Caring for the Elderly

Help Seniors to Prevent Falls

As the elderly age, they become increasingly susceptible to falling and the dangers can be much worse. With aging diseases like osteoporosis decreasing stability and others with symptoms of nausea, fatigue and a decreasing eye sight, we must be alert for potential hazards. A fall or injury that may be considered lightly to a younger adult, can be very harmful to an elder.

So what should you do to keep the elderly safe a protected? The good news is that many falls happen in the senior’s home and could have been prevented if the hazard was removed or precautions were taken. By leaning from previous faults, we can help to create a safe home environment to keep seniors healthy, happy and independent.

To help keep the senior safe, go through each one of these observations in every area of the house and ask yourself the questions. Your response could mean that there are potential hazards in the home that can be resolved, it may only take 5 minutes to be the difference between a safe home and an medical visit.

Once the steps have been taken to create safe home environment, you can also help seniors to prevent falls and stay independent by taking extra steps according to disabilities or aging diseases. Many of these steps can be done both outside the home and inside the home and could have a tremendous benefit on their health and overall wellbeing.

If a senior has osteoporosis, it may help to work on balance exercises in the home. These can be learned at the local senior center and more information can be found in the Elder Helpers’ guide to caring for seniors, the Caregivers Guide to Compassion. They can also use a cane or walking assistant in the home, many are available online or at your local retail stores.

For vision problems, speak with the senior’s eye doctor about solutions that can be taken outside the home. When the elder is at home, you can increase the lighting during the day, leave lights on at night and clear unnecessary objects from the walking paths. The specific assistance depends on the level of severity for a loss of eyesight, if it is much worse, the elder should consider also staying away from driving activities and obtaining a dog trained to help her.

There are many steps that you can take as a caregiver to help seniors to stay healthy by prevention. However, if a fall does occur and they cannot get back up without assistance, they should be able to easily call for help. If a senior owns a cellular phone, make sure that they have it on them at all times in the case of an emergency. It is important they if they need help, they have access to it and if you are not available they can call another person as a backup.

Parkinson’s Disease & The Elderly : Early Indications

Our brain stores information like a computer and different parts have different functions. When we are young, our parts are constantly being upgraded because our brain increases the numbers of cells it contains, which are like the memory in your computer.

Everyday a person generates brain cells and older brain cells deteriorate, this is the cycle of memory in the brain. When we get older, the brain cells can deteriorate more rapidly and we experience a loss of memory because of this. In some cases, the loss can occur with cells such as dopamine, which are important to our bodily movements.

Because the deterioration of brain cells gets worse with age, Parkinson’s also gets increasingly worse. It is important understanding the signs early:

• Stiff muscles

• Slow movement

• Problems with balancing or walking

• Trembling or shaking in the hands, arms or legs

Be careful when considering if someone you know has Parkinson’s disease, as stiff muscles could be an indication of Arthritis and slow movement or problems balancing could be the result of Osteoporosis. Trembling or shaking is the most distinctive symptom of Parkinson’s from the list above.

We will post additional information in the future about caring for treatment. Seniors in latter stages of Parkinson’s disease may benefit from Parkinson’s disease volunteer caregivers and can search for volunteers their community  by clicking the link above.

Caring for Elders with Alzheimer’s Disease

In an earlier post, (Early Stages of Alzheimer’s: Helping Elderly Parents through Understanding) we presented the signs of early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in the elderly and how taking immediate action can help the elder and the family in the long-term. We are optimists at Elder Helpers and believe that with adaptation and care from the family, people can still live happy and fulfilling lives when diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. We will present strategies for you, the caregiver, to help the elder achieve this and enable your non-medical care to be the most rewarding and effective as possible.

We have broken down the care for Alzheimer’s into three categories: prevention, protection and support:

Kick the smoking

It has been shown that smokers or alcohol drinkers have a mental decline faster than people who do not engage in the same activities. Avoiding smoking and drinking can also help prevent other aging diseases.

Eat Healthy & Exercise

High blood pressure has been linked with reduced brain function. Eating healthy and exercising can also help to prevent or alleviate diabetes, another serious aging disease.

Stay Mentally Active

Many believe that by exercising the mind by practicing math or learning a new foreign language can strengthen it by giving the brain cells generated during the day a reason to ‘stick around’.

Protection

With protection, we mean keeping the elderly and caregiver in a safe environment by taking simple steps that anyone can follow to enable the elder to stay safe and independent. Later stages of Alzheimer’s can especially dangerous for both the seniors and the caregiver, during this phase you are advised to seek medical attention.

