Tag Archives: caregiver

A Fond Farewell

To all the Trillium HomeCare staff, clients, fellow bloggers, and extended Trillium family, it’s time to say good-bye. After twelve incredible years, Trillium HomeCare will be closing operations. Making this decision has been extremely difficult but I will always be grateful for the many friends I have made along the way and for the wonderful memories I will take with me. To our clients, it has been an honor to serve you. We feel privileged to have been entrusted with your care. To our employees, your hard work and dedication to our clients have always made me proud to represent Trillium HomeCare. Providing our clients with the best care has been central to Trillium’s mission and couldn’t have been accomplished without your dedication to excellence. Take pride in your special calling as caregivers. I thank all of you and wish you the very best for the future.

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Caring For The Caregiver

According to a report by Emblem Health, there are close to sixty six million caregivers in the United States. That means almost one in every three people provides personal care to a loved one or family member. Typically a caregiver’s job includes helping with transportation, grocery shopping, preparing meals, helping with medication, and doing housework. Personal care often includes helping their loved one get dressed, helping with a bath or shower, or help with getting to and from the toilet. The burden of providing all this care usually falls to family members who also have jobs to go to, their own homes and families to take care of, and often their own personal health issues to deal with. The stresses of dealing with all of these responsibilities can in fact turn a caregiver into a patient in need of help. It’s important for caregivers to realize that they must care for themselves and take steps to maintain their own health and well being if they want to be effective in caring for their loved one.

The most effective things a caregiver can do to help their own well-being is first, to accept the fact that they are human and cannot fix everything and second, take a break. A caregiver is not a miracle worker and needs to be realistic about what can be accomplished. Taking a break from caregiving responsibilities relieves caregiver stress and improves the ability to provide care. A break can be something as simple as taking some time to read a book or take a walk or getting some extra scheduled down time. Scheduling down time can be a few hours off or even better, getting regularly scheduled respite care. The respite care may involve using adult day care services for your loved one or regularly scheduling a home health care aide to take care of some of the responsibilities. The bottom line is that its important that the caregiver attends to their own personal health and well being without feeling guilty about getting some much needed help. What steps have you taken to care for the caregiver? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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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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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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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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When It’s Time for Home Care

There are a lot of guides available to help you decide if someone you care about has reached the point of needing outside help. If you do a web search for “time for home care”, an incredible list of sites appears with all kinds of signs to look for in your aging parent or loved one that will signal their need for help with daily living. These clues include poor personal hygiene, difficulty managing daily living activities such as housework and grocery shopping, missed appointments, and problems taking medications as prescribed. Although these clues are certainly important when deciding if you should look to professional help for your loved one, a consideration that is often overlooked is YOU.

If you’ve been your loved one’s primary caregiver, you need to assess your own condition also. According to the Family Caregiving Alliance there are over 44 million unpaid caregivers in America and they are definitely paying a price. The effects of being a caregiver are both psychological and physical. The strain of caring for a friend or relative who is frail or elderly causes significant clinical symptoms of depression in 40%-70% of all unpaid caregivers. Take some time to think about yourself. Do you feel stressed all the time? Do you feel frustrated, angry or hopelessly drained at the end of the day? Are you no longer in control of your own life? Are you becoming more isolated and do you continue to maintain social contact with friends and relatives … when did you last have some “me time”? Are all the hours of your day filled with obligations to your job, your family, and your loved one?

How are you doing physically? The stress felt caring for someone long term has been linked to elevated blood pressure, a compromised immune system, and heart disease. Is your blood pressure up? Do you seem to catch every cold or bug that comes your way? Caregivers typically don’t have time to take care of their own health needs. Do you get regular checkups with your doctor and your dentist? Do you take the time to prepare nutritious meals for yourself or to get some exercise? Do you have insomnia or stomach complaints? Do you actually feel guilty if on some rare occasion you take the time to enjoy a former hobby or interest?

Be careful not to miss the signs of needing help, both in your loved one and most importantly in yourself. Don’t wait for a crisis to happen with the one you care for or with yourself. After all, the best way to help your loved one is to make sure you are at your best. It may be time to get some help. How did you know it was time to get professional help? Share below and vist us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Risky Senior Driving

In our culture, getting your driver’s license at 16 is a rite of passage that most teens look forward to. It’s a symbol of independence and represents the freedom to go places and do things. It becomes a major key to social activities, shopping, and even getting a job. This is true throughout our entire adult lives and especially true for aging seniors. That’s why seniors are so reluctant to give up their car keys, even if they suspect they should.

