Getting Family On Board

Being a caregiver for an aging friend or relative can often be a time consuming and daunting job. At least forty two percent of family caregivers spend more than thirty hours a week providing care and seventy six percent of family caregivers say they don’t receive help from other family members. This can make an already tiring job even more stressful not to mention the natural resentment that builds when you feel your siblings are leaving you alone to handle everything. Family dynamics can often play a part in determining who the primary caregiver is. According to the National Association of Geriatric Case Managers, in 99.9% of families, only one sibling takes on the responsibilities of providing care and it’s usually based on geography….the closer you live to mom and dad, the more likely you’ll be the one filling the role of caregiver. Other factors include your work and family situations, your own finances, and your marital status. Very often the problem of getting help from uninvolved siblings can be traced to an issue with communication. Once you take on the role of caregiver, the natural progression of things results in you taking on more and more work as your loved one ages and their health declines. If you just go about your daily tasks and don’t let your siblings know of any changes in your loved one’s condition over time, your siblings may just assume everything is fine and you don’t need any help. So they don’t offer any. It’s best to have a family meeting early in your journey to caregiving….before you are burned out and resentful. It would allow you to openly discuss what the future may hold and would allow family members to identify what their contributions to caregiving would be. Different family members have different talents and different ideas of what “help” means. It would also allow siblings the chance to indicate if there are any personal issues no one is aware of that may limit how much they can help. It’s important to be specific when talking about what would be helpful to you — general pleas for help are just too vague. If you need someone to drive your loved one to appointments or help with the grocery shopping, be clear about it. Don’t assume anyone instinctively knows what needs to be done. It’s important to be honest and try to understand differing points of view while keeping lines of communication open with your siblings. If you get to the point where you aren’t communicating with each other, your loved one is the person who will end up suffering the most. If siblings remain unresponsive or unhelpful, despite your best efforts to communicate with them, consider other options for getting help. Check into getting some in-home services and arranging some respite care. If you allow yourself to get burned out, you won’t be able to help your loved one. How have you gotten siblings on board with caring for your loved one? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Cold Outside? Be Safe Inside

It seems like this winter is never going to end. Oddly enough, there seems to be no mention of Polar Vortexes on the weather forecasts. Maybe it’s just not newsworthy this year. We seem to get a fresh blast of frigid air every two or three days. With that in mind, we need to be especially vigilant about the problem of dealing with low temperatures while caring for a senior friend or relative. Most people know about the dangers of broken bones from slip and falls or the breathing problems older people can experience outside in the cold air. What we generally don’t think about is the hypothermia that can occur inside your own home.

Hypothermia is an unusually low body temperature which can result in illness or death. According to the National Institute on Aging, over 2.5 million seniors are especially vulnerable to hypothermia. As many as 25,000 of them die each year. According to the Center for Disease Control, when body temperature falls too low, it affects the brain and makes the victim of hypothermia unable to think clearly or move well. That means the affected senior doesn’t know what’s happening and isn’t therefore able to help themselves. When the body temperature drops to just a few degrees lower than the 98.6F that is normal, it can cause an irregular heartbeat leading to heart problems and death. Symptoms of hypothermia include shivering, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech, and drowsiness.

Your loved one may be susceptible to hypothermia because older adults make less body heat due to a slow metabolism and less physical activity on their part. Their ability to feel a change in temperature decreases with age and some medicines they use can increase their risk of accidental hypothermia. These medications include drugs used to treat anxiety, depression, nausea, or heart problems. To make sure your loved one stays safe from hypothermia indoors, keep the thermostat between 68 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure they wear several layers of loose clothing that will trap warm air between layers. Be sure they avoid alcohol and caffeine which can make them lose body heat. Place an easy-to-read thermometer in and indoor location so your loved one can check the temperature of the home often. Be especially careful that you check on your senior regularly since isolation can be life threatening in cold weather. Try to set up a regular call schedule so if a call-in is missed you’ll be alerted to a possible problem. Do you have any other tips for preventing hypothermia indoors? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Communicating with the Elderly


As our parents and loved ones grow older it may become apparent that it’s getting harder to communicate with them. As they age, communication becomes more difficult due to changes in their physical health, some cognitive decline, or even bouts of depression. Half of adults over the age of 75 have some hearing loss. In fact, it’s the third most common chronic condition in seniors. Fourteen percent of seniors over the age of 71 have some degree of dementia which affects communication because of the gradual deterioration of memory, attention, and perception which accompanies the dementia.