Familiarize Routines

 Try to keep their routine simple and easy to understand. You can try creating a spreadsheet of activities with dates and times, posting it on the refrigerator to help them remember.

Keep Your Message Simple

Try repeating the key points several times if necessary or using non-verbal communication to convey your message. You may also write down the message and give to the elder, or touch their hand when speaking with them if  you have a close relationship. These strategies may help them to remember the message that you are sending them.

Know the ‘Quirks’

Target the behavior changes or actions that the elder may have and find preventative measures to take and help keep them safe. Some elders may consistently misplace their keys, adopt strange eating habits or other abnormal behavior. When you understand them, you can take measures to reduce the consequences and help them to live a productive life.

Support

Experiencing Alzheimer’s disease is not easy for the elder, the family or their caregiver. It is important for not only the elder to know that they have support, but also those affected by the aging disease  to understand that there are resources available.

Dementia Treatment Guide : A free, downloadable PDF from the University of California Davis with more information on dementia for elders and their caregivers.

Alzheimer’s Support Forum:  : A free forum to connect with other families or Alzheimer’s patients or gain support or first hand knowledge about the experiences of the aging disease.

Elder Helpers: A non-profit program that connects elders with volunteer caregivers in their community.

Volunteering for the Elderly: The Win-Win Relationship

Last week, I met someone in a coffee shop that had worked for fifteen years at a retirement home for the elderly. We had an enjoyable conversation about how several people would come in and request volunteer work or be searching for volunteer services in his area. I could relate to his experience, being affiliated with a non-profit is very rewarding because it enables me to share happiness with others.

Volunteers for the elderly come from all over the planet, each with a different motive or reason behind their desire to care for the elderly. Each is just as important as the next, no matter what sector the volunteer work is in.The man explained to me how one of the most rewarding parts of his job was not just caring for the elderly, but also encouraging others to live more rewarding lives by helping them volunteer for seniors.

Caregiving services for the elderly are in high demand these days, but we believe that the ones supported by volunteers will continue to be the most cherished and rewarding available.When Elder Helpers connects the elderly with our volunteers, the seniors may often will ask if it is necessary to pay them or give them tips. People who have seen both the volunteer side and the elder side of care know that our volunteers are sometimes being helped just as much as the elderly.

They receive an emotionally rewarding experience, that cannot be bought or sold on any market. People in the elder care sector understand that volunteering for the elderly has its rewards and that community service in general is making the world a better place to live and work. By donating your time to help the elderly or volunteering a few hours a week you are contributing to bring our society into a better tomorrow.

It may seem like just one relationship, but it is setting an example for others in your community. Volunteering for the elderly is making progress to change the way that elder care services are operated forever. You are not just helping an elder to live happier and healthier, you are also supporting an organization that is revolutionizing the way elders receive care.

Whether you are doing volunteer work at a retirement community, doing general community service or supporting Elder Helpers you are working with us to make the world a better place. As an elder, your affiliation with our program allows us to find help for seniors in your community. If you are a volunteer, your contribution is the heart of our program and providing essential services for seniors.

What starts as a simple conversation in a coffee shop, develops into ideas that help change the world. With technology, communities and volunteers we can work together to achieve much more than we can alone. Remember that it all begins with an idea, made into a reality by working together. Volunteering for the elderly has helped us to achieve this for volunteers, the elderly and the world.

How to care from afar

It is called many things, from remote caregiving to long distance caring or caring from afar, but essentially if it takes you an hour or more to travel from where you live to the older person you want to look after, then you can consider yourself a long-distance caregiver.

Tip 1: Look for the signs

When you live further away, you may have to look more closely for any signs that additional care and support is needed. Our elderly loved ones don’t want to burden us with any worries and they obviously want to hold on to their independence for as long as they can. But how can we really help them if we aren’t there physically everyday to see for ourselves how they are coping alone?

Initially, phone calls at specific times are an easy way to do this without causing offence. Cooking a meal, for example, can be one of the first everyday activities that become physically or emotionally too draining for an elderly relative to do. So calling at lunch time or dinner time and casually asking what they’re cooking for tea can give you an insight into how they’re looking after themselves from a nutritional point of view.

Tip 2: Provide emotional support

There can be feelings of guilt and sadness for family and caregivers who live far from an older person. And this is fuelled further when there are other family members who live closer and are therefore shouldering more of the caregiving.

