Friday, 21 September 2018

Planning Ahead

     If you are a regular reader of this blog, you will know that the key to maximizing your choices as you get older, is being proactive. It is far too common for people to wait for a crisis or significant hospitalization before considering issues around care and relocation. For many, this constitutes 'waiting too long' and they end up in a situation or place they would not have chosen. Often, if they had taken the time to discuss options well in advance and preplan, their transition from independent to requiring care, would have been easier and far less stressful for everyone involved. 

    For many, there is a stigma mixed with denial when it comes to discussing aging and the need for support and care. Most do not consider what they would want in an 'ideal world' or what they will need financially when the time comes. It is always the hope that we won't need care and can live in our homes unassited until the end. Unfortunately, this is rarely the case. 

    For those independent seniors who have not thought about these important issues but wish to be  proactive, there are questions you may want to consider to help you determine if you need to start thinking about options. 


• Are there stairs in your home (either inside or to get inside)?
        
• If yes, are you having difficulty with going up or down the stairs?
• Do you need help with any household tasks (laundry, cleaning, shopping, etc.)?
• Do you or your spouse need help with any personal care (bathing, dressing etc.)?
• Are you able to prepare nutritious meals for yourself?
• Do you have a yard/yard work/outside maintenance?
• Who does your repairs inside/outside your house?
Do you have people who can assist you with any of the above issues now or in the future or, if you do not, can you afford to pay people to assist with any personal care or household tasks?
• If you already have people assisting you:
     • Are you happy with the service they are providing?
     • Do they provide enough to meet your needs?
     • Can they provide more if you need it?
     • Is the cost affordable?
Are you on a lot of medications?
        
 If yes, are you able to keep track of when you need to take them?
• How do you get around (drive, cab, transit, family assistance)?
• Are you walking distance to important amenities (doctor, dentist, pharmacy, grocery store, etc.)?
• Do you require any assistive devices to help you to function?
• Do you have any safety concerns?
• Has your family indicated that they have concerns about your living situation/safety?
• How is your hearing?
• How is your sight?
• Are you forgetful?
• Do you have any significant medical issues which require assistance or may in the near future?
• Do you feel isolated/lonely or scared at certain times of day/night?
• Do you get out every day/almost every day or are you always home?
• Do you have hobbies? 
• Are you able to manage your finances?
• Do you ask for help when you need it?
• Do you have a support network, friends or family nearby and available?
        
 If not, would you like to move closer to family/friends?

      Answering these questions honestly can serve as a ‘conversation starter’ as they will help you to focus in on the type of support you might need currently or, in the near future. While a few potential or minor issues may not be problematic, several might be, and may suggest a need to begin considering resources.

     If, after thinking/talking about your current situation and (potential) concerns with your loved ones, it seems that in the somewhat near future, you might need either additional help in your own home or to relocate to a place where there are more supports to enable you to remain independent, it may be time to start looking at the options available to you based on your current financial, physical and social situation. Discuss any concerns you have with your family and your doctor, so they can assist you in locating supports in your area. It is better to begin doing your research and discussing what your desires are with your family before you need the help and most certainly, before a crisis forces the issue and limits available options. 

Friday, 31 August 2018

Caring for the Caregiver


Our ever-changing world has altered the way we do so many things – including caring for our elderly. For many families, children live great distances from their parents. Most women work in jobs outside of the home and even in cultures where the custom of the past had been to have multi-generational families living under one roof and caring for each other, this is becoming less feasible. Caregiving for elder loved ones is something many people now do from a distance or among several other daily responsibilities. The ‘sandwich generation’ is common place with many caring for both parents and children at the same time. Caregiving can be so overwhelming at times that it can negatively effect one’s emotional and physical well being which in turn impacts the care of the senior in need.

Without doubt, the key to avoiding such difficulties is for the caregiver to ‘care’ for themselves as much as their loved ones. This, of course, is much easier said than done. How do you do this when you feel as if you are being pulled in a million different directions?

