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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.

Activities for the Elderly in Nursing Homes

What’s the recipe for success when it comes to helping your elderly charge or loved one stay active in their nursing home? Try a dash of creativity, a pinch of health benefits, and a mix of the following 7 (fun!) ideas:

Gentle Yoga: Gentle yoga or chair yoga incorporates relaxation and meditation with gentle flowing movements and stretches. This mindfulness practice is great for seniors in nursing homes and is proven to help boost overall mood, improve blood circulation, alleviate back and joint pain, and even combat cognitive decline.

 

Board Games: Board games, card games, and puzzles are favorites of seniors, including Chess, Checkers, Rummicub, Pictionary, and Backgammon. Mentally challenging games and puzzles not only fight memory loss, but they help residents practice problem-solving and interact with others socially.

 

Community Gardening: Get residents in on the beauty and enjoyment of maintaining the grounds by having flower planting or watering projects where they can take part in the work. Not only is getting outside in the sun beneficial for their health and wellbeing, but actively taking part in an activity (like planting or watering flowers at the entrance of the facility), which also benefits others, is fulfilling and confidence-building.

 

Spa Day: Soothe the senses with a simulated spa day that involves listening to peaceful and meditative music, aromatherapy with fragrant candles, and mini hand, foot or head massages by volunteers or staff. Sensory activities like this are great for residents with dementia or Alzheimer’s and can foster peace, relieve stress and boost positive moods.

 

Low-impact Games: Fun physical games that involve moderate activity are great for elderly residents. Target throwing can be done sitting down or standing up – simply place a large circular target on the ground with colored areas that correspond to point levels, and have residents take turns tossing bean bags onto the target to get points.

Another FUN, heart-pumping, game is Paddle Balloons. Quickly construct paper paddles out of large popsicle sticks and paper plates, and have residents use them to hit blown up balloons back and forth to one another.

 

Karaoke Night: Really hit the nostalgic notes with a karaoke night filled with old standards and classic hits residents will love hearing again and again. Music can be particularly positive for patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s – songs evoke emotions and memories, and singing with others is engaging and stimulates brain activity.

 

Digital Puzzles: For elderly residents with arthritis or who have some visual impairment, playing cards or handling small board game pieces can be difficult. A digital alternative for the games and puzzles they love might just be the answer instead. Free games like Sudoku and Scrabble can be downloaded to a computer or tablet, giving players the option to enlarge the screen and play with the simple click of a mouse or tap of their finger.

 

Don’t forget the importance of staying active.  Find ways to keep your loved one busy to really reap the rewards.  Keeping busy as we age not only improves our physical health but mental health as well.  You’ll see that providing challenges and activities each day stimulates the mind and leads to happier (healthier) aging.
If you don’t use it…you’ll lose it!

 

Written bye Joe Fleming

Veterans Benefits: A Simplified Overview

Obtaining veterans assistance can be a challenging task, let alone sifting through the different websites and complicated government lingo to understand what benefits are available to veterans. This post is dedicated to helping people understand and obtain veterans benefits easier.

To apply for any of these benefits, click the title to file the claim form: 

Life Insurance

There are six life insurance options, each with different qualifications and benefits that the veteran may be able to receive. Life insurance benefits will be presented in a future post.

Home Loan & Home Improvements

Veterans with qualifying service are eligible for home loan services, including guaranteed loans for the purchase or building of a home and certain types of condominiums. Some disabled veterans receive grants to have their homes adapted to their needs.

Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment

Helps veterans with service-connected disabilities prepare for, find and keep suitable employment such as job search, career exploration, and education/job training.

These benefits can also improve the ability of living as independently as possible for serious service-connected disabilities including rehabilitation services.  To qualify, veterans usually must file within 12 years of service.

Education 

There are a variety of education and training programs up to 36 months, provided to veterans with varying qualification requirements and benefits. Specific programs will be presented in another blog post.

Disability Compensation

The VA pays monthly compensation to veterans for disabilities incurred or aggravated during military service. The veteran is entitled to these benefits from the date of separation, but the claim of disabilities incurred while on military service must be filed within one year or separation from service. You can follow the link above to see all of the disability benefits available, they are all organized by the specific disability title.

Disability Pension

This is an income-based benefit paid to veterans with honorable wartime service who are permanently and totally disabled for any reason or are age 65 or older.

Medical

A wide range of health care services is available to veterans with medical problems directly resulting from a war. Generally, veterans must be enrolled in the VA health care system to receive care.

Dental

Within 180 days of separation, veterans may receive one-time dental treatment if they were not provided treatment within 90 days of separation from active duty. This time limit does not apply to veterans with dental conditions resulting from service-connected injuries.

