Tips for Self-Care That Require a Quarter-Hour or Less

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A caregiver’s world revolves around unending demands. These demands may drain you emotionally, mentally and physically. But the biggest drag is on your time. How big? For many caregivers, just enjoying 15 minutes alone is an unimaginable luxury.

After all, you are your loved one’s eyes and ears. They depend on you to be their “voice” and interpret the world around them. Many people living with dementia have lost their sense of time, so if you are away for 15 minutes, they feel abandoned for an entire day. This dependency means they may want you around – and in sight – 24/7. 

Providing in-home care is a strenuous task. Home Care Assistance hopes that as a home care agency, we can provide guidance to our Oklahoma City and surrounding area clients. If you need help or have any questions, please reach out to us. We are here to assist you in the home health care journey.

15 Minutes to Refresh

Let’s say you look after a parent with dementia. They may be anxious and follow you from sunrise until long after dark. You do your best to manage your emotions and remain patient. Still, you have needs of your own. How, where and when do you create space to breathe? Self-Care Isn’t Selfish. Caregiver burnout is real and can lead to serious problems for your emotional and physical health. Rather than continuing to ignore the growing stress, acknowledge it and pledge to do something about it. If you need an excuse to take care of yourself, remember that the person you are looking after relies on you taking care of yourself in order to care for them.

Develop a self-care strategy. Your dream of 15 minutes alone can become reality. Ask yourself: Do you need to be physically separate from your loved one to practice self-care? Is this possible? If not, can you take care of yourself while you’re in the room with them? Are there options to do it together? Your answers will help you choose the right approach.

15 Minutes for Yourself…While You Care for Another

Can you really take 15 minutes for yourself while in the same room with a loved one? Surprisingly, the answer is yes.

If you are caring for a parent or spouse, you may get so task-focused that you forget about your own well-being. Try these approaches when you are together:

  • Develop a breathing practice. After all, you need to breathe anyway! There are many possibilities for breath work. You can do these with anyone present, and breathing techniques improve heart and brain health. <hyperlink: https://homecareassistance.com/blog/three-breathing-techniques-heart-brain-health>

  • Try mindfulness. The only requirement for this simple form of meditation is the willingness to sit still and watch your thoughts. Developing a healthy detachment from the challenges of the moment can be refreshing and provide you with the care you need. <hyperlink: http://homecareassistance.com/blog/how-mindfulness-can-help-prevent-caregiver-burnout>

  • Listen to music. Share the joy of music together, or don a pair of headphones and listen while you watch your loved one.

  • Read. Depending on the situation, you could dip into a novel. Keep reading material or your favorite device handy.

  • Exercise. If your parent is able, you can do some simple exercises together. Or, bring an exercise mat into the room and perform floor exercises right there.

  • More togetherness ideas. Other ideas for creating some relaxing time during care include jigsaw puzzles, watching TV, or even having “tea time” — a daily ritual you share with your loved one.

           Further Reading About Caregiver Burnout  

Out of Sight but Still On-Site

If you are able to leave the room while taking care of someone else, it can afford you some more ways to self-care. Here are five ways to use 15 minutes alone in a spare room:

  • Take a power nap. A short nap will refresh you, and won’t interfere with your evening sleep.  Even if you can’t (or don’t want to) fall asleep, you can still rest and collect your thoughts.

  • Do floor exercises.  Stretching, yoga and aerobic exercise can all be performed in a confined space.

  • Talk to a friend.  Can you spend your 15 minutes on the phone with a friend? If you’re able to set time to do this in advance, great! If that’s not practical, phone someone to share how your day is going.

  • Meditate or pray. Many caregivers find that a short break to reconnect with their spiritual life can lift their spirits.

  • Take a video vacation. Go online and find a channel that features relaxing scene or music.  

An Outside Chance at 15 Minutes Alone

Do you have the option to go to a park, garden, or natural area? If so, here are some ideas for how to spend your 15 minutes outside.

  •  Walk. Take a few minutes for a brisk stroll. If it’s on a city street that’s totally fine. But if you have access to a park or a beach, all the better. If the weather and environment is right, you can even try a technique called earthing, which means walking barefoot. Some studies show that walking sans shoes reconnects us to mother earth and satisfies our soul.

  • Just sit. Take a seat someplace and drink it all in. That might mean a park bench or a patch of grass or a local coffee shop.

For more about self-care for people who give their all to their loved ones, take a long slow deep breath — then review this post on the importance of not isolating yourself as a caregiver.

If you think it may be time to start in-home care, you aren’t alone. Home Care Assistance can provide guidance to patients and families in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for Edmond home care or dementia care in Oklahoma City, reach out to us. We are ready to help you through the home care process.

 

 

Resources:

1.     Napping, from The National Sleep Foundation

2.     10 ways for caregivers to nurture themselves

The Balanced Care Method

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The Balanced Care Method is a holistic approach to healthy longevity based on the longest-living people on Earth.

There is no single explanation for how and why some people live longer or have more active years than others. But there is a place where more people live longer and healthier than any other place on earth: Okinawa, Japan. Scientists have been studying this group of seniors to see if we can learn from their methods and live longer, more productive lives ourselves. Home Care Assistance developed the Balanced Care Method, a revolutionary approach to senior care, based on these studies.

The Balanced Care Method™ is based on studies of the extraordinarily long-lived elders living on the island of Okinawa, Japan. Life spans of over 100 years are not unusual on Okinawa. More important, people in their 70s, 80s and beyond enjoy incredible good health and independence despite their years. The Balanced Care Method promotes the lifestyle factors central to these centenarian’s healthy longevity. It is a philosophy that can be summed up in two words: moderation and variety.

Components of Balanced Care Training include:

  • Healthy Diet

  • Physical Activity

  • Sharp Minds

  • Social Ties

  • Calmness & Purpose

 The Balanced Care Method is an evidence-based program built on studies that demonstrate that only one-third of our longevity is based on genetics and two-thirds on lifestyle factors within our control. Home Care Assistance caregivers are trained in the method, offering the first senior care solution with an emphasis on balance and longevity. Our Oklahoma City and surrounding area home care patients will receive the best private care possible based on this method. By working with specific lifestyle behaviors, our in-home care providers extend and enhance the lives of seniors, helping them live longer, happier, and more balanced lives.

The Balanced Care Method touches everything we do. At Home Care Assistance we understand the important connections between diet, exercise, mental engagement, and social relationships that reduce stress and create better lives. No matter the amount of care you need, from dementia care to hourly private home care, our care services include support of the daily life activities listed below and the tenants of the Balanced Care Method. 

● Cooking and light housekeeping
●  Laundry and changing of bed linens
●  Grocery shopping and errands
●  Companionship and range of motion exercises
●  Transportation to doctor appointments, supermarket, pharmacy
●  Assisting with walking and transferring from bed to wheelchair
●  Bathing, dressing and grooming assistance
●  Status reporting to family
●  Medication reminders

Here at Home Care Assistance, we believe there is never a right age, just a right way to age.

If you think it may be time to start in-home care, you aren’t alone. Home Care Assistance can provide guidance to patients and families in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for Edmond home care or dementia care in Oklahoma City, reach out to us. We are ready to help you through the home care process.

5 Practical Methods for Calming Agitation in Older Adults with Dementia

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Caring for a loved one with dementia can feel like a daily battle. You are dealing with the loss of the person you once knew. At the same time, you love them even as you adapt to their changes in behavior and learn to handle episodes of agitation and aggression.

