Help Seniors Keep the Weather Outside & Money in Their Pockets

The weather outside can mean problems for seniors struggling on fixed incomes.

Some common living expenses, such as power or gas bills, don’t stay steady across the year with seniors’ incomes and seem to go up every year (and sometimes it seems every month!).

Many seniors have to choose between paying high energy bills and being uncomfortable in their own homes.

Unfortunately that means some have to choose between heat or air conditioning and buying food or medications.

That is a choice our senior loved ones shouldn’t have to face as the seasons change.

They may feel that there really is no choice because there is not enough money to pay extreme energy bills. It is easier for them to keep the heat or air turned off instead of incurring a bill they can’t pay leaving them uncomfortable and maybe even in medical danger.

While we can’t change the weather outside, we can do a better job of keeping it outside and, by doing so, a better job of managing energy bills.

For our senior loved ones, being comfortable in the house AND having enough money for other things each month would be a real gift.

If They Can’t Control Indoor Temperatures

The health and well being of our seniors every day of the year is important to family caregivers.

There are consequences to their health and quality of life when our seniors’ home does not maintain an appropriate temperature throughout the year because they may fear a high energy bill.

Health problems that can occur when the temperature is not appropriate in our senior’s homes:

  1. Seniors are more prone to heat stress than younger people.
  2. Seniors bodies don’t adjust as efficiently to changes in temperature (hot or cold).
  3. Prescription medications can affect the body’s response to temperature.
  4. Some illnesses or chronic conditions can prevent your senior’s body from maintaining the right temperature.
  5. Heat exhaustion can develop after several days of exposure to high temperatures and inadequate or unbalanced replacement of fluids according to the CDC.
  6. Heat stroke is a serious condition that can lead to death. It happens when the body can’t control its temperature and it rises quickly, unable to sweat or cool down.
  7. Hypothermia occurs when the body temperature is lowered to dangerous levels. It can happen anywhere not just in a northeastern snowstorm but also in a home that is too cold.

Keeping Seniors Comfortable at Home

There are a number of steps you can take to turn most houses into lower energy users so that seniors can keep their home comfortable and prevent medical emergencies.

Some of them, like getting a more energy-efficient cooling and heating system, may simply be too expensive to be practical.

There are a number of other actions that can be applied to many houses to make them less energy hungry and more comfortable at a lower price.

Here are some steps a homeowner — or someone who cares for a homeowner, such as a family caregiver — can take.

  • Call the local utility – many will send someone out to look for ways the energy usage of the house can be reduced, typically at little or no cost. They may also have financial incentives in place to encourage customers to implement those reductions.
  • Caulk and weatherstrip around windows and doors – you can often significantly reduce heating and cooling costs by sealing air leaks.
  • Lower the temperature on the water heater – most people only need water heaters set at 120 degrees. For every 10 degrees you reduce your water heater, you may reduce your total energy bill by 3-5%.
  • Use trees to moderate temperatures – trees can provide shade in the summer and be trimmed (or lose their leaves) to let the sun in during the winter. Plant trees in specific places in around the house so that they can shade windows.
  • Install a programmable thermostat – adjust the temperature in the house around the schedule of its residents, automatically reduces heating and cooling costs but insuring a proper temperature at the proper time is achieved.
  • Replace older appliances with Energy Star models that use less energy to operate.
  • Use CFL or LED light bulbs that use less energy to light the home and last longer than traditional light bulbs.
  • Add insulation to retain heat and cold in the home instead of letting it escape through the attic or walls.
  • Install ceiling fans or ventilation fans to keep the air moving.
  • Maintain heating and air conditioning units — have a specialized service professional check seniors’ units to be sure they are running at peak efficiency.

Utilize Available Resources

Seniors shouldn’t go without heat or cooling in their home due to finances. This could put their health at risk and decrease their quality of life as they age in place.

Family caregivers and senior can get more info from their utility or from the US Department of Energy’s Energy Saver site.

You may want to check with LIHEAP – the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program in your state which provides critical energy assistance to the nation’s most vulnerable households: 92% of participants have an elderly household member. Find LIHEAP benefits in your area using this locator.

Family caregivers can help make home improvements, either themselves or with the help of professional services. You may want to purchase as many cost-effective upgrades as possible throughout the house to make it more energy efficient.

