Tag Archives: caregivers

The Spring Scammer

Spring has officially arrived today and along with the arrival of warmer weather, you can expect the onslaught of springtime scammers, especially if you are a senior. Seniors are in fact targeted disproportionately by scammers for several reasons. According to AARP, they control over 70% of the wealth in this country and are readily available since they’re retired and usually at home. Many are widows or widowers and not adverse to any friendly conversation. Seniors often have land line phones and generally don’t register with the “do not call” registry and this makes them easy targets for phone scams. Almost 3 billion dollars a year is lost by senior citizens as a result of scams!

The most common scam is the door-to-door sales pitch. Typically, someone shows up at the door offering a greatly discounted rate on services or products because they’re already working in the neighborhood and have leftover materials. Of course, this is a limited time offer and you have to act fast. The senior may be asked to pay up front. The problem is these salespeople move on and if there’s a problem with the work or if you don’t receive what they’ve sold you, you’re out of luck finding them. A variation on this scheme consists of what appears to be a utility worker claiming to be from the city or your utility company and claiming they need entry into the senior’s home or back yard to perform some sort of test or check some equipment. While the senior is occupied by the worker, an accomplice can easily ransack the house in search of valuables. Very often, the victim doesn’t know they’ve been robbed until days or weeks later when the scammers have long gone. If you are a senior or care for one, it’s important to take some preventive measures. Never allow a stranger entry into the home and be sure to demand identification from “city workers” along with a phone number you can use to verify what they’re claiming. If you’re caring for a parent or senior, stay informed about who they’re giving information to and caution them not to answer the door to strangers. It’s also a good idea to pull their free credit report to check if their identity has been stolen or their credit rating has been compromised by some illegal activity. Be safe and remember that if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably isn’t true. Do you have any other tips for dealing with scammers? 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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The Road To Caregiving

According to the US Department of Labor, over half of America’s workforce is involved in some way with caring for an aging parent or relative. Up to eighty percent of this help is unpaid and according to AARP, the average caregiver provides personal care and does household maintenance chores for at least twelve hours per week. The road to becoming a caregiver for a loved one is often winding with a son or daughter occasionally “helping out”. Your parents slowly age and adaptations are made to accommodate gradual changes in their abilities. Perhaps you offer to help with their banking or write out the bills. If they need groceries you offer to drive them to the store or pick up a few things for them yourself. Maybe you go to the doctor with them to make sure they clearly understand what the doctor has to say. At this point, you don’t view yourself as a “caregiver”. You’re just being a helpful child.

As time goes by and your “helping out” becomes a necessity, it will dawn on you that you are in fact a caregiver. You realize one day that if you stop doing all those helpful things, your loved one won’t be able to function on their own. You now feel obligated to do all these things or to make arrangements so that they do get done. Your loved one’s daily functioning is now your personal responsibility. Welcome to the world of caregiving. You will soon realize what a demanding job this is particularly because you’ll also be juggling a job, family, and personal issues of your own. If your parent or loved one suffers a medical crisis, your level of providing care will rise dramatically. Although your desire may be to tackle this job totally on your own, doing that will surely result in stress, exhaustion, and even physical illness. No matter how much you love someone, where will you find all the hours in the day that you and your loved one need? Be careful not to allow yourself to reach the point of total exhaustion. If you use up all your time and energy to be a caregiver, you will no doubt be robbing you and your loved one of quality time that could otherwise be spent with each other. Be aware there will come a time when it makes sense to get some help. Be wary of taking on so much that you lose sight of your well meant goal of providing the best of care which your loved one both needs and deserves. The road to caregiving is long and full of potholes. Don’t let yourself get run over. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Preventing Dehydration

It’s been slow coming but summer has finally arrived. It won’t be long before we start hearing TV and radio announcements about municipal “cooling centers” being opened. These announcements point to the importance of staying hydrated, particularly in the summer. This is especially critical for the elderly and the frail. Dehydration can quickly lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke for this group. Older people are at a greater risk of dehydration for several reasons. While a younger person’s body naturally cools itself through the production of perspiration, this mechanism may not work as well in a senior due to natural aging changes and the assortment of medications they may be taking for a variety of chronic conditions. These medications include antihistamines, antidepressants, motion sickness medication, anti asthma drugs, diuretics which are often prescribed for hypertension, and some heart medications. In addition, as we get older our kidneys are less efficient at conserving water and unlike camels, we can’t store it. By the time your aging loved one’s body sends them the “I’m thirsty” signal, they may be well on the way to being dehydrated. Seniors who have dementia may simply forget to drink and those who suffer from neurological disorders may have difficulty swallowing. Those who are frail need assistance to drink. Any combination of these factors can lead to dehydration.

