Sunday, March 14, 2010

How to Improve Senior Sleep Patterns

How to improve senior sleep patterns.
-Dr. Kathy Johnson, PhD CMC

Naps and medication are two of the most frequently cited ways seniors and their caregivers try to solve their sleep problems. Either (or both) may be appropriate, but each carries its own ability to disrupt sleep further. Each must be used carefully and purposefully, and in conjunction with healthy sleep habits (a.k.a. “sleep hygiene”) as outlined below.

Naps can be either the cause or the cure, depending on how and when they happen. For seniors who struggle to stay alert all day, a short nap may be the bridge they need to get them from a convenient waking time to a reasonable bedtime. Good, healthy, restorative naps are short – just 15 to 30 minutes – since longer naps can lead to drowiness and an inability to fall asleep at bedtime, relatively early in the afternoon so they don’t conflict with bedtime, and physically comfortable in a quiet and dimly lit place.

Many seniors turn to the ever-growing numbers of sleep aids – both prescription and over-the-counter – that are available. One of the potential problems with this route is that sleep aids can interact negatively with a range of medications the senior may already be taking and/or they can cause drowsiness that itself leads to accidents and falls. Worse, many sleep aids can cause confusion and disorientation even in younger, healthier people. For seniors with any level of dementia, this potential side effect must be closely monitored and avoided since it can lead to night fears, heightened anxiety, and even worse: sleep problems.

For seniors having trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep long enough to feel rested and refreshed in the morning, these “sleep hygiene” tips and habits are the first steps to take:

Gradually eliminate caffeine from your diet, or at least limit caffeine intake to one caffeinated beverage in the morning. Avoid all caffeine after lunch.

1.Eat a big meal at lunchtime, and have a lighter dinner.
2.Avoid alcohol, or at least limit alcohol consumption to one drink, preferably with a meal and not right before bedtime.
3.Do some sort of physical activity every day, preferably outside where you can get direct daylight. Exercise early in the day since physical exertion too close to bedtime can be stimulating.
4.Establish and maintain a set bedtime and waking time. If you choose to take a nap (see guidelines above), do so at a regular, set time.
5.Establish a pre-bedtime calming routine. This may include a warm bath, reading, or listening to restful music.
6.Avoid television right before bed.
7.Write down or simply state aloud any fears, worries, or concerns that are on your mind as part of your bedtime routine – giving voice to such concerns can help reduce their ability to negatively impact sleep.
8.Use your bed (and preferably the whole bedroom) only for sleeping, do not read or watch television in bed.

If you don’t fall asleep after 15 – 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something quiet and calm, read or listen to restful music or a book on tape. Serious or long-term sleep disorders should always, of course, be brought to the attention of a health care provider.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Need for Outside Help in Family Caregiving

by Anne Pagnoni

Being a family caregiver for a loved one makes for a very stressful situation especially in the long-term. After a prolonged period of time, caregiving can become too difficult to endure any longer, and the caregiver reaches a crisis point. At this point outside help is typically needed.

When someone initially takes on the role of caregiver, he or she is confident and has everything under control. The caregiver is coping well with the situation. However, as time continues and the care recipient begins needing more help, the caregiver may begin to isolate from family and friends. The caregiver starts to feel alone and helpless. If the caregiver doesn’t look for outside help at this point, then the caregiver may begin to find his or her physical health deteriorating. Once the physical health of the caregiver is compromised, the caregiver loses focus and extreme fatigue will cloud judgment resulting in the caregiver being unable to make rational decisions or ask for help. Without intervention, the caregiver may find him or herself requiring care.

When assuming the responsibility of a family caregiver, it is important to enlist the help of outside professionals. A financial planner or reverse mortgage specialist may find funds to pay for professional in-home care services. An elder law attorney can help stave off future legal issues. A geriatric care manager can be a guide through the maze of long-term care issues. A home care agency can provide care services to allow the primary caregiver to take a much-needed break. Having a strong support system in place at the beginning will often make the difference between allowing a loved one to remain at home and needing to relocate to a nursing facility.

Family caregivers need the support of family, friends, and professionals. Doing it alone almost never works. If you find yourself in the position of being a family caregiver for a loved one, take the necessary steps at the beginning to get a support system in place. In the long run you’ll be happy that you did!

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Benefits of Elderly Home Care

The Benefits of Elderly Home Care

by Suzan Love

As your parents and grandparents grow older, you may become concerned about their safety at home. Placing them in an assisted living facility is often considered as an option. However, homecare is an alternative that has many benefits.

