Things Change: What to Do When Your Senior Loved One Stops Doing Things They Love

Things Change: What to Do When Your Senior Loved One Stops Doing Things They Love

It’s unsettling when your dad stops doing the things he loves. His favorite activities don’t just make him happy; they keep him physically, mentally and socially active, which can have substantial health benefits for isolated seniors. When Dad stops doing the things he loves, not only is he losing these benefits, he may also be showing signs of deeper problems.

It’s important to be very aware of changes to your loved one’s daily life so that when you notice that he’s stopped doing the things he loves, you can quickly react by either scheduling medical follow up, or investigating additional care for Dad at the house. Because as you’ll discover, it is critical they he remains active.

Benefits of Physical Activity

If your loved one always enjoyed exercise, then it’s essential to stress physical activity. Staying physically active can help slow the inevitable muscle atrophy experienced by older people. This can reduce a senior’s chance of falling, and the worrying health risks that accompany falls. Physical activity can also:

  • Increase life expectancy
  • Reduce blood pressure
  • Reduce the risk of medical problems including heart disease and cancer
  • Maintain healthy joints
  • Improve mood and reduce anxiety

If seniors stay mobile longer, this can help them remain socially active and avoid isolation and depression.

Benefits of Mental Activity

Keeping your loved one’s mind active can be just as beneficial. Staying mentally active can delay mental decline, including slowing the advancement of dementia and Alzheimer’s. The National Institute on Aging says that mental stimulation builds “cognitive reserve” which helps the brain to cope with the changes that aging brings, as well as making seniors feel “happier and healthier.” The benefits are not just seen while the senior is carrying out the mental activity. Studies by the University of Florida showed that seniors who were mentally active showed “long-lasting improvements in memory, reasoning and speed of processing” over five years after the period of activity.

Benefits of Socializing

As well as the mental and physical benefits of their favorite activities, seniors may also be socializing while they walk with a group or play chess, for example. Socializing has also been shown to slow cognitive decline. Seniors who are frequently socially active are 70 percent less likely to decline cognitively.

If your dad has stopped participating in his favorite diversions, what could be causing his lack of interest? There are a few possibilities.

Depression

Seniors are more prone to depression than the general population. The National Alliance on Mental Illness says more than six million American seniors live with depression. Only 10 percent of seniors with depression receive treatment and the symptoms of depression are often confused with signs of mental decline. Seniors have lower serotonin levels, which makes it harder to balance moods. Sometimes, they can be isolated and lonely, which can also be a cause of depression.

The Mayo Clinic names loss of interest in hobbies as a symptom of depression, and other symptoms include:

  • Feelings of sadness
  • Emotional outbursts
  • Sleep problems
  • Lower appetite and weight loss
  • Anxiety
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Suicidal tendencies

If your loved one exhibits these symptoms on top of withdrawing from their favorite activities, you should seek medical advice.

Physical Problems

Your loved one might also be shying away from favorite activities because he is physically less able to participate. From cycling to chess, disruptive physical conditions like arthritis can make any activity challenging. A decline in eyesight only enhances the problem. Some symptoms of physical decline in seniors, according to the Mayo Clinic include:

  • Loss of mobility
  • Loss of dexterity
  • Worsening vision
  • Joint problems
  • Weakened bones more likely to break
  • Loss of coordination
  • Bladder issues

Even if your senior is still relatively active, the University of Alabama recommends asking two questions that can help show if a senior is losing mobility: Do you have difficulty climbing 10 steps or walking a quarter of a mile, or have you modified the way you climb 10 steps or walk a quarter of a mile? If the answer to either is yes, your loved one should consider consulting a physician.

Mental Decline

Symptoms of declining mental faculties range from the usual things that everyone experiences, like forgetting a name of an acquaintance or misplacing your wallet, to more severe types of dementia like Alzheimer’s or Lewy body. As with physical limitations, mental decline could be causing your senior to withdraw from things like puzzles or cards. Symptoms of declining mental faculties include:

  • Forgetting things more often, especially important events
  • Losing the train of thought
  • Being overwhelmed by decisions
  • Having trouble with directions in familiar environments
  • Showing poor judgment
  • Becoming withdrawn

If your loved one is showing any of these symptoms along with withdrawing from his favorite hobbies, you should seek medical advice.

How to Help

As discussed, your loved one’s favorite hobbies are brimming with benefits, so ensuring he can continue doing these things to the best of his abilities is essential.

Professional home care may be one way to help. Professional caregivers can help remove the barriers between his favorite hobbies and his evolving needs. They can offer vital companionship and support in battling depression. Professional caregivers can physically help him by accompanying him on walks, dealing cards or by helping him fill in his crossword puzzle. They can also help him exercise to prevent further decline and keep doing the things he loves into the future. If the barriers to participation are mental, professional caregivers could offer something as simple as conversation, a friend to speak with when no family is available.

And if your loved one’s lack of interest in his favorite things is a symptom of more significant issues, consider experienced caregiving to manage his condition, keep him as independent as possible, and hopefully facilitate doing the things he loves for many years to come.

How Home Care Changes for Loved Ones Following a Stroke

How Home Care Changes for Loved Ones Following a Stroke

After surviving a stroke, your elderly loved one has a different set of care priorities. Maybe your mom or dad has lost mobility after being partially paralyzed, and the need for your assistance has spiked considerably. At first, perhaps you were only needed for basic needs like grocery shopping. But after a stroke, your aging senior requires more intensive support. He or she may need help with personal care like bathing and grooming. And as you manage your own household and career, caring for Mom or Dad can quickly get out of hand.

