Friday, March 28, 2014

How to Help Your Senior Overcome Insomnia

Unfortunately, insomnia is a common complaint among seniors, even for those who are otherwise healthy. Your loved one may run out of energy earlier, wake up throughout the night, or fail to feel rested after a long night’s sleep. Over time, insomnia can contribute to other health issues, both physical and mental. Sufficient rest is essential for good senior health, so it’s important to face any sleep-related problems quickly before they’re allowed to progress and persist. 

Home care professionals explain that facing bouts of insomnia occasionally is normal, but if a senior regularly struggles to fall asleep or stay asleep they may actually be dealing with a sleep disorder that requires medical treatment. Signs of a sleep disorder include:

  • Relying on sleeping pills or alcohol to go to sleep
  • Irritability throughout the day
  • Failure to feel refreshed after sleeping a sufficient amount
  • Trouble getting back to sleep after waking up
  • Trouble falling asleep, despite feeling tired

In the case of insomnia, senior care professionals explain that there are often a number of different underlying yet treatable causes. Such causes include:

  • Stress
  • Depression
  • Chronic anxiety
  • Medication
  • A recent traumatic experience
  • Health problems
  • A poor pre-bed routine
  • Chronic pain
  • Lack of exercise

According to those who work in at-home care, Chapel Hill families can help their senior to sleep better by encouraging the following habits:

  • Cutting down on caffeine usage. Many people are highly sensitive to caffeine, and find that even a cup of coffee consumed in the afternoon keeps them up at night.
  • Discontinuing the use of electronic devices before bed. The light from tablets, computers, and TV screens can keep the brain awake, making sleep hard to come by.
  • Establishing the proper sleep environment. The bedroom should be cool, quiet, and dark in order to make it easier to fall asleep.

If problems with sleep still persist even after these changes, it’s time to consult with a medical professional. Quality sleep is important for your senior’s physical and mental well-being, so any issues with insomnia need to be addressed quickly.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Preventing Your Senior with Dementia From Wandering

If your elderly loved one suffers from dementia, their safety becomes a real concern. Home care professionals explain that those with dementia often wander off, and can find themselves in highly dangerous situations as a result. In order to protect your senior and deter them from exiting the home on their own, it’s important to develop a safe environment where they feel at peace. To do this, follow these tips:

Secure the home

Make it harder for your senior to slip out and wander off by putting deadbolts on doors, high and out of reach. You may also consider outfitting your home with door and window alarms. According to those who work in dementia care, Chapel Hill families should also look into buying an alarmed mat that goes off when your senior gets out of bed. This can help you to intervene before your loved one exits the home.

Provide comfort

Many times, an elderly individual will wander off because they feel unsettled in the house. They may not remember how to find the bathroom or may feel disoriented. To help cut down on these instances, consider hanging a sign on the bathroom door that reminds the senior that this is where the bathroom is located. This can cut down on confusion, and may prevent them from getting distressed and leaving. 

Determine patterns

It’s common for an elderly loved one to leave the home due to certain triggers or patterns. For instance, they may think that they need to get to work so they head out, or perhaps they’re worried about a garden they had years ago and try to go outside to tend to it. If you can detect these patterns, you can soothe your elderly parent and remind them that everything is being taken care of. This helps to keep them calm and prevents the urge to wander off.

Plan group outings carefully

If you’re heading to the park, beach, or another large public space, plan the outing well in advance. It’s easy for your loved one to get overwhelmed in these situations and disappear from the rest of the group. Ask an extra person to tag along to help you keep watch on your senior. Also try to select a place with family-friendly bathrooms.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Tasty, Healthy Meals Your Senior Will Love

As seniors age, their sense of smell and taste can become dull, which often makes food unappealing. However, good nutrition is a major part of senior health, so it’s important to ensure that your elderly loved one is eating well-balanced and complete meals each day. Those who work in elder care services suggest trying out the following recipes. They’ll taste great and provide your elderly parent with the nutrition they need to feel healthy and strong.

Warm oatmeal and berries

Oatmeal is easy to eat, yet still full of nutrients. To kick it up a notch, add fresh or frozen berries, a small amount of butter, a serving of old-fashioned oats, and water into the Crockpot. Cover and cook on low for several hours (or overnight, if this is easier). When the meal is finished, it’ll have the consistency of bread putting. If you don’t have a Crockpot, simply add berries to warm oatmeal. The meal is soothing and filling, and not so rich that it’s hard to digest.

A hard-boiled egg

For a quick meal that’s full of protein, make some hard-boiled eggs. Serve them alongside fruit or toast. Even if your elderly loved one doesn’t feel particularly hungry, this meal will give them the nutrition they need to get through the day. It’s easy to eat and perfect for any time of year.

Yogurt parfait

For a sweet breakfast that’s also healthy, combine yogurt, nuts, and fruit. It’ll leave your senior feeling hydrated, and also provides a dose of healthy fat and vitamin C. Mix in any kind of fruit your loved one enjoys, including blueberries, pineapple, raspberries, and strawberries. 