The challenges of dementia caregiving can break your heart on a regular basis. Executing simple tasks and scheduling events for a loved one can turn into a disaster. At times, your loved one’s behavior may be difficult to predict; dementia is cruel to both the person with dementia and to the caregiver. This blog post outlines some strategies that can help you respond to the challenges of dementia in an effective and mindful way.

Learning how to handle difficult behaviors caused by dementia will give you the ability to enjoy spending time with your loved one. While dementia may take memories, it cannot take the love shared between you and your loved one. Research has shown that people with dementia will still feel love and happiness even after they have forgotten a specific visit or experience (1).2  Love remains. That is your defense against dementia, both for you and your loved one.

It is also important to remember that if you ever feel like you can’t provide care alone, you don’t have to. There are numerous options for dementia care in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. If you find yourself needing extra help, reach out to a home care agency like Home Care Assistance. HCA can provide guidance and help you make decisions about hiring a care provider and the future of your in-home care. We hope that this guide will help you with your loved one’s senior care.

These five methods to calm agitation and aggression will give you a way to focus on the love in your relationship. At the core of these five strategies is effective ways to communicate (2). Keep that in mind as you read further. With these in your arsenal, you will be able to build on the bond you and your loved one share.

 

1.    Stay Calm

Agitation and aggression are contagious. It is very natural when you are talking to somebody who is getting agitated to feel upset yourself. This natural response is called mirroring, and in many instances can work to your benefit. Instead of mirroring your loved one’s agitation, by remaining calm, you are presenting a demeanor for your loved one to mirror.

When you stop and take a deep breath to calm yourself, you are demonstrating calmness to your loved one. This helps to make them feel safe and reassured (3).3 Take a step back and see if you can identify a cause for the agitation. Remember that your loved one is not trying to give you a hard time – he or she is struggling as much as you are.

Stop whatever you are doing and slow down. Listen to what your loved one is saying, even if it doesn’t make sense! Don’t correct. This can make the agitation worse. Take a moment to remember a positive memory you share with your loved one. Allow that warmness to enter your eyes and look directly at him or her. Smile gently and try to ask for permission to do the thing you need to get done or offer your loved one some help in the task. Calmness often reassures those with dementia, which will allow you to make a positive request like “will you walk with me to the store?” or “can I help you wash the dishes?” 

 

2.    Focus on Feelings not Facts

Dementia can impact a person’s ability to reason and communicate. However, feelings remain strong. You need to respond to your loved one’s feelings instead of their words. Trying to reason and argue with a person with dementia will only frustrate both of you. (4).

Listen to the expression of frustration even if the actual words don’t make sense. Your loved one might be saying, “I need the car to take the ball!” You could respond to that expression by saying, “you really are wanting the car today?” Then try to provide clear reassurance, for example, “I will take you out in the car today and we can get what you need.”

Treat your loved one with love and respect. Love and respect can bridge communication problems between yourself and someone with dementia. You should always treat your loved one with dignity. Although you may see behaviors that remind you of a child, your loved one is not a child. Guarding his or her dignity will prevent hurt feelings that lead to agitation. The reality your loved one is trying to convey may not align with your interpretation of the world. But their feelings about what they are experiencing can lessen that divide.

 

3.    Limit Distractions

Dementia causes damage to the brain that makes it difficult to express thoughts and perform tasks. Background noises, clutter, crowds, and even lights can overstimulate the brain and bring on feelings of restlessness and distress (5).5 Foster an environment of calm in your home. Choose smaller gatherings over crowds as much as possible. For example, instead of inviting crowds of people at once, try one or two visitors at once. Also turn off the TV when talking to your loved one. The noise from the TV can be difficult for them to block out.

Reduce the amount of non-essential items in your home. Bright, distracting patterns and moving objects can confuse your loved one. One or two meaningful, personal pictures will offer a more calming décor than twenty fancy frames.

Lights are another stimulating stimulus. Particularly in the evenings and late afternoon, it is important to switch from bright overhead lights to smaller, dimmer lights. The glare and reflections from lights bouncing off windows, mirrors, and picture frames can be startling or even frightening to your loved one.

Always aim to simplify your surroundings when you notice signs of agitation. Use simple sentences. Move into a quieter space. A calm environment will often calm your loved one.

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 4.    Check for Discomfort

Your loved one’s difficulty communicating means that they can have trouble telling you when they are uncomfortable. One sign of physical discomfort may be that your loved one is having trouble sitting in one place and is constantly on the move, fidgeting and irritable. Below is a thorough checklist to help you identify physical discomfort:

  • When did your loved one last eat? Could they be hungry? Try offering a small, nutritious snack. Better yet, sit down with them and have a snack yourself. Ensuring that you aren’t hangry will also help your loved one remain calm (remember method one?).

  • Could your loved one have an infection? Urinary tract infections and bladder infections can often develop or worsen symptoms of confusion, decreased mobility, and enhance agitation (6).

  • What has your loved one had to drink in the last 24 hours? Dehydration is common in seniors due to a decreased sense of thirst. Dry eyes, mouth and skin are symptoms to watch for along with confusion and forgetfulness. Make your loved one a hot or cold cup of non-caffeinated tea, offer a slice of juicy watermelon, and make sure to add water dense foods into their daily meals. Or gently remind your loved one to sip on water throughout the day.

  • Do you know when your loved one last had a bowel movement? That’s an important discomfort to address.

  • Don’t forget to do a quick glance of the clothes your loved one is wearing. A waistband that itches, the tongue of a shoe that is rubbing, socks bunched at the toe, a collar that is too tight, or a fabric that scratches could all result in discomfort. All of these minor irritations can be distracting and irritating.

  • Making sure that your loved one is physically comfortable will drastically reduce aggression and agitation.

 

5.    Connect

Dementia can be a frightening and a stressful time for both you as the caregiver and for your loved one. The most important thing you need to keep in mind while working through the aggression and agitation is the connection. Dementia CANNOT steal the love from your relationship. It only changes the relationship. 

Always look for ways that you can cherish your loved one instead of focusing on the more frustrating aspects of being a caregiver. If the immediate situation or activity seems to be triggering your loved one, try to be proactive in changing that situation. Redirect to a more peaceful and relaxing activity. If a conversation is upsetting either you or your loved one, acknowledge what your loved one said and then move to a different topic.

Aim to say yes as much as possible. If your loved one mentions that she saw someone who has passed away years ago agree with how lovely that would be to talk to them again. Even build on it and ask what they talked about. This gives you both a connection with one another and serves as a comforting conversation.

Remember that you can only count on today. Enjoy the moments that you have. Listen to music together, dance (if you can!), play an instrument, offer a massage or brush your loved one’s hair. Go for a walk outside and listen to the bird songs or look at flowers. As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, the world is largely experienced through senses. Express your love through touch, sounds, sight, tastes, and smells.

Home Care Assistance hopes that these tips will help you continue to cherish your loved one even as dementia changes the dynamics of your relationship. Dementia, particularly dealing with aggression and agitation it causes, can be challenging for caregivers. Remember the importance of connecting with your loved one, and rely on communicating your own positive attitude so that they can mirror you. Provide a soothing environment and aim to remain calm and loving. Empathize with your loved one’s feelings and always emphasize love. When it comes time to invite more help into the home, look for caregivers that are trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Home Care Assistance can provide guidance to patients and families in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for Edmond home care or dementia care in Oklahoma City, reach out to us. We are ready to help you through the home care process.