Care for a Stroke Survivor

In a healthy brain, blood flow delivers oxygen to its cells. But during a stroke, the brain’s blood supply gets temporarily cut off. The shutdown causes vital brain cells to die. The brain damage leads to loss of control over memory and muscle movements.

Your elderly stroke survivor faces many physical and mental challenges. Depending on the severity of the brain damage, your loved one will have minor to significant mobility and cognitive issues. Immediately after a stroke, the survivor may endure:

  • weakness in an arm or leg
  • memory loss
  • partial paralysis of the face
  • difficulty or loss of ability to speak
  • paralysis to one side of the body

Be prepared to provide extensive care for your recovering loved one. Care in the aftermath of stroke can quickly become much harder than you think. You will have to plan the logistics for your senior’s basic routines. The stroke survivor may need help with everyday activity: showering, dressing, eating, bathroom breaks, basic communication. He or she quickly becomes utterly dependent on you. Meantime, as difficult as it may be, you must be prepared should your elderly loved one remain permanently impaired.

“Some people recover completely from strokes, but more than 2/3 of survivors will have some type of disability,” according to the National Stroke Association.

One family caregiver won’t be enough to take care of the stroke survivor in the long-term. After a stroke, your loved one needs a care plan that’s sustainable, because burnout can interfere with your own life. TheNational Center on Caregiving states: “…most caregivers are ill-prepared for their role and provide care with little or no support, yet more than one-third of caregivers continue to provide intense care to others while suffering from poor health themselves.”

You Must Reduce the Chance of Hospital Readmission

The first month after hospital discharge is critical. It’s time to focus on stabilization, so your loved one doesn’t go back. “Among seniors on Medicare, roughly 20 percent of discharged patients end up back in the hospital within 30 days of being sent home. Elderly adults have a much lower chance of recovery if they are re-hospitalized in this 30-day window, which is why reducing hospital readmissions is so important.”

Your elderly loved one wants to stay in the comfort of the home and age in place, but the road to recovery can be daunting. Because of the physical changes that occur in the brain after a stroke, survivors may experience increased levels of anxiety, anger and depression. And you may not be equipped to deal with the intense negative emotions afflicting your stroke survivor, making an already difficult task much harder.

When the responsibility for your loved one has fallen on your shoulders, there are essential things you should know:

The care decisions you make for your elderly loved one will determine the trajectory of the healing process. But what’s most important here is the grim reality. When your senior loved one has a stroke, the need for constant care can radically intensify.

Help to Prevent Another Stroke

When your loved one has suffered a stroke, professional home care service can be an enormous help. A professional caregiver can fill in the gaps for daily personal care. Without hygiene assistance, your senior stroke survivor may remain less able to bathe or get dressed properly. But a trained professional has the skills to restore dignity to daily self-care for your recovering senior.

“Home care complements existing health care services, alleviating pressure on the overall system, allowing more traditional models of care to work and do what they do best,” according to a joint report by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging.

If your elderly loved one has a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure, a professional caregiver can actively monitor the illness. With proper monitoring, the senior stroke survivor can eat healthier meals and drinks, take necessary medication and perform light exercises if possible. These efforts directly help prevent another stroke, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Should the stroke survivor show symptoms of a health issue, you will be promptly notified. The professional caregiver performs only non-medical duties; however, the skilled assistant can be the first to notice signs that something is wrong and call for help. It’s peace of mind you can’t get any other way, especially considering the heightened difficulty of your loved one’s care.

The help a home care provider offers goes beyond physical tasks, too. For example, after a stroke, your elderly loved one may have more difficulty speaking because of facial paralysis. During this time, it’s helpful to show the stroke survivor ways to stay connected. An experienced caregiver can practice online social skills with your senior to help him stay connected.

Now that you know the benefits of a professional caregiver, it’s time to share with your elderly loved one. And if you feel worried that he or she may resist outside help, don’t get discouraged. Start off with an open, casual discussion. Click here for some useful conversation starters.

Chinks in the Armor: Mom’s Not the Same

Chinks in the Armor: Mom’s Not the Same

You’re noticing changes in Mom, and you can’t dismiss them any longer. Her memory is often slipping, but it’s tough to face a new reality. Mom has long been the strong family guardian, an unflappable leader. She always takes care of everyone. Now roles may be reversing, and she needs a reliable helper to navigate daily life safely.

Examples of mental decline and dementia may include:

  • Regularly losing items like keys or cellphone
  • Getting lost while driving in the neighborhood
  • Wandering outside due to confusion
  • Losing visual and spatial judgment

These dangerous scenarios put your elderly loved one in a vulnerable position. Her safety is at risk. When Mom faces these situations, it’s dangerous for her to be alone. When this inevitably happens, quality home care service can offer dedicated assistance.

Home Care Supports Sandwich Generation

As the person playing the role of family caregiver, you’ve been devoted to helping Mom, but you must have a care plan before Mom’s mental faculties decline any further. It’s also unrealistic to expect full-time devotion to her when you’re juggling work and your own home.

Plan for Mom’s care to protect your emotional and financial reserves. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, “Sixty-seven percent of family caregivers report conflicts between caregiving and employment, resulting in reduced work hours or unpaid leave.” Like many households, you cannot afford to miss or leave work when the family relies on your income.

Your role in the sandwich generation naturally leads to more stress. “Family caregivers of people with dementia are more likely to develop mental health problems such as major depression and anxiety disorders,” according to Alzheimer’s Disease International . “Female caregivers report overall higher levels of burden, stress and depressive symptoms than male caregivers…”

Caregiving is a difficult undertaking, especially for a parent exhibiting early symptoms of dementia . A frustrating situation can rapidly lead to burnout. Instead, consider a home care provider that offersdementia care or Alzheimer’s care on a routine basis. An experienced caregiver will provide a range of services like preparing meals, running errands and monitoring Mom’s health. Her dependable care, which allows her to remain in her home, can be a solid foundation during a turbulent period of change.