Baked salmon

For a lunch or dinner that your elderly parent will love, homecare professionals suggest creating a flavorful salmon dish. Top the fish with tomatoes, herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice. Wrap it up in aluminum foil and bake it at 300 degrees. If the fish is already thawed, it should go in for about 15 minutes. Ideally, it’ll be flaky but still moist. Salmon is full of omega-3s and protein, making it the perfect meal choice. 

Shrimp and pasta

For a meal that’s flavorful yet still nutritious, heat up butter and olive oil in a saucepan, adding in herbs, garlic, and shrimp. Cook until the shrimp are done and then place over pasta. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

St. Patrick’s Day Treats To Make With Your Senior

If you’re getting into the St. Patrick’s Day spirit this year, why not create some leprechaun-inspired treats with your senior? Making festive fare to celebrate the holiday is a great way to enjoy the day, and can also be good for senior nutrition. Many elderly individuals’ senses of smell and taste have dulled, making traditional food unappealing. However, festive treats can entice them to chow down on a few different goodies. A few St. Patrick’s Day recipes to try include:

Four leaf cupcakes

Whip up a batch of traditional cupcakes, but give them a St. Patty’s-worthy twist using green spearmint candy leaves. Frost the cupcakes then arrange the candy in the shape of four leaf clovers on top for a delicious and fun dessert.

A healthy shamrock snack

For a healthier holiday treat, remove the seeds from a sweet green pepper and slice it up into several rings. Take a few smaller pieces and add them on for stems. To create a mini pot of gold on the plate, add a small dollop of honey mustard dressing. Not only do the shamrocks look sweet, but they also pack a powerful punch of nutrition.

Shamrock sugar cookies

Grab a package of sugar cookies and turn them into shamrocks using a cookie cutter. For the finishing touch, add green icing and sprinkles. It’s an easy-to-make treat that will stand out during a St. Patrick’s Day party.

Lucky Charms-inspired cookies

Few other food items scream St. Patrick’s Day quite like Lucky Charms. Pay homage to this iconic cereal with brightly colored sugar cookies. Buy pre-made dough and purchase festive cookie cutter shapes, like a moon, a heart, a shamrock, and a star. Create the shapes and then frost them with brightly colored icing. 

Luck of the Irish smoothie

For a nutritious snack that matches the theme of the holiday, try blending up a green smoothie. Use kale, spinach, and any number of different fruits, including bananas, apples, kiwi, and others. The result will be a green drink that is full of nutritious elements and looks right at home with the rest of your green decorations.

From healthy items to delicious desserts, there are plenty of different recipes that you and your elderly loved one can make together in order to celebrate the holiday. Share the items with friends at a St. Patty’s Day party, or make your own mini celebration together. 

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Recognizing the Signs of Caregiver Depression

For those who care for elderly family members, life can be stressful. Couple the responsibilities of caregiving with work obligations and attending to children’s needs and the process can be overwhelming. For this reason, it is important to be aware of the signs of caregiver depression and burnout, and to react accordingly. Some signs that a caregiver is experiencing depression include:

  • Withdrawal from other family members, friends, and loved ones
  • Loss of interest in activities that they previously loved
  • Irritability
  • Mood swings
  • Bouts of anger for no apparent reason
  • Feelings of hopelessness
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Feelings of anger toward the person you’re caring for
  • Physical and emotional exhaustion
  • Weight loss or gain

In some cases, a caregiver who is experiencing burnout and exhaustion may turn to escapist behaviors, like heavy drinking, promiscuity, or drug use. Elder care professionals explain that many family members feel the need to escape from the demands of caring for their senior and turn to unhealthy outlets in order to relax and feel free.

How to cope

Caregivers get into trouble because they spend so much time focusing on the health and well-being of their elderly family member that they neglect their own needs. It’s important for a caregiver to carve out some time for self-care each day. Whether this means seeing friends, reading a book, taking a nap, or watching a favorite TV show, this time is crucial for restoring that caregiver’s mental health.

Asking for help is another part of fighting off caregiver depression and burnout. There is no shame in having a home care professional come in a few days per week to help with the burden of caretaking. They can assist with bathing, cleaning the home, and taking care of other errands that the elderly individual can’t handle on their own. This ensures that the senior is well cared for, but gives the family member a break. Having help even just a few days per week can make a major difference for caregivers.

While it’s important to keep the focus on the elderly family member’s health and safety, a caregiver can’t neglect their own needs. Doing so can leave the person feeling depressed and desperate. Taking time each day to indulge in favorite hobbies is a major part of successful caregiving. 

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

How to Talk to Your Elderly Loved One About In-Home Care

Talking with your senior about the idea of home care isn’t always easy. They may feel as if their independence or privacy will be threatened, and they may feel indignant about their abilities to care for themselves. However, the conversation is an important one to have in order to ensure that your elderly loved one is getting the care they need to enjoy a happy, healthy life. Here are some ways to successfully ease into the discussion.