If your senior’s budget won’t allow some of these upgrades to their home, perhaps family members can make a gift of energy efficiency. It is a gift that will truly keep on giving by helping to make their home more energy efficient and ease their financial worries while they remain healthy and comfortable throughout the year.

Please let us know if you have tips to share!

Lifelong Learning Has Benefits for Students of All Ages – Are You One?

Throughout our lifetimes we try to do more, be more, live more.

One way we can do that is to be lifelong learners.

Caregivers are constantly learning new things, especially skills to care for senior loved ones.

Being a lifelong learner has many benefits, both mental and physical.

Lifelong Learning

When we pursue new ideas or skills, either formally or informally, we are being learners.

Learning every day, throughout our lives, makes us lifelong learners and information seekers.

We learn voluntarily when we have a love of learning, no one has to force us to do it.

We can be self-motivated to gain knowledge—because we are interested.

It doesn’t have to be for your profession or job, it could be for fun or to be a better caregiver.

Learning doesn’t only happen when we are in a classroom behind a desk but anywhere we are.

When we interact with others and the world in our daily life, we can be lifelong learners.

The goal of lifelong learners is to improve their knowledge and skills for personal and professional situations.

It has been said that “knowledge results from the combination of grasping experience and transforming it.”

Benefits of Lifelong Learning

Caregivers will find that being open to growth in knowledge will help them in their personal and caregiving lives.

These are just some of the ways that you can benefit with lifelong learning:

  • Social inclusion – make new friends
  • Personal development
  • Brain engagement
  • Pride in expertise and self-esteem builder
  • Sense of accomplishment
  • Higher paying jobs
  • Improved quality of life, sense of fulfillment
  • More fun in your days
  • Being satisfied with what life brings and even enjoying it
  • Delay or prevent dementia
  • Reduce boredom
  • Improved emotional health

Lifelong learning leads to self-enrichment for caregivers and seniors. This can increase interactions between caregivers, senior loved ones, and the community.

Technology Spurs Learning

Technology can help or hinder learning, depending on its availability or caregivers’ adoption of it.

Learning how to learn using technology may be the next thing on caregivers list of to-dos.

According to Colin Rose (author of Master It Faster), being a good learner will require caregivers to be a MASTER – Motivated, Acquire skills, Search for meaning, Trigger recollection, Examine, and Reflect.

We can learn via reading a new book, taking a class, learning a language, gaining a new skill, completing a DIY project, traveling, eating a new food or conversing with someone about something you never knew.

Technology especially using the internet can help us all learn more in different ways than we did before.

According to a new Pew Research Center survey:

  • 73% of adults call themselves lifelong learners
  • 74% of adults have participated in activities tied to learning for personal reasons
  • 63% of adults have gotten additional training/learning for the professional roles
  • 52% of personal learners and 55% of professional learners report using the internet for learning
  • 82% of people with a smartphone and a broadband connection in the home have received personal learning using technology; if only one of the two are available, 64% learn via technology
  • 77% of people who consider themselves lifelong learners or are open to it actually are!
  • 72% of caregivers gather health information online

Caregivers who have internet-connecting technologies are more likely to use information technology to navigate the world.

Many Online Learning Options

Caregivers can go online and learn about the diseases and treatments affecting their seniors, take classes online to learn more about their caregiving role and the skills needed to provide that care, take classes to learn hands-on caregiving skills, learn how to cope with behaviors, learn how to budget for healthcare, interact with other caregivers through social media, and investigate resources for caregiving in their communities. This is naturally just a short list of opportunities that are afforded to caregivers through technology and learning.

Distance learning and massive open online courses (MOOC) offered via universities and companies are ways caregivers can learn new information both personally and professionally.

In addition to learning new information and skills, caregivers and their senior loved ones can learn ways to reduce isolation through teleconferencing or video chatting, reduce hospitalization with better disease management and crisis care, and even travel the world virtually.

More Benefits of Technology

More caregivers and seniors would benefit by using technology to increase their access to learning opportunities.

What else can caregivers do with technology to learn how to help their senior loved ones? Use GPS technology to locate a lost senior, use a personal emergency response system if an emergency strikes, remind them to take their medication, keep them safe from falls using sensors, track health statistics, and learn from other caregivers through social media and support networks.

We all need to remember that learning is actually unavoidable.