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control), there are signs of dehydration to look for: dizziness, confusion, constipation, increased fatigue, increased body temperature, dry mouth, reduced sweating, sunken eyes, and low blood pressure. As a caregiver, taking extra measures to keep your loved one hydrated requires vigilance but in this case, an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure. Be sure to offer fluids on a regular basis, at least every couple of hours. Although plain, clear water is the best choice, any liquid is better than none so offer your loved one their preferred beverage frequently. Be sure to serve beverages with meals and encourage more than a sip of water to wash down medications. Try serving foods that are naturally “wet” such as soups, yogurt, ice cream, and smoothies. Encourage your loved one to drink small quantities frequently rather than a lot at one time. A frail senior needs at least 6 cups of fluids per day but consult their doctor if they take diuretics, have kidney disease, or have congestive heart failure. How do you make sure your senior gets enough fluids? Please share your thoughts and experiences below. Visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Time To Hire A Professional Caregiver?

Hindsight is 20/20 but it’s important not to get to that point when it comes to making care decisions for an elderly parent or loved one. Very often, by the time you’ve made the decision to get some help from a professional caregiver, you’re already past the point of burnout. You’re more exhausted than you ever thought could be possible and you wonder why you didn’t get help sooner. Guilt very often plays a part in your delayed decision because you feel it’s something you should have been able to do for your loved one so they could remain comfortably in their homes as they aged. Your role as caregiver slowly and almost imperceptibly increases and perhaps on a deeper level you don’t want to see that your loved one needs more help than you can give. Be careful not to miss the signs that your parent or loved one can’t go it alone.

*How’s their personal hygiene? Do they bathe regularly or is there an odor about them? Is hair combed and are teeth brushed? Are they wearing the same clothes for days on end?
*Is the house clean and being maintained? Is there a lot of clutter or unopened mail? Is the garbage taken out on a regular schedule? Is there an odor of urine when you step inside?
*Are nutritional needs being taken care of? Is there any spoiled food in the refrigerator? Is there food in the cupboard? Have they lost any weight and are they remembering to eat?
*Is your loved one able to drive safely? Are there any unexplained dings or dents in the car? Do they get to where they’re going without incident? Do they get lost in familiar location or when traveling a route they’ve taken many times before?
*Do they miss any doctor or dentist appointments? Are they able to follow the doctor’s directions? Do they take their medications as prescribed? Do they remember to get prescriptions filled?
*Is your loved one maintaining a social life? Do they stay in contact with friends and relatives or have you become their sole source of human interaction? Have old hobbies or interests gone by the wayside?

If you see some of these changes, it may be time to get some help. There is nothing to be gained from ignoring the signs. Getting some help to keep your loved one safely in the home they want to be in, is truly an act of love. Please share your thoughts and experiences below. http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Isolation In The Elderly

According to the study “A Review of Social Isolation” by Nicholas R. Nicholson, which was published in The Journal of Primary Prevention, over 40% of Seniors who live at home are living in isolation. This is an alarming statistic in light of the fact that there is an increasing trend for seniors to “age in place” and the senior population in the over 65 age group is predicted to more than double in the next 25 years. The alarming part is that social isolation is a major health problem in older adults and is expected to dramatically increase in the near future. Studies have proven that this isolation and resulting lack of social activities can be directly linked to an increase in cognitive decline. In addition, by not belonging to a social network seniors don’t benefit from the positive encouragement of their friends to comply with healthy practices such as not smoking or staying active. Another health risk of isolation is depression which can worsen many conditions that seniors suffer from such as chronic pain, diabetes, heart disease and dementia.