Although there is no specific age at which seniors need to stop driving, statistics by the Hartford Insurance Corporation show that in seniors over the age of 75 there’s a much greater risk of being in a car accident with every mile driven. The risk is about the same as for new drivers between the ages of 16 and 24. This increase in accidents is due primarily to the aging drivers’ decrease in senses, multiple chronic health conditions, and increased medication consumption. There are warning signs to look for that will let you know your loved one needs to give up the keys or to at least decrease the amount of driving they do. It’s a good idea to take a ride with them and see for yourself how they’re doing. Do they drift into other lanes or straddle two lanes? Do they drive particularly slowly or unduly fast for the road conditions? Do they fail to use their turn signal or do they leave it on without changing lanes? Do they ignore or miss traffic signs or traffic signals? Do they make sudden lane changes? Does your senior get disoriented easily, even when in familiar places? Have there been any “warnings” by the police? Are there any unexplained dents or scrapes on the car?

If you see any of these warning signs, it’s time to have that dreaded conversation about giving up the keys or at the very least minimize the amount of driving your senior does. Until that time when your loved one gives up their keys there are things they can do to help minimize the risks. Encourage them to limit their driving time to the daytime and not during rush hours. Get them to drive only during good weather and optimal road conditions. Make the trips short and use the most direct but safe routes. Keep the radio turned off and minimize the number of passengers in order to reduce distractions. Basically, apply the same strategies with your senior driver that you would apply to a novice teenaged driver. It’s also a good idea to have the pharmacist review your senior’s medications to determine if they can affect their driving. Making these gradual changes may allow your senior to ease into giving up driving. Surrendering the car keys is a major life change. It makes good sense to reduce the risks well before a major crisis mandates an immediate change. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com

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The Caregiver at the Doctor Visit

According to the Census Bureau, there are over 43.1 million persons in the United States that are 65 years of age or older. The elderly population is expected to double to 80 million when all the “baby boomers” have reached their elderly years. Due to advances in medical science these baby boomers will be living longer and that translates into huge numbers of people living with chronic conditions like arthritis, diabetes, osteoporosis, or dementia. A large population of chronically ill older people means that more and more seniors will be dependant on others for help with their activities of daily living – in short, they’ll have a caregiver whether it’s a family member or a professional from an agency.

Caregivers are now and will increasingly in the future be an important component of doctor visits for the elderly. According to a study by Jennifer Wolff, PhD of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, doctor visits that include caregivers are an increasing trend that has important benefits. Her study showed that visits that included a caregiver lasted at least 20% longer and resulted in less social conversation between the doctor and the senior and more biomedical information being given to the patient. This is really important because a trip to the doctor is all about communication and the exchange of information. Doctors need information from patients to provide an accurate diagnosis and to provide treatment options. The patient needs to be able to clearly discuss and understand what’s going on. This is where the caregiver’s presence can be very valuable.
A caregiver can help the senior with every aspect of the visit beginning with getting ready for the visit by gathering all the necessary medical history information and making a list of current medications and by preparing a list of symptoms for the doctor along with any questions the senior may have. During the visit, the caregiver can make notes for the senior and can remind them of any symptoms they may have forgotten and can relate to the doctor any changes in the senior’s general health and abilities. In effect, the caregiver is a second set of eyes and ears and can request further clarification about the diagnosis, treatment options, and what can be expected down the line. After the visit, a caregiver can support the senior’s compliance with the doctor’s instructions by encouraging them to follow the prescribed course of treatment along with taking their medications as prescribed and by helping them further understand the doctor’s instructions if necessary. This in turn can help reduce possible hospital readmissions.

According to the study by Dr. Wolff, seniors and loved ones who have been accompanied by a caregiver to a doctor ended up being more satisfied with their overall care and were shown to be more likely to remember important information after their visit to the doctor. Please share your thoughts and experiences below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Older Adults and Medication – Part 2

As you get older or someone you care for enters their “senior” years, you have to be very careful about which medications are used. Older adults usually have several chronic medical conditions they are dealing with at any given time so that means they’re probably using a variety of drugs. The more medication you take, the greater are the odds that you can end up dealing with the effects of drug interactions. In addition, seniors are more sensitive to some drugs due to the natural changes in their bodies as they age.

