Caring for the Elderly

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.

Early Stages of Alzheimer’s: Helping Elderly Parents through Understanding

As you or your elderly relative becomes older, they may experience some indications that could be early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. The sooner that you notice these signs,the better help that you can provide help for your aging parents. Alzheimer’s has several levels of severity,however we will be focusing on the actions indicating the disease in general.

Severe memory loss preventing daily living can be one sign that is tricky to distinguish, because some people simply have a poor memory. If the memory loss disrupts the elder’s daily life or general problem solving abilities it may be helpful to investigate further. If the elder is regularly confused for activities that were once routine or elementary, this may be an indication of the disease.

The confusion may be demonstrated in conversation or if the elder misplaces objects frequently. A social withdrawal or change in mood or personality may also be due to other circumstances, so you may be able to notice more than one symptom. If you or the volunteer for the elder notices that he or she has become fearful, depressed or worried frequently or disassociate with normal activities, it may be the result of something else. It is important to focus on several signs and understand that while it is important to know early, it may be easily misunderstood for something else.

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.

Senior Nutrition: Recommended Calorie Intake

It is important for seniors to stay healthy by eating the ‘right’ diet. This can help them to live a longer and healthier life in which they feel better and can help to alleviate or prevent some aging diseases. Eating healthy is very important at any age, but in seniors it could have serious adverse effects on the body due to the aging diseases that it may cause.

So what is the ‘right diet’ for seniors and how do you know what seniors should eat? The senior’s doctor should give the specific answer to this question, however we will present some general tips and diet information to help them stay healthier and happier for longer.

To begin, it is important to know an estimation of how many calories seniors should be consuming based on varying fitness levels. Too many calories can result in weight gain that could increase the chance of falls with osteoporosis and cause or worsen diabetes that can result in life threatening health problems. Here are the recommended calorie intake levels by the National Institute on Aging:

 A woman over 50 who is:                                                          A man over 50 who is:

Not active: 1600 calories a day                                                       Not active: 2000 calories a day

Somewhat active: 1800 calories a day                                          Somewhat active: 2200-2400 calories a day

Very active: 2000 calories a day                                                     Very active: 2400-2800 calories a day

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.

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.

Tips For Visiting Elderly Relatives During The Holidays

Elder care is a growing issue in society. Caregiving at a distance can be difficult, stressful and time-consuming. And often the only time caregivers see the loved one is on a family visit, more than not tied around a holiday. It is very noticeable when something is awry when visits are infrequent. This holiday season be aware of your older loved one’s physical and mental capacity and take notice of their environment. Whether visiting someone in senior care centers or at home, here are some tips to help.

Where do you start?

First use your senses. Observe with your eyes, ears, and with your senses of taste, touch and smell. Look at the house/apartment. Is it being kept up? Is the environment unsafe, unsanitary? Track the chores you do while there as they could point to services your loved one needs after you leave. Is there any thing obviously missing or large-scale new purchases? This could indicate some type of exploitation/abuse by others.

How can you tell if a loved one has been abused?

As a healthcare conference speaker, I often need to remind my audience members of their responsibility in the community. And watching out for abuse of elders is one such responsibility.

There are different types of abuse, some initiated by others and those of self-neglect. Again use your senses. Observe physical or sexual abuse — bruises, black eyes, welts, lacerations, and rope marks.

Is there a new best friend around? Does a home care worker refuse to allow you to see your loved one alone?

Emotional abuse — is a loved one being emotionally upset or agitated; being extremely withdrawn and non communicative or self report being verbally or emotionally mistreated? These are signs that something is up.

Is mom or dad just slowing down or is there more going on?

It could be natural old age setting in or there could be signs of bigger health issues going on. Has there been excessive weight gain, weight loss, decline in general hygiene? How is their strength and balance? Does it prevent them from doing things? Will they accept help, say when you go to a mall and offer to get a wheelchair? Check for dehydration or undernourishment. Are your parents eating nutritious meals regularly? Are they able to prepare meals?

Are they wearing inappropriate clothes? Is their clothing inadequate? Check that they have all of their medical aids — eyeglasses, hearing aids, dentures.