 

 

Sources:

1.    https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=84#Psychological%20and%20emotional%20impact%20of%20dementia

2.    https://www.alz.org/flgulfcoast/alzheimers_disease_62487.asp

3.    https://www.homewatchcaregivers.com/dementia-and-verbal-communication

4.    https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-agitation-anxiety.asp

5.    https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-aggression-anger.asp

6.    https://www.healthline.com/health/uti-in-elderly

The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™

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The Cognitive Therapeutics Method (CTM) is a brain health program developed by researchers at Home Care Assistance right in the Oklahoma City area. It was developed by a research team led by a neuropsychologist. The Cognitive Therapeutics Method is based on scientific research pointing to non-pharmacological activity and lifestyle intervention as an effective way to promote long-term brain health. The program aims to improve quality of life in our OKC and Edmond dementia care patients through a truly holistic approach. Our in-home care providers incorporate positive lifestyle improvements, personalized one-on-one activities, and cognitive engagement. The program’s activities target more than just memory. The CTM helps improve executive functioning, attention, language, and visual-spatial skills. This approach goes hand-in-hand with lifestyle improvements in physical activity, social engagement, diet and more.

The Cognitive Therapeutics Method is a complement to our Balanced Care Method and is another multi-pronged approach to healthy aging, specifically focused on the brain. At Home Care Assistance, we believe in extending healthy years and work with our clients to help them achieve health and meaningfulness in longevity. All our private home care providers are trained in the CTM to ensure that your senior loved one receives the best home health care available.

Home Care Assistance is proud to offer these free valuable resources to you for personal use. As a home care agency, we believe in providing you with the best resources and guidance available.
 

What is Home Care
A 19-page guide that defines in-home care and what it can mean for your loved one and your family.

The Cognitive Therapeutics Method™ Activities
This one-page flier explains the activities that are part of the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, a research-based program designed to keep aging minds sharp.

Agency Evaluation Checklist
If you are considering home care, our Agency Evaluation Checklist helps you make sure you ask the right questions and find the care provider that is perfect for you.

If you think it may be time to start in-home care, you aren’t alone. Home Care Assistance can provide guidance to patients and families in Oklahoma City and the surrounding areas. If you are looking for Edmond home care or dementia care in Oklahoma City, reach out to us. We are ready to help you through the home care process.

 

The Impact Loneliness and Isolation has on our Brains

How loneliness drains the aging brain and what can be done about it

In his hit “Only The Lonely (Know How I Feel),” legendary crooner Roy Orbison hits close to home regarding the heartache of being and feeling alone: “Only the lonely know the way I feel tonight…only the lonely know this feeling ain’t right.”

Yes, it’s true — feeling alone is no fun. But the fact remains that many American seniors spend most their lives lonely and isolated from the outside world. Sure, everyone enjoys a little alone time. However, for too many seniors, remaining isolated does more than diminish joie de vivre. It can actually increase the risk of disease — and may even precipitate an early death.

The Science Behind Excess Alone Time on Senior Brains

A 2010 survey sponsored by AARP, referenced in the Harvard Health blog, revealed that 35% of American adults aged 45 and up felt lonely. 1  What’s more, their sense of isolation increased over time — 56% of the lonely respondents “had fewer friends at the time of the survey than five years earlier.”

The evidence is mounting that loneliness and social isolation actually affect the way our brains function. In the same article, Christopher Bullock, MD writes that when it comes to loneliness, “we now know it is not just a feeling, but a condition that has a very real effect on the body.”

A study conducted in the United Kingdom found “that hundreds of thousands of people had not spoken to a friend or a relative in a month — that’s a lot of silence in your life.

“Humans are social creatures,” Bullock goes on. “Among ourselves we form all kinds of complex alliances, affiliations, attachments, loves, and hates. If those connections break down, an individual risks health impacts throughout the body.”

A Clear Connection to Senior Health Issues

According to Dr. Bullock, recent research demonstrates the potentially serious impact of isolation on health, including:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Decreased cognitive and executive function (there is initial evidence of increased amyloid burden in the brains of the lonely)
  • A 26% increase in the risk of premature death from all causes
  • Decrease in the quality of sleep
  • Increased chronic inflammation and decreased inflammatory control (linked to the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia)
  • Decreased immune function leading to vulnerability to many types of disease
  • Increased depressive symptoms
  • Increased fearfulness of social situations (sometimes resulting in paranoia)
  • Increased severity of strokes (with shortened survival)
  • An overall decrease in the subjective sense of well-being

The Loneliness, Disease Connection is Nothing New

Studies began documenting the correlation between loneliness and illness some thirty years ago. Bullock reports that “social isolation was a major risk factor for mortality, illness, and injury, and in fact was as significant a risk factor as smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure.”

Other studies link loneliness with inflammation and neurological changes. For instance, lonely people experience dementia more frequently and risk premature death. 2 And in a paper shared at the American Psychological Association meeting, Brigham Young University professor Julianne Holt-Lunstead suggested that “loneliness is a bigger health risk than obesity.”

Conquering the Isolation Curse

While loneliness is very common, treating it is often challenging. But seeing as how a recent University of Chicago study concludes that “loneliness can make you sick,” researchers are increasingly drawn to figuring out this “invisible epidemic.” 3

Here are six ways to help lonely seniors (and their aging brains) cope:

  1. Get moving. The longer someone has felt lonely the more difficult it can be to do something as simple as smiling and saying hello. But finding connections with other people is absolutely essential to alleviating a sense of isolation.
  2. A common cure. Feeling disconnected with other people and telling ourselves we have nothing in common pretty much guarantees loneliness will continue. Taking a risk and reaching out “may lead you to a connection or commonality that will make you feel less alone.” 4 Strong relationships can help build your health.
  3. Think outside your box. A major consequence of isolation is that we think too much about our personal plight. Switching our frame of reference to what others might be going through can help lighten our own loneliness.
  4. Hunt down a new hobby. Those of us who feel cut off from the outside world can easily fall prey to inertia. So get up and get out there and just do something. Whether it’s an exercise program or a pottery class, becoming engaged with a new pastime just might make you happier. Crafting can be one easy and engaging way to advance your cognitive skills and participate in a new activity.
  5. Show up. People who spend extended periods of time on their own often shy away from social functions. Try accepting an invitation to meet for lunch or coffee. If not, even sitting in a public place and reading can be surprisingly stimulating.
  6. Feed your brain. From crossword puzzles to jigsaw puzzles to enrolling in a course at a community college or even online, active brains are more likely to be happy, healthy brains.

The People Prescription

Dr. Bullock believes “that people are anxiety relievers.” He says that people are good for you and that finding ways to be around people is a smart way to go through life. His final thought is that “it is only within the complex and gratifying and sometimes challenging ecology of human relationships that we can truly thrive.” All of which sounds like an intelligent way to use your brain.

If you or a loved one are feeling lonely and isolated, learn how social programs can help both seniors and caregivers stay connected to their communities, by reading: https://homecareassistance.com/blog/social-programs-answer-seniors-caregivers.