With some extra time and patience on our part we can compensate for these communication issues. This is so important because communication is vital to perform many of the functions of day-to-day life. First and foremost, try to be aware of your senior’s health issues and make an effort to overcome any barriers to clear communication. Pay attention to the environment you’re in. Reduce any background noises that can serve as distractions such as the television or radio. If need be, move to a quieter location or different room. Sit face-to-face with the person you’re talking with. Reading lips is actually used by all of us to some degree and facing each other allows your senior to readily see your lips. It also allows you to maintain eye contact and allows the other person to read your facial expressions. Speak clearly and pronounce your words carefully at a moderate rate. Speak with a comfortable volume without shouting.

Make your statements clear and uncomplicated. You may have to rephrase something if it’s clear you’re not being understood. Complicated phrases or questions can easily confuse someone who has some hearing loss or short-term memory issues. Stick to one topic at a time and keep your sentences and questions short. Be patient and give your senior the time and opportunity to respond. If they want to reminisce a bit, don’t cut them off. Remember to smile and speak to your loved one with respect and kindness. Do you have any other tips for good communication? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Saying “No” to Caregiving

According to a study by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, there are over 44 million unpaid caregivers taking care of elders or someone with disabilities. Statistics show that the majority of care is provided by a family member with the primary caregiver being the youngest unmarried daughter or the oldest son. The closer the child lives to their parent, the more likely they are to become responsible for their parent’s welfare. If there are no local family members, friends often become caregivers. The path to becoming a caregiver can be slow with the caregiver gradually taking on more and more of the responsibility of caring for a parent as they age, or it can be sudden if a parent has a health crisis or suddenly becomes incapacitated. In both cases, neither the parent nor their child realizes there is a caregiver relationship going on. The ongoing care is basically born from a desire to keep a loved one safe and to provide the best care possible.

Very often, it’s not until the caregiver starts developing “symptoms” that they realize they are fully engulfed in their role as caregiver and are in fact dealing with the stress of that role. Some of the symptoms of caregiver stress include anger, fatigue, poor sleep or health, irritability, and depression. The caregiver may feel hopeless, thinking there’s no light at the end of the tunnel and may in fact want to avoid their loved one. If you are losing yourself to the job of caregiving, it may be time to say “no”. Even though you may be overwhelmed, that’s a pretty hard thing to do. After all, you’ve come to believe that only you can do the best for your parent. In fact, that’s not true. You need to realize and accept that you can’t fix everything that is wrong and there are limits to what you can do. Becoming a martyr helps no one. Your role as a primary caregiver is critical enough that your poor health will surely put your elder at risk also. It’s important to decide what’s reasonable for you to do and to assess other aspects of your personal life and see where your role as caregiver fits in. Set boundaries for your role and get help before you reach a breaking point. Getting help doesn’t mean you’ve failed as a caregiver or left a parent to fend for themselves. It just means that something has to change so that you can continue to be useful to the one you love. Have you had to say “no” as a caregiver? Please share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com.

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SAD and the Elderly

During the winter season, you need to be on the lookout for signs of SAD in your elderly loved ones. SAD is the acronym for “seasonal affective disorder”. This is a form of depression usually seen in the late fall and especially in the winter. It is more common in women and those people who live in colder climates which generally get less sunlight and shorter days. SAD is not that typical let-down feeling you get after all the holiday rushing around is over. It lasts for many weeks and is characterized by a loss of energy, lethargy, sadness, increased sleepiness and an increased desire to eat carbohydrates. Doctors and mental health professionals believe that SAD is caused by the shorter days and longer nights of winter which disturb the body’s natural sleep cycle and result in less exposure to sunlight. In addition, the vitamin D that is produced by our bodies is greatly reduced due to the diminished amount of sunlight in the winter season. Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to both depression and obesity. Decreased sunlight also increases the level of melatonin in our bodies which in turn increases a tendency to sleepiness and to some extent depression. Seniors are more likely to be affected by these factors since they often are housebound and generally less active outdoors during the cold winter weather. In addition, as they age, their bodies become less efficient in producing vitamin D. If your loved one has SAD, the doctor may prescribe antidepressants but there are non-pharmacological things that can be done to greatly improve your senior’s mood. Using a “light box” for 30 to 45 minutes a day decreases the amount of melatonin that circulates in the body. The light box mimics the light spectrum of natural sunlight and makes up for its shortage in the dark winter days. Be sure to keep blinds and curtains open as much as possible to let in what sunlight there is. Set the chairs and furniture your senior uses in a location closer to windows to take advantage of any sunny days. Be sure they eat foods rich in Vitamin D such as fortified milk, tuna, salmon, mushrooms, and eggs. Check with your doctor as to whether a vitamin D supplement is needed. Perhaps the most natural aid for SAD is simply getting more sunlight. If weather conditions permit and your loved one’s mobility can accommodate it, try to get them outside for a period during daylight hours, particularly on sunny days. Both the sunlight and the exercise can help relieve the symptoms of depression. What have you found to be helpful in dealing with SAD? Please share your thoughts below and visit at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Resistance to In-Home Care

If you’re caring for an aging parent or beloved senior, a time may come when you realistically decide that additional help from an agency is needed. The demands on your time and abilities are greater than you can meet but you still want your parent or senior to live comfortably and safely in their own home. The obvious choice is to get some help. So you make a list. How much help do they need? What kinds of services are needed and how often? After assessing your loved one’s needs, you start the selection process. You make sure the agency is reputable with trained and experienced staff. You verify that the staff has had background checks and is properly supervised. The agency develops a care plan with you and continuity of care is assured. If an employee calls in, a replacement is available and a management team member can be reached twenty four hours a day. You make your choice and start thinking about how great it would be to have a whole day to yourself. It sounds pretty good, doesn’t it?

