Summertime tips for Caregivers

ElderlyHeatStrokeExhaustion

Seniors are especially at risk in high heat situations. Large stretches of the USA are experiencing extreme temperatures.

Here are some summer heat tips for helping elderly loved ones avoid heat stroke or heat exhaustion

  • Encourage fluid intake.* Water is best.  Pick up some bottled water to keep in their fridge.  It’s easy to grab and can help them track their water intake. Some fruit has a high water content (such as cantaloupe) is also helpful.  Remind them that sugary drinks, caffeine, and alcohol act as diuretics so fluctuating those fluids with water is key.
  • Make sure their air conditioning is working and turned on. Whether in an effort to cut expenses or because many older adults, especially those on blood thinners, get cold easily, they may not have their air conditioning turned on.  However; they may not recognize that being in air-conditioning can help them avoid heat stroke/exhaustion.  Explain the reasoning behind having the air on and then find them a sweater to wear in the house.
    • If they do not have air-conditioning, consider going to a mall, movie theatre, museum or city cooling center.  Another option is having them stay with a family member until the heat wave passes.
  • Take a cool shower or bath, especially in the evening before going to bed.
  • Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing that breathes.
  • Discourage activities such as cooking/baking in the oven as well as thorough housecleaning during heat waves. 
  • If going outside, apply sunscreen and keep it on hand for re-application.
  • Regularly check in on elderly relatives, friends and neighbors in person if possible. If you live far away, contact another relative or neighbor who can stop by and check on them.

Know the signs of heat stroke (i.e.: flushed face, high body temperature, headache, nausea, rapid pulse, dizziness and confusion) and take immediate action if you or your loved one is having any of these symptoms.

For more caregiving support visit CaregiverLife

*Image may be subject to copyright

 

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Recognizing Caregiver Burnout

woman entrepreneur burnout-resized-600.jpgYou try to hide the feeling of being overwhelmed, however; caregiver burnout is serious and can lead significant physical and mental health issues.  It is critical to know the signs and take steps to take care of yourself.

Here are some signs of caregiver burnout:

  • Overreacting to minor frustrations
  • The constant feeling of exhaustion
  • Loss of interest in things you use to enjoy/ isolation from social gatherings
  • Decrease in productivity of work
  • Increased use of alcohol/stimulants
  • Change in eating or sleeping patterns
  • Scattered thinking
  • Feelings of resentment towards the person you are caring for
  • Being short-tempered with family members

If you see yourself in any of these points you need to make some drastic changes NOW before it becomes critical.

Some Self-Care Tips:

SEEK HELP!

Emotionally:

  • Support group.- Though it seems that you have no time to add another thing to your calendar it is important to make the time Group participants will understand how challenging the caregiving journey is and how hard it is, at times, to remain patient with the mental and physical decline of someone you love.  As well as how frustrating it is trying to “navigate the health care system”.
  • Get an “on-call” friend – ask someone in your close circle of friends to act as a sounding board (sometimes just a venting board) so you can release the pent-up emotions without concern of judgment or criticism.
  • Journal/Blog – sometimes writing things down can help you express your emotions. Sharing your emotions via a blog can help others in realizing they are not alone in their struggles with their care journey.
  • Consider counseling – this can assist you in dealing with the natural feelings that come with caregiving. Among these are anger, frustration, sadness, anxiety, and guilt. Some feelings are part of the grieving process you and your care receiver are experiencing.  Unfortunately, many caregivers don’t take time for counseling until their caregiving days are over. (If you are a working caregiver, counseling may be provided as part of your health insurance package so call your health insurance provider. Companies offering Employee Assistance Programs (EAP’s), may also cover counseling.  Caregivers age sixty or over may qualify for counseling under the Older Americans Act, Title III-B.)

Physically:

  • Ask for help – if you have other family members in the area call and ask them to help you with the care needs. Then LET THEM DO IT! Let go of the need to control because it is part of the cause of your burnout.
  • Respite Care – If you care for someone in a home setting you can hire a caregiver to come to the home to manage their care for a week or two. Consider as well scheduling a respite stay at an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.
  • Get a physicalSchedule an appointment with your doctor for a complete physical and KEEP IT. Though caregiver burnout feels more like an emotional issue, it can lead to serious health issues if left un-managed.
  • Get away – take a vacation, even if it’s just for a weekend or overnight stay somewhere away from your regular hectic schedule.

Find ways to take care of yourself TODAY!  Putting it off will only continue the downward spiral which can lead to critical, life-altering decisions and behaviors.

takecontrolPlease note: If you are feeling overwhelmed and are afraid you will hurt your care receiver if you don’t find help right away, (800) 971-0016 is a twenty-four hour crisis and information line
For more resources visit AlongComesGrandpa.com

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Caregiving and Alzheimer’s: Asking the Right Questions

A frustrated friend called me for help while visiting her mother. Her

mother’s Alzheimer’s was progressing and she was exhibiting some, let’s say, wearisome behaviors (to my friend that is). It had been over a week and her mother refused to change her clothes. She and her sister had spent days going through her mothers’ expansive closet showing her all of the beautiful clothes she owned; yet she remained in the same outfit.