Sources:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/im-so-lonesome-i-could-cry-2018032113512
  2. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/loneliness-can-damage-health-triggering-inflammation-and-neurological-changes/2017/12/15/e7211b84-df61-11e7-8679-a9728984779c_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.8a606d57060c
  3. https://www.bustle.com/articles/126162-loneliness-can-make-you-physically-sick-so-here-are-6-ways-to-fight-it
  4. https://www.bustle.com/articles/124823-9-feelings-you-arent-alone-in-experiencing-according-to-the-therapists-of-reddit-even-if

How to Allow Your Parent to Accept Help Graciously

How can we help someone in need who doesn’t want any help? How do you allow your parent to accept help graciously, and preserve their pride and dignity? How do I deal with a difficult parent?

These are some of the most often asked questions from well-meaning family caregivers. If you feel trapped in a power struggle, try not to take it personally.

Understanding parents’ resistance to help

Your aging parent may resist or refuse help for VALID REASONS, such as:

  • Habit. Your parent(s) could decline your outstretched hand out of habit. They’ve always fended for themselves, so why stop now?

  • Pride. Asking for help may signal their physical or mental decline. Asking one’s children for help is a stronger signal of decline, to some people.

  • Privacy. Is your aging loved one a private person by nature? Talking about one’s own health can be very personal, and seniors may choose not to share.

  • Cost. Your mother or father may feel the expense unnecessary, or burdensome.

7 Ideas to Allow Your Parent to Accept Help

Understanding and accepting parental resistance is a good start. If you expect a battle, try these ideas to lead to a peaceful truce. These tips can shift the conversation from “giving help” to “accepting help.”

1.  Let the person achieve something on their own.

Even tying shoelaces can be tricky. Limited vision, reduced hand-eye coordination, and stiff joints can make the routine difficult. If several attempts are unsuccessful, say something like, “I’ll get those laces tied for you.”

2.  Reframe questions to statements.

In the previous example, if you asked the question “Can I tie your shoelaces for you?” you may well hear “No.” Letting the person try, and then “pitching in” may be more productive. You could also replace lace-up shoes with Velcro closure shoes. These are easier to tighten and release. Again, don’t ask if you can replace a senior’s shoes. Confirm the shoe size and get a new pair.

3.  Approach your parent with a united front. 

My two sisters and I used this tactic when we decided it was high time for Mom and Dad to stop driving. While it was challenging to talk to our parents about driving, we were successful. There were three of us saying the same thing and echoing each other’s words. We explained that we worried about them both if they were behind the wheel. Mom and Dad could not argue our concern and agreed.

4.  Provide viable options when requesting anything.

With my own parent’s driving, an alternative was for a family member to drive them where they need to go. Our parents could also use a seniors’ driving service, such as GoGoGrandparent, call a taxicab, or catch public transit.

5.  Go slow and start early.

Accept the fact that some changes may be a long time coming. Start with small offers of help and grow from there; chances are better that you will be successful. The earlier you begin these conversations, the better.

6.  Take your time with anything new.

Book one day of home care assistance first as an experiment rather than five days. By offering less, it’s harder for someone to refuse. This can get your foot in the door, and you can work up (and add more) from there.

7.  Involve a doctor.

If the resistance remains too much, call for back-up! Parents may fight tooth and nail against their adult children. These same seniors are often open to a doctor’s recommendations. If you’re having problems convincing Mom and/or Dad to accept help, contact their doctor. Book an appointment for Mom or Dad to see the doctor under any pretense. Let the doctor discuss those awkward topics, instead of you.

Reduce Heart Disease by Ramping Up These Healthy Habits

5 good habits after 50

Ready to extend your life by more than a decade? Look no further than five healthy habits: never smoke, maintain a healthy body-mass index, exercise moderately to vigorously, don’t drink too much alcohol, and eat a healthy diet.

According to a study published in the journal Circulation, when you start following these practices at age 50 you could live an extra 14 years if you are a woman, or an extra 12.2 years if you’re a man.

Commenting on this research, Dr. Meir Stampfer, a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and co-author of the study: “We can do so much better for having a long healthy life by pretty simple minimal changes in our behavior, and only 8% of adults in our country are adhering to these.”

That’s right, Dr. Stampfer says that less than one in ten U.S. adults are following these lifestyle habits!

Clear results from 34-year study

The dramatic impact of behaviors on our longevity was revealed in research on more than 122,000 people during 1980-2014.

The study concluded that projected life expectancy at age 50 was to live 33.3 more years for women and 29.8 more years for men. But women who adopted all five healthy lifestyle factors lived 43.1 more years while men lived an extra 37.6 years, researchers reported.

“To me, the surprising outcome was how strong it was: what a big impact these simple behaviors could have on life expectancy,” Stampfer said. “I was surprised that it was that pronounced.”

And to surprising, we can also add encouraging!

Reduce heart disease at 50, 60, 70

“..if you’re beyond age 50, beyond age 60, beyond age 70, it’s not too late,” Dr. Stamper added.

You’ll probably agree that this is a common sense approach to reducing the risk of heart disease and living longer. But according to Dr. Stampfer, “…only 8% of adults in our country are adhering to these.”

Hopefully, getting the word out will help the other 92%! Dr. Douglas Vaughn, chairman of  Northwestern University’’s Feinberg School of Medicine, suggested that the findings around living a healthier life are both encouraging and motivating.

After all, these changes in behavior our health in our own destiny!

If you need shock and awe motivation, consider this wakeup call from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: more than 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year.

“The main take-home message is that there’s huge gains in health and longevity to be had just by simple changes in our behavior pattern, and as a country, I think we need to make it easier for ourselves to do this by promoting tobacco cessation, by providing better environments for physical activity and so on,” Dr. Stampfer comments.

Breathwork and meditation

In addition to the five ideas explored above, a pair of mind-body practices are increasingly gaining traction to combat heart-related issues: breathwork and meditation.

Your breath is a powerful ally that can help reduce stress on your body, heart rate and blood pressure. A variety of breathing techniques seem to delay reactions to stress, burnout and fatigue.

It’s as simple as taking a deep breath. Heart Health Guide agrees that “breathing exercises are able to reduce blood pressure and heart rate.”

One recommended technique to reduce heart disease is diaphragmatic breathing. That means, instead of shallow breathing that only reaches our chest, we use our diaphragm muscle to expand the belly. It takes a little time to master, but it’s worth the effort.

Working on your breath can be complemented by developing a mindfulness meditation practice. Prominent scientists now believe that mediation can cut heart disease risk. Benefits may include a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure and reduced breath rate. It can even lower adrenaline and cortisol levels, which can help defeat anxiety and stress.

Does your healthier future start now?

The potential to live longer and feel better is in your hands — and that’s a great thing! If you’d like to add a decade or more to your life, make a heart-felt decision to adopt these healthy habits today.

Resources:

  1. These 5 healthy habits could help you live a decade longer, study suggests
  2. Breathing exercises are able to reduce blood pressure and heart rate
  3. Diaphragmatic Breathing Video (opens in YouTube)
  4. Is There a Difference Between Prayer and Meditation? I Hope So…

5 Key Strategies to Help Your Parents Age in Their Own Home

Have your parents let you know that they want to stay in their own home, no matter what? That wouldn’t be surprising. According to AARP, 87% of adults over the age of 65 want to stay in their current home and community as they age.1

This can be difficult as an adult child because you want to make sure that your parent is safe at home. You might worry that your parent won’t be able to afford living at home. Many adult children fear that their aging parent will be at a high risk for loneliness and isolation. Another frequent concern are falls and not being able to drive as they age.2

Aging in place can be successful though with the proper preparation and planning. Today’s Geriatric Medicine reports that, to help your parents age in place safely, you’ll need these 5 strategies:

1. Learn How to Talk to Your Aging Parent About Aging in Place

It is never too early to have this often difficult conversation with your parents! Start talking to them as soon as possible about planning for care as they age in place. Together you can put a plan in place that makes sure that your parent is safe at home.