A good workaround for this is to yourself more as an emotional support and online support service. Long distance help can still do many of the admin tasks required in looking after someone, because so many organisations and government services are now available online, if not by telephone. You can help with researching local services, ordering medicines or food shopping or managing banking and benefits.

You can also provide respite to those living closer, even if you can’t be there in person. Simply providing a listening ear to vent any difficulties or negative feelings they’re experiencing can really help them to keep going, without of course getting defensive or feeling worse yourself. Offering them appreciation and reassurance is as important as physical assistance, although you could also provide that respite care if you can travel.

Ultimately it all relies on good communication and clear delegation of tasks between the family or team of people who want to work together to care.

Tip 3: Know your strengths and set limits

When it comes to delegating the tasks, it’s a good idea to sit down together, or organise a group chat online or by phone, with the primary aim of just thinking through who is good at what aspects of the caring.

That’s because there is often the propensity to assign a role – such as grocery shopping, for example – to a young family member or external care provider, when they don’t cook or know what the elderly person likes to eat. They simply do the job because they live closest to the supermarket. In reality, this role would be best suited to someone who knows the person well and finds a food shop easy to do. Plus, these kinds of tasks can be easily done from afar, online.

Setting personal limits is also important, as is allowing the discussions on roles to change over time.

Older members of the caregiving group may be “sandwich caregivers”, i.e. they have support roles for elderly parents and younger children of their own. They may also experience physical or mental ailments themselves, and so it’s important to bear in mind the need for personal care as well as wanting to help care for others.

As a long-distance carer you may hope to, even intend, to travel perhaps more often than you eventually end up being able to, for financial reasons or otherwise. Try to foresee what you can in your planning but also know that it’s ok to rethink the support you can give if your circumstances change over time. Often, caring for an older relative is a long journey, and your life and needs will change as much as theirs do.

Tip 4: Make the most of your visits

When you do get precious time together, it is of course important to spend that quality time just enjoying each other’s company, perhaps giving other carers and family members a rest and relishing the opportunity to really help out, person.

However there is more to be gained from such a visit, so don’t waste the opportunity. Discreetly look around the house and watch your older loved one as they go about their day. You’re looking for signs that they are struggling with anything new that you weren’t aware of. This is particularly important as months and years pass by, because their support needs will change with time. Potential hazards can appear in the home, with potential to fall or slip, that can be easily fixed with minor home improvements.

Similarly, a visit is a great time to introduce yourself to the other people in the wider caring team from the neighbours to the doctor and any external care providers. You can learn a lot from conversations with people who interact daily with your loved one and if nothing else, this can reassure you that you aren’t missing anything important while you are far away.

Tip 5: Invest when caregiving needs grow

There will inevitably come a point when it becomes obvious that more care is needed, and hopefully you and the caregiving team will spot these signs before an accident occurs.

One of the first issues is usually mobility-related, and yet there simple home improvements that can make the living situation instantly more manageable, giving you as carers more time and more importantly, buying the elderly person more freedom and time living in their own home.

Ramps and hand rails on drive ways and front doors are easy to install, as are larger modifications such as stairlifts. Modern stairlift designs can cope with even the most unusual stairwells. They are designed for safety, tilting to help people get on and off the seat, and their generators mean even a power cut won’t stop them functioning. It can give real peace of mind to long-distance carers and a newfound mobility to the elderly person who wants to remain in their home.

If you still feel you need more advice with remote caregiving and the challenges it brings, seek out the professional advice that exists from many of the charitable organisations and government groups dedicated to issues of ageing and the elderly.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help as you seek to give help yourself

For more Info visit Olympic Lifts’ website

http://olympicstairlifts.co.uk/

 

Written by Laura Fulton

Helping Elderly Parents to Listen to Their Doctor

Time and again, you might be the person that has heard their doctor either say, “Congratulations, you are a healthy human being” or you may be the less fortunate to hear something like, “the tests show that your health has been declining, did you start eating unhealthy foods again?”

After twelve years of education, we can expect that our doctors are correct and should listen to them. However, we cannot always get our elderly parents to admire their professionalism and experience, to the point of doing what they recommend. For whatever reason, some elders just do not want to listen to their doctors.

If your elderly relative appears to be neglecting the doctor’s recommendations, it is important to first understand the reason for it. A good question to ask may be either, “I noticed that you are not doing what the doctor recommended, why is that?” or “is there a reason why you are not [insert doctors recommendations here]?”

Once you have discovered the reason why they are not following the recommendations, use this to explain to them why listening to the doctor can benefit them. Or, that listening to their doctor is important to you and that it hurts you to see them in pain, when they can help to reduce it by listening to a medical professional.