Keeping a positive attitude and a zest for new knowledge will help caregivers be adaptable when change happens.

Let’s face it – caregiving for seniors is all about change and being able to cope with it gracefully.

Sleeping Well Despite Alzheimer’s – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

We are learning more each day about how important sleep is to our physical wellbeing.

When sleep deficit is a regular issue, it has been shown to increase risk for heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and mental health issues.

Seniors and caregivers need to get adequate amounts of restorative sleep each night.

As many know all too well, this isn’t always easy to do.

Many seniors with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease have trouble sleeping or nighttime wandering when they wake up in the middle of the night.

What to Do When Alzheimer’s Affects Sleep

We have some tips to help improve your senior loved one’s sleep and yours:

  1. Make the bedroom as dark as possible and keep it cool.
  2. Find a bedtime routine that works and stick to it with a consistent bed time.
  3. As it gets closer to your senior’s usual bedtime, start dimming the lights.
  4. If your senior wanders at night, be sure the home is clear of dangers such as matches, guns or other items such, as knives, that could pose a danger.
  5. Put an alarm in their room or at the front door to alert you to wandering or install a lock on the front door that is difficult for them to open such as slide lock near the top of the door to keep them safe inside.
  6. Keep hallways and living areas free of clutter and trip hazards to prevent falls if they do wake up in the dark.
  7. Keep your days full of activities and on a schedule so that they are tired at bedtime.
  8. Try aromatherapy and soothing white noise in the bedroom to aid sleep.
  9. Limit nap time so that they are ready for sleep at night.
  10. Limit fluids near bedtime to reduce need for toileting in the middle of the night.
  11. Check your senior’s medication list to be sure there isn’t a drug that is interfering with their sleep. This is a good time to discuss using melatonin for sleep with your senior’s doctor. Avoid over the counter or prescription sleep aides as they can contribute to falls in elders.
  12. Get respite for yourself to sleep at night with an overnight sitter or family member if your are awoken frequently so you can stay well for caregiving.

Additional Resources

We know that getting a good night’s sleep, while very important to our senior’s and our own well-being, is not always easy, especially when wakefulness has become a nighttime ritual.

We hope some of these articles will help you find interventions for better sleep.

We wish you all a restful sleep!

Vitamin D and Seniors’ Bone Health – A Key to Successful Aging for Many

Has a doctor told your senior loved one her bones could be weak and she might be more likely to break a bone?

Are you worried that your senior may fall and break a bone?

Do you think they may get — or already have — osteoporosis, a disease where the bones become fragile or porous?

Our bones are complex structures referred to as a matrix which is formed with protein fibers including collagen, water, and the minerals calcium and phosphorus. This matrix not only results in strong but also flexible bones.

Our bone matrix is ever changing throughout our lives in a process called remodeling where old bone is replaced by new bone. Bones are living tissue and always being rebuilt.

Bones do more than hold us upright. They also make red and white blood cells, contain bone marrow, have a blood supply, protect our vital organs, provide a place for muscles needed for mobility to attach and store minerals needed by our body.

Adults have 206 bones and they all need our help to stay strong.

Causes of Bone Loss

Each one of us can develop weak and brittle bones as we age.

If we lose more bone tissue than our bodies make, our bones can become brittle.

There are many reasons why bones can become weak:

  • decreased bone mass – osteoporosis
  • postmenopausal changes in bone once estrogen levels drop
  • loss of calcium in the matrix
  • decrease in protein growth leading to insufficient collagen for remodeling
  • decrease in bone growth hormone
  • inadequate calcium intake or inability to absorb the calcium eaten
  • decreased movement
  • autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus
  • gastrointestinal diseases such as celiac disease or irritable bowel syndrome
  • rickets/osteomalacia
  • smoking
  • certain medications

Vitamin D and Aging Bones

It is important to have adequate Vitamin D available to senior’s bones so calcium can do its job.

Low vitamin D levels have been reported in 40-100% of elder adults in the United States.

Vitamin D has been shown to help improve the absorption of calcium, either in food or a supplement, to further aid bone strengthening.

Older adults are at increased risk of developing vitamin D insufficiency because aging skin cannot make vitamin D as efficiently, they usually spend more time indoors, and they may have inadequate intakes of vitamin D as well as calcium.

