Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
One of the most challenging aspects of caregiving is assisting with personal care. However, independence increases success and minimizes how stressful these tasks can be. Caregivers that keep the individual’s remaining abilities in mind are most successful.
Some basic tips to encourage independence with toileting, bathing, dressing, grooming and eating include:
Help the person feel in control
You may need to experiment to learn what the individual can do for him or herself. Give the person time to complete the activities that can be done with coaching and cueing only.
Use task breakdown
Give instructions a step at a time breaking tasks into individual actions. “Brush your teeth” sounds simple, but requires a great deal of cognitive and physical activity. Coach the individual through each step. If you separate each action, you may find the person can still accomplish the task with cueing only.
Lay out clothing, prepare bathrooms, and offer one food item at a time. Activities of daily living can quickly become overwhelming to someone with cognitive impairment.
Monitor for safety and health
Install grab bars (do not use towel racks), use non-slip mats, and ensure the water is a comfortable temperature. Monitor for choking while eating. Observe for skin irritations if the person is incontinent.
If you need more ideas, there are many professionals at Hebrew Health Care who can assist you. Ask the day center staff or home care nurses for other ideas on how to maintain independence. There are also great resources available through various caregiver groups. If you would like resources, access Aging Care Academy website at www.agingcareacademy.org or contact us at (860) 920-1810.
Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, Director of Dementia Care Services, Hebrew Health Care
What do you need to adjust to experience “successful aging”?
What happens when “I” becomes “we”?
What’s the difference between dementia and Alzheimer’s?
Get the answers to these questions and more at www.agingcareacademy.org.
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Pamela Atwood, MA, CDP, Director of Dementia Care Services
Holidays represent opportunities for togetherness, love, laughter and sharing with family and friends. In reality, they can be stressful times for everyone. They can be completely overwhelming to caregivers, and often represent loss, sadness and disappointment. Keeping these survival tips in mind will help caregivers make the most of this holiday season.
Know your limits, and the limits of your loved one. Adjusting expectations will help caregivers, family and friends. Activities often need to be simplified and minimized to reduce stress levels. If you usually serve 20 people, serve only 5 this year. Or instead of making all the food, have guests bring the holiday dishes that mean the most to them. Caregivers can expect the normal tensions of the season, plus the stress of caregiving responsibilities. Let others know what they can do for you – and then let them do it!
Involve your loved one but recognize signs of stress in them
The care recipient may want to participate in festivities, but not feel comfortable in large crowds. Observe for symptoms of increasing anxiety or cues that s/he is becoming over stimulated. Explain to your host in advance that you may need to leave early and unexpectedly. Avoid a scene by explaining in advance. For people with dementia, most gatherings must be with smaller groups and for shorter periods of time than in the past.
Try to stick to routines
Especially if your care recipient has dementia, sticking to the usual routine is very important. Taking on too many holiday tasks will stress out caregivers and thus care recipients.
Adapt gift giving
Ask for gifts that are useful, such as adaptive, washable clothing, tapes of favorite music or old movies, respite time, subscriptions to newspapers or magazines, or labeled family photo albums. Beware of toxic plants, such as poinsettias, holly and mistletoe.
Take care of yourself
Be sure to get enough rest, eat properly and exercise. Caregiving depletes your physical and emotional energy; caring for yourself can get it back. Limit alcohol consumption (a depressant drug). Be realistic about our own emotional needs but keep a sense of humor – the best coping strategy to survive the holiday season.
What’s hidden under the floorboards, or in the attic? Does dad keep a list of passwords for his online banking, or are they all in his head? Mom might be eligible for VA benefits, but where is the discharge paperwork? What information do caregivers need to have on hand to assist family members?
Faith Parker is a Hebrew Health Care Volunteer and 25-year active Auxiliary member, and recently she attended an Aging Care Academy® seminar. Faith’s family has found themselves in a position of caring for elder family members or friends of family, near and far. Faith has been using resources we gave her and compiled a list of all the information caregivers may need some day. With her permission we share it, and encourage you to share it with your friends and family.
Full legal name and residence
Birth date and place, birth certificate
Social Security and Medicare numbers
Employer(s) and dates of employment
Education and military records
Sources of income and assets; investment income (stock, bonds, property
Insurance policies, bank accounts, deeds, investments, and other valuables
Most recent income tax return
Money owed, to whom, and when payments are due
Credit card account names and numbers
Safe deposit key and information
Will, beneficiary information
Durable power of attorney
Living will and/or durable power of attorney for health care
Where cash or other valuables might be kept in the home
latest blood work
medications including over the counter, time of day, dosage and illness
allergies including to any medications
names and numbers of all physicians
long term health policy info
all other medical ins policy numbers and contact information
Passwords for internet programs, etc.