Look for signs of declining memory. Are loved ones placing items in wrong places, missing appointments? Are they forgetful?

Check expiration dates on medications. Are loved ones forgetting to take medications? Can they afford their medications? Has the number of prescriptions increased significantly?

Signs of Financial Stress

Unopened mail could indicate memory problems, vision problems, or hint at financial problems. Sweepstakes circulars could indicate they or someone is responding to offers. Are there overdue bills? Are bill collectors calling or showing up at the house?

Check for any changes in the loved ones bank account. Check for any additional names on a bank signature card. Check their bank statements. Is there unauthorized withdrawal of funds?

What Do I Do If They Need Care?

First, there is a delicate art on how to communicate with an elder loved one. You want to enjoy the time you have with them and ease into the conversation. Gather information on community services that can meet their needs. Take notes of services, fees, waiting lists.

Schedule a visit with your elder’s physician during the time you are there. Identify a social support system for your loved one. This includes people they can call on such as friends, neighbors, clergy, and others in regular contact. Meet these people while you are there.

Even if loved ones are fine, advance planning can help you to avoid a crisis in the future. Take a medication inventory. Document the names of physicians. Make sure they have a living will and durable power of attorney. Know where to find their financial information.

Enjoy your time with an elderly parent, relative or friend this season but be watchful of their needs. They will not let on or ask for help. So be a good observer, listener, and friend.

Written by Anthony Cirillo.

Taken from: The Huffington Post

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.

How to Help Aging Parents Stay Healthy: Elderly Resources for Healthy Living

When we say, “stay healthy,” we do not just mean eating a well balanced diet. Staying healthy can be synonymous with staying protected physically, being mentally happy and emotionally well balanced in this context. As we get older, the importance of this broad meaning increases, along with our decisions to become more health conscious. Fortunately, plenty of resources exist willing to provide help for senior citizens such as yourself or your elderly parents. The sites listed below cost nothing; they are entirely free elderly resources from U.S. Government organizations designed to improve and maintain seniors’ health.

Senior Care Resources for Health & Wellbeing:

National Center on Elder Abuse: If you or someone you love is being abused or neglected, this website is a free anonymous hotline to report the individual to the proper authorities. Not only will you be enabling the victims to receive better care for the elderly, you could be potentially saving a life.

Help with Medicare Prescription Drug Costs: If an elder makes less than $13,000 alone or $26,000 combined income, they may be eligible for addition help with prescription drug costs in the United States.  This may be a good option to provide elderly parents or yourself with adequate care for seniors and to protect the senior’s health with medication prescribed by a medical doctor.

Eating Healthy: This free guide from the National Institute on Aging provides resources for elders on how to continue eating healthy after age fifty. It focuses on the daily diet and how it can be improved to manage seniors’ health.

 

How to Help Seniors Avoid Scams: Helping Elders Stay Protected

The internet and technology revolution that seniors have seen within the past few decades has simplified life, but also opened them up to several new forms of scams. When finding help for seniors with finance, legal or general living issues, it is essential that elders stay protected to avoid falling victim to scams.

With scamming, prevention is the key to success. Steps can be taken to prevent elders from begin scammed online or offline that can be much simpler than having to resolve the consequences. As the authorities work to provide new methods to stop seniors from begin scammed, we have complied three resources for elders to help them stay safe and protected:

Be Selective about Disclosing Personal Information

Some scammers may call the senior’s home and request personal information that may be used to commit fraud. Websites or e-mails have also been known to be set up to have an appearance of a legitimate website to ‘trick’ users into entering their personal information. If necessary, ask that the senior speak to a relative or caregiver before they distribute personal information.

Assign a Power of Attorney

Seniors can request to assign a power of attorney, which enables a trusted individual like a family member or financial professional to manage their finances if they become unable. Not only does this protect the senior, but it can also keep trusted relatives with good intentions legally safe.

Order Medicare Discount Drug Cards Directly From Medicare

Discount drug cards are sold by several companies and many can help elders to save on their prescription drug costs, but the card can do more harm than good for the elderly if it is being sold by a scammer. To avoid any Medicare card scams, only order your card from Medicare directly by calling them at: 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227)