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
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
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
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
The holiday season is finally in full swing and before your know it, we’ll be ushering in the New Year. We’ll be looking at the past year and promising ourselves that this new year will be different. We’ll think of all the things that went wrong and come up with a nice list of changes for the coming year that will make everything so much better. Sound familiar? As caregivers, it’s easy to blame ourselves for anything that might have gone wrong while we cared for our loved one. Did we put our loved one first? Were we attentive to their needs?
I’m sure the list of New Year resolutions will look something like this:
#1. I will get all the sleep and rest I need.
#2. I will do all I can to have a healthy lifestyle.
#3. I’ll ask for and accept all the help I can get.
#4. I will do something every day to de-stress a bit.
#5. I promise to keep up a social life.
#6. I will communicate and share with others who are going through the same experiences I am.
#7. I will use respite care whenever I can.
#8. I will learn all I can about my loved one’s condition.
After looking at all of these resolutions, you can see a common thread. They can all be replaced with an attitude adjustment. As caregivers, we need to shift our concerns to caring for ourselves! Somehow it seems wrong to even say that. We’ve spent an awful lot of time putting someone else’s needs ahead of our own and just thinking about yourself seems so selfish. The thing to remember is that if we aren’t in good shape physically and emotionally, we’ll be ineffective as caregivers and end up being useless to those we care for. This year my goal is to wake up every morning and remind myself that it’s all about me. What resolutions are you making for the new year? Share below and visit us at http://www.trilliumhomecare.com