If you are in this situation, there are several things you can do that may help you navigate and cope with this often unexpected and somewhat daunting role:

1. Communicate – make sure you speak to medical personnel about concerns or issues. Ensure you have the facts. Create a support network of family, friends and others that you can talk with about your feelings and needs. Remember – avoiding or negating problems does not make them go away – it only compounds them. Let you employer know your situation as well. There may be available support groups, Employee Assistance Programs or paid family leave options available to you.

2. Educate yourself – knowledge can only empower you. Fear is often based on not knowing. Ask questions so you can understand the situation. With the technological tools of the 21st century, finding out information is as easy as sitting in front of your computer. Seek out information about your loved one’s medical condition and the options available. This will aid you in planning for the future as much as possible. Know your rights and theirs. If you are providing physical care, ensure you learn how to do this safely.

3. Ask for and accept help – sharing responsibilities is often difficult but extremely necessary for the caregiver as much as the recipient of care. Use available community resources – there may be day programs, respite care options, homemaking and a host of other services available to you.  Good care can be provided by others besides the immediate family and getting this important relief is often as simple as asking for help. Keep in mind that people don’t know what you need unless you ask for it. Learn to delegate tasks to those willing to assist be it family members or friends.

4. Stress Management – acknowledge your feelings. It is okay to feel overwhelmed, sad, anxious and a host of other emotions. Learn to recognize the things that trigger a stress reaction in you and what that reaction is. It’s important to keep in mind that while you may not be able to change a situation, you can decide how you will react and respond to it. Learn the signs of ‘caregiver burnout’ and if you think you might be experiencing it or if your physical health or functioning is being affected, speak to your doctor or a trained mental health professional as soon as possible. Learning relaxation techniques may be helpful as well.

5. Life Balance – prioritize, prioritize, prioritize! Organization is the key to feeling a sense of control over your situation. Accept the good with the bad. Look after yourself. Eat properly, exercise, sleep and take breaks when needed. It’s okay to do things for yourself. Don’t self-medicate. Learn to say ‘no’. Don’t expect too much of yourself. Caregiving is a learning process so allow yourself to make mistakes. Know your limits and deal with stress before crisis hits. Seek medical attention if you are ill. Consider joining a support group for those with similar struggles. You may hear valuable helpful information from others who have been where you are but also, knowing that you are not alone can help you cope.

As difficult as caregiving can be, it also has the potential to be very rewarding. How it impacts us has everything to do with our ability to deal with the ups and downs of daily life and our attitude. Finding the ‘silver lining’, having realistic goals, sharing special moments and finding enjoyment in simple pleasures can contribute tremendously to how we cope and manage what can be one of the more challenging roles in our lives.


Friday, 17 August 2018

GUEST POST - 6 Ways Technology Helps Family Caregivers


The wealth of online resources makes it possible for almost anyone to gather a great deal of information about medical problems and treatment on her own. Pew reports that just under 3 out of 4 caregivers conduct their own health research online and over half engage in health-related social activity online.

It’s clear that the transformative power of technology in health care extends beyond high-tech hospital settings to include everyday senior and hospice care. Read on to learn about 6 tech trends that help family caregivers support the health and quality of life of seniors and others under their supervision.

1.   Med Monitors

A number of digital tools, such as MedMinder and TabSafe, are designed to remind seniors and caregivers to take or administer prescription medication. And the same functionality is available on the go with apps for iPhone and iPad like MedCoach.

2.   Wireless Safety Nets

Another way to monitor a senior’s health and wellness status, while helping them lead active and independent lives, is via sensor-based home monitoring systems like Canary Care and TruSense. These and similar systems alert caregivers or emergency personnel when warning signs, such as long periods of inactivity by a senior at home, arise.

3.   (Virtual) Fellowship

Loneliness and social isolation are particularly acute risk factors for elderly folks given their greater likelihood of reduced mobility and loss of loved ones. In-person interactions are ideal, but when they are not possible, email and video correspondence can be helpful stopgaps. Indeed, encouraging research has shown that social media use is associated with reduced loneliness and improved mental and physical health outcomes.

