and type of living situation are highly personal. Some people look forward to selling their family home and moving to a home on the golf course. For others, staying at home is the only acceptable option. Some make the decision to move to a different country where US money has greater purchasing power, while being close to family and long term friends is essential for others.

Questions to Ask When Age Planning

More than 90% of Americans want to age in their own homes. For them, age planning includes looking at physical aspects of the home and seeing what can be adapted. For example, can doorways and halls be widened to accommodate a wheelchair? Can the beautiful 3-storied Victorian house with narrow staircases and long corridors be successfully modified for somebody with mobility problems? Can the kitchen be retrofitted to make cooking easier and safer? What can be done with the garden to make it easier to maintain and more accessible?

Location is important too.

Is the home well-situated for people who do not drive? How easy is it to get to medical care and to good hospitals? Is it located within walking distance to cultural or sporting events? What can be done to reduce the risk of potential isolation and loneliness?

What about technology?

Technology can be used to modify homes for different needs: “smart floors” adjust for people with balance problems, unobtrusive monitoring systems provide real time safety checks, and robots can provide personal care. Tele-medicine offers virtual access to doctors, social networks can overcome isolation, smart transport systems offer independent options that don’t depend on driving.

Understanding these options of “assisted living at home” enhances the flexibility of the Aging Plan.

Age Planning & Home Care

Most people aged over 75 need some sort of personal care. Whether it’s short term care while recovering from surgery or 24/7 support from caregivers who understand memory loss, the Aging Plan identifies the environment that makes you most comfortable when receiving care and the type of care that best suits your personality. Some people only feel safe knowing that their caregiver is a highly-trained-and-certified professional, while others prefer a more informal caregiving environment.

Financial Implications

Of course, these options have financial implications. Some support is covered by long-term care insurance, some annuities can be converted to pay for care, or reverse mortgages may be an option for some. An Aging Plan obviously must be based on the financial footing that is realistic for every individual.

Keeping an Aging Plan Flexible

Aging is not a static process. Your needs at 75 may be very different to those when you are 90. Widowhood and other personal losses can make you decide to seek social connection in a residential community. Sudden or chronic health changes can force changes in your personal care needs. Working out an aging plan in advance that addresses these potential challenges allows you to explore options and communicate your wishes.

It’s easy to put off age planning, and we cannot predict the future. But being proactive early on significantly increases the possibility of aging your own way in your own home.

  CareAcademy offers online classes for professional and family caregivers. Check out our updated class schedule!  

Doris BersingPlanning to Age Well: Age Planning & Caregivers
Read More

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
Read More

Seniors & Oral Health: A Caregiver’s Guide

Oral health is important throughout one’s life, and its importance in older adults is often not addressed. Older adults today are keeping their teeth longer, thanks to modern day dental medicine and using their dental insurances to visit dentists in their youth.  When age-related changes start to affect a patient’s teeth and gums, certain decisions need to be made regarding that individual’s dentition. Some common oral health related conditions found in the elderly are:
  • Dry mouth, which may be caused by certain medications. Talk to your physician to find out if this may be happening to you or your loved one, your dentist can present several solutions to this problem.
  • Disease related changes may include gum recession and decay along the roots of teeth.
  • Improper oral hygiene can lead to increased decay.
  • Advanced periodontal disease is associated with loosening of teeth, pain, and infection.
While it is important to visit the dentist every six months, a routine daily oral health care plan (brushing, tongue cleaning, cleaning between teeth using aids) performed twice daily is essential. Some elderly patients may be highly dependent on their care givers to perform daily oral health tasks. While most medical conditions are addressed early on, dental treatment is not always high on the priority list of geriatric care. In fact, it really needs to be. Often patients’ children or caregivers will ask me, “How do I know if I need to bring my chronically ill parent/patient to the dentist? If it’s worth the trip or if anything can really be done given their condition?” All of these are legitimate concerns, and there is no blanket reply as every situation is different. It is always a good idea to have a medical professional look inside the geriatric patient’s mouth every 4-6 months to note changes.

Warning Signs of Oral Health Issues

Some signs that can be easily evaluated by caregivers should raise red flags and need the attention of a dentist right away. That does not mean that all other signs must be ignored just because they are not on the following list. The list includes but is not limited to the following :
  • Very loose teeth that may fall off on their own causing the patient to swallow or aspirate them. They can get lodged in the patient’s throat, which is very dangerous. 
  • Sharp or broken teeth that can cause injury to the lips, cheek, or tongue. This is especially important if the patient is on blood thinners, as this can cause excessive bleeding.
  • Any swelling of lips, gums, and cheeks, or presence of white or yellow pus, is often indicative of an infection and must be treated right away.
  • Sharp or broken edges of dentures (complete or partial dentures) or hooks of dentures that do not engage any natural remaining tooth (in the case that the tooth has broken off). This may cause pain/ bleeding or lacerate supporting tissues of the oral cavity.
  • Difficulty chewing food and difficulty swallowing.
  • Any report of pain in the mouth.
  • Very small dentures that contain only one or two teeth should be removed from the mouth and evaluated.
All of these situations should to be addressed immediately by a dentist. An oral health appointment does not need to be long or tedious. Most dentists are well aware of the extensive medical conditions and chronic illness of their geriatric patients. However, it may be useful to inquire if the dentist has any experience working on medically-compromised older adults, or has received any additional training in geriatric dental medicine or special care dentistry. Dentists may also opt to make a house call in some special situations. As a caregiver, it is essential that daily oral health practices are followed to prevent unforeseen situations like those previously mentioned. It is while performing oral hygiene for the patient, that caregivers are most likely to notice changes in the oral cavity. It is also important to contact a dentist right away if any of the situations on the list arise, or in case of any doubt. Ignoring one’s teeth and oral health means ignoring one’s overall health. Studies have linked poor quality of life and poor nutritional intake to poor oral health among the elderly. Create an oral health plan for your loved one. Contact a dentist should you have any questions.  