The risk of falls can increase when your senior is deficient in vitamin D as symptoms include muscle weakness and pain which can lead to poor balance and decreased mobility.

Researchers found that a vitamin D supplement of 700-1000 IU each day reduced falls in older adults by 19%.

Be aware that excessive vitamin D can be harmful so experts recommend seniors follow the recommendations for safe levels.

Tips for Strong Bones

Our seniors may need our assistance and reminders to make efforts to keep their bones strong a part of their daily routine. Calcium is important but adequate vitamin D intake is also needed to maintain our seniors’ bone strength.

The Institute of Medicine recommends adults consume 600 IU (international units) a day for people aged 1-70 and 800 IU/day for people over 70.

Here are ways seniors (and caregivers) can strengthen their bones:

  1. Most seniors, especially women, are alerted to begin calcium supplementation as they age to protect their bones. Be sure the calcium supplement also contains vitamin D. There are two types of vitamin D in the supplements that you may see on your store shelves: D2 ergocalciferol and D3 cholecalciferol.
  2. Assist the body’s own production of vitamin D by getting into the sun a little bit everyday. Researchers suggest 5–30 minutes of sun exposure between 10 AM and 3 PM at least twice a week to the face, arms, legs, or back without sunscreen can result in your body’s own production of vitamin D.
  3. Eat foods fortified with vitamin D such as milk, some ready to eat cereals, some brands of orange juice, yogurt, margarine and other foods
  4. Eat foods that are natural sources of vitamin D, such as fatty fish (salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils. Small amounts of vitamin D are found in beef liver, cheese, and egg yolks.
  5. Do weight bearing activities such as walking, resistant exercises or weightlifting
  6. Talk to your senior’s doctor to see if hormone replacement would be beneficial

If possible, try to help your senior consume enough vitamin D through foods before they take supplements.

Be careful that your senior doesn’t take a vitamin D supplement if already taking a calcium supplement containing vitamin D to prevent excessive intake.

Taking steps to build bone tissue and keep seniors’ bones strong can help prevent some fractures. However, a strong impact could make it impossible for the bone to remain intact.

The good news is that, the better the diet and awareness of nutrition to maintain strong bones, the easier the broken bone will be able to heal. The bone matrix will remodel with the proper building blocks found in a healthy diet.

Whichever method your senior chooses to increase his or her level of vitamin D, it will help maintain strong bones in the future and should not be overlooked as part of a healthy diet.

Earth Day 2016 – What You Can Do With Seniors to Make a Difference

More of us ‘youngsters’ are beginning to understand how our lifestyles can harm or help the earth.

We want to do our part to treat it with kindness now to protect it for our children and grandchildren.

Does your senior loved one remember when we all thought it was a good idea to recycle our soda cans and pop bottles?

We could even make a few cents at the recycling center.

The push is on to reduce-reuse-recycle.

Reusing is not a new idea for our senior loved ones, who will remind us that they never threw away something that could be re-purposed by themselves or someone they knew.

Hand me downs and re-using clothes, furniture and other household items was a way of life for our senior loved ones.

It is only lately that our overconsumption and throw away mentality has led to the need to recognize Earth Day and increase awareness about ways we can all make improvements to reduce waste and other behaviors that can harm our environment.

History of Earth Day

Earth Day is 46 years old this year and has been gaining momentum as a movement in the past several years.

Beginning in 1970, when we started to be more concerned about many environmental issues, the notion of celebrating the earth on a dedicated day — Earth Day — began.

Engagement in these activities led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

Today, over one billion people in 19 countries participate in Earth Day activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world.

Supporters remind us all that Earth Day should be every day in order to improve our environment for generations to come.

This year we celebrate on Friday, April 22.

The celebration this Earth Day is fueled by recent agreements for potential future global change that occurred at the Paris Climate Summit.

The goal this year working toward 2020 and the 50th anniversary of Earth Day is to plant 7.8 million trees to help reduce pollution, increase biodiversity to avoid the loss of species, and help our cities move toward reduction of the use of fossil fuel and become 100% renewable.

That is a lofty goal which our senior loved ones and families can help achieve by advocating change in their cities as well as making personal changes.

Activities For and With Senior Loved Ones

We can all learn how to reduce our consumption, recycle our household items and packaging and reuse as much as we can or share our excess with others instead of adding it to the landfill.