Ask your parents what is important to them. Listen carefully to the answers. Your aging parent needs to feel heard and that their wishes have value. They may state they want their privacy respected. Or that they feel worried about keeping up with the outside maintenance of their home. The laundry may be overwhelming them. Or they hate the thought of eating alone every day. Your parent might let you know that they don’t feel safe driving.

Knowing what your parent worries about and what they want will help you plan for their care. Together you can then make up a plan that addresses their safety and options for care.

2. Address Safety Concerns for Aging in Place

You will want to look at these three basic safety needs for your parent when they are aging in place. Older adults are most at risk of falling, burning themselves, or poisoning.

Part of your discussion with your parent will be how to adapt the home to prevent these risks. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that people over the age of 65 are at a high risk for falls. Falls are the number one cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for seniors in the United States.4

There are simple and effective ways to prevent falls. Decide with your parents which steps you will take first.

Review with your parent fire safety and make sure that a phone is easy to access. Check that appliances, electric cords and outlets are in good working condition. Install a smoke detector and check the batteries twice a year.

Poisonings are often related to carbon monoxide, improper medication use and cleaning products. Tips for safety include:

  • Install a carbon monoxide detector.
  • Talk to your pharmacist about having medications labelled.
  • Request medications blister packed to reduce the chance of confusion.
  • Clean out the cleaning supplies and only keep a minimal amount of cleaning products on hand.

3. Have a Plan to Accommodate Changes to their Daily Routine

To help your parent age in place you will need to look at their regular activities of daily living and how their abilities may change.
Activities of daily living include:

  • Eating
  • Bathing
  • Dressing
  • The ability to keep moving

Talk to your parents about options for meals. You might consider grocery delivery. You can have meals delivered through a program like Meals on Wheels. Or hire a caregiver to assist with meal preparation.

Often your parent’s home will need changes to make bathing, dressing and mobility easier. These are renovations that should be done as soon as possible.

The bathroom is a dangerous place and the room where falls are most likely to occur! You can help keep your parent safe by:

  • Having handrails professionally installed
  • Making sure that there are non-skid bath mats
  • Using a shower chair with a handheld shower-head
  • Installing a raised toilet seat or frame

Also look at universal design principles! You can improve the quality of life and level of independence for your parent. Remodeling their home can make it easier to bathe, dress and move around the house.

4. Meet the Need for Companionship

If your parent is living alone they are at risk for loneliness and the health consequences that follow. Loneliness and isolation can often cause:

  • Lower brain function
  • Inflammation
  • Chronic illness

Talk to your parent about a plan to make sure that they stay connected with others. Arrange to see them on a regular basis. Or if you are long distance than set up regular phone or Skype conversations.

You might need to enlist the help of family members, friends and community members. Ask them to stop in and visit with your parent on a regular basis. Adult day care centers and local senior centers make special efforts to keep people connected.

Companionship is necessary for the relationship but also provides another safety measure. When you have somebody seeing your parent everyday it is reassuring. You know that they haven’t fallen or become sick.

5. Know What the Options are for Care

It is vital to talk to talk to your parents about what care options are available to age in place. In-home care does not need to be an all or nothing commitment.

The best approach when talking with your parent is to ask what they feel is their biggest concern. Many seniors will be comfortable with the idea of hiring a cleaner to come in for housekeeping once a week. Or having meals delivered.

Discuss with your parent about talking to a reliable home care provider. The care provider can set up a client care manager who will discuss what care options are available.

Professional care services can assist with:

  • Meals
  • Housekeeping
  • Bathing
  • Exercise
  • Medication reminders
  • Fall prevention
  • Laundry
  • Grocery shopping
  • Transportation
  • Companionship and care

Aging in place can be successful for your parent! Your role is to prepare and know what the options are for care before there is an emergency.

Set up a plan now so you will spend less time at night worrying about your parent. Then you can continue to enjoy relationship you have.

 

Resources:

  1. AARP Livable Communities, Facts and Figures
  2. The Risk of Aging in Place
  3. Lifespan Planning Promotes Successful Aging in Place
  4. Adults Need More Physical Activity
  5. Universal Design
  6. Can Relationships Boost Longevity and Well-Being?

Slowing the Progression of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Alice Howland was just 50 years old when she was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. You may have seen her story in the movie Still Alice. Julianne Moore plays the character Alice, a linguistics professor and mother of three grown children, who is diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. The movie follows Alice and her family as her disease progresses.

What is Early-onset Alzheimer’s?

According to the Mayo Clinic, early-onset Alzheimer’s is an uncommon form of dementia that strikes people younger than age 65. Of all the people who have Alzheimer’s disease, about 5 percent develop symptoms before age 65. Since approximately 4 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, around 200,000 people may have the early-onset form of the disease. Most people with early-onset Alzheimer’s develop symptoms in their 40s and 50s.

Early-onset Alzheimer’s is similar to regular Alzheimer’s, except that it strikes individuals at an earlier age. Often, early-onset Alzheimer’s is not diagnosed because many health care providers don’t know that Alzheimer’s can affect a person younger than 65. Also, a younger person who is experiencing memory problems may not believe they have the disease, or they may question a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. An accurate diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer’s is crucial for ruling out other potential issues and getting the most appropriate treatment.

Slowing the Progression of Early-Onset Alzheimer’s

Although there is no currently known cure for Alzheimer’s, there is still much you can do if you or a loved one are diagnosed at an early age. According to Dr. Gad Marshall, Associate Medical Director of Clinical Trials at the Center for Alzheimer Research and Treatment at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital, healthy habits may help ward off Alzheimer’s. There are three actions anyone can take to slow its progression.

Get regular exercise. Getting regular physical exercise may help prevent the development of Alzheimer’s or slow its progression in people who have symptoms. Many physicians recommend 30 minutes of moderately vigorous aerobic exercise, three to four days per week.

Eat a Mediterranean diet. A recent study showed that full or even partial adherence to a Mediterranean diet can help. The Mediterranean diet includes fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, olive oil, nuts, legumes and fish. You can also eat moderate amounts of poultry, eggs, and dairy, and drink moderate amounts of red wine. Red meat should be eaten only sparingly.

Get enough sleep. Growing evidence suggests that getting enough sleep is linked to greater amyloid clearance from the brain. One of the characteristics of Alzheimer’s is the accumulation of amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain. Dr. Marshall recommends seven to eight hours of sleep per night.

A Care Partner for Healthy Habits

Many experts agree that only 1/3 of your lifespan is predetermined by genetics. Lifestyle factors account for 2/3 of your longevity. Diet and exercise are the two most important lifestyle factors leading to a long, healthy life.

If you are a care partner to a family member, you can also be their partner in forming new habits. Developing and maintaining healthy lifestyle habits is easier when you do it together. The caregivers at Home Care Assistance are trained in the Balanced Care Method™ which helps people make healthy changes to their diet, physical activity and maintain social ties.

Multiple-Point Program for Cognitive Improvement

Physicians around the world are racing to learn more about the causes of Alzheimer’s, including early-onset, so they can develop a cure. The Alzheimer’s Association, for example, is funding scientists who are searching for more answers and new treatments. They are also raising the visibility of Alzheimer’s as a global health challenge.

