Currently in the United States, over 44 million Americans spend on average 20 hours per week caring for a loved one whether it’s a family member or a close friend. This care ranges from doing a few helpful things like preparing an extra meal or helping with shopping and house cleaning to more personal chores like bathing, toileting, dispensing medications and helping with medical matters. According to AARP, it’s family caregivers who provide over 75% of the unpaid “informal” care to those who need it. This amounts to an incredible 37 billion hours of unpaid care. For many caregivers the journey to caregiving is slow and gradual as they take on more and more of the daily responsibilities of helping a loved one age comfortably in their own home. For others, the route to “caregiver” happens in a tragic instant after their loved one faces a medical crisis. The average caregiver provides personal care and performs household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours a week for an average of 4.3 years. Despite all these figures, caregivers don’t see themselves as such. They view themselves as daughters or sons helping out or temporarily stepping in after some crisis. They’re doing what’s considered to be the norm as a loving family member. Yet this is all done despite the fact that they are juggling their own personal family life and a job. They can be certain of one thing – the caregiving doesn’t get easier. It generally gets more complicated and takes up more and more of their limited time. Eventually there is a price to be paid. The ever-growing burden of caregiving often results in stress related illness, emotional or mental health problems, and stressed family relations. For these reasons, it’s important for family caregivers to identify themselves as such. If you don’t think of yourself as a “caregiver”, you probably won’t take the next step of looking for support and information to help you along your journey. Fortunately, help is out there. A good starting point would be a family meeting to identify your loved ones needs and problems and to develop a plan for sharing responsibilities. There are many caregiver support groups, some of them on-line, that offer educational information and emotional support. You can connect with others who are also dealing with the same issues that you are facing. Adult respite care is available whether through a senior center or a home care agency. This would give you a temporary mental and physical break. So recognize your role and realize you are not alone and know that YOU ARE A CAREGIVER. Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com
Category Archives: Aging in Place
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
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
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
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
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