Thursday, February 23, 2012

Managing a Routine with those with Alzheimers

If your elderly loved one suffers from Alzheimer's Disease, they probably find it difficult to get a good night's sleep and stick to a regular routine. It has been suggested that Alzheimer's Disease can actually reverse the sleep-wake cycle, causing elderly individuals to become tired during the day and active at night. If you are the primary care provider for your elderly loved one, this lack of a routine may become exhausting and dangerous, as they may become prone to wandering the house at night.

When trying to establish a routine, keep these tips from the Mayo Clinic in mind:

  1. Institute a schedule and stick to it. This tip encompasses creating routines for different parts of the day. For example, waking up at a set time, eating breakfast, lunch, and dinner at the same time each day, and going to bed at the same time every night. Every activity may have its own routine surrounding it, such as the brushing of teeth and changing into pajamas before bed. These routines will help your elderly loved one keep track of the time of day and help their bodies to know when it is time to sleep.
  2. Discourage long or late naps. Taking short naps early in the day can be healthy, but longer naps later in the day can throw off your elderly loved one's sleep cycle. Additionally, encourage your elderly loved one to nap in places other than the bed, such as the couch or a comfortable chair.
  3. Limit caffeine and alcohol. These substances can contribute to sleeplessness and confusion, and should be ingested sparingly by individuals who have Alzheimer's Disease.
  4. Spend time outside. Exposure to light has been shown to help regulate sleep cycles. Try taking walks after breakfast or enjoying the weather from the porch. Light therapy may also be recommended by your elderly loved one's doctor.

Maintaining a regular sleep cycle and daily routine may be difficult if your elderly loved one has Alzheimer's Disease—both for them and for you. Remember, by reinforcing the routine you have set you may be able to help your elderly loved one get a good night's rest.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Preparing End of Life Documents

Death is not something that families like to speak about, but elderly individuals who are facing end-of-life circumstances may want to prepare end-of-life documents to make their own wishes clear. Certainly a difficult task, the preparation of end-of-life documents is recommended for all individuals in an effort to ensure that all of their wishes are carried out.

James, from Durham, North Carolina, recently helped his elderly loved ones prepare their end-of-life documents. While providing senior care to his parents, he read an article about the importance of these forms. He immediately discussed them with his parents and made an appointment with their lawyer to draw up the necessary papers.

James and his parents focused on three end-of-life documents:

  1. Living Will: A Living Will enables an individual to inform their doctors of their medical wishes even if in a vegetative state. If an individual is terminal and on life support or in an irreversible coma, a Living Will sets forth their wishes. Not only does this ensure that their needs are met, it removes the stress of making such decisions from the shoulders of family members.
  2. Durable or Medical Power of Attorney: In other medical situations, individuals may need family members to make decisions pertaining to treatment options. Power of Attorney should be granted to a trusted individual who understands one's wishes.
  3. Physicians Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment, or POLST: This form is one that an individual's physician will sign. By signing, physicians confirm the Living Will and Power of Attorney decisions. POLST also provides directions for specific medical treatment, such as the use of life support.

After helping his parents prepare their end-of-life documents, James felt much more confident in his ability to take care of them should their health decline. Senior care is about more than simply assisting in daily functions—it is about recognizing and upholding, to the best of one's ability, the wishes of individuals. After discussing these documents with his parents, James knew that he could take care of them in the way that they wanted. Although it was a difficult conversation to have, James and his parents feel more optimistic about the future.

The Sandwich Generation

A relatively new term, the "Sandwich Generation" refers to individuals who provide senior care to their parents while taking care of their own children. This arrangement can be stressful, but it is often unavoidable. Members of the Sandwich Generation must provide the care that both their parents and their children need, while also maintaining their own careers and relationships.

Davy, from Durham, North Carolina, is the perfect example of a member of the Sandwich Generation. Every morning, Davy and his wife get their kids ready for school. Davy packs up his laptop, buckles the children into their car seats, and takes them to class before heading off to his parents' house. As a web designer, Davy is the only member of his family able to work from home. Because of this flexibility, he has taken on the responsibility of taking care of his parents.

Senior care is a serious task, one that may require a wide range of services. Davy's parents need minimal care; throughout the day, he helps them prepare meals, get in and out of the bathroom, and perform basic activities to maintain the house. Some elderly individuals need a much higher level of senior care, which members of the Sandwich Generation must learn to provide.