Dementia is Challenging to Pinpoint

A new case of dementia develops every 3.2 seconds around the globe, but most of the elderly endure the illness without proper medical attention.

Per Alzheimer’s Disease International:

“Research shows that most people currently living with dementia have not received a formal diagnosis. In high-income countries, only 20-50 percent of dementia cases are recognized and documented in primary care. If these statistics are extrapolated to a global scale, it suggests that approximately three-quarters of people with dementia have not received a diagnosis, and therefore do not have access to treatment, care and organized support that getting a formal diagnosis can provide.”

Prepare for Mom’s Resistance

Get proactive. Suggest Mom seeks a full-medical evaluation for dementia and Alzheimer’s. In the meantime, be prepared for Mom to object.

“For women who develop dementia, it can be difficult for themselves and others to accept the change in their role and identity. The shift from being the main caregiver within the family to the one now needing care is a profound one that is often resisted,” according to the ADI study, Women and Dementia.

Mom may endure a period of strong denial. She may dismiss a discussion about possible dementia as a sign of weakness, but this is the time to rally your family and extended loved ones. A family’s consensus can be pivotal when discussing options or your aging mother. With persistent and casual conversations, she may become more open to the idea.

Also, if Mom can take an active role in selecting her caregiver, she may experience a more significant measure of autonomy. A good provider will always look for a personality match, and Mom can be an excellent barometer. A successful match will encourage Mom not only to live safely, but also be more interactive during the hours with the home care provider.

Effective Assistance for Mom

Mom may not notice, but others will if she starts to show signs of self-neglect. Grooming and dressing habits can rapidly become chores because of Mom’s waning mental faculties. A professional caregiver will help keep Mom comfortable and presentable. This new relationship can have a significant impact on Mom. Emotional and social needs are critical during this challenging time. The social interaction will help keep Mom engaged and more alert.

Once the home care service begins, you can expect care to be tailored to Mom’s evolving needs. As these needs progress, the list of services may expand or change. An experienced caregiver can detect initial warning signs of health problems and promptly report them.

Things are changing, and change may become the only constant. She’s not the same head-of-house you remember. And she’s going to need help. And you may not be prepared to assume this enormous responsibility.

As Mom’s needs evolve, protecting her from dangerous pitfalls around the home will become increasingly important. Click here to learn more about effective fall prevention.

How Respite Care Saved Me From Burnout

How Respite Care Saved Me From Burnout

Imagine being pushed into a crowd of marathon runners with no running shoes or gear, no pre-training to fall back on, no one cheering you on from the sidelines with power bars and bottles of cold water. Also, you don’t know when you’ll cross the finish line. All you know is that you’ll be exhausted when you get there.

Caregiving can feel like a marathon. It’s an experience that most are thrust into without warning, and with virtually no training. You often feel unprepared for what’s next. Good cheerleaders are hard to find. But you get into a stride, you adapt, and you keep running until you need a rest. And that’s when necessary respite care can be a lifesaver.

Finding Moments of Rest

Providing care for a loved one is a journey. You grow and learn as you go, but one of the most important things a caregiver can learn early on is to avoid dangerous burnout with respite. Know that when providing care, you should do daily self-care rituals like journaling, drinking a cup of tea, or taking a five-minute walk outside to refresh your body, soul and mind. But you also need time to completely remove yourself from the race and rest for an extended period — or as Denise Brown, family caregiver and founder of Caregiving.com puts it, “a few moments.”

“My parents were both critically ill throughout 2015, with the summer months proving to be the most intense,” Brown recalls. But there were a host of reasons that made taking time off feel impossible for the small business owner, so she had to be creative. “I couldn’t leave town, but I could take a break by going to my community pool to simply float,” she says.

Brown looks back now at the summer of 2015 as “the summer of the pool.” She kept her swimming bag in her car so she could head to the pool whenever she had a few minutes. “And that’s all I needed: a few moments to float back and forth, and back and forth,” says Brown. “Floating in the water while kids played reminded me that life continues and I will too.”

Finding Strength for the Long Haul

Cathy Jones Parks and her husband care around the clock “on high alert 24/7” for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s.

“Without the breaks, which allow us to turn off the ‘high alert’ mode for brief periods, we would be emotionally and physically exhausted to the point where we are not functioning well,” says Jones Parks. “In addition, we need the respite time to take care of our personal lives.”

Jones Parks currently relies on family members for respite now, but she is actively investigating community options. “Respite allows us to continue to ‘be us’ and to build our strength so that we can effectively care for my mom for the intensive 24/7 periods,” she says.

Readying Yourself for Respite

Lillian Lake was already a seasoned caregiver when she relocated to a different state to care for an older cousin with whom she had a lifelong friendship. And even though she only cared for Betty for four months (a commitment that was initially supposed to be two weeks), she made respite a priority.

“I had three opportunities for respite care during that time,” says Lake. “These [day trips] were only 24 hours apiece, but without them, I would have had a much more difficult time remaining in a state of gratitude and calmness, and have the energy required to take care of someone 24 hours a day with no outside help other than hospice twice a week and a CNA who came twice a week.”

Lake says these day visits kept her grounded. “I was able to feel that while I was more than willing to care for Betty, I was staying true to myself and my own needs while remaining in unfamiliar surroundings with unfamiliar people.”