More Information

We are confident that these simplified benefits have effectively provided you with a simplified understanding of what some veterans may be entitled to. It is important that the veteran files any claims as soon as possible after he or she has finished the service, as some benefits can expire if claims are not filed within the break from active service.  If you have any questions about veteran’s assistance, you may contact help@elderhelpers.org.

Caregiver’s Guilt: Recognition and Acceptance

Every task in our lives with value carries with it some inherent challenges and problems. As students, we had the dreaded homework. If we chose to participate in sports, we had to practice, even when we did not wish to. As parents, we had those days when we really wished we had decided not to have children. If we did not do our homework, skipped practice, or took a break away from our children, we felt guilty. Guilt seemed to move on with us as the situation changed. 

Taking care of an elderly person, whether they are a parent, a friend, or someone for whom we have assumed responsibility is a valuable life experience. And, just as with any other experience with value, there are challenges and difficulties. Our responses to the daily activities we engage in as we provide for elder care needs can breed that old, familiar feeling of guilt. It helps if we recognize the reasons for elder guilt and accept them as normal.

Everyone has difficult days, and this is especially true for the elderly, who have aches and pains, may be lonely, or suffer from memory loss or confusion. Dealing with changing needs and moods can be difficult and, no matter how hard we try to stay positive, resentment can creep in and then we feel guilt. Such feelings are normal. Here are three ways you can deal with elder guilt:

  1. Be honest about your feelings. If you admit to them, that is the first step in moving on. It may help to discuss your feelings honestly with someone else involved in elder care.
  2. Take a break. Just as with child-rearing, sport practice, and homework, some time away from what is causing the stress and resultant guilt can help allay those feelings. You may only be able to step into the kitchen to retrieve a cool drink of water, but when you get there, take a deep breath and relax, then return.
  3. Learn to deal realistically with expectations – yours and the person for whom you are caring. You cannot meet every need and requirement for care, no matter how hard you try. Be happy with doing your best. Also, realize that some desires expressed by the elder in your care simply cannot be met. If they wish to eat something prohibited by their doctor that is a need you cannot meet. Be content to do what you can to keep the person in your care as healthy and comfortable as possible.

Elder care is a valuable life experience. However, there are days when everything feels overwhelming and we may not be proud of our response. When elder guilt sets in, admitting honestly to the feeling, taking a break, and realistically dealing with daily challenges and problems, can help those moments pass and make our elder care experience even more rewarding.

Communication Tips: for volunteers helping elders

As an elder care service, we stress the importance of communication when caring for seniors. Proper verbal and non-verbal communication can improve the companionship that you provide. We have collected three tips for you today that will improve your relationship with seniors and the non-profit elder care that you provide for them.

Encourage engagement:  When elders respond to questions that you ask them, it lets you know that they understand the message that you are conveying to them. It helps you become a better elderly caregiver when you actively ask open-ended questions and allows the elder to feel better about their own communication methods.

Re-state main points: Many great writers or speakers will include conclusions into their presentations or literature to help readers remember the key points. When serving as a volunteer caregiver for the elderly, you can improve your communication and increase the ideas remembered by simply re-stating them.

Short, Sweet and to the Point: Steven Hawking is a famous physicist and writer, well known for his ability to present complicated material for anyone to understand. Most people prefer short and simple sentences, with the key points easy to understand. We believe that shortening and simplifying your speech will help you to provide better help for the elderly and improve other relationships as well. 

Technology that can Help the Elderly

While a lot of technology can simplify seniors’ lives, it can also be intimidating to adopt for people growing up without the same technological innovations that we value today. Some technology gadgets for seniors are particularly popular such as:

Tablet PCs: Many technology companies like Microsoft, Apple and now Google have tablets out that have applications that seniors can enjoy like games, free limited newspaper access, internet surfing and videos.

E Readers: If the elder enjoys reading, but has difficulty seeing the text because of vision problems, E Readers are perfect for them. Some E Readers are designed for simplicity and have the ability to make the text any size so that vision is no longer a problem.

Wii: Video games systems like the Nintendo Wii give seniors the capability of enjoying the same sports that they did when it was safer for them to. The senior and their helper may enjoy activities like yoga, golf, tennis and bowling.

Cell Phones: For older seniors that still prefer the traditional land line telephone, think simple. There are many smartphones out that are unnecessarily complicated and can frustrate seniors when attempting to use them. Pay as you go phones are usually very simple, older models can be easier to use than the newer models.

It does not take very much training to use these devices; today’s technologically savvy youth may be able to give the seniors a thorough overview over any of these electronics.  If you would like to find a volunteer to help seniors to use these devices, search for volunteers in your area and sign up.