‘Caregiver and family support’ Posts

Health And Safety Tips For Seniors Living With Dementia

October 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Managing DementiaDementia can affect a person in any number of ways, so it’s important to take care of the mind, body, and spirit in equal measure after a diagnosis of the disease. Although it is associated most closely with memory loss, there are physical and emotional tolls as well. It is most commonly caused by changes in the brain brought on by Alzheimer’s disease or more than one stroke and can bring on violent behavior, problems with language skills, and trouble with day-to-day activities.

For individuals who have not been placed in assisted living but need help in their day-to-day, there are many things for loved ones to think about concerning their safety and wellbeing. It’s helpful to go around their living space and assess any possible dangers or hazards; upgrades may need to be made in order to keep them comfortable, happy, and safe. Jim Vogel, offers here few of the best tips on how to do just that.

Encourage cognition: It’s important for sufferers of dementia to keep their minds active, so encourage them to play word games or simply tell stories about their life. Remembrance is a good thing, even when it involves a sad memory, because it keeps the individual in the present and helps them focus.

Keep them social: Loneliness can quickly lead to depression, so it’s important to make sure your loved one stays active and social. Help them find a group activity or club to join, such as a book group that meets once a week. Finding something they love and can stay active in will help immensely with mood and cognition, and it will give them a goal as well as something to look forward to.

Daily exercise is a must: Daily exercise is great for the body, but it’s good for the mind and mood, too. Activity can boost brain function and help stimulate positive feelings, so help your loved one get out and get moving. Daily walks in sturdy shoes are perfect, as is swimming, golfing, gardening, and anything else they might enjoy that won’t put a strain on them physically.

Safety measures: It’s important to know what your loved one’s specific needs are before assessing their living space. If dementia has progressed to a certain point, you might consider implementing safety measures such as door alarms and personal emergency alarms. Look around every room and check for properly installed smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, adequate lighting, and trip hazards such as slippery rugs, clutter, or furniture. Bathrooms will need to be checked for safety hazards as well; non-slip rubber mats should be placed on the floor and in the tub, and handrails or shower seats are always advisable. And if you’re loved one takes any medication, take control of their daily doses. Doing so will help them avoid becoming addicted to medications, such as opioids, and dangerous side effects from incorrect dosage.

If the dementia diagnosis is linked to Alzheimer’s, it’s important to understand the side effects of both, as they may differ from person to person. Alzheimer’s can cause physical issues such as vision loss and balance problems, so it’s imperative to make sure your loved one’s home can accommodate them safely. Stairs may be a problem to navigate; make sure the handrails are in good shape and the stairwell is well lit.

Lastly, keep up good communication with your loved one and make sure they know you’re there for them. Help them keep in touch with other family members and friends and offer to assist them with doctor appointments; every little thing helps.

 

Social connection is key for senior well-being

August 24th, 2016 by Doris Bersing

Visiting your eldersWhen talking healthy aging, we need to stress the fact that social connection is key for senior’s well-being. Loneliness and isolation can have serious consequences for seniors’ physical and mental health.

Social isolation and loneliness go hand in hand with poor health outcomes. Numerous side effects have been connected to social isolation in the elderly, including dementia, loneliness, and severe depression. Aging parents want to feel included in the lives on their loved ones; sadly, very few have the time to come visit. To make sure our beloved mothers and fathers stay happy and help preserve their general health, it is important to include them in our lives. Edward Francis from Forest, an eldercare village, gives us some tips on how to reduce elders’  loneliness and some ways to help them reconnect with family and friends.

Make transportation accessible

The main cause of social isolation in aging parents is lack of transportation. Most seniors are not in the capacity to drive, so it is important to help them get around in order to socialize and make independent choices. If your parents leave someplace where public transportation is not available, it might be a good idea to call them and ask if they need a lift. Do this twice a week. If you can’t, ask a friend or send them a taxi. Some seniors don’t even know they have public transportation in the area; make time to visit and teach them how to use the bus or the train. It will make them feel more independent, and even prevent a sense of loneliness.