An encouraging study by the UCLA Mary S. Easton Center for Alzheimer’s Disease Research and the Buck Institute for Research on Aging, has suggested that memory loss in patients may be reversed, and improvement sustained. The study used a complex program involving changes in diet, brain stimulation, exercise, optimization of sleep, specific pharmaceuticals and vitamins, and additional steps that affect brain chemistry.

For many of us, a cure for early-onsite Alzheimer’s can’t happen quickly enough. Until it does, it’s a great idea to do what we can to prevent it by exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.

 

Resources:

  1. Trailer for Still Alice
  2. Mayo Clinic: Early-onset Alzheimer’s
  3. What You Can do to Avoid Alzheimer’s Disease
  4. Alzheimer’s Research
  5. Memory Loss Associated with Alzheimer’s Reversed for First Time

How Nutrition Impacts and Influences our Brain Longevity

Evidence-based lifestyle changes to improve your brain health

Nutrition is the cornerstone to your health. Without the proper fuel, your brain and your body will suffer. But when you think about eating healthy, usually losing weight and looking good come to mind. While that is often part of health goals, it is more important to think about eating for your brain.

Maria Shriver, founder of the Women’s Alzheimer’s Movement, is quoted in the LA Times saying, “We have all become so obsessed with our bodies that we have forgotten to take care of our brains”(1).

Unfortunately, when you eat a diet that is only focused on making your body look better, your brain suffers. The brain is a unique and complex organ and needs special attention! Your brain (2):2

  • Has about 100 billion neurons (nerve messengers)
  • Has 1,000 to 10,000 synapses (connections between the neurons) for each neuron
  • Has 100,000 miles of blood vessels
  • Is one of the fattest organs in the body
  • Is 75 percent water

With such an individual make up, it is not surprising that the brain has specific nutritional requirements. The good news is when you are eating right for your brain, you will also be providing your body the nutrition it needs.

How Nutrition Impacts and Influences Brain Longevity

There is one diet that has been highly researched for its impact on improving not only heart health but also brain health. The Mediterranean diet is a way of eating that embraces whole foods and healthy fats combined in a flavorful way.

Your brain’s nutritional needs can be met through eating a diet rich in:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Beans and nuts
  • Healthy fats like olive oil (3)

Healthy Fats for Brain Health

Because your brain is made up of 60 percent fat, you will have better success keeping your brain healthy by including more healthy fats in your diet.

A large plain salad may have lots of nutrients, but those nutrients will be lost to your brain if they aren’t eaten with some fat. A study by Predimed found that the risk of stroke was reduced by 46% in those who followed a Mediterranean diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and beans but also included 30 grams of mixed nuts and olive oil. It was also found that the participants had better memory function and the ability to make plans and follow through with them.

Fruits and Vegetables to Eat for Brain Health

Polyphenols are micronutrients that can be found in fruits and vegetables. They have the ability of reducing swelling, improving blood flow to the brain (remember all those miles of blood vessels?) and countering the effects of stress on the brain.

Berries such as blueberries, strawberries, and blackberries are high in polyphenol. And delicious to eat in the summer months! Eating high amounts of berries is shown to slow the effects of aging by 2.5 years by reducing swelling and counteracting the effects of stress.4 Eat more berries and you could end up with better memory power and a strengthened ability to learn. That sounds like a winning combination!

Nitrates, which are found in high levels in lettuce and other leafy greens like spinach, are also essential for promoting brain health. Eating more leafy vegetables helps to protect the inner lining of your blood vessels (endothelial function). That means that the blood can get where it needs to go: to your brain! (4)

Easy Summer Breakfast Recipe to Improve Your Brain Health

This summer, make it easy for your brain to be healthy by eating the foods your brain needs to function well. Aim for including more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, fish and healthy fats in each meal.

An easy breakfast to start your day off right is a homemade nut-based granola served with berries and Greek yogurt.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • ½ cup of walnuts
  • ½ cup of almonds
  • ½ cup of hazelnuts
  • ½ cup of unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
  • ¼ cup of pitted dates

You can put all the ingredients into a food processor and process until it holds together well. Or chop finely and mix in a bowl. This nut-based granola can be stored in the fridge for a week. Plus, it makes an excellent breakfast served with a ½ cup of fresh or thawed berries and a scoop of Greek yogurt!

This breakfast recipe will help you feel full for hours while providing your brain with the healthy fat it needs from the nuts and coconut. It also has phenomenal flavor and a good dose of polyphenols from the cocoa and berries. It’s all mixed together with another healthy fat (the Greek yogurt) and a super-sized helping of probiotics.

Keeping your brain healthy is essential for your enjoyment of life, and eating healthy is one of the most important lifestyle factors for improving brain health. Eating for your brain health can and should be delicious and enjoyable. Find more summer recipes for brain health on our blog.

Resources:

  1. http://www.latimes.com/local/abcarian/la-me-abcarian-dementia-prevention-20180330-story.html
  2. https://faculty.washington.edu/chudler/facts.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20329590
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4983622/#tjp6960-bib-0027
  5. https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/boost-your-memory-by-eating-right
  6. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/endothelial-dysfunction

Keep Your Brain Working with Workouts

Promoting long-term brain health through fun and engaging activities

What is one part of your body that you can exercise without having to buy an expensive gym membership? Your brain.

Exercising, for many of us, means lifting weights, stretching, and/or working with a personal trainer. These can be beneficial practices resulting in weight loss, increased flexibility, greater endurance, and muscle building. Considering that the brain is an important part of the human body (and one which allows for many of our body’s movements and functions), it makes sense to exercise it as well.

A human brain is thirsty for knowledge and people have to provide it with information to keep and/or process. “The brain wants to learn new things”, explains Robert Bender M.D., medical director of the Johnny Orr Memory Center and Healthy Aging Institute in Des Moines, Iowa. When keeping brains working, people can not only boost their memories but can also reduce the risk of dementia in later life.

Activities to Promote Brain Health

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to exercise your brain – and you don’t have to head to the gym or even break a sweat doing it! Try any, or all, of the following tips on how to keep your brain healthy and gauge the results for yourself:

Read. Newspapers, magazines and books can all be great sources of information. By reading, your brain can learn many new things. If you don’t have time to sit down and read, try listening to an audio book when you’re driving to work or a podcast when you’re taking a walk on the weekend. Thanks to today’s technology, you don’t even have to carry a physical book around with you (although there is something to be said for holding a book in your hands). You could buy an e-reader to stock up on books.

List and recall items. Do you need to create a grocery shopping list for more than three items? This may signal a slowing brain. Make that list, by all means, but set it aside for an hour or so and then see if you can remember what you had written. To make things more challenging, list more needed items or more “to-do” points requiring different stops (i.e. the grocery store, the drug store, and the veterinarian).

Take a class. Does a local school or university offer continuing education classes? Perhaps an artist’s store offers instruction on how to paint? Maybe a chef would teach a “learn to cook” class? Sign up for something of former interest or explore something brand new! Depending on your age and/or level of involvement, you may also pay a reduced fee for a class (e.g. seniors and students auditing the course – for no other reason than personal enjoyment – can pay a discounted price to learn).