Unfortunately, your greatest challenge may still be ahead. Often, the person needing help can be resistant if not openly hostile to the idea of getting some outside help. Your parent or loved one may not even recognize they need help or may resent what appears to be an intrusion into their private lives. For many seniors change is difficult to handle. They’ve been leading their lives in what for them has become a comfortable routine. As they age, friends pass away, the body develops all kinds of aches and pains and they can no longer keep up with what was once their younger more active lifestyle. The last thing they want to do is make more changes or adjustments to their lives by letting someone new and unfamiliar in. To them it may even suggest a certain loss of control or independence.

The most important thing you can do to deal with your loved one’s resistance to in-home care is to keep them involved in the decision making process and the conversation about their care. Ask them about their thoughts and preferences and keep your plans and explanations simple and clear. Enlist the help of family and friends and try to describe the benefits of care in a positive way. You may need to point out that outside help will also make your life easier and give you time to enjoy just being with them. Point out that the primary goal is to have them remain in their own home for as long as possible. Pick your battles. Suggest a trial run so they can see first hand the benefits of getting help. If these measures don’t work, you may need to enlist the aid of their doctor or a social worker but whatever you do, don’t give up. Have you had to deal with resistance to in-home care? Share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Danger of Denial


If you care for an aging parent or loved one you need to be careful that you yourself don’t fall into denial. Denial is actually a strong defense mechanism that you may be using unconsciously to help deal with what you know is coming down the road. Perhaps you come to your loved one’s home daily just to make sure everything is okay. Maybe Mom doesn’t like driving so you take her on all her errands. You’re sure to be there the night before the garbage has to be set out so Dad doesn’t have to do it. And you go back the next day to take the cans in. It snowed last night so you get there in the morning so the snow gets shoveled and Dad doesn’t have to risk falling when he goes out to get the paper. Your loved one has a doctor appointment so you go along as a second set of ears and to pick up the prescription. It’s a lot of extra work in your life and takes up much of your time but so far you’re holding up okay. Does any of this sound familiar? Because you are with your loved one so often, you’ve surely seen changes in how your senior moves, how they function, and what their limitations are as they age. If you are taking on more and more of their activities of daily life, you’re probably in denial that they need help. You may not want to believe that and may dread having a conversation about it with them. If you hold off for a bit longer, perhaps they themselves will realize its time to get help. It can be a difficult and uncomfortable topic so you keep waiting. It’s perfectly normal to deny something unpleasant or frightening but it can prevent us from facing the facts and can in reality be dangerous for our loved ones because denial will keep us from preparing for what’s ahead whether its an accident or the worsening of some chronic condition. Not addressing the issue won’t keep it from happening. Take a realistic look at your loved one’s situation and be careful not to fool yourself into complacency. Making plans and decisions about the future care of your loved one is much easier to do when you’re not in the midst of some medical crisis. How did you come to the realization that your loved one needs some extra care? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Home for the Holidays

For adult children, going home for the holidays is usually a time filled with family togetherness and remembrances of past times. It’s a chance to reconnect with parents and other family members. It’s also a great opportunity to observe first hand how your parents are doing both physically and mentally and also assess if they need any help. Don’t be shy about checking on them — in fact, be nosey. Look in the refrigerator to see if any of the food is expired and check if the pantry is well stocked with nutritious foods or if there are containers of half eaten fast foods. How’s the housekeeping? Is it at its usual level of cleanliness or is there more visible clutter? Notice if there are piled up dishes or garbage that isn’t being taken out. Trust your gut feelings. Does it look like your parents need a housekeeper? If they’re still driving, get a quick look at the car. Are there any unexplained dents or scratches? Have they ever gotten lost while on their way to a familiar location? Check the medicine cabinet and medication dispenser if they have one. Are medications being taken as prescribed? Ask your parent what their medication schedule is. Verify that they know what it is and check if it actually matches what medications are there. Take a close look at your loved one. Are they well groomed and wearing clean clothes? Do they seem like their usual selves or are they more confused, less energetic, or even depressed? Observe how your loved one moves around. Is it hard for them to get up from a chair or do they seem to wince in pain as they make their way across the room? Take note of how they communicate with you. Are they able to maintain a conversation or do they need you to fill in the names of people or things when they talk to you. These are all red flags that something may be going on and that they may now need some assistance. Take this opportunity to make arrangements with you family members and siblings to have a frank discussion about your loved one’s future. Your family members may note more changes they noticed themselves. Get together after the holiday and share concerns and discuss what your options are and how you can best help your loved ones whether it involves making modification to the home or getting outside help. Don’t miss this opportunity to be proactive versus waiting for a crisis to occur. Share your thoughts below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Surviving The Holidays