Give aging parents a sense of purpose

Seniors who have hobbies or a sense of purpose are less likely to become isolated. Apart from making seniors find meaning in life, interests and hobbies are social activities by nature. Playing bridge or chess, cooking classes, exercising are all excellent activities aging parents should do to stay entertained. Local senior centers have all sorts of events planned out for seniors; checking those out might also be a great way to meet new people and interact. Doing some volunteering work is an excellent way of expressing and preserving a sense of purpose as well. Encouraging aging parents to stay active and engaged keeps them away from becoming lonely and isolated from the rest of the world.

Encourage your parents to get a pet

Research has demonstrated over and over again that the mere act of caring and nurturing relieves feelings of depression and social isolation. Getting a pet for example, is a great way of staying engaged, feeling more secure and having motivation to use time in a constructive way. Animal companionship fosters relationships with neighborhoods. It is a social stimulant, an icebreaker that gives seniors a serious reason to wake up in the morning and do fun things. Prior to recommending your parent to get a pet, you need to make sure that they can take care of it.

Boosting self-esteem

Many seniors don’t want to socialize because they have a poor image of themselves, particularly of their bodies. Those who lack confidence are prone to being lonelier than those that do choose to interact and have a social life. For instance, overweight seniors feel embarrassed and ashamed; they don’t like to engage because they fear that people will judge their physical appearance. Positive comments and compliments can go a very long way; they help boost self-esteem and prevent seniors from freaking out over their weight and physical appearance. It might be a good idea to encourage your aging parent to adhere to a healthier lifestyle; not just to lose weight, but also to feel better and more self-assured in their own skin.

Recommend vision and hearing tests

Seniors suffering from untreated or undiagnosed hearing or vision issues may want to stay isolated because of their inability to communicate properly. In this case, it might be a good idea to take your parents to the doctor; have them checked out and treated so that they can be back on their feet. A hearing aid can help them overcome their fears of social interaction. Vision tests are equally important because they will allow older people to see better and thus pay more attention to the things happening around them.

Senior parents who refuse to socialize usually have a very good reason for their behavior. It’s up to you to find the root cause of their depression; then you can work together on a solution. In most cases, it’s all about boosting their self-esteem and convincing them that they can have friends and be happy even if they’re in their 70s or 80s.

 

Empathy Plays an Important Role in Care Giving

June 10th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Empathy and caregivingBe kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle   ~ Plato

Many of our elders who had reached the golden years, find difficult to see the golden part of aging and at least, initially, they are aware of the transitions and respond with a myriad of emotions from shame and anger to depression, anxiety, and fear. Let’s remember theirs was the generation that survived the Great Depression and fought the last “good war.” Aging was not on their agenda, not for this long, not with so many medical issues, and with so little resources for retirement; to care for them we need knowledge, skills but overall empathy.

What is Empathy?

The simplest definition is the feeling of understanding you get when you stop and put yourself in someone else’s shoes. For caregivers this can mean imagining what it must be like to be in constant pain, or to be facing your own death. It could even be picturing oneself as constantly dependent on others, without any privacy. Once you understand what this would feel like you are able to relate better to the patient and will be much less likely to be frustrated by their actions.

Understanding their pain is only the first part of the job. You will also need to overlook your own feelings regarding how they may have arrived at their situation. It is imperative to accept people as they are and help them in any way you can. Empathizing with them will make your job easier as you understand why they need the care and the best way of approaching it.

Edward Francis with Foresthc.com shared with us some of the important points about how relevant empathy s when caring for our elders. He says, “…There are an increasing number of care givers in the world. This is a combination of people living longer and the steady increase of people in the world. Many caregivers fall into the role and can be excellent at taking care of someone’s needs; however this does not mean that they emphasize with them; a good caregiver can simply treat others, as they would like to be treated.

Understanding the Patient

Some patients can seem incredibly rude and make it very difficult to either help them or emphasize with them. In fact these are the ones that need your empathy more than any other. The rudeness is generally a result of severe frustration with the situation they find themselves in. Part of the role of a good caregiver is to understand how the family and friends are coping and to emphasize with them as well.

They may need a break or be struggling with dealing with the issue and a supportive shoulder can work wonders. Understanding their needs and fears can also provide you with the opportunity to help a family member deal with their own emotions and offer a better care giving experience to their loved one. Embarrassment is a common feeling in patients, like all of us they have been used to looking after themselves and doing what they like when they want to.

