Making Life Less Difficult for Senior Loved Ones With Dementia

Family caregivers face challenges every day when caring for a person with dementia.

Family caregivers want senior loved ones to be happy and healthy, whether it’s Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, dementia with lewy bodies, Parkinson’s dementia or some other progressive, degenerative neurological condition.

This can take a real toll on caregivers.

We know that and have some suggestions for things caregivers can do at home to help improve the safety and well-being of their seniors.

Making the Most of Being at Home

There are aspects of life at home where our focus as family caregivers can help make better the lives of our seniors with dementia.

Create a safe environment

As the disease progresses, thoughts of consequences of actions fail for people with dementia. Turning on the stovetop, then putting the towel over the burner or walking away without turning off the heat is all too common.

Family caregivers can help by reconfiguring the living environment, both inside and outside the home, to make it as safe as possible.

  • Be sure there is adequate lighting so that steps, furniture, change in flooring levels (such as hardwood to carpet) are more easy to navigate without tripping.
  • Install stove locks and other safety features so that the appliance has a timed shutoff or is unable to be activated.
  • If wandering is an issue, install a door lock on the upper part of the door where they wouldn’t think to look for it and prevent them from leaving unnoticed. You could also install an electronic doorbell that will alert you remotely on your smartphone if someone goes out (or tries to come in).
  • Remove throw rugs to prevent tripping.
  • Put decals on sliding glass doors large and colorful enough to prevent them from walking through them.
  • Remove any objects from their reach that could cause them harm such as chemicals, knives, power tools, etc.
  • Repair loose floorboards or steps, install handrails, keep the front porch and walkway free of hazards, install motion sensing lights on the exterior and keep smoke detectors in good working condition.

Are there home modifications that would help keep your senior safe and can these be done by you or a handyman to keep the home as safe as possible?

You might find more suggestions for home modifications that will help you and your senior in our downloadable Home Seniorization Checklist.

Reduce stimulation that is stressful

People with dementia can be frightened by certain objects or people in their environment.

For some, mirrors can be confusing. Who is that person looking back at them? They don’t recognize themselves and find a stranger in their midst. If that is the case, remove large looking glass mirrors from rooms they frequent.

Visual and auditory stimulation can be stressful. Too much noise from TV, radio or other sources can be confusing and upsetting especially if it is prolonged. Too much in the environment such as patterns, objects and even people can lead to increased agitation.

Stimulation can be positive, such as specific smells, pictures and cues, in that it keeps their minds active and orients them to their surroundings but overstimulation can lead to aggressive behavior, inability to sleep, and confusion.

Help them stay active

Staying physically active and socially engaged within their surroundings is important for seniors’ physical and mental health.

Make opportunities for outside exercise, change in activity to reduce boredom and provide outlets to engage in society.

Naturally it is important that they are safe outside with proper precautions, such as safe walkways, freedom to roam a bit, safety from traffic, adequate hydration and sun protection and some purpose in the activity, such as bird watching or flower picking, to remain oriented.

Be sure their day has routine but also purposeful and meaningful activities that stimulate, entertain and create movement.

Provide a consistent schedule

Having a defined routine each day will make providing care for your senior with dementia go more smoothly but also give them a sense of time and space, too.

Learning through structure and repetition that after breakfast it is time to wash and dress will make that process easier for you both.

When your senior routinely sets the table before every meal and knows it is time to eat, for example, they may be more ready to eat a good meal feeling as though they have participated but also they understand that it is time for this activity.

Having rest time daily, either in the form of a nap or quiet time, can help reduce the effect of sundowning so that the person with dementia is not exhausted before dinner time.

Naturally, some flexibility in the routine will be necessary for appointments and visits from friends and family members. When you have a routine, these occurrences provide a chance to experience a new event without upsetting the day and later the night.

Create Opportunities for Social Interactions

As much as possible, continue to interact within your community. Don’t isolate the person with dementia.

They — and you, too — need to talk with others, share common experiences, reminisce and be socially stimulated.

This can be in any number of ways, such as going to the beauty or barber shop, going to church, shopping, attending a support group meeting, attending memory day care, welcoming people into the home, dining out, or strolling a park for a nature walk.

Bringing along what you will need, such as change of clothes, snacks and drinks, and being familiar with the location, so that you know not only where the bathroom is but also where the exit is in case a swift departure is needed, will help make the outings go more smoothly.