Things you can do with your senior this Earth Day:

  1. Attend a local Earth Day event to learn more about what is happening in your community.
  2. Plant a tree! In your yard or your family’s or friend’s yard, in your neighborhood, at your church, at a city park, at a playground or some location in your community that needs a tree!
  3. Downsize your senior’s belongings and donate to a local charity so that they can be reused.
  4. Re-purpose an item to find another use for it before you trash it!
  5. Begin a recycling plan in your senior’s home – create storage bins for newspapers, phone books, magazines, soda cans, aluminum cans, plastic containers, glass bottles, batteries, etc. Most cities will accept these and other items for recycling. Find a location nearby.
  6. If your city doesn’t accept recyclables, advocate for this service to help reduce the need to fill landfills and better use our resources.
  7. Plant seeds in your garden!
  8. Help pick up litter or support others who can do it. Cleaning a roadway, public park or shoreline will help the earth.
  9. Donate to a charity that helps protect the environment.
  10. Check you senior’s house for leaky faucets and pipes and repair the leak to save water (and maybe save them some money).
  11. Replace standard light bulbs with LEDs that use much less energy to run and last a lot longer.
  12. Check the tires on the car to be sure they are properly inflated to reduce wasted gas.
  13. Use reusable grocery bags when you go to the supermarket.
  14. Watch a PBS documentary to learn more about The National Park Service together with other family members, including teens and grandkids.

Creating Memories While Doing Good

This is just a ripple in the water of things we and our senior loved ones can do to celebrate Earth Day this year and every day of the upcoming year.

We know you can think of even more things you can do together to make your lives more renewable for the benefit of the earth.

Let’s not lose sight of the fact that these activities can also be enjoyable activities that allow us to spend time and create new memories with senior loved ones and family members.

It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little.

Do what you can. ~ Sydney Smith

Keep a Fire Extinguisher Ready — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Family caregivers do all they can think of to ensure senior loved ones are safe at home.

And there is SO much to consider!

There are many things we do such as remove throw rugs, ensure there are enough lights, be sure there is food in the house, and install programmable thermostats to be sure they are comfortable all year long.

But have you thought about getting a fire extinguisher in their home in case they inadvertently start a fire especially in the kitchen?

If your senior loved one is a smoker, it is really important to be able to fight a fire as a dropped cigarette can start a fire in their bed or their favorite chair pretty quickly.

Keep Fire Extinguishers Where They Might be Needed

There are small versions of fire extinguishers that can be kept under the kitchen or bathroom sink so it will be handy to find and use it in an emergency.

Another good place to keep one ready to go is near an exit door to help your senior exit the home safely.

It is vital to be sure they can lift it and use it easily so a smaller model might work best.

Senior loved ones may need reminders that there is a fire extinguisher available and refreshers on how to use it properly.

It is a good idea to check the extinguisher yourself from time to time to be sure it is still usable and stored where it is supposed to be. Most extinguishers will be OK until they are discharged and then they will need to be recharged or replaced.

Warning!

Remember, the first consideration is always going to be to call the fire department (or 911) and get everyone to safety.

You and your senior can attempt to deal with a small fire until help arrives, but if the fire is large or spreads quickly, it is best to evacuate the area and then call 911.

Here are some tips to use a fire extinguisher in the home:

  1. Before you and your senior need it, read the instructions about how to use it correctly. Demonstrate its use and do regular reminders for safety.
  1. Evacuate everyone from a room with smoke or a fire and have someone call the fire department before you do anything.
  1. When using the extinguisher follow the word PASS

P – pull the pin

A – aim low pointing at the base of the fire

S – squeeze the lever slowly

S – sweep the nozzle from side to side

  1. Select a multipurpose extinguisher and place in convenient locations throughout house including the exit door so you can safely exit the house.

Additional Resources

Here are some more stories and even a video to help you learn more about fire extinguisher and home safety for aging in place seniors.

Experiencing Life’s Impact on Senior Bodies – Genworth Aging Experience

I will forever treasure my experience “walking in my grandfather’s body” at CES 2016.

I consider it a fantastic gift.

Understanding better how aging can impact the bodies of seniors has supercharged my desire to help them live with it — even better, to avoid it — through our support of family caregivers via Senior Care Corner®.