I ask her one question, “What is it about those clothes?” After a perplexed silence, she asked me to explain. I invited her to consider that, though her mother was confused, there could be a valid reason behind that particular choice of clothing over the plethora of other options. I recommended she ask her mother directly why she refused to change her clothes.

A few days later she called to share what she had learned about the clothes… Her mother spent some of her childhood in a German concentration camp. She had experienced the horrors of Hitler’s reign and the death of her parents, family and friends first hand. Everything she owned she could carry in her pants pocket. These items, though not valuable, were very sacred because they were hers. As her Alzheimer’s progressed she began to relive some of the fear and paranoia associated being the survivor of such an unspeakable trauma. I advised her to buy several outfits similar to the one she was wearing and donate the rest of her clothes to charity. She did and her mother started changing her clothes.

Another friend shared her frustration over her father’s need to wear the same jeans all the time. I advised her to ask him “Why those pants”. A few days later I saw her again and she said that her father explained that they were comfortable and that when he tried to find replacements nothing fit him right. Though she understood, the pants were well worn and had some good sized stains; and she added that she was ready to sneak into his house in the middle of the night and steal them so he would be forced to get new ones. I imparted a compromise. What if she dyed the jeans a dark color to cover the stains and make the pants more presentable? Then he gets to keep his favorite pair of jeans and she doesn’t have to be embarrassed about taking him out in the pants. She did and it worked.

Points to Ponder:

  • Have we tried to push our agenda on an elderly loved one due to embarrassment or frustration without asking some simple questions?
  • How can we create an atmosphere of communication?
  • What compromises can we come to that would work for both of us?

These tips can be applied to more than just caring for someone with Alzheimer’s. Take time today to ponder questions that could open up communication in the all the important relationships in your life.

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Advocate and Empower

My sister and I have become the dynamic duo of caregiving, with her brains (she is the smartest person I know) and my health care background our family members have come to rely on us when it comes to making health care decisions. However; during a family member’s, we’ll call her Sally, recent hospital stint for a high fever, my sister and I weren’t quite on the same page.

My sister had been at the hospital when the doctor came by and said that they were discharging Sally with the plan of having a PIC-line inserted (an IV that has a long line attached that is threaded through the vein) and 2 weeks of out-patient IV antibiotics.

When I arrived for my “shift” my sister gave me the report and went to her 2nd job of caring for her children. However; something wasn’t sitting right about discharge plan. None of the test results seemed to warrant what to me seemed like an extreme discharge plan. As an advocate for Sally, I needed more answers. I asked Sally if she understood the reason for the 2 weeks of IV antibiotics. She did not, nor did she feel comfortable with the idea of having a PIC-line for 2 weeks. So we began to ask more questions of the medical staff.

At this point I wanted to empower Sally to ask questions about her health care. I told her that even if other people understood the plan of care, it was crucial that she did because it’s her body and health.

I shared the following information:

  • Keep asking questions until you understand what the medical staff is telling you.
  • Ask them for printed information about procedures, medications and testing they suggest.
  • If you don’t feel comfortable or understand the plan-of-care you have the right to say “no” to tests and procedures until you fully understand.
  • There are no dumb questions nor is there a limit to how many times or people you can ask the question to.
  • Ask a family member or friend who might be able to understand the information and explain it in a way that is easier to understand to be there when the doctor comes.

The outcome: Sally asked more questions and still did not feel comfortable with the plan. I suggested that she be discharged without the PIC-line and that she make an appointment with the Infectious Disease doctor at her office for the next morning to ask more questions. The next morning we met with a different doctor than the one who had seen her in the hospital. This doctor not only explained the reasoning behind the discharge plan but said that there was no need for the PIC-line and she only needed 5 days of IV antibiotics as opposed to 14 days. Sally understood the plan and was satisfied with the outcome.

Bottom line: Take control of your health care and empower those you love to be in control of theirs!

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Eternally 12 Syndrome

My friend Colleen and I are both national speakers on issues related to caregiving

and aging. While in Washington D.C. to speak at the Aging In America conference we shared a similar challenge in our family dynamics. Though both of us are experts in our fields and have helped hundreds of families connect with resources, as well as speak nationally on issues related to caregiving and aging, we both struggle with an affliction within our families that I have termed the eternally 12 syndrome.