1. Seniors who live at home are able to maintain a level of freedom that would not be possible at an assisted living residence. For many, this freedom is synonymous with maintaining dignity, which is something many individuals fear loosing as they age. Similarly, those who receive homecare can come and go as they please-for whatever reason. They can also choose their own meal times.
2. Elderly individuals do not have to part with any of their beloved possessions if they continue to live at home. Having the things they love physically close at hand can help keep stress levels to a minimum, as those possessions are tied to invaluable memories. Seniors can also keep their pets when living at home, and caring for an animal has been scientifically proven to have positive health benefits.

3. Those who live at home can have visitors whenever they please and are not restricted by visiting hours. This can lead to more fulfilling relationships with friends and family, as they are able to visit more frequently.

4. Living at home has physical health benefits, as it is easier to avoid those who are sick. When living in a place with many people, such as an assisted living facility, one person’s illness spreads like wildfire. At home it is also possible to request that sick people visit only after they are fully recovered.

5. Home care allows the elderly to avoid the emotional stress of moving to a new place with new people and a new routine. Maintaining continuity leads to psychological wellbeing.

6. Assisted living facilities can be very expensive and, in some cases, far away from other family members’ homes, especially in less populated areas. In many cases, seniors have already completely paid off their off mortgage, which can substantially reduce the costs of caregiving at home. The stressors related to the actual moving process are also eliminated.

7. As a final point, those who live at home are often happier than they would be living at a retirement home. The familiarity and comforts of home are irreplaceable.

There are now many products and services that make living at home both feasible and affordable. Enhanced security systems, emergency panic buttons, and home delivered meals are just a few of the options to choose from. If your elderly family member wants to live at home, honoring that wish is now easier than ever before.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Elderly Home Care Service Can Help Your Loved One Maintain Independence

Elderly Home Care Service Can Help Your Loved One Maintain Independence
by Thao Nguyen

Elderly home care services are growing at an accelerated rate, and this particular industry is only poised to continue to grow as the population of the United States ages. The number of people of retirement age and older is expected to double by the year 2030, and by the middle of this century, there will be more elderly people in this country than any other age group.

While a few people are lucky and stay healthy enough to be able to take care of themselves without help for their entire lives, others are not so fortunate. With advances in preventive medicine and anti-aging technologies, the number of elderly who live alone will rise, but there will always be a need for help for those who have difficulties maintaining their independence. Family members are not always able to attend to every need of the aging parent or grandparent, especially if that person needs frequent assistance. No one wants to go the nursing home route if other alternatives are available, and that is the reason why elderly home care companies provide such an essential service.

The elderly home care agency you choose can usually help with a variety of personal care services and chores around the house. Depending on the needs and wants of your elderly relative, you can find elderly home care services that can send people out to check on him or her once a day, once a week, round the clock or however often is required. These elderly care assistants can do minor household chores, help with bathing and dressing, and administer medications. Having such a service available and on call can make the difference between your relative remaining in his or her own home and having to go into an assisted living or nursing facility.

If you decide to use elderly home care services, help your loved one interview and select the paid caregiver. Have the agency send someone over to spend some time with your relative, so they can see if the match is a good one. Not every match is right and you might have to through many different elderly care assistants before finding the right person. The whole experience of using an elderly home care service will be much more successful for everyone if you determine the needs and wants of your loved one and involve him or her in the process of finding the most suitable elderly care assistant.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver - Part III

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part III
Posted on Jan. 14th, 2010
by Joy Loverde

In Part I & II of Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver, we discussed that there are no blueprints in caregiving and we each must find our way. We also looked at the importance of keeping a realistic view of our demands to make sure we don’t sabotage the caregiving process. Let’s continue taking a look at caregiving and make sure we are taking care of ourselves to better help others.

Are you a walking time bomb?

Is your life already filled to capacity? Are you currently handling major, time-consuming obligations between parenting, your own career, and other commitments? How much time can you afford to devote to your elders? Eldercare requires patience, and tolerance for this kind of work may not be part of your emotional makeup. For example, if you’ve never assisted an older adult with bathing and dressing for the day, you may not realize that this seemingly simple activity could eat up the better part of the morning. What might be your reaction to an elder who asks you the same question over and over again in a matter of minutes?

Are you thick-skinned?