If you are caring for an elderly parent or a relative who can’t live on his or her own, you’ll soon been entering the most stressful time of the year for you. The traditional holiday season between Thanksgiving and New Year simply compounds your already stressful life in a number of ways. You’re already trying to keep the delicate balance between your job, your family life with its demanding schedule, and your efforts to properly care for your loved one. Add to this mix all the holiday preparations, family get togethers, and dicey winter weather, and you’ve got the perfect combination for caregiver stress. With some planning you can increase your chances of surviving or even enjoying the holidays.
Perhaps the best thing you can do is accept the fact that the holidays needn’t follow the same cookie cutter pattern every year. Different is okay. Endless days of cooking and baking followed by hours and hours of gift buying excursions aren’t necessary. Take some short cuts – shop online, order out, and enlist the help of family and friends. You don’t have to accept every holiday invitation you receive nor do you have to invite a massive crowd to family gatherings. Sometimes just dealing with family dynamics during gatherings can be enough to wear you down. There may be those who are long on criticizing what you do as a caregiver but short on actually offering any help. If so, take the opportunity to ask for help and be specific about what would be helpful to you. You may be surprised with a cooperative response. Don’t be shy about getting family members on board.
There are practical things you can do to make the season run more smoothly. Simplify, simplify, simplify. Cut back on how much holiday decorating you’ve traditionally done. Keep gatherings at a smaller, more manageable scale, and suggest potluck meals with everyone bringing a dish. Try to stay organized by keeping a to-do list to help you stay in control of your time. Adjust the time of day gatherings are held to accommodate what works well for your loved one. Don’t neglect yourself. Eat well and get enough sleep. Try to fit in some “me-time” so you can de-stress. Use the resources that are out there whether you call on family and friends or enlist the aid of an in-home agency. Give yourself a break. After all, caregivers deserve a holiday too. Do you have any tips for surviving the holidays? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Medication Management for Seniors


If you’re caring for a parent or a senior, there will come a time when you will have to become involved in managing their medication. When the opportunity arises, check the medicine cabinet or drawer where they keep their medications. Are there any duplicate bottles of drugs with some missing while other bottles of the same medicine are full? This is a sign that medications are not being taken as prescribed but prescriptions are just being refilled. Do any bottles have a mixture of medications? This is dangerous because some medications may interact with each other before they’re even consumed. Are there any bottles of expired medications? Are there any unlabeled containers or baggies with a jelly bean assortment of drugs in them? These are all warning signs that it’s time for you to become involved in managing your loved one’s medications.

This is a particularly important issue for seniors because seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over the counter drugs. They typically deal with multiple chronic conditions that result in taking several medications often prescribed in multiple doses. Studies have shown that between 40% and 75% of seniors fail to take their medications at the right dosage and on the prescribed schedule.

The first and most important step to take to successfully manage the medications is to make a list of every drug your senior consumes. This includes prescription drugs, over the counter medications, and any vitamins and herbal supplements. This list needs to be taken to the doctor every time the senior goes to the doctor. It needs to be reviewed by the doctor and the pharmacist for any possible interactions or side effects like dizziness or lightheadedness. Check the labels of the medication bottles. Are any of the same drugs found in several medications? For example, many over the counter medications for colds and sinus problems contain acetaminophen which is the drug in Tylenol. If your loved one uses both at the same time, they’re doubling up on medications. That can be dangerous. Check with the doctor whether a prescribed drug continues to be needed and don’t make any changes or adjustments on your own. Be sure to let the doctor know if you notice any medication affecting your senior in some new or unsafe manner.

Use the same pharmacy for all prescriptions so their computer system can check for possible drug interactions and open the bag the prescription comes in right there at the pharmacy before you go home. According to the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, up to 5% of filled prescriptions involve some sort of error. Make sure the name on the prescription bottle matches the name on the bag. If the pills look different from what you’re used to, talk to the pharmacist. Don’t pass up the counseling from the pharmacist. You need to be clear on how the drug should be taken, for how long it should be taken, and what side effects may be expected. If your senior has multiple medications, a divided pill box can serve to remind them of what to take and when to take it. Following these steps will help you manage your senior’s medication and make sure they get the right medications at the right time and in the right amount. Share your experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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