Isolation can happen for a variety of reasons—some by choice and some as a result of unexpected events. The death of a spouse often leaves the mate feeling alone and so sad that they can’t bear to keep up their old friendships with others. It’s also not uncommon for children to live a long distance away leaving get-togethers something that happens during the holidays or vacations. Getting older with now impaired vision or hearing can prevent a senior from driving and thus limit opportunities to get out. Problems with urinary incontinence may make it seem inconvenient to go anywhere and sleeping issues at night may make daytime drowsiness a deterrent from outside activities. If there are any safety issues with crime in the neighborhood, the senior may be reluctant to leave their home.

If you know or care for a senior living alone, there are things you can do to help prevent their isolation from the community. Encourage them to stay connected whether by phone or email or Skype. Make sure to regularly schedule and keep doctor and optometrist appointments so that vision or health problems are dealt with and won’t keep the senior house bound. Encourage involvement with others, whether it’s the local senior center or church group. If transportation is a problem, check into public transportation or community based volunteer drivers.If your senior is capable of and interested in caring for a pet it can give them a sense of purpose. It’s amazing how many people you meet just out walking the dog! You may also consider hiring a companion from a home care agency to assist with transportation and running errands or simply to provide some social contact and interaction. Small changes add up and make a big difference. Social isolation doesn’t happen overnight and can’t be remedied overnight. Do you have any tips on how to keep your loved one involved in life? Share below and visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Aging and Sleep

When we’re young we often burn the candle at both ends when it comes to our sleep habits. We stay up late watching TV, socializing with friends, or doing schoolwork and then get up the next morning and go to work or school. Weekends are “catch-up time” with some power sleeping —-or not. Somehow we survive these erratic sleep habits. That all changes as you get into your senior years and sleep becomes much more important. It allows your body to restore its energy levels and it refreshes the immune system so it can help prevent disease as we age. In addition, sleep improves concentration and memory function. As you get older your sleep changes and you can’t bounce back from lack of sleep as you once did. Your body produces less melatonin so you wake up more often at night. In addition, an aging internal clock makes you wake up earlier in the morning while making you sleepier earlier in the evening. You generally need more time to fall asleep and any noises you hear at night may awaken you more readily than when you were younger. The problem is that as you age you still need seven to nine hours of sleep at night, just as you did in your early adult life. According to the National Sleep Foundation, almost half of older adults experience insomnia at least a few nights per week. In the over 65 age group, 13% of men and 36% of women need more than a half hour to fall asleep.

As you get older, there are a lot of factors that can directly affect your sleep. Most seniors are dealing with multiple health issues such as arthritis, heartburn, lung disease, or heart problems and the pain and discomfort they result in can keep you awake at night. These health issues are usually accompanied by a litany of medications and they too can affect the quality of sleep. These medications include anti-depressants, diuretics, decongestants, and high blood pressure medications. Psychological issues like depression and neurological illnesses like dementia are an additional source of sleep problems.

There are steps you can take to ensure a good night’s sleep. Many of them are simple lifestyle changes such as avoiding caffeine and alcohol at least 6 hours before bedtime and not eating heavy meals late in the day. Sticking to a regular schedule for going to bed and getting up in the morning (even on weekends) gets your body into a regular routine. Getting regular exercise reduces stress and according to the Feinberg School of Medicine results in dramatic improvement in the quality of sleep. Limit the amount of liquids you consume for a couple of hours before you go to bed. Getting up to go to the bathroom is the major cause of waking at night for seniors. If you make these changes yet are unsuccessful in getting a good night’s sleep, it’s time to talk to your family doctor. Do you have any good sleep tips to share? Visit us at www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Falls Don’t “Just Happen”

As caregivers, I’m sure every one of us has a story they can relate about a senior or loved one who’s fallen and hurt themselves badly. In fact, among the elderly, falling is the major cause of injury and hospital admissions. According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in three adults in the over 65 age group will fall in any given year. These falls are the leading cause of both their fatal and nonfatal injuries with fractures of the spine, hip, and forearm taking the lead. Statistically, in the over 75 age group, falling more often then not results in an admission to a long term care facility for a year or longer. These are pretty frightening statistics.

We’re all pretty familiar with tips about how to prevent falls in an elderly person’s home. Making the home safer by eliminating hazards is the first line of defense since over half of all falls happen at home. Some things we need to do include tacking down loose carpets, removing any clutter from stairways and floors, installing railing in all the stairways, and making sure there is plenty of bright light in the home. We can also make additional modification to the home by installing grab bars near the toilet and in the shower/tub area. Shower chairs and transfer benches allow a senior a safe stable way to get in and out of the tub.