Being a member of the Sandwich Generation poses many challenges. Some of these include:

  • Effectively budgeting time between one's elderly loved ones and one's children.
  • Maintaining financial stability. This is particularly difficult if an individual must quit work to provide senior care to their parents or if their parents are in need of financial assistance.
  • Overcoming the emotional toll of watching one's parents age.

While the Sandwich Generation must overcome many obstacles, it also benefits from providing senior care to elderly loved ones. For example, familial bonds are often strengthened through senior care and, because the Sandwich Generation must care for both their children and parents, the bond between children and grandparents has a unique opportunity to grow.

Davy from Durham and other members of the Sandwich Generation certainly face many challenges; however, providing senior care for elderly loved ones can be a very rewarding experience.   

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Long-distance Care Giving

If you live hundreds, or even thousands, of miles from your elderly loved one, you may find yourself facing critical decisions about their care. Providing long-distance senior care can be difficult, especially if you feel as though your elderly loved one should relocate to be closer to family members who can take care of them. So what are you to do if your elderly loved one needs assistance but is too far away for you to help?
If you are facing a long-distance care situation, there may be several solutions to the dilemma. While deciding how to best care for your elderly loved one, keep the following in mind:
  1. Relocation should be a last resort. This is particularly important if your elderly loved one owns their home. Moving can prove to be not only expensive, but emotionally difficult. While being closer to family may be in your elderly loved one's best interest, they may feel as though they must give up their independence in the process of moving.
  2. Explore home care options. Senior care professionals can provide a wide range of services to members of the elderly population. Whether your loved one needs the most basic of care or more thorough medical attention, home care professionals can help. Try calling home care organizations that are local to your elderly loved one. After speaking with them, you may have a better idea of the kind of care your loved one needs—and whether or not you will need help providing it.
  3. Spreading yourself too thin will not help your elderly loved one. While you may feel as though it is your responsibility to care for your loved one, you cannot hold yourself accountable for it if you are geographically unable to provide the care they deserve. Understanding your own limitations is key in securing proper care for your elderly loved one.
Long-distance care is an obstacle that many families face. Fortunately, senior care professionals have been trained to provide a high quality of care to elderly individuals. With the help of a qualified senior care professional, your elderly loved one can receive the assistance they need without having to sacrifice their independent lifestyle.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Managing Care Giver Depression

A more common occurrence than you might imagine, many caregivers experience a level of depression that may interfere with their daily lives. The responsibilities that weigh on a caregiver's shoulders are immense, and the sense of accountability can be magnified if they are caring for a member of their family. Providing care itself is not a cause of depression, but this condition can occur when caregivers sacrifice their own wellbeing for the needs of elderly loved ones.
The key to addressing caregiver depression is to recognize its signs and how to fix it. Here are some of the signs of depression that you should look out for if you or a loved one are providing home care for an elderly individual:
·         Fatigue
·         Altered eating and sleeping habits
·         A loss of interest in commonly enjoyed activities
·         Irritability
·         Feelings of inferiority
·         Suicidal thoughts
·         Physical symptoms, such as headaches, that are not associated with another health issue
If you recognize any of these symptoms in your own behavior, or suspect that you may be suffering from caregiver depression, it is important to address this condition quickly. Not only will treating your depression make you feel better, it will allow you to provide a better quality of care to your elderly loved one. Treatment does not necessarily involve pharmaceuticals. Try these suggestions and, if they do not work, seek medical assistance:
·         Don't expect too much of yourself. Set goals that are realistic and hold yourself accountable for achieving them.
·         Prioritize your responsibilities and approach large tasks in segments. Breaking them up will help you feel positive and productive.
·         Interact with others and confide in a trusted friend or family member. Sometimes simply talking about the pressures of being a caregiver can ease your stress.
·         Be realistic about your progress and do not expect an immediate change in your mood. Combating depression takes time.
Above all else, do not feel ashamed if you think you may have caregiver depression. This condition is common and, considering the great amount of stress you may be under, almost expected. Remember to take care of yourself and, in doing so, you will be better able to take care of your elderly loved ones.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Avoiding Care Giver Burn-Out