While we both have impressive qualifications in our own families we are not only perceived as having no influence but, at times, as if we are still 12 years old. In speaking with family caregivers throughout the United States, I have come to the conclusion that Colleen and I are not the only ones afflicted with this condition. Adult children all over the country (and I would imagine the world) are looked upon by their elderly parents as children who are not possibly experienced enough to assist in making educated decisions about their family members care (not even when you have been working in the geriatric field for over 20 years!)

So what can the afflicted do to assist their elderly loved ones while in a continuous prepubescent state?

Some tips to assist:

  • Ask for help: If there is someone in the family who they relate to on a different level ask that person for help. Sometimes you have to look at the perceived hierarchy and work with whoever is at the top to help make decisions.

Examples: In my family, my dad will listen what my sister says in a different way (even if she says the same thing as me) because she is the oldest child. My Aunt will listen and accept help from my husband before me, my sister or my mother. You see even my mom struggles with the eternally 12 syndrome as she is the youngest child in her family so my aunt who is only a year older than her still sees her as her “little sister”)

  • Call in a professional:There are professional called Geriatric Care Managers who are trained to facilitate family meetings and discuss care options. They can make sure the conversation stays calm and moves forward.

Example: When discussing with my grandfather, the option of moving from our home to a retirement community in order to increase his socialization, I asked a friend who is a geriatric care manager to facilitate our family meeting. Though she said the same things that I had said, she was seen as an authority figure to my family. My friend Colleen hired a mediator to facilitate family meetings between 8 siblings, regarding her mothers care.

Millions of family caregivers grapple with this syndrome as their parents’ age. You are not alone.

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Me, Mom and Dancing with the Stars

1337674858_dancing_with_the_stars_logo1_0Today is a big day for me.  Nope, it’s not my birthday (that was yesterday)…tonight is the premiere of Dancing with the Stars.

For many fans of the show this is exciting, however; for me and my Mom it’s an event.  Anyone who knows me understands that when Dancing with the Stars is on the air they need not bother calling or stopping by because I will not be available, not even during the commercials. (We are such fans that we have attended 2 of the Live Dancing with the Stars tours.)

Since the first few seasons of the show my Mom and I call each other during every commercial break to share our assessment of the previous dance routine, song choice, as well as, the judges’ scores and comments.  It’s our thing.

I’ve always enjoyed dancing (some Sue trivia, I even taught ballroom dance for a short time back in my 20’s), however; what I really like is that it is something I can share with my Mom.  Over the past few years through health struggles (see One Word Can Change Your Life ) and loss of loved ones (see For Aunt Josie), watching Dancing with the Stars has given us the opportunity to discuss something that we both enjoy and doesn’t involve doctors, hospitals or any medical jargon.

As caregivers we can sometimes get so caught up in the tasks of caregiving that we forget to find ways to connect with our loved ones.  I am blessed that I have always been very close to my Mom, however; I too can get caught up in the health needs and forget to foster the relationship outside of the health issues.

  • Find ways to connect with the person you care for beyond the health care needs. Go to a movie, lunch (not tagged onto a doctor’s appointment).
  • Have conversations that do not involve scheduling the next appointment or how they are feeling. If the conversation starts to go in that direction bring it back around by saying something like “we can talk about that more tomorrow, right now I want to hear about blank”
  • Schedule “fun time” with your loved ones!

Caregiving is hard and the time we have with those we love goes by so quickly.  Take time today to reach out and connect with those you love.

For more support visit CaregiverLife.com

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On the Edge Part 2: When Things Don’t Go as Planned

Recap: I in my blog On the Edge Part 1, I shared my favorite scene from the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life”, is where George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) & Mary Hatch – later Bailey (played by Donna Reed) are at the high school dance caught up in the Charleston contest.  In the scene a jealous rival (trivia moment: played by the actor who played Alfalfa in the Little Rascals) finds out that the gym floor opens up to reveal a pool and that George was dancing right over the opening and that the button to open the floor was right in front of him.  As most of us know, the rival presses the button and after several dance moves the couple finds themselves in the pool.

What happens next is such a classic move, after the initial shock; George grabs Mary and continues to dance!  This move inspires the watchers who take a leap and join in.

Points to Ponder:

  • How do you react when things don’t go as planned?   Do you adapt and make the best of where you end up or do you bemoan and complain about where you are?
  • The only constant in life is change.  How flexible are you to what life throws at you?
  • How does your adaptability or lack there of, affect those around you?
  • What have you put in the way of creating more flow in your life when things don’t go as planned?

How we adapt to what life throws at us unexpectedly can make the difference not just for our life and health but for those around us as well.  We have a choice about how we react in the face of conflict, trials, unexpected twists and tragedy.  However; it takes the presence of mind and the ability to step back and take a breath and adapt.  So what will you do; keep dancing or stand on the sidelines and watch?

“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it” – Charles Swindoll

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