To have this all taken away and be completely dependent on others is difficult for anyone to adapt to. This often shows as rudeness or aggression but once you understand the patient you will be able to see it for what it is and react accordingly. Be patient and whatever you do make sure you don’t lose your temper in front of them; you certainly don’t want to make them worse, not to mention that it is unprofessional.

Listening can help caregivers empathize more with the patient

It can be very difficult when you are in constant pain and dependent on others to assist you. This can become much worse if you are not able to share your fears with anyone. A good caregiver will see these fears and will listen. Talking to someone allows a patient to lighten the load and this will help them to cope with the situation. It will also prevent either the patient or their family from getting wound up when there are so many factors, which are beyond their control.

Level of care

Caregivers who take the time to understand their patient’s personalities, needs and situation can offer a far better service. You will be able to relate to the patient and this will trigger a better response from them as they register your intentions. A caregiver who can emphasize with their patient will automatically look for ways to improve both the level of care and the general care experience. The best caregivers have empathy, sympathy and integrity, a difficult mix to balance.

Empathy is vital when caregiving for someone with dementia, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. You must find a way to control your negative emotions and focus on the positive. This will help you get a better response from the patient, not to mention that you’ll be more relaxed and willing to help them out too.

Aging in Place: Assistive Technology and Human Touch to Solve the Caregiving Issue

May 4th, 2015 by Doris Bersing

Aging in PlaceWe all know those smart and dynamic elders, who used to be professionals, hard workers, homemakers, very engaged in their communities, who slowly but surely, are aging with aches and pains and diminishing faculties, with some times chronic and debilitating diseases rising in the horizon. We all try to help them to little (or no) avail, since the response is: “I do not need help …I am not moving from my home…I am not going to one of those places full of old people”… Does it sound familiar? If you have an elderly parent or loved one in need of care and help, I am sure you have.

Many studies since 2007 have focused on Aging in Place and what seniors and baby boomers want. Besides being in denial of needing help, elders fear moving into a nursing home and losing their independence more than they fear death, according to a study, “Aging in Place in America,” commissioned by Clarity and The EAR Foundation, which also found that the Baby Boomer children of seniors also fear for their parents. Boomers express particular concern about their parents’ emotional and physical well being should they have to enter a nursing home, finds the study, which examines the attitudes and anxieties of the nation’s elderly population. Although since 1997 AARP survey, we know (89%) of the interviewees answer they wanted to stay at home, and age in place – or live independently, but more than half of those surveyed (53%) are concerned with their ability to do so.

Some of the issues that force older adults out of their homes is not only illness and frailty but houses that do not accommodate their needs, isolation, and lack of support –we know our communities, sad to say, are not equipped with volunteerism enough to help some of these seniors or systems that protect not only the low income ones but the middle class, as well.

Projects like Capable in Baltimore, where volunteers come helping seniors run errands and reach the next community even that day while retrofitting their houses has proven to keep seniors at home longer. The project started as a major research effort in the Baltimore area called the CAPABLE project – it stands for Community Aging in Place, Advancing Better Living for Elders – is sending handymen, nurses and occupational therapists into the homes of hundreds of low-income seniors aging in place to see how far $4,000 can go in preserving people’s independence. The project’s initial success has captured nationwide media attention and piqued the interest of federal officials straining to hold down Medicaid costs. If it can be scaled up and tried nationwide, it could potentially save U.S. taxpayers millions of dollars. The average cost of nursing home care in the U.S. is $6,700 a month, much of it paid through Medicaid, so even postponing a move to a nursing facility by just a few months can have a major impact.

Another well known solution but difficult to implement, on one hand because seniors resistance to technology, and on another because of baby boomers not turning their parents into it, is Gero-technology that can lower the cost of home care when needed and/or help keep seniors independently but safely at home. Aging in a high tech world is not easy for these seniors but there are agencies and resources in the community to help them and their families navigate through the maze of options and what is really needed.

These technologies go from the safety ones to guarantee people are safe at home, and monitor their comes-and-goes, as needed without invasion, to the tablets to communicate with loved ones, receive medication reminders, or access services in the community. Organizations like Living Well use leading-edge technologies to evaluate their members’ health and mental status, reduce the cost of care, communicate medical and other information to physicians and relatives, provide cognitive vitality programming and monitor personal safety. When needed, they will evaluate the layout of the home and undertake modifications to ensure mobility, access, and security. In addition, our professional housekeeping and maintenance staff keep our members’ homes updated, clean, and impeccably maintained.