Also consider telling them that other elders are listening to their doctors, while this sounds like your child’s typical excuse to leverage more TV time, it is also called the bandwagon technique and can be effective in some situations.

Remember, every elder and every situation is unique. However, people under normal circumstances should always listen to and carefully follow their doctor’s instructions to live a healthy and productive lifestyle, especially the elderly.

The Elder Helpers Code of Ethics

1. Responsibility must be practiced by always making the best decision to benefit society. We strive to create the best relationships with volunteers and elders, believing that it is our duty to ensure the continuation of our program through your satisfaction.

2. Compassion is at the heart of our operations because we want to make the world a better place and improve the lives of elders across the world.

3. Trust in every aspect of our operations with the public and with respect to international laws and regulations. We not only expect to meet our legal obligations as a non-profit varying across countries, but we have a very high standard for ethics upheld by trust in our daily operations.

4. Generosity of all supporters and staff of our organization which allows us to consistently pursue our mission of connecting elders with volunteers desiring to help them. Without the donations from our respected supporters, our program would not be capable of its consistent growth and expansion.

5. Honor the different cultures, beliefs and practices varying from region to region across the world. Operating on a multi-national scale encourages us to be accepting of all beliefs and backgrounds to provide care for anyone who needs it regardless of their lifestyle.

6. Promise to our supporters that with their help, we will continue to provide assistance to those in need. This means that while you or a loved one is planning for retirement, having access to free care and companionship is one less factor that you need to worry about. Continued support of our mission will ensure the same thing for our volunteers’ future and generations to come.

7. Excellence is put forth in all of our strategies to improve the program for elders and voluntee­­rs. Our volunteers may donate their time to our program, but we encourage a high degree of quality in their work because it helps you to have a more enriching experience and we can achieve our mission.

8. Respect of all citizens, especially volunteers, supporters and the elderly affiliated with our organization is vital. We passionately believe that treating everyone with a high degree of respect is fundamental to our operations.

Exercises for seniors: Moving into a Better Tomorrow

Many people know that exercising can improve the health of an elder, which may be important to reducing the stress from their changing physical condition or increased dependence. Simple movement can also help home bound seniors to get the necessary exercise that they need, without having to leave the home. As a safety precaution, we always recommend that the elders ask their doctor if any exercise is right for them before they begin, but here are some fundamental ways to help the elderly to stay fit and active.

Stretching: Simple yoga can be done to help with stretching, but as daily activities decrease, yoga could become more important and may be the only physical activity that is reasonable for some elders. For stretching exercises, visit this link.

Strength: As we get older and decrease our activity, our muscles may tend to also decrease in mass and we may become weaker. Muscle mass is important to achieving stability, so that we can prevent falls from occurring and be capable of more exercises or public activities. You can view some strength training exercises in a video, by visiting this link.

Balance: This brings it all together and may be among the most important to helping the elder achieve more mobility and keeping them safer at home. A simple fall can result in serious injury that might have been caused because of reduced balance. Some elderly diseases such as osteoporosis, reduces the elders balance and increases the necessity of balance exercises. For videos on improving the elderly’s balance, visit this link.

Depression & The Elderly

Depression in seniors in not uncommon, but that does not mean that it lacks seriousness or should be taken lightly. By definition, depression is a prolonged state of sadness that is different from grieving and can last a very long time. In this post, we will help you to understand if you or an elder you know has depression. It can sometimes be difficult to determine this, as many aging diseases or other aging traits can be perceived as symptoms of depression. The good news is that you can take steps to help reduce the stressors in the senior’s life or get them professional assistance to help them feel better.

Common symptoms of depression

Difficulty concentrating or making decisions

Fatigue and decreased energy

Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and/or helplessness

Feelings of hopelessness and/or pessimism

Restlessness/IrritabilityInsomnia, early-morning wakefulness, or excessive sleeping

Loss of interest in activities or hobbies once pleasurable

Overeating or appetite loss

Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” feelings

What you can do to help

If the elder that you care for experiences these symptoms, it may alert you that they could have depression. You may instinctively want to help them or change it, but the best things that you can do for is being a faithful friend or seeking professional help. Sometimes people like to talk about their feelings, but in most cases, discussing it only makes it worse and can cause anger towards your attempts to help. If you know the person well enough that they like to openly express their feelings, you can subtly ask them if there is anything that they would like to talk about or that has been bothering them. To not be persistent or aggressive, if they want to talk they will when they are ready.