Besides modifying the home for safety issues it’s also important to try to determine what other factors may contribute to your loved one’s risk of falling. If your loved one is inactive they will certainly have muscle weakness. This lack of strength and flexibility is a very strong risk factor for falling. Helping them do some weight bearing exercises can reduce this risk. Vision problems like glaucoma and cataracts can contribute to falls. Make sure your loved one has a regular eye exam. Some medications can cause dizziness or confusion and should be discussed with the family doctor if you suspect this is happening. Proper nutrition to get adequate vitamin D and calcium can lower the risk of hip fractures. These are all steps you can take as a caregiver to help prevent falls. Just remember that falling isn’t an inevitable part of getting older. There’s a lot you can do to prevent these falls. Do you have any other tips? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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It’s Flu Season!

It’s flu season but you probably know that. All you have to do is turn on the TV to hear some sad story about a young adult succumbing to the influenza virus. It’s in all the headlines. According to the Center for Disease Control, 3% of the population is now sick with the flu. More than 2,600 people have been hospitalized due to the flu since October of 2013. Dozens of healthy adults have died. As caregivers we need to be aware that if our loved one has an underlying condition, they are at much greater risk of getting the flu.
Of all the adults who have been hospitalized this year the most commonly reported underlying conditions include obesity, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disorders and neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy, epilepsy, stroke and spinal cord injuries. That covers an awful lot of people. The very best way to keep your senior or loved one safe is to get the flu shot.

That being said, I know there are a lot of people who claim they don’t get a flu shot because it gives them the flu. This just isn’t true. The flu is actually a respiratory disease so if they got a runny, stuffy nose and some sneezing or a sore throat, they actually got a cold. Flu symptoms include a fever, headache, coughing, fatigue, and general aches and pains. It takes two weeks after vaccination for the protective antibodies to develop in your body so you can actually get the flu for two weeks after the shot. If your loved one hasn’t gotten their vaccination yet, it’s not too late. As long as the flu virus is around it pays to get vaccinated. Typically, flu season doesn’t peak until February and can last as late as May. Although most flu clinics were held last fall in October, your loved one can still get vaccinated at their doctor’s office. In addition, vaccine is still available at your local pharmacy like CVS, Walgreens, and Rite-Aid. Many retailers that have a pharmacy, including Target, Kroger, Meijer, and K-Mart also have flu shots available. Don’t let the one you care for take unnecessary risks with their health and even their lives. Make sure they get their vaccination. Have you had to deal with your loved one’s reluctance to get their shot? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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Give the Gift of You

It’s that time of year when we wrack our brains trying to select that perfect something to give the special people in our lives. If there is a caregiver who helps us or who cares for a family member or loved one, this is an especially difficult decision to make. What can we possibly get them that would be both meaningful and helpful? What could the caregiver in your life use the most? It seems to me that all caregivers are short of one special thing — time. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to go to work, care for one’s own family, and care for a loved one. Don’t even mention having a social life or time for simple personal interests. If you think about it, anything you can do to free up some time for the caregiver would be appreciated. You can volunteer to do some grocery shopping or you can provide some meals. Better yet, you can stay with the loved one for a while to free up some time for the caregiver to do something for themselves. Volunteer to do some household task like doing the laundry or cleaning house. If you personally don’t have time to do these things, perhaps you could arrange to pay for some of these services to be provided.

It’s important for caregivers to know they are not alone. Providing an opportunity to vent without being judged or criticized can be an invaluable gift. Caregivers often have to deal with family members who provide little help but lots of ideas on how things should be done. Just lending an ear can help relieve the constant stress they are under. In that same vein, a gift certificate for a day at a spa or for a relaxing massage while you take over the caregiver duties would allow for some much needed “me time”.

If you’re more inclined to giving tangible things as gifts, you might consider gift cards for restaurants, grocery stores, or services. Anything that would help defray the costs of living would surely be appreciated. Caregiver reference materials like books or caregiver magazine subscription can help provide tips and advice on how to ease the burden of their duties. Paying for a personal emergency reporting system for their loved one can provide some piece of mind for the caregiver when they are not there. The bottom line is, give the gift of YOU. They surely don’t need another knickknack. Do you have any other caregiver gift ideas? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com

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