Now other family caregivers can experience this gift, which it is, for themselves.

Genworth Aging Experience

I was able to gain some understanding of the limitations seniors’ bodies impose on them with the help of the R70i exoskeleton I wore for a short time at Genworth R70i Aging Experience.

The vehicle for my journey was fantastic technology developed by Applied Minds to start the conversation about aging with those who don’t yet — and can’t — know what it means.

Just as important as the technology was my guide on the journey, Segun Oduolowu. He helped me understand what was happening to me, what I was feeling, seeing and hearing.

Segun’s guidance helped make my brief time at the Genworth Aging Experience by far the most beneficial I spent at CES. Ever.

My journey is captured in the video below.

Opportunity for More Family Caregivers

I realize my words and even the video can’t come close to the benefit other family caregivers would get from taking the same journey themselves. Fortunately, Genworth is taking the Aging Experience on the road.

We encourage others to jump to be a part of it should the opportunity come to a location nearby. Those who do, will get a better understanding of what

  • gaining 40 pounds over the course of adulthood;
  • losing muscle mass and strength;
  • losing degrees of hearing and speech;
  • developing vision impairments such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, floaters and cataracts; and
  • impaired ability to get around, caused by arthritis and joint limitations

can mean to senior loved ones.

I hope you have an opportunity to receive the gift I was given by Segun and the Genworth Aging Experience!

Living Alone Less Likely in our Elder Years Than for Prior Generations

We are all aging but are adopting healthier lifestyles than those in generations past.

As a result, life expectancy for both men and women has increased — for men at a greater rate than for women.

That isn’t much of a surprise to us, as we need only look around to see the smiling faces of many seniors enjoying life.

Also, the news media frequently shares inspiring stories of centenarians celebrating their 100th or even 110th birthdays. These are both men and women!

Did you notice – both men and women?

In the past, life expectancy for men was less than for women, leaving many women facing retirement alone. Those demographics are beginning to change.

Latest Research Shows Women Not Always Alone

A recent Pew Research study compared data of seniors living alone from 1900-1990 with those living alone from 1990-2014.

This report shows that women are living alone less now than they were in the past.

Researchers state that one reason may be that many women are living with their spouses longer, as fewer women are widows. In addition, women are living with adult children or others.

From 1990 to 2014, Pew found that the number of seniors aged 65 to 84 who live alone has decreased by 3% compared to earlier recorded years. Prior to that time, the number was steadily rising.

The number of older women living alone declined to 32% in 2014 from 38% in 1990.

In contrast, older men living alone increased to 18% in 2014 from 15% in the earlier group, likely because more are divorced and not remarried, according to the study. Some studies indicate that men are more likely to remarry after divorce than women.

Women and Aging

The research from this study highlights the changing face of successful aging for women.

In the past, women were widowed and lived alone.

In 2014 the results indicated about 30% of women 65 to 84 were living alone (down 8% from 1990).

At the same time, women in the study living with a spouse increased from 41% to 46%.

These women were also likely to be unmarried and living with adult children or others in 2014.

In fact, many women in the study group were not living with children but actually living with other family members and even non-family members.

The data changes for women after age 85. Women were more likely to live with their children and be unmarried, 23% compared with 16%, as they age.

Women make up a greater percentage of seniors in this age group of 12.1 million seniors living alone. Their majority has dropped from 79% in 1990 to 69% in 2014 as men live longer.

It is interesting to note that women who live alone report that they spend more time on hobbies than men, 65% compared to 49%.

Aging in Place Dreams

Even though the numbers of women living alone has decreased while the number of men has increased, both groups report that their goal is to stay in their own home as they age.

It doesn’t matter if they live with someone like a spouse, children or another person, they prefer to do so in their own home.

In fact, according to another survey, six out of ten seniors say they would get in-home care if they could no longer live alone in order to be in their home.

In this survey, only 17% reported they would move to an assisted living facility and 8% say they would move in with a family member.

Downside of Living Alone

Despite the desire for independence and wishing to stay in their own home, seniors surveyed report that there are pressures when living alone that can be difficult for them.