Finding and scheduling respite wasn’t without its challenges, even for the experienced Lake. “I didn’t have an issue with understanding my need for respite, but it was still hard to stand my ground and demand commitment from the ones who would be taking my place,” she explains. “I had to have what seemed like long, exhausting conversations about Betty’s condition, write out exactly how meds were to be given and under what circumstances, and leave a trail of breadcrumbs in case I was needed — as well as make the arrangements for my time away.”

For the caregiver who doesn’t feel ready for respite, Lake understands the hesitation. “Respite is tricky,” she says. “While you’re absent, you truly have to put your mind and heart in a state of suspension and yet, be ready.”

But Lake also believes that’s the beauty of respite — and of caregiving too. “After all, isn’t that what caregiving is? Holding space for love in the relationship, even when you’d like to be doing something else.”

Balancing Life Better with a Professional Caregiver

As each caregiver’s journey is unique, so will her experience be with respite. What each caregiver needs to refuel during her marathon is different, but one truth remains genuinely universal: you must take time away from caregiving to focus on your life as a wife, a mother, an employee, a friend. You can’t be a devoted wife, mother, employee, friend and a 24/7 caregiver without help.

Something has to give: and if you can lean on an experienced professional caregiver for respite, you can better fulfill your responsibilities to your loved one who is depending on you. And as you lighten your caregiving load, whether for a few moments or 24-hour increments, you can breathe more deeply and step back into your role refreshed and ready, not resentful, and not burnt out.

Find out how partnering with a professional caregiver makes a lifesaving difference, as it did for the five women in this story about how respite eased their caregiving stress.

Clutter: An Initial Sign Your Senior Needs a Professional Caregiver

Clutter: An Initial Sign Your Senior Needs a Professional Caregiver

Clutter can be one of the first signs that your loved one needs help. When you visit your mom, who normally has the house in near-mint condition, and the house looks unkempt, you know something’s off. You may have to play detective and interpret the clues. Seniors don’t always ask for the help they need, so you can’t wait for her to make the first move. If you think she’s struggling, it might be time to consider whether she needs some more help.

The Impact of Clutter

Clutter poses a significant risk to aging seniors living alone at home. The statistics are no surprise by now. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries in American seniors. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that more than one in four seniors will fall each year, with 2.8 million emergency room visits occurring as a result. Two years ago, the total financial impact of senior falls was over $50 billion. Medicare and Medicaid paid 75 percent of these costs.

Falls lead to severe injuries, like hip fractures, broken bones and brain injuries. They can also cause depression and isolation. The National Institute on Aging (NIA) says that the fear of falling often prevents seniors from leaving the house to socialize. If your senior falls once, the risk of future falls double, and the possible health complications increase with each fall.

Seniors often have underlying health issues that can make them more prone to falling and make potential injuries more serious. When you consider poor eyesight, a misplaced item on the floor in a walkway can become a big issue.

Clutter is problematic and could be a sign of underlying health problems.

Physical Factors

Clutter can be a sign that your mom isn’t able to keep on top of day-to-day housework anymore. If dishes are piling up in the sink, it may be a matter of ability instead of motivation. Your parents may be reaching an age where their muscles and skeleton weaken; an occurrence called sarcopenia. Conditions like arthritis, a painful joint inflammation, are also more common in seniors and can affect dexterity. Often, seniors can be too proud to ask for help, or in denial that they need help. This may be because they don’t want to be a burden on family or friends, or because they fear that a change in routine might lead to a loss of privacy and independence.

Forgetfulness

It may be that clutter is a sign that your loved one’s faculties are diminishing. If your mom is missing steps in her usual daily routine, like forgetting to vacuum or clear up after dinner, it could be an early sign of dementia. Loss of initiative can manifest itself in ways like forgetting housework, not carrying out basic personal hygiene or forgetting to pay bills, can be tell-tale signs. We all forget things, misplace car keys or mix up names, but regular occurrences, particularly in an older person, could be a warning, especially if any of these other issues, like problems communicating, are also evident. If you suspect your loved one is exhibiting signs of dementia, contact her physician.

Depression

A decline in the cleanliness of your loved one’s home could also be due to depression or mental fatigue. Over six million American seniors live with depression. Seniors are at more risk of depression for many reasons. As they age, they don’t produce the same levels of chemicals like serotonin that help balance moods. Physical problems, like loss of mobility, can cause them to become isolated and loneliness can be a prime cause of depression. Boredom can be a factor and seniors also face many issues that can be upsetting, like the loss of friends and loved ones, and facing their own mortality.

As with dementia, if a general malaise and lack of effort around the home is accompanied by other signs of depression, like weight loss, sudden mood changes and trouble sleeping, it may be wise to contact a medical professional.

How to Help

Maybe friends and family could help your loved with housework if needed, but remember, this may be a long-term commitment. Of course, you can pick up after your loved one, but that may not address the underlying causes of the clutter in your loved one’s home.

A professional caregiver can help your mom with housework, either by carrying out tasks that she physically can’t manage or by offering gentle reminders of the tasks still to be done if she is determined to do them herself. If your loved one is determined to live at home as mental faculties wane, professional home care can see to it.

And if the clutter in your loved one’s home does become evidence of a deeper problem, a professional caregiver can help with those conditions, too. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, a caregiver can help her keep up with her daily routine and also offer stimulation to help to slow the advance of the disease, while watching for signs of the condition deteriorating. If your loved one is depressed, a professional caregiver can help her to be active and to socialize, either by offering companionship or by enabling interaction with her peers.

Whatever the reason for the clutter in your loved one’s home, the time to act on it is now. It may be indicative of underlying problems that must be addressed.

Discover more risks posed by clutter by clicking here and learning how to fall-proof an elderly loved one’s home.