4.   Picking up the Pace

Like anyone, seniors need regular exercise to reach their full potential for living capably and independently. Technology can help put them in motion and keep them active. Wearable fitness trackers help seniors and their caregivers mark progress toward wellness goals and document encouraging results.

5.   “Telehealth”

Thanks to the emerging tools of telemedicine, obtaining professional consultations no longer requires leaving the comfort and security of home. Senior and hospice patients can arrange virtual visits with physicians and other healthcare professionals. In discussion with U.S. News & World Report, Medical Director of Telemedicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Dr. Andrew R. Watson emphasized telemedicine’s positive impact on health outcomes and patient engagement.

The benefits of telehealth tools for patients and healthcare providers include reduced costs, fewer hospital readmissions, improved diagnosis and treatments, and stronger relationships between doctors and patients, especially in rural areas.

6.    Brain Benefits

Finally, it turns out that healthy amounts of screen time don’t rot your brain. On the contrary, internet browsing and even video games, the brain decay boogeyman of yesteryear, increase elderly brain function and help reverse the bad mental effects of aging. The takeaway here is that, quite apart from the other benefits we’ve discussed, technology offers direct cognitive advantages to senior and hospice patients.

Digital tech is not the most critical line of defense against health setbacks for the elderly and hospice patients, let alone a cure-all. But as we have seen, it provides a wealth of resources supporting family caregivers in their efforts to promote the best possible outcomes for those in their capable hands.



Contributed by: Christian Golden, PhD
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Christian Golden, PhD, writes about tips and trends in digital marketing and social media for TrustRadius. He is a philosopher by day who loves teaching and digging into the big questions. His extracurricular interests include making music, reading comics, watching (really old) movies, and being in the great outdoors. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

GUEST POST - Planning and Paying for Long-Term Care: A Guide for Seniors and Caregivers


Regardless of age, preparing and planning for long-term care isn’t something most people think about. But, for a person over the age of 65, it’s an important conversation to have. There is a 52 percent chance that they will need long-term support and services. That means it is never too soon to start planning how you want to handle that situation—for yourself and for loved ones.

Planning for long-term care is one step, deciding how to pay for it is another. For seniors, preparing for this is crucial to enjoying your golden years with independence and dignity. For family members, planning for long-term care can help you understand your role as a caregiver. In 2013, unpaid caregivers — mostly comprised of family members — spent 37 billion hours providing long-term care. Being a caregiver is rewarding, but can often be stressful and physically draining.

“Being a kind, compassionate caregiver is one of the greatest gifts you can give to a senior loved one,” says June Duncan, co-founder of Rise Up for Caregivers and author of the upcoming book The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. While family caregivers play an essential role in our society, they often do so without much-needed support and guidance. June’s book fills that gap by offering a helping hand on everything from how to assess your loved one’s medical needs to how to work self-care into your busy days.

Self-care is just one aspect of planning for long-term care. Planning out the potential steps can be a huge benefit to seniors and their loved ones, even if they don’t wind up needing care at all. You can plan for long-term care by:
       Assessing the likelihood you or a loved one will require long-term care. There are a few reasons long-term care could be in your future. For example, if someone in your family suffered from hereditary illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, you may be at a higher risk. Be sure to plan for in-home care or pick out an assisted living facility to help care for your needs.
       Making lifestyle choices to reduce the risk of injury or onset of illness. Regular exercise, a good diet and consistent good sleep are three lifestyle choices that are critical for healthy seniors. From prolonging the onset of dementia to promoting healthy knees, hips and joints, all three impact your physical and mental health. Start walking, join a gym or sign up for yoga classes.
       Plan for future home modifications you need to make. Most seniors want to age in-place, meaning they want to stay in their homes for as long as possible. Planning for long-term care means planning for independence and safety. If the house is two-story, consider moving all essential rooms to the first floor. Install non-slip flooring in bathrooms and kitchens. These modifications will prevent accidents that could make long-term care a reality, as well as create a home environment that supports independent living.