Focus on your worries

According to professionals who work in home care, Chapel Hill families should focus on expressing their worries. Instead of approaching the topic by discussing what the senior is failing to do (“You don’t go grocery shopping” or “You can’t shovel your driveway anymore”), it’s important to address concerns. Getting accusatory will only make the elderly individual defensive and resistant to the idea. By expressing a concern for safety, the topic is easier to discuss.

Acknowledge their feelings

Many seniors take pride in their independence, and may see in-home care as a failure. Acknowledge these feelings, but then explain how home care can actually be positive. Tell your loved one that you want them to be able to stay in their home, but need them to be safe as they do so. Let them convey their emotions and don’t try to argue about why they shouldn’t feel a certain way. The idea of home care isn’t always easy for a senior to accept at first, and it’s important not to belittle their concerns or protests.

Highlight other people’s experiences

If your elderly loved one is resistant to the idea of additional help, try drawing on other people’s experiences to show how the concept can be beneficial. Talk about a friend, neighbor, or former co-worker who relies on assistance from an elder care professional, and how the experience has helped them. 

Understand that your elderly loved one may be hesitant to accept help at first. However, after honest, careful discussions and clear-cut examples about how this kind of care has helped other people, they will begin to see the value in this service. 

Monday, March 10, 2014

What You Need to Know About Glaucoma and Your Senior

You may have heard the term “glaucoma” thrown around at your optometrist’s office, but if you’re caring for an elderly loved one it’s important to know the details about this devastating disease. Glaucoma is technically a cluster of diseases that wreak havoc on the eye’s optic nerve. In many cases, glaucoma leads to vision loss or even total blindness. 

Unfortunately, glaucoma appears to be hereditary, and is particularly prevalent among elderly individuals. The condition is still relatively mysterious, though there are several factors that are known to contribute to risk of the disease. Such factors include: 
  • Family history
  • Nearsightedness
  • Previous eye injury
  • Low blood pressure
  • Diabetes
Many people are surprised to find out that there are actually a few different varieties of glaucoma. In order to protect senior health, home care professionals recommend gaining a basic understanding about these varieties. They include:

Isopen-angle glaucoma

This is the most common type of glaucoma, and it results in a slow yet often painless loss of peripheral vision. Because most people don’t pay close attention to their peripheral vision, it is often hard to spot this kind until it’s too late. 

Withopen-angle glaucoma

This variation of the disease slowly narrows a person’s field of vision. Over time, an elderly individual may feel as if they are looking through a tunnel or a paper towel tube. 

Low-tension or normal tension glaucoma

These strains are harder to detect because intraocular pressure levels typically are not alarming. Instead, the disease impacts blood flow to the optic nerve. 

Fromangle-closure glaucoma

This happens when intraocular pressure is too high and the iris blocks drainage to certain parts of the eye. This can quickly result in vision loss, and is often quite painful. 

There are also other types of glaucoma, but these strains of the disease are very rare. If you’re caring for an elderly loved one, it’s important to understand glaucoma. Ensure that your loved one gets a regular eye exam in order to help detect the disease early on and to stop vision loss from happening. 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Useful Tips for Estate Planning With Your Senior

Regardless of the kinds of assets that your senior has, it’s necessary to devise an estate plan to make sure that their property and personal belongings go to the right people when that individual is no longer around. Though it may not always be a comfortable topic, the discussion is an important one for your elderly loved one and your entire family. When it comes to estate planning, keep these tips in mind:

Focus on who gets what

Carefully comb through your senior’s possessions and make sure they get specific about who gets what. This includes any cars, jewelry, and other items. This is especially important if your senior has a specific plan in mind for how they would like to see their property distributed. Elder care professionals recommend having this conversation early on so there is time to clarify wishes and ensure that everything happens exactly as your elderly loved one would like.

Get it in writing

In order to ensure that everything plays out according to plan, it’s important that your senior constructs a will. Without a formal will in place, the state can dictate what happens to that senior’s belongings. A will enables the elderly individual to place restrictions on division of property (for example, certain items will not be passed to a grandchild until they reach a certain age). Consider consulting with a professional when it comes to writing a will in order to ensure that the document is legally binding and thorough.

Make sure to update the document as necessary

If your senior hasn’t looked at their will in years, it’s important to have them give it another glance. Things can change over time, particularly if your elderly loved one has acquired or sold possessions. Make sure that they update the will regularly so that it adequately reflects their wishes.

Choose the right executor

An executor is someone who is responsible for distributing the senior’s assets and taking care of any outstanding debts. It is a significant responsibility, particularly if the estate is complicated. A senior can select a family member or a professional, such as a CPA, to handle this task. Though the subject matter may be uncomfortable, proper estate planning is essential in ensuring that your elderly loved one’s wishes are executed exactly as they would like.