Don’t overstay your welcome. Be aware of that point when stimulation becomes overstimulation and a rest or break is needed. Be ready to cut short the visit for the well-being of your senior.

The Ultimate Goal – Their Quality of Life

These and other attention to details for the benefit of your senior loved one with dementia will help them and you as the family caregiver.

However, the true goal for making changes in the daily living of a family dealing with the challenges of dementia is to provide the highest quality of life you can for that senior as long as possible.

Dementia is a progressive disease that will require family caregivers to constantly modify the environment.

Strategies for functional independence and safety as well as social engagement need to happen everyday.

What other suggestions do you have for improving the life of seniors with dementia?

Don’t Let Vision Limit Independence – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Age alone should not be a reason our seniors are discouraged from driving.

How safe they are behind the wheel, how well they can react to obstacles, and their functional abilities are key factors in whether they should continue driving.

Their vision is a major factor in the ability of many seniors to safely be driving themselves, others or not at all.

Everyone loves the independence that driving a car brings, especially our senior loved ones.

Giving up that freedom comes hard — and often sooner than desired for many elders.

As family caregivers we want them to drive as long as they are safe.

Vision Tips to Be Safe Behind the Wheel

Here are some tips that will help keep senior loved ones safe behind the wheel.

  1. Keep eyeglass or contact prescription up to date with annual visits and new lenses as needed. Don’t wear out dated glasses that don’t give clear vision.
  2. Always wear prescribed glasses or contacts (if they’ve been prescribed) when driving. Avoid glasses with side pieces or frames that interfere with full vision.
  3. Do not drive a car with tinted glass that could limit vision, especially at night.
  4. Don’t wear sunglasses at dusk or night. Keep the rear view and side mirrors clean and positioned for best views.
  5. Keep the headlights clean and free from debris and have them checked to be sure they are aimed correctly for safe driving in low light conditions.
  6. Be sure their car seat is positioned so there is a clear view out the window over the steering wheel.

Hopefully these tips are reminders to us all to make adjustments to be sure we are all safe on the road not just seniors!

Additional Resources

Here are a few more articles that you might find helpful regarding vision and safe driving:

10 Ways to Outsmart Heart Disease for Seniors and Family Caregivers

For years we’ve heard we should be reducing the amount of fat in our diets.

Your senior loved one’s healthcare team may have told them to change their eating habits for their health.

Maybe yours has too!

More recently, we are told how important it is to reduce the amount of saturated fat we eat.

Did you know that this may not be enough?

Not only reducing the overall fat in our diet but also which foods we replace the fat with may be just as important.

Diet and other lifestyle factors can help us and our seniors reduce our heart disease risk.

Heart Disease – The Leading Cause of Death

Most of us know or have family members that have heart disease. Your senior loved one may be diagnosed with and trying to manage heart disease.

Many of us know someone who has had a heart attack that changed — or ended — their life.

Heart disease facts are astounding, especially when we think that much of it is largely preventable with lifestyle changes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):

  • About 610,000 people die of heart disease in the United States every year – 1 in every 4 deaths.
  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women.
  • Every year about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack.
  • While 92% of people surveyed knew that chest pain is a warning sign for a heart attack, only 27% knew all the other warning signs or to call 911.

Here is the list of warning signs of a heart attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

Achieving Heart Health

New research shows that there are 10 ways we all can reduce our risk of heart disease and all 10 ways are achievable!

This is true for those at all ages. Even senior adults can make positive changes in their heart health and blood lipid values when they make small changes to their diet and lifestyle.

Family caregivers can help their seniors make these changes:

  1. Increase intake of fats coming from polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat sources. Don’t just reduce the saturated fat but substitute it with poly/monounsaturated forms.  We want to control the overall amount of fat, but the type of fat is key too. This will decrease LDL 10% for every 5% change in fat intake.
  2. Include fat sources that are high in Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids to achieve a balance for optimum anti-inflammatory benefits. The goal is 1-2 grams/day from fatty fish, fish oil, canola oil, flaxseed, and nuts.
  3. Increase intake of nuts; any nut will do. Eat 2 oz/day, 5 days a week for best results. We can eat them as snacks or add them to other items in meals.
  4. Include foods rich in plant stanols and sterols. These compounds will lower LDL by allowing it to combine with bile to be excreted in the intestines. 2-3 Tablespoons each day are needed. Some foods have additional stanols/sterols added to them, look for hearth healthy labels. Natural sources include vegetable oil, nuts, legumes and fruits.
  5. Eat more soy containing foods including soy milk, soybeans, tofu, soy nuts and soybeans.  Intake of soy has been shown to sharply reduce LDL in the blood.
  6. Eat more fiber. We have heard this a lot, but have not been adding it to our menus. Intake is recommended at 38 grams/day for men and 25 grams/day for women. Be sure to include soluble sources of fiber such as oats, psyllium, and whole grains.
  7. Drink more deep purple wine and grape juice. The poylphenols in this deep purple fruit act to improve heart health. 1-2 cups of deep purple juice (100% juice) or 4 oz dark purple wine such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Petite Sirah each day.
  8. Drink more tea, black or green, to improve circulation. Green tea can also lower triglycerides. Drink 1-3 cups/day.
  9. Add garlic to foods. Crush or grind fresh garlic to get the best benefit. Add 1-3 cloves/day.
  10. Indulge in chocolate. Not just any chocolate, however. Cocoa that has not been processed with alkali such as Dutch processed. Add 2 Tablespoons/day.

Lifestyle Habits Benefit Heart Disease

While these are changes we can make in our diets, we also need to be aware of other lifestyle changes that will make a positive impact on our heart health.

Achieving heart health is a jigsaw puzzle, with diet merely one piece of the puzzle.

The other pieces that will reduce the risk of heart disease and possible heart attack include:

  1. Becoming physically active. We all know that getting moving is important for our overall health but many of us continue to need reminders to get active. You don’t have to go the gym and workout like a pro. You will get the benefits if you take a brisk walk, play golf, ride a bike, swim some laps or play with the kids and grandkids. Get up and get moving at an activity that you enjoy and will keep doing is most important.
  2. Maintain a healthy weight. Eating right and getting physical can help you achieve this goal. Controlling the portions of the food you eat now will also help you manage your weight. Be aware of your BMI (body mass index) so that you know if your efforts are paying off.
  3. Quit smoking!
  4. Don’t overuse the salt shaker and select fresh, minimally processed foods that will help lower your salt intake. While there remains much controversy about how much is too much, cutting back on the excess sodium in our foods is something experts agree on.

When making lifestyle changes, especially in something as important as our diet, we all want to be sure the changes we make are making result in measurable improvements in our bodies.

Real, true decreases in our blood lipid values are vital to prevent heart disease. It is important to know the numbers and work with our healthcare professionals, including a dietitian, to keep your risk in check.

Good luck making these changes to improve your heart health!

Kitchen Hacks for Aging Chefs

No matter the age of your senior loved one – as we get older we feel less and less inclined to spend hours preparing food in the kitchen.

Throughout their adult lives, they have loved preparing food for the family, especially for family gatherings.

When they cook for one or two with waning appetites, though, it becomes a lot less enjoyable.

Also as they age, seniors’ abilities can begin to diminish too not just their interest – they don’t want to stand for long, have difficulty with their vision, and may have pain in their joints or trembling that makes it harder to cook.

What happens as a result of this is that foods your senior loved one starts eating regularly are convenience, microwavable or cans of soup. Most of these choices are not nutritionally optimal.

How can family caregivers help seniors get better nutrition when they can’t (or simply don’t want to) spend time cooking?

Hacks or Modifications In the Kitchen

There are many things that caregivers can obtain for and demonstrate to senior loved ones to make everyday tasks in the kitchen a little easier to manage.

Sometimes seniors have a harder time preparing food because arthritis, a stroke or other conditions make mobility and function an obstacle to getting things done.

These suggestions for modifications to their environment, tools and techniques will help them get it done easier.