Planning for long-term care also involves insight into the costs involved. Some ways to pay for long-term care include:
       Retirement options. If you can, consider postponing retirement and staying on at work for another year to boost up your savings. You can also take out an additional retirement policy specifically to cover potential health care issues.
       Purchasing long-term care insurance. Many insurance companies offer special long-term care insurance policies. Keep in mind— the younger and healthier you are when you purchase this type of insurance, the lower your premiums will be.
       Selling a life insurance policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care. This can give you cash in hand to cover the costs of an in-home caregiver, home modifications or medical equipment you need that Medicare doesn’t cover.

Planning for long-term care is not a simple conversation to have, but it doesn’t have to be too complicated if you start talking about it now. Make sure your family and friends know your wishes, so that, if the time comes, you’ll receive the care you want and deserve.
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Contributed by: Marie Villeza, ElderImpact. 

Marie Villeza is passionate about connecting seniors with the resources they need to live happy, healthy lives. So she developed ElderImpact to provide seniors and their caregivers with resources and advice.


Friday, 20 July 2018

GUEST POST - Senior Wellness and Loss: Coping With the Death of a Spouse


Couples who have been married for a long time find ways to cope with the idea that death will leave one of them bereaved and alone at some point. Some ignore the thought; others keep the grief and pain of such an event at arm’s length, seeing it as something that’s too far off to concern them. It’s a shock no matter when that day comes, regardless of how well prepared you might be. The sense of loss is so large and profound that it can be difficult to comprehend and appreciate. But as the magnitude of what’s happened sets in, the feeling of grief becomes  overwhelming. And it can take a long time before a grieving senior is able to come to grips with his or her loss. Some never quite get there.
Grief exacts an emotional and physical toll heavy enough to undermine a senior’s well-being and frame of mind if left unaddressed. It can produce a state of depression so deep that it affects the ability to carry out the simplest everyday tasks, such as dressing, eating, and bathing. It may feel as though there’s no point in carrying on with a life suddenly bereft of meaning. Once you reach this point, friends and family members play an important role in helping seniors work through their grief and achieve a sense of wellness.
Finding support
Your ability to resume your quality of life depends on how successfully you cope with your loss. If a year has come and gone and grief hasn’t dissipated, it’s time to seek the support of others, perhaps someone close to you or individuals who can relate to what you’re experiencing. Social interaction occupies your mind and prevents your loss from consuming you. There’s a therapeutic quality to sharing thoughts and feelings with other people. Seek out a support group with people who understand how difficult it is to get over the loneliness you’re feeling. Sometimes, just talking things through can help you acquire a new perspective that makes all the difference.

Day to day
Feeling lost and depressed makes it very hard to function from day to day. A bereaved person may neglect their appearance, hygiene, and everyday responsibilities that used to come easy. If you’re struggling, seek out a loved one who can help with paying bills, shopping for groceries, and seeing that your house is cleaned. Or you might want to hire someone who can take care of the essentials for a while. If things continue to worsen, consult your doctor about your grief and the problems it’s creating in your life.
Self-care
Grieving spouses often neglect their own health and well-being. Given the way you’re feeling, it may seem pointless to get enough sleep, eat healthy foods, and get exercise. But self-care is essential if you’re to find the strength to work through your grief and emerge a stronger person. Try to avoid eating alone. It can accentuate your loneliness, so seek out people to eat out with or invite over for a meal that you prepare together. It will give you something to do and someone to socialize with.
Losing a spouse to addiction
Grief can be complicated when you’ve lost a spouse to addiction. Feelings of anger toward your departed partner, guilt for not being able to help, and a deep-seated longing for the life you’ve known may hit all at once. Seek help so that you’re equipped to cope with the doubt that leaves you wondering what more you could have done.
Transition
The loss of a spouse produces a torrent of emotion and conflicting thoughts. How well you deal with the sorrow, anger, depression, guilt, and loneliness that follows has a lot to do with how successfully you make the transition to a new life. Remember that taking care of yourself and seeking help when you need it can give you the strength to carry on.
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Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net

Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Tuesday, 3 July 2018

GUEST POST - Tips for Getting Better Sleep as you Age

Sleep is a necessary part of maintaining your health even for seniors, who often sleep only a few hours a night. Experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night for people over the age of 64, according to the National Sleep Foundation.