Social Isolation: The Severity of the Problem

Social Isolation: The Severity of the Problem

A recent article in The Chicago Tribune estimated that one-in-four seniors, or 19 million people, are or could become socially isolated. Isolation can lead to depression, mental and physical health issues and even mortality. Visits from friends and family could help prevent isolation, but in many cases, professional home care may be a better option.

Seniors are at a point in their lives where friends may be passing. Health issues can make it difficult for them to get around, so even if your loved one has many friends, it can be challenging for them to get together. Even if friends and family visit often, increasing numbers of seniors live alone and are thus in solitude at the end of the day.

Thirty-three percent of people over 65 and half of seniors over 85 years old live alone. Not every senior who lives alone is lonely, but as more and more seniors live by themselves, more and more identify as being lonely. In 1980, 20 percent of seniors identified as lonely. Now that figure is 40 percent.

Seniors can also become isolated, even when living with another person. Even a family member playing the role of caregiver, in particular, can be at risk of becoming isolated. If your mom is your dad’s primary caregiver and spends most of her day looking after him, she’s not doing the other things that she enjoys. Things like spending time with friends or other members of the family, passing the time with her favorite hobbies, attending social outings or even just getting out of the house to the hairdresser are still essential activities your mom needs in her life.

Isolation in seniors can cause severe health issues:

1. Depression

One major problem that can be brought on by isolation is depression. An estimated 21 percent of American seniors suffer a depressive episode each year. Over six million seniors are estimated to be living with depression and only 10 percent of them receive treatment. Studies show “a significant relationship between depression and loneliness.” Depression brings a host of physical side effects including:

    • Increased stress
    • Lower appetite

Disturbed sleep

  • Cardiovascular problems
  • Muscle atrophy
  • Decreased bone density

Also, look out for these signs of depression in your loved one:

  • Irritability
  • Signs of anger, anxiety or guilt
  • Loss of interest in favorite hobbies
  • Neglect of personal hygiene
  • Neglect of household chores
  • Weight loss
  • Social withdrawal

If you believe your loved one may be depressed, talk to a medical professional.

2. Physical Problems

Isolated seniors are also at higher risk of medical problems. One recent study showed that isolated seniors were 29 percent more likely to develop congenital heart disease and 32 percent more likely to suffer a stroke. Isolation also disrupts sleep patterns, lowers immune systems and increases stress. Seniors with frequent social activity are 33 percent less likely to lose motor ability and 43 percent less likely to become disabled.

3. Mental Decline

It’s also been shown that a healthy social life can help to slow cognitive decline. Seniors who are frequently socially active are 70 percent less likely to suffer a reduction in their cognitive abilities. They may be 40 percent less likely to develop dementia. Another study in the Netherlands found that socially isolated seniors were at a higher risk, with a 64 percent greater risk of dementia.

4. Mortality

Loneliness and social isolation have also been identified as a possible factor in early mortality. One study showed that socially isolated individuals were 29 percent more likely to die than those with more relationships. Another study claims that both social isolation and loneliness are factors in increased mortality rates for those aged 52 and over.

Solutions

According to the US Census Bureau, the average person moves 11.5 times in their life and one-in-four Americans has moved city or state in the last five years. With an increase in geographic mobility, the chance of families living close enough to drop in on loved ones multiple times a week is much lower.

Local senior centers could also be an option for social interaction and might offer classes which can encourage your loved one to stay mentally active. But the ability to attend will depend on your loved one’s physical condition: Health issues might make it an impractical solution.

Professional home care could also be an option. For seniors who are becoming isolated, companion care may be an ideal solution. In companion care, a professional caregiver will visit your loved one as little or as often as is required. The caregiver will offer company, compassion, conversation and reassurance. A caregiver might help your loved one with light tasks around the home, with meal preparation or give assistance to do the things he or she likes to do, like go for a gentle walk or play cards. A companion caregiver could be a lifeline to a senior whose family aren’t able to visit very often, and who isn’t able to get out and about as much as he or she did in the past.

And if you or a loved one is becoming isolated because of caregiving responsibilities, respite care could help you or this person reclaim some normalcy. In respite care, a professional caregiver will visit and let you take time away from the daily grind of caregiving. If your mom takes care of your dad, a caregiver will sit with Dad in their home while Mom runs errands, visits friends, goes to the hairdresser or even just takes some well-deserved time to herself. Best of all, while the caregiver is with her husband, Mom knows he is in good hands and is free of the guilt that comes with leaving her husband to look after herself. And your Dad will benefit too, as he increases his social connections, spending time with someone other than your mom.

It’s imperative that seniors stay social as the adverse effects of isolation on health can be severe. Encourage your senior to make connections and consider professional care if you are worried that your loved one isn’t getting the social stimulation he or she badly needs.

Could connecting online help your loved one to stay social? This article offers some useful ideas.

Part 2: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

Part 2: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Alzheimer’s

This is article number two of a three-part series featuring direct advice from an experienced, tenured home care administrator. Be sure to check out parts one and three for specific care information for loved ones with dementia or Lewis body.

Alzheimer’s disease is a disease that affects the brain and is the most common form of dementia. In Alzheimer’s, proteins form in the brain, which stop new neural connections from being made and significantly disrupts short-term memory. It is a progressive disease that will only get more difficult to manage. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s, although there are many ways to help a senior with the disease live more comfortably and independently for as long as possible.

Debra Desrosiers has spent over 14 years in the home care industry. She is a certified trainer and consultant in dementia and Alzheimer’s issues, and has volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association for over a decade. She advises these seven ways to help a loved one with Alzheimer’s:

1. Talk to Your Loved One’s Doctor

Alzheimer’s is not a simple diagnosis. There are so many types of dementia, and it’s vital you know the kind your loved one has. “Tell a doctor the signs you’ve seen,” advises Ms. Desrosiers. “Ask her what the warning signs are that you should be looking out for. Ask the doctor whether she can rule out other possible causes of your loved one’s symptoms, such as depression or reversible forms of dementia. Ask if it’s appropriate for your loved one to see a neurologist or geriatric brain specialist.”