Drive another route to work. Chances are you take the same route to and from the office on a daily basis. This becomes routine, and your brain doesn’t have to work too hard (this can result in you losing concentration behind the wheel and becoming a risk to yourself as well as others). When you change up your driving route, you will become more aware, and your brain will work harder.

Distract yourself. Concentrating on one specific problem for too long can make a brain tired. If this happens, try turning your attention to something else. When I am battling a bad case of writer’s block, I go for a walk or run to clear my mind.

Learn a new sport. Have you ever heard of pickleball? The sport (similar to tennis, badminton, and ping-pong) is becoming featured more frequently on senior centers’ activity programs. Not only is this game often new for participants, it provides exercise, socialization, and great fun as well.

As with the case of pickleball, brain workouts don’t have to be completely serious. “Almost any silly suggestion can work”, says David Eagleman, PhD, neuroscientist and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. Just one idea is to “brush your teeth with the opposite hand.” There are plenty of card games to keep your brain healthy as well, like bridge or poker. John E. Morley, MD, director of St. Louis University’s Division of Geriatric Medicine and author of The Science of Staying Young, agrees. He explains that “simple games like Sudoku and word games are good, as well as comic strips where you find things that are different from one picture to the next.”

Much like exercising your body, there will be times when exercising your brain becomes overly difficult and challenging. At these times, it’s good to rest. Watching television can be a common thing to do, but don’t do it too often, warns Dr. Bender. “When the brain is passive, it has a tendency to atrophy. Therefore, sitting in front of a TV for hours at a time can be detrimental to brain health over time.” Continually work your brain and your brain will continually work for you.

5 Practical Methods for Calming Agitation in Older Adults with Dementia

Caring for a loved one with dementia can feel like a daily battle. You are dealing with the loss of the person you once knew. At the same time, you love them even as you adapt to their changes in behavior and learn to handle episodes of agitation and aggression.

The challenges of dementia caregiving can break your heart on a regular basis. Executing simple tasks and scheduling events for a loved one can turn into a disaster. At times, your loved one’s behavior may be difficult to predict; dementia is cruel to both the person with dementia and to the caregiver. This blog posts outlines some strategies that can help you respond to the challenges of dementia in an effective and mindful way.

Learning how to handle difficult behaviors caused by dementia will give you the ability to enjoy spending time with your loved one. While dementia may take memories, it cannot take the love shared between you and your loved one. Research has shown that people with dementia will still feel love and happiness even after they have forgotten an specific visit or experience (1).2  Love remains. That is your defense against dementia, both for you and your loved one.

These five methods to calm agitation and aggression will give you a way to focus on the love in your relationship. At the core of these five strategies is find effective ways to communicate (2). Keep that in mind as you read further. With these in your arsenal, you will be able to build on the bond you and your loved one share.

1. Stay Calm
Agitation and aggression are contagious. It is very natural when you are talking to somebody who is getting agitated to feel upset yourself. This natural response is called mirroring, and in many instances can work to your benefit. Instead of mirroring your loved one’s agitation, by remaining calm, you are presenting a demeanor for your loved one to mirror.

When you stop and take a deep breath to calm yourself, you are demonstrating calmness to your loved one. This helps to make them feel safe and reassured (3).3 Take a step back and see if you can identify a cause for the agitation. Remember that your loved one is not trying to give you a hard time – he or she is struggling as much as you are.

Stop whatever you are doing and slow down. Listen to what your loved one is saying, even if it doesn’t make sense! Don’t correct. This can make the agitation worse. Take a moment to remember a positive memory you share with your loved one. Allow that warmness to enter your eyes and look directly at him or her. Smile gently and try to ask for permission to do the thing you need to get done, or offer your loved one some help in the task. Calmness often reassures those with dementia, which will allow you to make a positive request like “will you walk with me to the store?” or “can I help you wash the dishes?”
 

2. Focus on Feelings not Facts
Dementia can impact a person’s ability to reason and communicate. However, feelings remain strong. You need to respond to your loved one’s feelings instead of their words. Trying to reason and argue with a person with dementia will only frustrate both of you. (4).

Listen to the expression of frustration even if the actual words don’t make sense. Your loved one might be saying, “I need the car to take the ball!” You could respond to that expression by saying, “you really are wanting the car today?” Then try to provide clear reassurance, for example “I will take you out in the car today and we can get what you need.”

Treat your loved one with love and respect. Love and respect can bridge communication problems between yourself and someone with dementia. You should always treat your loved one with dignity. Although you may see behaviors that remind you of a child, your loved one is not a child. Guarding his or her dignity will prevent hurt feelings that lead to agitation. The reality your loved one is trying to convey may not align with your interpretation of the world. But their feelings about what they are experiencing can lessen that divide.
 

3. Limit Distractions
Dementia causes damage to the brain that makes it difficult to express thoughts and perform tasks. Background noises, clutter, crowds, and even lights can overstimulate the brain and bring on feelings of restlessness and distress (5).5 Foster an environment of calm in your home. Choose smaller gatherings over crowds as much as possible. For example, instead of inviting crowds of people at once, try one or two visitors at once. Also turn off the TV when talking to your loved one. The noise from the TV can be difficult for them to block out.

Reduce the amount of non-essential items in your home. Bright, distracting patterns and moving objects can confuse your loved one. One or two meaningful, personal pictures will offer a more calming décor than twenty fancy frames.

Lights are another stimulating stimulus. Particularly in the evenings and late afternoon, it is important to switch from bright overhead lights to smaller, dimmer lights. The glare and reflections from lights bouncing off windows, mirrors, and picture frames can be startling or even frightening to your loved one.

Always aim to simplify your surroundings when you notice signs of agitation. Use simple sentences. Move into a quieter space. A calm environment will often calm your loved one.
 

4. Check for Discomfort

Your loved one’s difficulty communicating means that they can have trouble telling you when they are uncomfortable. One sign of physical discomfort may be that your loved one is having trouble sitting in one place and is constantly on the move, fidgeting and irritable. Below is a thorough checklist to help you identify physical discomfort:

  • When did your loved one last eat? Could they be hungry? Try offering a small, nutritious snack. Better yet, sit down with them and have a snack yourself. Ensuring that you aren’t hangry will also help your loved one remain calm (remember method one?).
  • Could your loved one have an infection? Urinary tract infections and bladder infections can often develop or worsen symptoms of confusion, decreased mobility, and enhance agitation (6).
  • What has your loved one had to drink in the last 24 hours? Dehydration is common in seniors due to a decreased sense of thirst. Dry eyes, mouth and skin are symptoms to watch for along with confusion and forgetfulness. Make your loved one a hot or cold cup of non-caffeinated tea, offer a slice of juicy watermelon, and make sure to add water dense foods into their daily meals. Or gently remind your loved one to sip on water throughout the day.
  • Do you know when your loved one last had a bowel movement? That’s an important discomfort to address.
  • Don’t forget to do a quick glance of the clothes your loved one is wearing. A waistband that itches, the tongue of a shoe that is rubbing, socks bunched at the toe, a collar that is too tight, or a fabric that scratches could all result in discomfort. All of these minor irritations can be distracting and irritating.

Making sure that your loved one is physically comfortable will drastically reduce aggression and agitation.

5. Connect
Dementia can be a frightening and a stressful time for both you as the caregiver and for your loved one. The most important thing you need to keep in mind while working through the aggression and agitation is connection. Dementia CANNOT steal the love from your relationship. It only changes the relationship.