Disappointment, loneliness and frustration come with the job of caregiving. Your circle of friends may start to shrink; siblings and relatives will find excuses to keep their distance from you and your elders. Are you good at deflecting criticism? Can you bounce back after a hard day’s work? Can you forgive others for their shortcomings? Are you willing to get help if you suspect that you are becoming increasingly depressed?

Are you an effective money manager?

Eldercare is a bottomless pit of ongoing expenses. Beyond health care, there are other eldercare-related costs that will quickly drain the money supply: senior housing, special diets, medications, transportation, and more. Are you proactive rather than reactive when it comes to managing money? Will you seek financial advice? Will you stick to a budget in order to avoid a family financial crisis? Are you willing to talk to other family members about paying for long-term care?

Is it possible that you will have to quit your job to perform eldercare duties?

Most people cannot afford to give up their own primary means of support. Are you willing to research your company’s work-life eldercare programs? Will you be risking your job security by being candid with your boss about your eldercare situation? If your employer offers work-life benefits are you making good use of them now?

Once you know where the caregiving roller coaster is going, are you still in for the ride? Millions of us are facing this question. We all have limitations — getting help is the smart thing to do. Sometimes love is best served when we do not place ourselves in a position of resentment.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver - Part II

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part II
by Joy Loverde

There are no blueprints in caregiving. Each of us will carve our own path. The following self-assessment questionnaire is meant to help guide you to better choices. If anything else, the answers to these questions and the questions in Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part III will reveal when it’s time for you to supplement your care plans.

Do you get along with your elders, and have a fair amount of influence over them?

Perhaps at times your sister gets along with Mom better than you do. People outside the family circle or an “authority figure” may be more influential and able to accomplish what you cannot – it might be a doctor, a member of the clergy, a geriatric case manager or an attorney who may be able to step in on your behalf.

Do you live far away?

Be realistic about your ability to handle all of the eldercare details from a distance. Are there some things you simply cannot accomplish from far away? Is it realistic right now for you to pick up and move or ask your elder to do the same? Can you share duties with someone who lives closer?

Are you willing to ask for and accept help?

There is no getting around this one. If you have trouble delegating tasks or accepting help from others, then it’s simply a matter of time before the quality of your own life will begin to crumble.

Do you have strong problem-solving abilities?

Day-to-day eldercare problems are complex, multi-dimensional and sure to challenge the brightest of minds. If your confidence in researching options and making difficult decisions is low, you are better off surrounding yourself with professional advisors and, in some cases, letting geriatric case managers assess the situation and supplement the care and decision-making process.

Are you good at learning new things and taking advice?

Everybody — from health care professionals to the neighbor down the street — will have a strong opinion on how your elder should be cared for. While some of their suggestions may be off target, others may be worth considering. How flexible and open-minded are you? Are you will to make changes in mid-stream?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver - Part 1

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part I

Posted on Jan. 7th, 2010

by Joy Loverde

If I had to create a “Help Wanted” ad as a way to hire a family caregiver, this is how the advertisement would read:


Person available and on-call seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day with no days off and little or no financial compensation. Qualifications:

•Can speak medical, insurance, and legalese
•Financial planning and bookkeeping
•Juggle multiple scheduling systems
•Car with valid driver’s license
•Heavy lifting
•Expertise in home maintenance and repairs
•Dietician, meal planning, and chef
•Medication management
•Limitless patience
•Ability to change plans in mid-stream
•Social worker and spiritual director
•Willingness to sacrifice personal time and put career plans on hold
•Can withstand criticism and ongoing feelings of isolation
•Loves surprises
Seasoned family caregivers know all too well about the stresses of eldercare even under the best of circumstances, and family caregiving is not necessarily a short-term commitment. Responsibilities very often last for decades.

If you are not acknowledging how family caregiving may be affecting he quality of your own life, and you do not recognize yourself in the “Help Wanted” ad above, then I beg you to ask people you trust if they think you are taking on way too much by yourself.

Too often, family caregivers have rigid beliefs on who does the care and how it should be implemented. Making hasty statements like, “My mother will never go to a nursing home!” and taking pride in not asking others to pitch in will surely get the best of you.

Unrealistic goals and unhealthy attitudes can sabotage the caregiving process. When we come face-to-face with our own limitations and can’t provide the kind of care we wish we could, we feel it’s our own fault. The truth is we may not be the most qualified person to take on all of the caregiving responsibilities all of the time. Limitations of relationships, time, stamina, and skill dictate how much help we can realistically offer.

Keep an Eye on the Family Caregiver – Part II and Part III will offer a self-assessment questionnaire.