Just today, May 4, 2015 California Health launched a report discussing the caregiving issue and if really this technology involving social networking and technology will “…save the day for one of America’s most intractable social problems — caring for the country’s aging population? The article proposes a different way of hiring caregivers but still posits the issue of just having a caregiver. One size does not fit all and for some of our loved ones just low-tech or high tech intervention can save the day. Now if in need of home care, options are there with agencies as the article states charging more than what a privately hired caregiver could cost but no- back up, or services that will monitor the process for you, and more. Read the article.

In reality, the high tech and high touch is a better answer. It is not only technology but the human connection what makes a real answer: personal services and advanced assistive technology can add a strong measure of comfort, convenience and control to those that desire to remain at home but have conditions that may limit their ability to move freely, communicate effectively or otherwise navigate their environment. Together they can ensure and encourage those that desire to age in place the opportunity to do so with safety and choices for the seniors and peace of mind for family members and friends. Check all the options and remember one size-does-not-fit all.

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

December 29th, 2014 by Doris Bersing
Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues

Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues, an experience many of us experience, therefore the San Francisco Bay Times, the LGBT News and Calendar for San Francisco and the Bay Area, published an article by Dr. Doris Bersing, founder and CEO of Living Well stressing the importance of caring for yourself when caring for other during the Holiday season and all the “Holiday Blues’ this time brings with it. In the article titled: Seniors, Caregiving and the Holiday Blues,  Dr. Bersing says: “… At its best, the holiday season should be a time of happiness and joy, of being nestled in the loving bosom of family and friends. It is a wonderful picture, but the holiday season is fraught with stress for most folks. Expectations of a “perfect” holiday, fed by advertising and media coverage, can contribute to depression for those who don’t feel their holiday is measuring up. The truth is that for many seniors and their caregivers, the rosy picture is a far cry from reality… ‘many people suffer from “holiday blues,” even without the stress of caregiving. For many elders, feelings of sadness, loneliness, and isolation are their holiday companions. The season can be an especially hard time for people away from family and/or who are living alone. This is also especially true for many elders in the LGBT community who have lost their partners, have been ostracized from their family, and find themselves alone and/or dependent on close friends who have become their caregivers. Add holiday season frenzy to the mix, and it’s not hard to see how the blues can emerge.

There are many influencing factors that can contribute to seniors being at particular risk of suffering from the “holiday blues” including: grief and loss, unrealistic expectations, all family dynamics and change resistance. Read the article

Dr. Bersing cannot emphasize enough how important it can be to spend the holiday season in the company of supportive and caring people, thus avoiding drama queens and trouble makers.https://www.livingwellah.com/blog/wp-admin/post.php?post=1962&action=edit&message=10#wpseo_linkdex

How Families Can Prepare to Care for A Loved One Dealing with a Memory Loss Condition

November 6th, 2014 by Doris Bersing

CaregiverIn recognition of November being National Family Caregivers Month,  US President Barack Obama issue a proclamation recognizing November as the National Family caregiver month. President Obama stresses the fact “…In the United States, more than 60 million caregivers provide invaluable strength and assistance to their family members, and as the number of older Americans rises, so will the number of caregivers. Many of these dedicated people work full time and raise children of their own while also caring for the needs of their loved ones. Caregivers support the independence of their family members and enable them to more fully participate in their communities, and as a Nation, we have an obligation to empower these selfless individuals.

Private institutions like The Brentwood Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center in Danvers, MA shared some advice for family caregivers whose loved ones have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia.

Family Caregivers provide many aspects of emotions, finances, nursing, and homemaking to allow for their loved ones to stay in their own homes comfortably. National Family Caregivers Month allows us to recognize those that put hard work into supporting their loved ones throughout difficult times.  Here are a few pieces of advice for those who are caregivers to loved ones diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia:

Become Well Informed
There are programs and classes that caregivers can take to learn more about Memory Loss Conditions. Also, completing your own research to gain as much knowledge about the diseases can help. There is a ton of information which can help you to prepare for the future and what you are going to encounter as your loved ones progress.