Always look for ways that you can cherish your loved one instead of focusing on the more frustrating aspects of being caregiver. If the immediate situation or activity seems to be triggering your loved one, try to be proactive in changing that situation. Redirect to a more peaceful and relaxing activity. If a conversation is upsetting either you or your loved one, acknowledge what your loved one said and then move to a different topic.

Aim to say yes as much as possible. If your loved one mentions that she saw someone who has passed away years ago, agree with how lovely that would be to talk to them again. Even build on it and ask what they talked about. This gives you both a connection with one another and serves as a comforting conversation.

Remember that you can only count on today. Enjoy the moments that you have. Listen to music together, dance (if you can!), play an instrument, offer a massage or brush your loved one’s hair. Go for a walk outside and listen to the bird songs or look at flowers. As Alzheimer’s and dementia progress, the world is largely experienced through senses. Express your love through touch, sounds, sight, tastes, and smells.

Home Care Assistance hopes that these tips will help you continue to cherish your loved one even as dementia changes the dynamics of your relationship. Dementia, particularly dealing with aggression and agitation it causes, can be challenging for caregivers. Remember the importance of connecting with your loved one, and rely on communicating your own positive attitude so that they can mirror you. Provide a soothing environment and aim to remain calm and loving. Empathize with your loved one’s feelings and always emphasize love. When it comes time to invite more help into the home, look for caregivers that are trained in Alzheimer’s and dementia care.

Sources:

1.    https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/site/scripts/documents_info.php?documentID=84#Psychological%20and%20emotional%20impact%20of%20dementia

2.    https://www.alz.org/flgulfcoast/alzheimers_disease_62487.asp

3.    https://www.homewatchcaregivers.com/dementia-and-verbal-communication

4.    https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-agitation-anxiety.asp

5.    https://www.alz.org/care/alzheimers-dementia-aggression-anger.asp

6.    https://www.healthline.com/health/uti-in-elderly

Home Care Assistance

When the time comes to consider a home care agency for a senior loved one, you may feel at a loss for how to tell if an agency is reliable or even safe. The first step is to determine how much help your loved one needs and then find an agency that can provide it. The agency must also be able to manage personal and associate bookkeeping and tax processes. But once you find the right choice, you will only continue to reap the benefits both in quality care for your loved one and peace of mind for you.

Any agency you are researching should always perform exhaustive background checks on their caregivers, including validating all prior work they’ve done and ensuring that their references and current skill sets are up-to-date. Agencies should also arrange all bonding or liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance for their caregivers. Caregiver payroll and taxes should all be handled in house.

However, agencies usually stop short after these necessary requirements are filled. Home Care Assistance goes above base expectations and even processes Long Term Care insurance claims for our clients. Further, other care agencies ensure that their caregivers are qualified upon hiring but may not provide additional training as they continue to work for the agency. This means that while their caregivers are qualified when the begin working for the agency, as new care philosophies are introduced, these agencies’ caregivers may not stay up-to-date with their training.

Unlike most agencies, Home Care Assistance provides continuing education for our employees through our own online training platform, Home Care Assistance University. This guarantees that as we learn new, effective ways to care for your loved one, our caregivers will be able to offer that care. The result: a holistic approach to improving your loved one’s life.

Here are some questions to consider when researching care agencies. These will help you guide your search and hopefully lead you to a reliable care agency that will be the best fit for your loved one.

Background Checks

When an agency hires their caregivers, their background checks should at least outline or seek to reveal the following information about the caregiver. If you are researching an agency’s past, then as these same questions of that agency:

  1. How proficient is the caregiver, and/or how long has this caregiver been in operation? Or, if it’s the agency, how long as the agency been practicing?
     
  2. What qualifications or experience does the caregiver have caring for people with mild cognitive decline or Alzheimer’s? If your loved one is living with a chronic disease, what training does the caregiver have in providing for your loved one’s specific needs? If it’s the agency, what process do they use to ensure that these qualifications are met? How often do they update or examine their caregivers’ training?
     
  3. Do testimonials exist on behalf of the caregiver or the agency? What source do they come from?
     
  4. Does the caregiver have a criminal background? How is the caregiver’s driving and work history? If it’s the agency, what types of reviews do they have? Do they have any certifications? How carefully do they screen their caregivers for negative traits? Do they have any past complaints or reports of negative treatment of their clients or caregivers?

Financial Considerations

            Agencies should be able to handle financial, insurance, or tax related matters in house, and shouldn’t outsource their caregivers payroll process. You should also consider the expenses and fees that may be associated with the care they provide to your loved one. Ask yourself these questions when researching an agency:

  1. What services does the agency offer and what, if any, are the associated fees? Are contracts required? Is a minimum fee necessary for service?
     
  2. Does the agency deliver written statements itemizing all costs and payment options related to the services? Are they upfront about their fees or are clients blindsided by their bills?
     
  3. Does the agency take credit cards? How do their clients usually pay for services? What sorts of payment plans do they offer?

Caregiver Education and Qualification

The most important part of your research when you are looking for an agency is how well their caregivers are trained and qualified to care for your loved one. Ask the following about the agency to ensure that their caregivers remain qualified throughout their employment. If you are researching a caregiver, you can also ensure that they are qualified with these questions:

  1. Does the agency provide regular education to update caregiver training? If it’s the caregiver, what special training do they currently have? When was this obtained or updated? How long have they been providing care for clients requiring similar care as your loved one?
     
  2. Does the agency provide training and/or continuing education for its caregivers and employees? If it’s the caregiver, how often do they update their training?
     
  3. Does the agency provide training for caregivers to take care of people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, or other advanced needs? If not, how do the ensure that their caregivers are qualified to provide this care? If it’s the caregiver, are they trained to care for people with these advanced needs? How long have they been caring for these types of clients, and how often do they update their training?
     
  4. Does the agency perform unannounced visits periodically to evaluate the client’s quality of care and to re-evaluate home care needs? If it’s the caregiver, are they comfortable with surprise visits by the agency or yourself to monitor performance?

Insurance Concerns

Along with making sure an agency will accept your insurance, that agency must also be insured themselves. When researching an agency, ask these questions to guarantee that they have completed the necessary requirements to be insured as a care providing agency:

  1. Is the caregiver insured and bonded?
     
  2. Does the agency provide employees with liability insurance to protect the client against risk of injury or loss of property?
     
  3. Does the agency have the capability to process claims for Long Term Care insurance?

If you’ve reached the end of these questions, you may feel overwhelmed. How do you find an agency that answers all these satisfactorily?

Home Care Assistance is a trusted agency that believes these questions are just the first steps to proving our qualifications in caring for your loved one. Home Care Assistance hires only the most qualified and compassionate individuals as caregivers, accepting on average only 1 out of every 25 applicants. We take additional steps in vetting our caregivers in order to protect our clients. These steps include thorough screening and background checks, reference follow-up, and work experience validation.

We also issue a proprietary Caregiver Personality Screening test to assess each applicant’s character traits deemed necessary to provide quality care. This test ensures that our caregivers possess the kindness, honesty, and conscientiousness need to care for your loved one. Home Care Assistance also exercises in-person interviewing practices to confirm our caregivers’ reliability and character.

We do all this to ensure your loved one is matched with a caregiver who provides safe, reliable care and excels in displaying a compassionate and temperate disposition. Our goal is to provide all our clients with care that will improve their life and afford their families comfort and peace of mind. With Home Care Assistance, your loved one will always be in safe, caring, and reliable hands.