  • Kitchen updates – levers on the faucet, easy to pull cabinet handles, pull down shelves
  • Wide handle grips on the utensils and cookware to reduce painful grasp
  • Special devices and adaptive equipment to make cooking easier, such as a microwave ring with handles to get hot things out of microwave, two handled cups, rocker knife, pot stabilizer to keep it from sliding, mixing bowl holder, easy vegetable peelers and brushes, cutting aid to hold knife, reacher to get things off shelves
  • Large print cookbooks, recipes or measuring tools
  • Put microwave on the counter for easy reach
  • Task lighting for workspace
  • Store potholders in view so that they can get them quickly and avoid burns
  • Color code knife handles using paint or tape with bright colors to avoid picking up the sharp end
  • Put a wet paper towel or cloth under the cutting board to prevent slipping
  • Fill a pot with water on the stove using a measuring cup so your senior doesn’t have to lift the full pot of water and carry it to the stove; when food is boiled, remove it onto a plate and leave pot of water to cool before cleaning; always use pots with two handles
  • Use plastic instead of glass where practical to avoid breakages and injury
  • Place a wooden spoon over the top of the pot of boiling starchy food, such as pasta or beans, to avoid boiling over and creating a mess
  • Use a melon baller to take the seeds out of peppers, tomatoes or cucumbers
  • Use a pizza cutter to more easily cut up a variety of foods like pancakes, meats or fruit
  • Use a rubber band around the lid of a jar to help open it more easily
  • Find recipes for one pot meals to reduce cleanup, cook once eat twice using leftovers for next day
  • Eat some meals using no cook prep recipes such as cottage cheese and fruit, meat sandwiches or salad with protein; accompany these items with a glass of milk or a smoothie and vegetables for a complete meal
  • Try a universal turner that opens knobs and turns on oven switches (uni turner)

Prioritize hacks based on the needs and cooking habits of your senior loved one.

Kitchen Safety Tips

Your senior loved one may still be doing the cooking but may not be as safe as you would like.

Here are a few precautions you can take, as appropriate for the needs of your senior, and encourage them to do some of these to help keep them safe in the kitchen:

  • Keep a fire extinguisher in the kitchen

Note: Did you know that people over 65 are estimated to be at 2 ½ times greater risk of dying in a kitchen fire?

  • Install safety features on stove and oven to prevent kitchen fires (automatic shutoff)
  • Remind them to wipe up spills quickly to avoid slip-and-falls
  • If your senior must use a rug at the sink or stove, be sure it is secured with nonskid backing and is low profile to prevent tripping
  • Check wires and plugs to be sure they are still intact and not frayed, don’t use electrical extension cords that need to be strung over a distance, don’t overload circuits
  • Post emergency numbers on the fridge, including Poison Control (1-800-222-1222)
  • Check the temperature of the water at the water heater to prevent scalding
  • Remove any step stools or ladders from their access to prevent falling off of steps while reaching
  • Be sure the oven or cooktop has a way to vent to the outdoors
  • Ride the wave of the IoT in the kitchen with technology devices for safety including gadgets such as smart refrigerators that alert when products are about to expire or have expired, countertop appliances that automatically make drinks, or a service that delivers groceries to senior’s home based on list you provide

Helping Them Cook So They Eat Right

Sometimes caregivers are so worried about whether or not senior loved ones are eating the right foods that they forget they might not be physically able to cook like they once did.

Some of these fixes are easy to initiate and others will require reminders you will need to give to your seniors repeatedly.

Caregivers may not even be aware that some of these new products exist and how helpful they can be for aging in place seniors.

Do you have more hacks to share? We would love to hear from you about what works for your senior!

Vitamin & Mineral Supplement Safety — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Are you worried that your senior loved one is not eating as well as they should?

Are they getting weaker or complain of being tired even after they sleep?

Seniors’ bodies still need all the nutrients they did when they were younger but not as many calories because they aren’t as physically active.

It can be more difficult to eat fewer calories but still get all the vitamins and minerals needed.

Nourishing Seniors’ Bodies

While it is true that the preferred way to get all the vitamins and minerals — good nutrition, that is — is from the food our seniors eat, oftentimes people over 50 have a very difficult time eating enough different foods to meet their need for essential nutrients as they age.

Many seniors and their family caregivers turn to supplements as nutrition insurance policies when they don’t seem to be able to eat enough.

But what forms of vitamin and mineral supplement are appropriate, is having more better, or which manufacturer is best are questions many family caregivers face when trying to decide which nutritional supplement they should help their senior loved one pick.

Here are a few tips to consider when buying nutritional supplements for seniors:

  1. Read the labels and follow the dosing instructions to determine the proper dosage so your senior doesn’t take too much! The more the better is not true for supplements as you can overdose on certain nutrients. Some vitamins and minerals can be toxic when taken in excessive amounts.
  2. Be sure you are buying from a reputable source. Remember that dietary supplements are largely unregulated. Some untrustworthy sources of vitamins and minerals may not be what they say they are. It is better not to buy over the internet when you may not be getting what you think you are due to lack of strict regulations.
  3. Discuss with your doctor, pharmacist or dietitian before taking new supplements, even the supplement your senior has been taking, because some could interfere with their prescription medications.
  4. Be aware of ingredients in multivitamin or other supplements. There may be fillers or ingredients such as sugar or artificial colors that some seniors can’t tolerate.