Senior Care Corner agrees, writing that some of the benefits of getting a full night’s sleep as you age include:

      Possibly lowering risk of mental decline
      Improved cognitive abilities
      Better memory and concentration

Unfortunately, nearly one-third of seniors report sleeping less than seven hours per night. If this is you, what can you do get more sleep?

Finding the Right Mattress

The first step to a good night’s sleep is finding the right mattress for your needs, and that’s why it’s a good idea to try the mattress first. If you are looking to save money by purchasing a mattress online, CNET recommends you find a brand with a long history that comes with a money-back guarantee. Some places will let you try a mattress in your home for 30, 60, or even 120 days.

You should make sure your mattress addresses any problems you have. For example, if you have lower back pain, you may want to read this post from Spine Health. If you get too hot when you sleep, you might want to investigate buying a “cool” mattress, like these options from Sleep Advisor.

Preparing for Sleep

Adults, like kids, should have a nighttime routine that helps them wind down. Reading is one option, but don’t use an electronic device before bed. It emits light that can disturb your sleep patterns unless you use a blue light blocker found on many tablets or phones. Learn more about blue light at The Sleep Doctor.

You should also make sure that your room is set up to promote adequate sleep. Try room-darkening blinds if you have a bright light source outside your bedroom. Make sure your room is the right temperature and get a good pillow that supports your neck. You might also want to try a white noise machine if you wake up frequently.

How Diet and Exercise Impact Sleep

Diet and exercise can improve your sleep habits as well:

      Regular exercise and activity work your body, but it also helps you feel tired at night and allows you to sleep more soundly.
      Caffeine and spicy foods can keep you up, but research suggests that other foods, such as milk products, fish, fruit, and vegetables, may promote sleep. More research needs to be done to confirm this, but you may want to consider these healthy choices for your dinner.
      Halting liquids after 7:00 pm may reduce the problem of frequent nighttime bathroom visits. However, if this is a persistent problem, talk to your doctor to ensure there isn’t a medical issue.

Napping Helps Cognition

Another way to get adequate sleep is napping. Research indicates several benefits of napping, including better focus and improvement in mood and performance. However, naps should not be longer than 30 minutes; the longer the nap, the higher the risk of falling into a deep sleep, making it very hard for you to wake up. On the other hand, naps of at least 10 to 15 minutes have been shown to improve alertness and cognition.

When Sleep Becomes a Struggle

If you’ve been struggling to get or stay asleep for several months, it’s likely time to see your doctor for help. Prolonged reduced sleep can impair your brain functioning as well as your physical health. Learn more about possible sleep disorders from Harvard Medical’s Healthy Sleep website.

If you are having sleep issues, try these recommendations or consult with your physician for more help.

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Contributed by: Karen Weeks, ElderWellness.net


Karen created ElderWellness.net as a resource for seniors who wish to keep their minds, bodies, and spirits well. 

Friday, 8 June 2018

Celebrating Seniors

Every June is Seniors Month in Ontario. June 2018 is the 34th year we celebrate seniors and their contributions to our province and our lives through a month of activities and events geared to highlight and involve seniors and their families. Every year the government announces a theme and this year is no different. "Now's the time to start something new," highlights how aging does not prevent any of us from leading fulfilling lives. Seniors continue to contribute to our community and we can all benefit from their wisdom, friendship, and experience. "  (from www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario). 

If you have a senior in your life, encourage them to attend or participate in activities in their community. If that is not possible, or in addition, have your own private celebration with them. While celebrating our senior loved ones is something we should do every day, its nice to have a reminder every now and then and an excuse to do something special for them. 

If you have someone in your life that you wish to honor in some way, have a look at the site 
www.ontario.ca/page/celebrating-seniors-ontario for links to information on the award nomination process for the Ontario Senior Achievement Award and the Ontario Senior of the Year Award. There is also information on that website about how you can request congratulatory messages for a milestone occasion from the Queen, Lieutenant Governor, PM of Canada and Premier of Ontario.