Among the most commonly used and abused drugs are non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS). Long lasting versions include Feldene and Indocin which are available by prescription while shorter acting ones include Motrin, Advil, and Aleve. Because the shorter acting NSAIDS are available over the counter, there’s a misconception that they must be totally safe but keep in mind that they’re mean for short term use only. In fact, all NSAIDS carry a risk of indigestion and ulcers and in the over 75 age group there is a possibility of bleeding in the stomach or colon especially if your senior is taking aspirin or a blood thinner like Coumadin for their heart. In addition, NSAIDS can increase your blood pressure so if you’re taking medication for hypertension which is very common in seniors and you take an NSAID for your arthritis, the medications are fighting each other.

Other medications to use with caution include muscle relaxants and over the counter allergy and cold medications. Muscle relaxants such as Flexeril and diphenhydramine , which is the active ingredient in Benadryl and over the counter sleep aids like Tylenol PM, can cause confusion and grogginess along with blurred vision. This can be particularly troublesome for seniors since it can increase the risk of falling. If your senior takes something to help them sleep and something else because their allergies are bothering them, you can see how easily they could be double-dosing without realizing it!

In light of the fact that there is an endless list of possible drug combinations you or your loved one may be taking, it’s important to keep a CURRENT list of all drugs being used, including any over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements. Take this list with you to every doctor visit and ask lots of questions. If your doctor prescribes a drug, be sure you are clear about what it’s for and how to properly take it. Ask if it will interfere with anything on your list and if any adjustments need to be made. Be sure to get all your prescriptions filled at the same pharmacy so the pharmacist can also keep track of any possible interactions. Using a pill organizer at home can help you keep track of whether you’ve taken the medication as prescribed. If you start noticing a possible side effect to a medication, don’t just stop taking it without contacting your doctor. Follow his advice and be safe. Do you have any tips for managing your senior’s medications? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Older Adults and Medications – Part I

When you are younger and in need of medication for an illness or injury, things are pretty simple. You go to the doctor, get a diagnosis, fill your prescription, and a few days later you’re feeling better. If you get a headache or pull a muscle at the gym, you pick up some over-the-counter analgesics and in a bit you’re back to your busy life good as new. It never occurs to you to monitor what you’re taking because you’re not taking a lot of medications with a lot of frequency. That changes as you reach your senior years. As you get older, it’s typical to be dealing with more than one chronic condition resulting in taking multiple medications which are very often prescribed in multiple doses. In fact, the average older person takes at least four prescription medications and at least two over-the-counter drugs on a regular basis. Seniors over 65 are responsible for the purchase of 30% of all prescription drugs and over 40% of all over-the-counter drugs. You can see where this is going. As you get older or someone you care for enters their senior years, it becomes increasingly important to manage medications.

Seniors are particularly vulnerable to problems with medications for a variety of reasons. The more medications are taken, the greater the odds are that they may have an interaction that could be dangerous if not unpleasant. It’s not uncommon for a senior to simply stop taking a medication because of its side effects. Between 40% and 75% of seniors stop taking their medications at the right dosage and the right schedule. This issue is compounded by the fact that older adults are more sensitive to drugs because of their now slower metabolisms and organ functions, thus keeping drugs in their system for longer periods of time. Physical problems such as poor vision or a weak grip due to arthritis can result in dosing errors. Cognitive and memory issues can prevent the older adult from following the doctor’s orders and since so many seniors live alone there’s no one to assist them with nor monitor their use of drugs. Simply forgetting is a major reason medication doses are skipped by the elderly. With an increased number of chronic conditions the typical older adult sees a number of different physicians — the endocrinologist for their thyroid, the cardiologist for their heart problems, and so on. Multiple doctors equal multiple medications that can conflict with each other. You can see why studies have shown that any combination of these factors causes 30% of hospital admissions of older adults. It’s apparent that being able to manage an older adult’s medications is critical to their well being and even their ability to remain independently in their own home. Next time we’ll talk about which medications to be especially cautious about and what action you can take to help keep your senior safe with their medication. Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com

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