Eating a rainbow, choosing a variety of foods, and selecting nutrient dense foods will help your senior eat their vitamins instead of relying on supplements. But if you and your senior decide one is needed, practice a few simple safety precautions for their health!

Here is a guide to nutrients from A-Z from AARP that you might find useful.

Additional Resources

Here are some other articles you might find interesting about nutrition.

When It Is NOT Time to Age in Place – How to Know & What to Do About It

Home sweet home is where most of us hope to live the rest of our lives.

That’s especially true for our senior loved ones, many of whom are fortunate to be living at home longer and longer.

Seniors are finding many solutions that will help them stay in the home of their choice, including home health services, technology devices and home modifications.

Managing chronic conditions and staying healthy and fit is also optimizing the time seniors can live the lifestyle of aging in place.

Unfortunately, staying home and remaining safe in that home may not be possible for some seniors, who may begin to require more assistance than is available or that they can afford forcing lifestyle changes to keep them safe.

Is Aging in Place Working for Your Senior?

To determine if continuing to stay at home is still the best choice, family caregivers need to consider financial health, medical health, emotional health, and physical health of your senior loved one.

Despite everyone’s desire to age in place, other considerations may change the course of a senior’s living situation that will benefit them on many levels.

Have you wondered:

  • Are they still independent enough to remain safe in their own home?
  • Can you still provide the supportive care you have in the past?
  • Will their finances be able to pay for their needs?

Being honest in your assessment of these questions may be tough but is needed.

Questions to Consider When Deciding If a Move Would be Best

Those were just a few questions to consider when you and your senior are trying to decide if the time may be coming (or already here) when your senior loved should no longer age in place in their home but may need to transition to another living arrangement.

Some of the following questions to help you all determine which option is best are more specific that require careful consideration and perhaps some observations on your part:

  • Are there still people and services available to meet the needs of your senior?
  • Do they need around the clock care?
  • Is there a helper taking them to doctor’s appointments?
  • Is there a homemaker who can do the housecleaning, laundry and chores that are needed in and around the home to keep it safe?
  • Can they get the food they need and then prepare it?
  • Are they capable of knowing the difference between good food and spoiled food?
  • Are they eating adequately or skipping meals and fluids?
  • Are they losing weight?
  • Can they still take their medications without supervision?
  • Do they need more help doing tasks of grooming like showering, toileting, shaving, or eating?
  • Are they isolated, lonely or bored?
  • Are they safe to continue driving?
  • Do they wander outside or get lost?
  • Are there more hazards in the home than you can control?
  • Is the home well maintained or does it pose a safety hazard?
  • Do they have a pet for whom they can no longer care?
  • Are you worried about them starting a fire?
  • Can they still handle their own finances?
  • Will their current finances support continued aging in place needs or is their nest egg running out?
  • Are they able to call someone for help? What will they do in an emergency?
  • Can the home be modified in order to better accommodate them or is that not financially feasible?
  • Is there accessible healthcare?
  • Does their current home have a climate that allows them to live comfortably or will the utility bills needed to make them comfortable break the bank?
  • Have they had episodes such as increased falls or injuries from falls, more medical problems, new wounds, or hospitalizations?
  • Can you or your family no longer take care of their needs properly due to time, physical ability, finances or distance?

Yes, there are a lot of questions to consider, but it is a big decision for both senior and family caregivers and you want to consider all the relevant factors.

Reassessing Plans

Just because your senior’s plan to stay in their home has been working, that doesn’t mean it will keep working in the future.

You and your senior loved one should continually reassess whether they are still safe in their home or if it is time to consider alternate living arrangements that would better meet everyone’s needs.

Having a Plan B at the ready, including visiting local assisted living facilities will be worth the time spent.

If something should happen to cause them to need a different place to live quickly, you might be forced into making a decision that doesn’t work well for your senior loved one and that you may both regret.

Taking time to talk with other seniors, friends, healthcare professionals and others in the community will help you make informed decisions about which type of place is best for your senior and one where they may already have friends.