2. Leave Visual Clues

As your loved one’s memory wanes, day-to-day life will get more difficult, but she should be able to live independently for a long time. Leaving visual clues around the house, such as post-it notes, can help jog your loved one’s memory. “I have one client whose house is covered in post-it notes to help her to remember where things are and what things she needs to do,” says Ms. Desrosiers. “She has a notebook where she writes down anything important that happens to her, like medical changes. She goes through the notebook every day to remind herself of things that are happening in her life.”

3. Make Things Easy for Your Loved One

Debra adds that gentle reminders will help her not to forget important tasks. “A medical planner with an alarm that goes off when it’s time take a pill can help her to remember her medication. There are lots of devices available online that can help people with Alzheimer’s carry out their day-to-day routine.”

4. Challenge Your Loved One

Keeping your loved one’s mind active helps to slow the advance of the disease. “If Mom’s sitting watching TV all day, the connections in the brain are dying faster,” says Debra. “It helps to plan out different activities throughout the day, like brushing their teeth and getting dressed. This may not seem like much but working through the routine is keeping the mind active.” Sometimes your loved one may skip steps, so it can help to have someone around while she is doing the task. “Engage your loved one in discussions, visit an art museum, play hangman or a word game. If your loved one is using her brain, it’s helping her.”

5. Help Your Loved One Learn New Things

Learning new activities can be the ultimate challenge for seniors mentally. When your loved one is learning, she is forming new connections in the brain, which is helping to keep the brain active and fending off further deterioration. “Pretty much anyone can learn to paint,” adds Debra. “It keeps the mind active and creating something usually gives a huge boost to the self-esteem, which can be so important because seniors can start to feel like they aren’t useful or productive.”

6. Help Your Loved One Stay Physically Active

A lack of activity can lead to problems for other family members, reminds Debra. “When seniors aren’t active they tend to sleep more throughout the day and then they wake up and are active through the night. This can be very hard for family caregivers, who then have to disturb their own sleep to settle their loved one, which leaves them exhausted and leads to caregiver fatigue. If your loved one is active through the day, she should sleep better at night”.

7. Consider a Professional Caregiver

A professional caregiver can help you keep your loved one with Alzheimer’s independent and happy for as long as possible. A care provider can help to match you up with a caregiver who has experience working with seniors with Alzheimer’s and who knows what your loved one‘s needs, as well as potential warning signs of deterioration.

This professional can offer your loved one help with tasks around the home and provide support in carrying out her daily routine. This person offers companionship and will happily engage your loved one to help to stimulate her mind, whether that is by playing games, helping with a new or old hobby, or just conversing with your senior. The caregiver can accompany your loved one on walks, to make sure she is physically active but at the same time be watching out for any fall risks which might arise.

Perhaps most importantly, a professional caregiver can give you and the rest of your family a break from worrying, since you know that while the caregiver is with your loved one, she is in great hands.

For more information on how a professional caregiver can support a loved one with Alzheimer’s, click here.

Music Therapy and How It Can Help Your Senior Loved One

Music Therapy and How It Can Help Your Senior Loved One

As our loved ones age, it is critical they remain mentally active, and there are numerous outlets they have at their disposal. From daily crossword puzzles and Sudoku, fun apps like Pokémon Go, or an engaging friendship, keeping the brain active has many solutions. And a new type of therapy is growing in popularity.

Music therapy is what’s considered a creative arts therapy, and it’s being utilized more frequently. Brooke Christensen holds a Bachelor’s degree in music and choral music education from Christopher Newport University. She hosts a music therapy session group for seniors and says it offers a host of benefits. Brooke recalls how it helped one woman in particular significantly improve her communication among her group. “The group attendants noticed a marked difference from a woman who was previously shy and unengaged.” “Through music, the group started talking to her in rhythm. The woman would be tapping something out, and that was her way of communicating. It was [like] something we were doing in the [music] group,” said Christensen, who currently serves as a director of home care on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

The proof goes beyond anecdotal. After studying the impact music therapy had on seniors, researchers concluded a net positive. Music’s impact may help fight against dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some classical music may calm anxiety. According to a 2017 published study, Music therapy and Alzheimer’s disease: Cognitive, psychological, and behavioral effects:

“Significant improvement was observed in memory, orientation, depression and anxiety…in both mild and moderate cases; in anxiety…in mild cases; and in delirium, hallucinations, agitation, irritability, and language disorders in the group with moderate Alzheimer disease. The effect on cognitive measures was appreciable after only four music therapy sessions.”

Accessing Music Therapy

Introducing music therapy into Mom or Dad’s daily routine is easy but requires your availability. You may consider professional in-home assistance when you’re busy with family and work. If you think your loved one would enjoy the benefits of music therapy, consider asking your home care provider for a specifically trained companion who can increase musical activities inside the home and accompany your loved one to music therapy group sessions. Community centers, churches and senior centers are resources for regular senior music groups. During the holidays, look for musical performances.

Music Therapy Puts the Elderly in a Social Group

Brooke has been conducting music therapy inside private homes, churches, senior centers and assisted living centers for several years now. She appreciates the intergenerational interactions during the sessions. Christensen credits her drum circles with increasing the wellbeing of senior participants. Her drum circles include a variety of percussion and wooden instruments or “strikers and shakers,” as she described them. She would hand out the instruments to each member. Following Christensen’s lead, the seniors would be encouraged to play in unison to a rhythm. The elderly interact with each other through a variety of sounds from the Djembe drum, wooden froger, maracas and tambourines.