Develop a Strong Support Network of Family and Friends
Having a strong support network around you is extremely important as you become a caregiver. Keeping a support system of people you can talk to, get away for a bit with, or a shoulder to lean on helps for caregivers to handle the stress of caring for a loved one who is dealing with memory loss conditions.

Join a Support Group
Caregivers sometimes need to realize, they are not the only ones who are in this type of situation. By joining local support groups, you can gain a trusted support system, talk about your issues, and gain valuable advice about how others have coped with bringing in a loved one with medical issues.

Develop Family Roles
Many times, there are multiple people in the same house acting as caregivers for a loved one. It is important to set family roles so that everyone knows their part and what they are responsible for doing. Someone may be the driver to doctor’s appointments whereas another makes their meals and another could be responsible for their medication. It is important that everyone in the household is on the same page to decrease tension and make sure their loved one is getting the proper care necessary.

Evaluate Finances
Bringing in a loved one will create added costs to your monthly budget. Sit down with your past budget and you will realize you may need to readjust. You will have one more mouth to feed, one more person to drive, medications to order, new furniture or safety accessories to add to your house. Before you bring your loved one into your home it is important to realize what the added costs will be to understand the expenses you will face.

Plan for the Future
From the beginning caregivers have to understand that their loved ones may not be able to stay with them forever. Families need to sit down and discuss what the plans are for the future. Whether that includes part time at home nursing care, part time living situations between different members of the family, or eventually looking into care facilities for your loved ones, it is important for these decisions to be set from the beginning.

Take Care of Yourself
Finally, caregivers need to take a step back and make sure they are caring for themselves. Being active will help keep a caregiver physically, mentally and emotionally healthy. Taking time for yourself is important to release the burdens and stresses that come with care giving. Allowing yourself “me time” will keep you fresh and allow you to be a better caregiver.

Alzheimer’s and Dementia are extremely life-changing diseases for both those diagnosed and their loved ones. Those who take on the care giving responsibilities will be taking on a lot in the future, but the patients will benefit from their love and support.

Finally, thank you to all the wonderful caregivers out there, we appreciate all that you do!

Role Reversal: A Reality, A Documentary.

November 1st, 2014 by Doris Bersing

Role ReversalNeedless to say that many of us,  Baby Boomers go, had gone, are going, have been going, and/or will go through the difficult and taxing task of caring for an aging, chronically ill or frail parent.  With the growing of the aging population and the out-of-the-pocket excessive cost of care, many caregivers are the adult children who need to care for their parents.

Caring for our parents might bring up many different emotions and reactions to this experience, including feeling uncomfortable when you find yourself feeding, bathing, or supervising a parent who once took care of you, frustrated when ourparents denied their need for care or when they won’t listen to advice or accept, and sometimes awkward when roles are reversed. Moreover, some of us may have a loving relationship with our parents but other adult children find themselves caring for parents they never got along with well or having to deal with a variety of family dynamics.

Some of this aspects is what film maker Chris Nicholas tries to portray in his documentary role reversal about caring for his mother…at his home. A circumstance that is not available to everybody. I know some people do not have that opportunity and are left with few other choices like paying for “outside” care or placing parents in a facility. No matter what your reality is vis-a-vis the care of your parents, it takes a village to educate us all about this reality and the options we do or do not have.

Nicholas explains “…Role Reversal’ is a documentary about what happens when our aging parents are no longer able to care for themselves and how we, the adult children take on the role of caregiver.  Millions of us are currently struggling with this role reversal, and millions more should prepare for it. He initiated an indiegogo campaign to raise funds to make the documentary a reality. His indiegogo campaign states: “…Filmmaker Chris Nicholas uses his own experience of caring for his ailing mother, Beatrice, as a means of helping us all prepare for the inevitable…Nicholas will also interview health care professionals, and share the stories of others that are at various stages of taking care of their aging parents. The goals are to create a film that will guide us through this process, teaching us how to take care of ourselves as we care for our parent; and to inspire us to honor our parents, letting them live their final years with dignity and compassion.

If you want to learn more about Chris and Beatrice’s personal story click here

If you feel moved by or identify with this story, you could think of supporting Support Role Reversal, which is about caring for our aging parents and the lack of options, sometimes, we have. To see Nicholas indiegogo campaign, click here.