Neighbors phone number
Where apt and car keys are located
Veterans status, numbers and paperwork
Pets – pet care/vet
Names and contact info for important family members
While gathering this information may seem like a full-time job, doing it in advance of an emergency is always easier than in crisis mode. If the elder can gather it and put it in a safe place, that is even better. Much of this list, and the resources Faith compiled them from, were provided by the National Institute on Aging. They have some great resources, including the a booklet called “So Far Away,” an “Advance Care Planning” sheet, and “Getting Your Affairs in Order” AgePage (visit www.nia.nih.gov/health/topics/legal-planning for these and other free resources). There is also a superb “Emergency Preparedness, For Seniors, By Seniors” booklet from the Red Cross (www.redcross.org ). One of the best resources to keep it all in one place is a book by local Connecticut author Lynn McPhelimy called In the Checklist of Life. When you read the reviews online, you will agree it sounds like a necessity for every family.
Thank you Faith for sharing your compiled list. And thanks to the National Institutes on Aging and the Red Cross for providing such valuable information to us all – for free! For more information on caregiver seminars, visit www.agingcareacademy.org.
By Marichelle B. Cirunay, BSN,RN Infection Preventionist, Hebrew Health Care
A 100oF or higher fever or feeling feverish (not everyone with the flu has a fever)
A cough and/or sore throat
A runny or stuffy nose
Headaches and/or body aches
Nausea, vomiting, and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
Do I have the flu or a cold?
The flu and the common cold have similar symptoms. It can be difficult to tell the difference between them. Your health care provider can give you a test within the first few days of your illness to determine whether or not you have the flu.
In general, the flu is worse than the common cold. Symptoms such as fever, body aches, tiredness, and cough are more common and intense with the flu. People with colds are more likely to have a runny or stuffy nose.
When should I seek emergency medical attention?
Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following:
Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
Purple or blue discoloration of the lips
Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen
Severe or persistent vomiting
Flu-like symptoms that improve but then return with fever and worse cough
If you have been diagnosed with the flu, you should stay home and follow your health care provider’s recommendations. Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist about over-the-counter and prescription medications to ease flu symptoms and help you feel better faster.
You can treat flu symptoms with and without medication.
Over-the-counter medications may relieve some flu symptoms but will not make you less contagious.
Your health care provider may prescribe antiviral medications to make your illness milder and prevent serious complications.
Your health care provider may prescribe antibiotics if your flu has progressed to a bacterial infection.
Are there ways to treat the flu or its symptoms without medication?
You can treat flu symptoms without medication by:
Getting plenty of rest
Drinking clear fluids like water, broth, sports drinks, or electrolyte beverages to prevent becoming dehydrated
Placing a cool, damp washcloth on your forehead, arms, and legs to reduce discomfort associated with a fever
Putting a humidifier in your room to make breathing easier
Gargling salt water (1:1 ratio warm water to salt) to soothe a sore throat
Covering up with a warm blanket to calm chills
By Pamela Atwood, Director of Dementia Care Services
The lovely, autumn evening of October 14 heralded exploration and discovery not seen since Columbus himself wandered toward India and discovered America (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration). With the help of local radio personality Mary Jones from WDRC-AM 1360, a panel of Hebrew Health Care’s experts helped live and virtual/social-media audiences discover new perspectives on caregiving and aging wellness. With some refreshments and caregiver survival kits, AgingCareAcademy.org was launched. I thought today I’d share with you some of the questions and answers from that evening.
Q. I think my mom may be depressed. How do I know and is that something her primary care physician (PCP) can evaluate?
A. Depression is very common among older adults, for a number of reasons. You want to look for persistent sadness and changes in outlook, mood, and activity level. If those changes exist over at least a 2-week period she may be depressed. Obviously, any discussion of suicidal thoughts should be reported to her medical professionals immediately. The PCP may be able to evaluate and treat this simply, or may refer to a geriatric psychiatrist, psychologist for talk-therapy or both. If medication is ordered, it usually takes 4-6 weeks to get to a therapeutic level. If symptoms haven’t significantly improved by then, a different brand of medication may be helpful.
Q. What is the best brand of emergency response device?
A. Whichever the individual will wear! One of the most common reasons for system failure is that the person refuses to wear the device. No one can help if you’ve fallen and can’t get up if you aren’t wearing the button to call for help. Emergency alert services (EAS) are improving with every advance in technology. Some are limited to in-house use only. But nowadays there are several which utilize GPS and cell phone technology and can be set to summon help from wherever the individual is located. They may even be automatically triggered if the patient falls and responders can tell where in the house the person is located. EAS charges can vary quite a bit and may depend on: state/region of country; level of technology and notifications; installation requirements; extra pendant for spouse; equipment purchase; contracts; replacement batteries.
Q. How do you know what level of help in the home is needed, or what is available?
A. Education through Aging Care Academy and information on our website can help you evaluate and make care decisions. Our next semester of courses begins in Hartford later this month. Confident caregivers come from quality education, and the best resources and faculty are available at Aging Care Academy. Individual elder care consultations are also available. Go to AgingCareAcademy.org for more information and to register for classes or book a consult today.