“You’ve got memory improvement, increased socialization, lowered blood pressure,” Christensen added on the health benefits of music therapy. “We have several of our clients — as soon as they hear this song, it calms them down. This is behavior management. It’s that part of the brain; it might remind them of somebody or something.”

Interactive Sing-Alongs Exercise Proper Breathing

Christensen also leads group sing-alongs for the elderly. The songs can be traditional, holiday classics or nostalgia-inducing patriotic songs. “There are many seniors who just don’t say very much. They don’t have a lot of people to talk to. This is an opportunity to hear themselves, an opportunity to be heard.”

Singing or humming exercises the mind and body. “So often, we don’t think about [the fact] that we are not using our voice properly. We’re not breathing, we’re not connecting our whole body. Music helps us remember how to breathe,” said Christensen.

According to a 2017 published study, Music therapy is a potential intervention for cognition of Alzheimer’s Disease: a mini-review: “[Music Therapy] with singing training could improve the neural efficacy of cognition in [Alzheimer’s Disease] patients. Which also reflected that music might play an important role in the neuroplasticity mechanism in AD brain…”

A Shot of Self-Esteem

Music therapy provides your elderly loved one with a strong sense of connectedness. Christensen said the positive attention makes seniors feel more valued.

“You see this smile, and you see this recognition, ‘Oh you see me.’ Often times, seniors feel like a burden or abandoned. [Music therapy sends a message.] I’m seeing and hearing you, and we’re doing this together,” she said.

Your elderly loved one can live a more engaged life with music therapy. Meantime, aging seniors strongly desire to stay inside their homes. A familiar domestic environment is a significant part of a senior’s identity. According to a joint report by the Home Care Association of America and Global Coalition on Aging: “Nine out of 10 Americans 65 and older want to stay at home for as long as possible, and 80 percent think their current home is where they will always live.”

Consider adding music therapy to your loved one’s routine, and allow them to enjoy its soothing benefits. Keeping the brain active is critical to maintaining your loved one’s health and could potentially prolong your senior’s life inside the home. Read more on the benefits of aging in place.

Part 1: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

Part 1: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Dementia

This is the first of a three-part series featuring direct advice from an experienced, tenured home care administrator. Be sure to check out parts two and three for specific care information for loved ones with Alzheimer’s or Lewis body.

A dementia diagnosis for a loved one can change everything. From your vantage, there are a lot of new terms to learn and it can be overwhelming. But you’re not alone; people deal with this diagnosis every day and there is a wealth of information available on how you can best help your loved one. These helpful tips from an experienced professional caregiver are only the beginning.

Debra Desrosiers has been in the home care industry for over 14 years. She is a certified trainer and consultant in dementia and Alzheimer’s issues, and has volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association for more than a decade.

1. Check the Diagnosis

When your loved one’s doctor tells you that he or she has dementia, it can be easy to feel depressed over the diagnosis. Tell the doctor the exact symptoms and ask her to rule out other possibilities. Depression, for example, can have similar symptoms to dementia, as can more severe conditions. “I spoke to a lady whose husband was diagnosed with dementia in his sixties,” says Debra. “When I asked what steps the doctor had taken, it didn’t seem like he’d exhausted all avenues. They saw a neurologist who ordered brain scans and it turned out he actually had a brain tumor that needed immediate surgery. If they hadn’t sought out that second opinion, he could have died.”

That’s why if you ever suspect dementia, a full medical evaluation is necessary.

2. Learn About Your Loved One’s Condition

There are so many types of dementia and each has its own challenges. The different types advance at different rates and exhibit different symptoms. Knowing what your family may be dealing with can help a lot with care planning. “There are also genetic factors,” Debra adds. “Letting the whole family know that they may carry these genes may compel them to be proactive about their own mental faculties. If there are eight siblings in a family and the eldest four all have dementia, the younger four should be tested earlier so that they may catch the condition early.”

3. Communicate With Your Loved One

If your loved one is experiencing symptoms of early dementia, it can be best to involve him in his care. Unfortunately, this is not always possible; “Only a small percentage are aware that something is actually wrong, the rest are either in denial or not aware,” says Debra. “If your loved one is aware, plan what the future holds and what care they may need. Discussing the possibility that there may be a need for professional care early can help further down the line.”

4. Get Financial and Medical Affairs in Order Early

It is a lot easier to arrange for management of your loved one’s financial and health care decisions at the start of the process when he is still able to select someone to hold a power of attorney. Leaving it until later risks having to file court papers to be appointed guardian, or a court appointing another guardian of its choosing.

5. Ask Your Loved One for Historical Information

Debra suggests having a discussion with your loved one about his likes, dislikes, significant relationships in his life and any traumatic experiences. These can be useful to have further down the line and can offer help to frontline caregivers. If the caregivers know of any potential triggers, it may help to explain why they become agitated when offered help to dress and undress for example. If caregivers know your loved one’s preferences, they will able to work towards specific needs.

6. Set a Routine, Stick to It

Seniors with dementia often thrive under routines. “Get your loved one up at a certain time, eat meals at a certain time,” adds Debra. It helps your loved one to remember little things that he may otherwise forget. Throwing Dad off his routine can often make him more confused and upset.

7. Aim for the Least Number of Faces Possible

“The more people coming in and out of your loved one’s house, the more unsettling it is,” says Debra. “Family gatherings can be overwhelming to those with dementia. Plan small gatherings and limit all talking to one person at a time. We make sure that seniors don’t have too many professional caregivers assigned and aim for that senior/caregiver relationship to last as long as possible.” New faces can be distressing, so try to minimize new people visiting unless necessary.