Burnout is a feeling that people in virtually every profession experience at one time or another. The result of long hours, repetitive activities, or a lack of a life outside of work, burnout is a natural feeling that can be avoided. As a caregiver, you will be better able to care for elderly individuals if you also attend to your own needs.
In order to keep your focus on your work without feeling overwhelmed by your responsibilities, it is important to maintain an active life outside of your job. Here are some suggestions to keep your life full and burnout at bay:
  • Join a professional association or support network that allows you to interact with other caregivers. This will supply the socialization that you probably crave after a long day providing home care services, and it will also allow you to seek and offer support.
  • Do not ignore the signs of burnout, which are similar to the signs of depression. Should you start withdrawing from your friends and family or quit participating in activities you once loved, talk to a professional about these feelings. While burnout is common, you don't want it to develop into a more serious condition.
  • Share your responsibilities with other family members if you are taking care of an elderly loved one. If this isn't possible, create a different focus for each day of the week in order to vary your schedule. For example, plan to take your elderly loved one out to lunch or dinner at least once per week, so you both can enjoy a change of pace.
  • Maintain your own exercise and diet schedule. Not only will this help you stay healthy, it will contribute to a better outlook. For instance, a brisk walk will help you start the day on a positive note.
  • Take time for yourself. Enjoying a few quiet minutes with a good book or observing the world around you will help you calm your mind and relax.
Being a caregiver means taking on responsibilities that cause stress and anxiety, and burnout can be a natural result of the rigors of your everyday tasks. By understanding the signs of burnout and working to address or prevent  them, you can continue to provide high quality care to elderly loved ones.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Care for the Care Giver

The senior care professionals at Always Best Care in Chapel Hill know that you would do anything to take great care of your elderly loved one. But have you ever considered how important it is to take care of yourself while doing so?  When providing care for a loved one, you may feel selfish by making time for your own needs; however, you must remember to continue to live your own life while caring for another's. Not only will doing so keep you from becoming exhausted, it will allow you to maintain other important relationships.
When taking time for yourself, remember that you are more than a caregiver. Although caring for your elderly loved one may be a large part of your life, and is certainly an important aspect of your current identity, you are not only a caregiver. Here are some ways that you can take care of yourself while you take care of your elderly loved one:
  1. Take at least one day off per week. Whether you need to rely on other family members or home care professionals, you need to ensure that you have at least one day to take care of other aspects of your life.
  2. Get out of the house. If your elderly loved one's health permits, go together to see a movie, eat lunch at a local restaurant, or even do a bit of shopping. If your elderly loved one cannot leave their home, do not feel guilty about going by yourself. Taking an hour to enjoy a lunch outside can help you recharge mentally and emotionally.
  3. Don't lose touch with your friends. You may think that being a caregiver is an all-encompassing calling, but it is important to maintain other relationships in your life. Your friends will support you in your task and offer a great outlet through which you can experience other aspects of life.
As a caregiver, you owe it to your elderly loved one to provide the best care possible. You will not be able to do this if you don't first take care of yourself. The senior care professionals at Always Best Care in Chapel Hill ( know that by making time for yourself you can greatly improve the care that you provide.

Remaining in Touch with the Elderly

Maintaining a close relationship with anyone can be difficult if you have a busy schedule or live far away from one another, but it is important that you keep connected to your friends and family, especially with elderly loved ones.
Technology has greatly improved over the last few years, but the gadgets you use to communicate with your elderly loved one do not have to be too advanced. Here are some of the technological tools you can utilize to ensure that you and your elderly loved one maintain a close relationship:
  • Phones: Telephones, both land lines and mobile phones, are still the number one mode of communication. When using cell phones, you can call or text one another. Just be sure to help your elderly loved one pick a phone that has a large enough screen and keyboard, allowing them to easily read and type if you will be texting.
  • Skype: A free video chat service, Skype is a wonderful tool for people who are trying to keep in touch despite many miles between them. You may need to help your elderly loved one choose and install a webcam for their computer, or help them learn how to use the built-in camera that comes with many laptops and tablets. Once you and your elderly loved one know how to use your respective cameras, talking on Skype is as close as talking in person as today's technology can achieve.
  • Email: Although it may not garner an instant reply, as phones and video chats do, email is a wonderful way to send longer messages. Through this technology, you and your elderly loved one can enjoy the art of letter writing and the convenience of instant mail delivery.
Maintaining a great relationship with your elderly loved one is important, but to do so you must be able to stay connected to one another's lives. The home care professionals at Always Best Care in Chapel Hill ( understand that it may not always be easy to interact with your elderly loved one if you live far away. With the help of these technological tools, though, you can stay connected no matter how many miles are between you.