  • Financial strain – only 33% report they are financially comfortable. However, 49% of those living with others say they live comfortably. Seniors who are alone say they have just enough resources to meet their basic needs. Those living alone are statistically three times more likely to be considered poor, women 19% compared to 15% of men.
  • Social isolation – many report less time spent with family members including grandchildren and have less friends.
  • Volunteerism – fewer seniors who live alone volunteer in their communities than those who live with others.
  • Multigenerational living – in recent years, young adults have stayed home with parents due to loss of jobs, underemployment, staying in school longer and delayed marriages. This could inadvertently put a strain on some seniors but provide needed assistance for others.
  • Travel – fewer seniors who live alone report traveling for pleasure compared to their counterparts who live with others.
  • Stress – both groups report similar levels of stress as they age no matter their living arrangements.

Living Alone Should Not Mean Being Lonely

It is important for seniors to stay engaged with their family, friends and communities as they age in place.

Being a volunteer in an organization or agency about which your senior feels passionate, such as the humane society or local school reading program, can improve their quality of life.

Visiting with friends and family members to stay connected, whether in person, via telephone, or virtually through technology is important for the mental well-being of our senior loved ones.

Going to the senior center can also help many seniors stay connected.

It is also helpful to reach out and adopt resources that can improve senior’s ability to age in place more easily, safely and longer through the use of technology. There are many quick, easy and inexpensive ways to increase the use of technology as well as other more involved and costly ways.

The benefits may outweigh the costs for some of these devices and innovations for many seniors living alone.

Roles for Family Caregivers

Family caregivers may need to facilitate in some way the activities in which their seniors choose to participate. You may have to arrange transportation or assist with getting them started.

It would be well worth it for senior loved ones if you give them the jumpstart they need.

Living in their home may be their goal, but being isolated and lonely certainly is not!

They may need the help of family caregivers or encouragement to stay engaged for their own health.

Their quality of life should be everyone’s goal!

Dealing with Negative Comments – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

When you are a family caregiver, sometimes family members — especially siblings — can offer unsolicited opinions about you are doing.

Sometimes it is even the one for whom you care that feels it necessary to comment on your performance or worse yet your “caring.”

These comments can be hurtful instead of helpful when you are trying hard to make everyone happy.

Criticism dressed up as support most of the time serves little purpose except for wounding another person.

It can be especially hard to take when the person offering the negative comments isn’t doing their share of the caregiving or perhaps even standing in your way to get things accomplished that you feel is in the best interest of your senior loved one.

When the comments come from the care recipient, it could make you question why you are spending your time trying to help them when your efforts are seemingly unappreciated.

Dealing with Negative Comments

We know in our hearts that senior loved ones who cast aspersions may not realize their words are wounding, especially if they have dementia and may not be in control of their words as they once were.

It isn’t them talking but their disease.

Family members who criticize, however, can cause you distress that could interfere with your caregiving duties and even your mental and physical health.

For this reason it is important to find a way to cope with negative comments that are sure to come your way so that you can stay well to be a caregiver.

Here are some tips on handling unkind words.

  1. Try not to listen; redirect the topic of conversation to something that is helpful for your senior. If that can’t be done — walk away or politely disconnect from the phone.
  2. If the comments are coming from your senior, remember they are frustrated or confused by their disease so don’t take it personally or get offended. They may be angry at their situation, their loss of independence, or just depressed. Their comments are being hurled at the closest person — you. They don’t mean to hurt you.
  3. Realize that no matter what you do, what choices you make, what food you prepare for a meal, or any other decision, you will not please everyone all the time. That is reality so just accept the comments and continue with your tasks. Try to let the comments roll off your back!
  4. Don’t react with anger — you will just give the person the desired outcome. Smile and continue on with care or other duties. It will be difficult for the person throwing the insults to keep going when you are smiling.

Naturally these tips often won’t be easy to follow and will require caregivers to practice them. Hopefully you won’t have too many opportunities to practice.

It is human nature to get hurt feelings when someone is telling you all the things you are doing wrong.

Remind yourself the importance of what you are doing if your feelings are hurt from negative comments.

Additional Resources

Here are a few more articles that you might find helpful! Just click on the headlines below to read them.

Good luck and Thank You for caring!

Spouses Who Are Caregivers – Identifying and Avoiding Stress

Measuring Family Caregiver Strain – Knowing is Key to Burnout Prevention

Making Family Caregiving Work – A Sibling Tale of Understanding

Facts About Family Caregivers – Who They Are and What They Need