8. Consider Experienced, Professional Assistance

Care providers may be able to match your loved one with a caregiver who is trained in working with seniors who have dementia. They would know the signs that could mean your loved one is deteriorating or needs more help and they will most likely identify these signs before somebody with an untrained eye.

Professional caregivers will help you with carrying out your care plan and can walk your senior through his daily routine. They will offer as little or as much care as your loved one needs, from personal care like hygiene or help getting dressed, to help around the home like cooking and light cleaning. They can also offer companionship, which can help your senior to keep mentally and physically active.

The reality is that dementia is very difficult to pinpoint and requires a thorough medical evaluation. For more information about the full diagnostic process surrounding dementia , click here.

Part 3: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Lewy Body

Part 3: Expert Advice When Caring for a Loved One with Lewy Body

This is the third installment of a three-part series featuring direct advice from an experienced, tenured home care administrator. Be sure to check out parts one and two for specific care information for loved ones with dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Lewy body dementia is a term that includes multiple forms of dementia including Parkinson’s Disease and dementia with Lewy bodies. It occurs when protein deposits called Lewy bodies form on the brain and causes mental and emotional issues. While it shares symptoms with other forms of dementia, the early stages can also have similar symptoms to mental diseases such as schizophrenia. Over one million people in the USA suffer from some form of Lewy body.

A Lewy body dementia diagnosis can be overwhelming. But you’re not alone. Debra Desrosiers has been in the home care industry for over 14 years. She is a certified trainer and consultant in dementia and Alzheimer’s issues, and has volunteered with the Alzheimer’s Association for over a decade. These are her expert tips to help a loved one with Lewy body.

1. Educate Yourself

Talk to your loved one’s doctors and medical professionals and get all the information you can about the form of Lewy body your loved one has. Make sure the doctor has all your loved one’s symptoms and ask how she arrived at the diagnosis. If your loved one hasn’t seen a neurologist, it may be worth arranging a visit. There are many forms of dementia, and each can exhibit different issues. So, it is important that your loved one receives the appropriate treatment.

Once you have a firm diagnosis, learn everything you can about the disease and where it may be headed. Knowing what’s coming can be incredibly important when it comes to planning future care. Read up online or speak to experienced healthcare professionals; get as much information as you possibly can.

2. Prepare for Falls

One of the symptoms of Lewy body dementia is diminished vision. Poor vision can be a factor in senior falls. Falls are the number one cause of injuries in seniors annually. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) says that one in four seniors suffer a fall every year. Suffering from dementia, issues with movement and poor vision are all fall factors, so seniors with Lewy body are particularly at risk.

“Plan the environment around your loved one,” advises Debra. “Minimize clutter and fall-proof the house, adding handrails, grab bars, non-slip adhesive strips or anything else that may help.”

3. Medication Can Help

Although Lewy body and other forms of dementia are progressive diseases with no cure, medication can help in lessening the symptoms. One symptom of Lewy body that can be particularly upsetting, for you as well as your loved one, is the possibility of hallucinations. “One patient lived in fear of ‘the man’ who would come into her room and was constantly asking us to hide the children,” Debra shared. “She was living in fear all the time, which was terrible. If you can fix the symptoms, fix them.” Remembering to take medication can be hard for seniors with any form of dementia, so learn about ways to remind your loved one when medication is due.

4. Don’t Ask Too Many Questions From Your Loved One

Debra advises caution when approaching your loved one with too many inquiries. “A lot of anxiety in seniors’ lives can actually be brought on by loved ones,” she adds. “They’ll tell us ‘I wish they wouldn’t ask me so many questions.'” It’s understandable that family members are concerned that a loved one will forget them, but constantly asking “Do you remember me?” can be counterproductive. “It’s very demeaning. It causes seniors frustration, and it can be very upsetting to them.”

5. Be Warned of Wandering

Six in ten seniors with dementia will wander. Wandering occurs when the senior gets confused for a period and leaves the house. Seniors can become disorientated, forget where they live or even who they are. This can be very dangerous. With wandering, however, forewarned is forearmed. Be aware that it might be a possibility during your loved one’s illness and make plans to prevent it, such as alarming doors, having your loved one wear a watch with GPS location and making sure he or she is supervised if necessary.

6. Consider a Professional Caregiver

Professional caregivers could be a big help, both to your loved one with Lewy body and to you. They may have had experience of dealing with seniors with similar issues. They can help with fall prevention and supervise your loved one to minimize the risk of wandering. They can also supervise the taking of medication, although they cannot administer the medication themselves. Best of all when a professional caregiver is with your loved one you can relax in the knowledge that he or she is in great hands.

7. If Possible, Connect Your Loved One With a Like-Minded Caregiver

If you do hire professional assistance, the relationship between your loved one and his or her caregiver will be significant, and hopefully, a long-term relationship in his or her life. “When we match a caregiver with a senior, we look at things like geography but we always look at personalities too,” says Debra. “If your dad isn’t much of a talker, we’re not going to match him up with a chatty Cathy. But if we have a retired teacher and your loved one was a teacher, or maybe there is a caregiver who is Catholic and that is something that is important to your loved one, or maybe they both grew up in the same place, then that could be something that sparks a connection. We do everything we can to match your loved one with someone who he will form a bond with.” If your loved one gets along with the caregiver, it can minimize stress, which will help with your loved one’s condition.

It’s essential to plan, but the truth is that even arriving at this diagnosis requires a thorough medical evaluation. For more information about the full diagnostic process surrounding a dementia diagnosis, click here.

You
Can
Reach
Us
Here