Depending on the severity, attempting to get an able-bodied homebound senior outdoors and interacting with other people may help. Doing light exercises like water aerobics can also do a great deal of good, provided that the senior is willing and their doctor enables the activity. If the depression is more serous and the senior denies the opportunity to do any activities because he or she no longer finds them enjoyable or ‘worthwhile’, you should contact a medical professional. Their extensive experience in having elderly patients with depression gives them expertise and the elder’s doctor may know private information about their health that could be linked to the depression.

Depression is not an easy thing watch a loved one experience. With a watchful eye and caring heart, it can be spotted early and its chances of getting worse can decrease. Just be careful not to assume too quickly or ask too many personal questions, as some of the symptoms can be the result of an aging disease and not depression. You should never, under any circumstances recommend or give the senior any medication that is not prescribed by their doctor. Medication is very complex and when it is taken in combination with others or not under professional circumstances, the consequences can be very negative physically for the senior and legally for the person that recommends the medication.

Communicating Effectively with Seniors

Many elderly or disabled people struggle with hearing, reading, writing and general communication skills. We cannot verbally or non-verbally communicate with them the same way we do with our peers. It is important to understand that as people grow older, they often become more difficult to understand and changes in their environment may influence their communication.

Do not communicate quickly with the elderly or disabled when communicating, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly and directly to them. We may sometimes get in the habit of multitasking while speaking with our peers, resulting in a weaker message or conveying the message that we are not interested in what they have to say. Our peers understand and are accustomed to this communication method, however, elders not so much. They don’t live in as fast a pace world as the younger generations.

Elders may demand extra attention in conversations to not convey that you respect what they have to say, but also to ensure that they receive your message clearly. Another important factor is to communicate as simply as possible using small words, short sentences and visual aids. Many elderly or disabled people have short-term memory loss, which means that they may struggle to remember recent events or conversations that you may have had with them.

If an elder makes a statement that you do not agree with, do not argue with them or attempt to instill your logic. While you may be able to have casual arguments with your younger friends and family, elderly adults can also be very close to their beliefs and you should not get them overly exited. It may be fine to have relaxed discussions about events, but disputing personal beliefs and values is rarely accepted in any social context.

To help elders recall what you are communicating to them, you should re-state key ideas of the topic frequently. Some believe that repeating key points three times helps people to remember the points later on. Many authors use this same technique by stating the key points in the introduction and conclusion.

Professional authors are presenting the important features of the overall message that they want their readers to recall. This may not always be important when communicating with the elderly and some may find it offensive. It is a helpful technique if you notice that the elder has difficulty remembering the key points of your conversations.Elder_Communication

Listening to elders can also play an essential role in the communication process; communication is a give-and-take relationship. Sometimes, we may be focusing on our own thoughts and responses and do not pay enough attention to the other person’s message. By taking the time to listen and asking the elder questions, you may find that all other aspects of communication improve as well. The elderly are not the only ones who want to be listened to and heard, although it is especially important that they are. In today’s conversations with our peers, some have come to expect that the person is not fully engaged in our conversation.

Making sure that you receive the sender’s message is essential to have an appropriate response, sometimes we may be thinking about our response while the other person is still talking. By listening intently, we can often understand communication on a greater level, respect the sender and learn more about them.

You may find that this technique of communication will carry over into all aspects of your life. If you have ever watched an interview on television,you can observe how intently the interviewer appears to be listening to the interviewee. Expert communicators have developed great listening skills, because they understand how important listening is when speaking with someone.

It is important to allow extra time for the elder to ask questions when you are communicating and express their reaction to what has been said. Elders have a tendency to struggle when conveying their thoughts and feelings; sometimes there is a time lapse that is longer than younger adults.

Although waiting for a response can be trying at times, it should not prevent you from asking questions. Keeping elders engaged in the conversation helps you to understand them better, strengthens your relationship and gives them confidence. By taking measures to improve message quality and using the basic principles of communication, you can enrich all conversations with the elderly.

The positive aspects of good communication are present in all social environments and mastering them will help you to convey your messages more effectively. By using some of the same techniques to communicate as the professionals do, you can enhance the elder’s chances or receiving your message and improve the relationship.

Key Points

1. Be patient when communicating.

2. Keep messages short, simple and to the point.

3. Focus on listening and interpreting verbal and non-verbal communication.

4. Use non-verbal gestures to complement your verbal message.

5. Summarize and repeat key points if necessary.

6. Never dispute beliefs or argue with the elderly.