Caring for an older adult involves many aspects of personal care. CareAcademy’s online classes involve safety precautions and tips to keep environments and clients healthy.

Kady RawalSeniors & Oral Health: A Caregiver’s Guide
Read More

Caregiver Tips: How to Calm Agitated Adults

Older adults with dementia (a disease that causes problems thinking and remembering) are frequently confused. Sometimes, this confusion becomes more problematic than usual, and the person with dementia can become agitated. This can be a frightening and stressful experience for both you and the elder! Today, we’ll go over some of the causes, and caregiver tips to help.

What do we mean by “agitation”?

Doctors often refer to agitation as “behavioral disturbance” – a change in the way the person is behaving into something that wouldn’t be considered part of normal emotions and reactions. “Agitation” can take a lot of different forms, including:
  • Crying uncontrollably
  • Cursing or yelling at people in everyday situations
  • Screaming the same words over and over again, such as “help me!”
  • Hitting, punching, slapping or scratching
  • Using a cane or walker as a weapon
Why does agitation happen? Agitation happens when the elder with dementia is in some kind of distress, but isn’t able to express themselves and fix their problems. In many ways, an agitated older adult is similar to a crying baby – there could be many reasons why, and it’s up to caregivers to figure out what’s wrong this time. In order to help stop the problem, it takes a little bit of detective work.  Physical problems. Agitation can be a result of:
  • Pain
  • Hunger
  • Thirst or dehydration
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation
  • Needing to urinate
Emotional problems. Agitation can also be an expression of:
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Feeling overwhelmed
Psychological problems. In some cases, older adults with dementia can experience problems with how their brains process what is happening in the world. This can include
  • Hallucinations – seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there
  • Delusions – believing things that aren’t true. Some examples include that their belongings have been stolen when they are still in the house, or that their family members are impostors.
If you think that the elder is having delusions or hallucinations, it’s important to discuss it with the person’s doctor.

Caregiver Tips: 4 Steps to Relieving Agitation

Step 1. Determine the pattern.

Tease out when, where, and under what circumstances the older adult becomes agitated. Some common examples include:
  • During bath time or with clothing changes
  • In noisy surroundings
  • Evening hours
  • When startled
It often helps to keep a log or journal of agitation, including what time it happened, what had been going on right beforehand, what the person was doing, what other nearby people were doing, and what kind of agitated behavior resulted. You might also include anything you tried to calm them down, and whether or not it worked.

Step 2. Think about what you already know.

Racking your brain for what you already know about the elder will help you put the agitation into context. Ask yourself:
  • What health problems does the elder have? Do they have had knee arthritis that might be causing them pain? Did they complain about constipation when they were younger? Is their eyesight very poor, and might they not be able to see someone who is standing to their side?
  • What were their habits? Was this person a night owl who always stayed up late, but now has to go to bed early because of the family’s schedule? Was this person a loner who never liked to be in large groups?
  • What did they like to do for fun? What would calm them down when they were upset as a younger and healthier person? Did they like to listen to music, spend time outdoors, or cuddle with a beloved pet?

Step 3. Ask more questions.

When the older person is agitated, try asking them what’s wrong. If you don’t get an answer, ask more specific questions, like:
  • Does anything hurt? If the answer is yes, but they can’t show you where, try gently pointing to different body parts that might hurt. Common spots include knees, back and belly.
  • Do you have to go to the bathroom?
  • Are you scared? You might follow this up with What are you scared of?
  • Do you want a glass of water?
  • Do you want your ______? Some favorite objects might include glasses, particular blanket, remote control, or book.

Step 4. Put 2 + 2 together.

The best caregiver tips I have to help stop agitation are for you to figure out what’s causing it, and to change that situation. Here are two examples. Example 1:  Donna always got upset and started crying whenever her daughter brought her to church, even though she had loved going every Sunday when she was younger. It was particularly bad when the organist started playing. Her daughter then tried having her watch church services on TV, and found that she really enjoyed these. She realized that Donna was overwhelmed by the crowds of people and loud noises. Her daughter started bringing her to the mid-week services on Wednesdays, which did not have any organ music and only a few attendees. Donna brightened up during these services every week. Example 2:  Walter would start howling and swinging every time his home health aide would try to give him a bath, particularly when she was getting him into the bathtub. His son looked through Walter’s medical records and noticed that his doctor had recommended getting a hip replacement for bad arthritis, but Walter never had it done. The home health aide and son realized that Walter’s hip probably hurt when he had to lift his leg to get into the tub. His son started giving him Tylenol an hour before scheduled baths, and Walter was much calmer.

Still stuck?

If you try these caregiver tips without any luck, it’s a good idea to get help from an expert. Some resources include:
  • The elder’s doctor. The doctor might make suggestions, change medications, or refer you to a specialist, such as a geriatrician, psychiatrist, or neurologist.
  • A geriatric care manager. These are usually nurses or social workers who specialize in caring for older adults.
  • Support groups of other caregivers. The Alzheimer’s Association runs many of these all over the United States.
 

Learn more caregiver tips from professionals. Online classes for caregivers of any experience level: CareAcademy

 
Laura PerryCaregiver Tips: How to Calm Agitated Adults
Read More

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.
Read More