Making the Tough Decision to Move

This is a tough decision for you and your senior to make, no one wants to give up their beloved home. It can be even harder if you promised them you wouldn’t ask them to leave their home.

Sometimes their health and safety will leave you no choice and the guilt can be overwhelming.

Working together, talking about expectations, being honest about the amount of care you can provide to your senior and analyzing their budget will help your senior’s transition move more smoothly.

If your senior transitions from home to assisted living, you both may be surprised at the positive outcome. Many seniors enjoy the camaraderie of their peers, the relief from the burden of cooking, cleaning or yard maintenance. There are activities, outings and new friends to keep them from being bored or lonely.

You might also get some time back in your life to care for yourself!

Tell us your experiences that we can share with others in the same situation.

Making the Lives of Seniors Easier – What Family Caregivers Can Do

Who doesn’t want their life to be easier– or to make the life of a loved one easier?

Many of the everyday tasks our seniors have done all their lives can become more difficult as they age.

Some of these now more difficult tasks are essential to our senior loved ones’ daily lives and independence.

With 90% of seniors wanting to and achieving aging in place, it is important for family caregivers to help them find products that will allow them to live as independently as possible.

You may be familiar with some adaptations such as grab bars, but there are multitudes of products to assist seniors (and others) with everyday tasks.

Independence Impairments of Aging

All of us will face the changes that aging brings.

Family caregivers may be helping their senior loved ones navigate their world to accommodate their limitations as they age.

Functional decline as we age usually doesn’t happen overnight, but instead is a gradual process which can bring on physical impairments. Chronic diseases can make this decline worse.

Combinations of functional decline issues, such as low vision and arthritic hands, will make activities of daily living even more difficult to accomplish independently without accommodations.

These are just a few age-related impairments your senior may be experiencing:

  1. Impaired vision – your senior may have a vision impairment, such as a need for glasses to correct vision, have untreated cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration or low vision. Depth perception disturbances could make daily tasks hard.
  2. Joint pain or immobility – your senior may have a condition that affects one or more joints, including fingers, knees, hips, ankles, or upper body extremities. They may need help with range of motion for close-up tasks or reaching items as well as manipulating instruments used for tasks such as cooking or eating.
  3. Fatigue – your senior may be weak especially when standing for long periods required to complete a task of daily living such as cooking. Inactivity can lead to muscle loss and weakness.
  4. Gait stability and speed – steadiness on their feet in order to complete the task at hand or the speed in which they are able to move safely. Seniors who have gait disturbances may require the use of assistive devices such as a cane, walker or wheelchair which might inhibit movement to complete tasks of daily living.
  5. Hearing impairment – diminished hearing can impair their ability to respond to the environment safely.
  6. Cognitive loss – when thinking, sequencing, perception and processing abilities are impaired with the loss of cognition or memory, performing activities of daily living can become frustrating and unsafe.
  7. Medications – it has been found that seniors who take more than five prescriptions are at a greater risk for functional decline.
  8. Pain – seniors with chronic or acute pain will be limited in the activities they can carry out when pain occurs.

Interventions to Preserve Independence

Interventions are available to help senior loved ones cope with this decline in function.

There are many quick and easy accommodations that can be used to assist seniors when they try to complete their essential daily activities.

The suggestions we are listing here are in the form of products family caregivers and seniors can purchase.

There are other helpful solutions that involve home remodeling or renovations that can be done as well.

Because there are so many products available to meet the needs of home-dwelling seniors with which caregivers may not be familiar, we wanted to present some so that you can help your senior loved one be independent and safe at home.

Kitchen

Jar lid openers that can be wall mounted, one hand use, or sure grip openers

Different colors for measuring spoons, bowls, plates, cutting boards, etc for people with vision impairments to give contrast and read more easily

Item to hold plastic bag open to be filled

Large handled utensils for better grasping

Non-skid plates or precut nonskid mats to keep plates and bowls from sliding

Foam covers for handles of utensils

Cutting board with edges to keep food on board while cutting and spikes or vise to hold food in place for cutting

Plates with scoop sides to help push food on spoon

Rocker knife for weak grasp to make cutting easier

Covered spoon to prevent spillage

Cup holder, two handled cup and cups with lids to prevent spills

Gadget to open pop top lids like soup, canned vegetables and soda

Special floor mats that reduce fatigue or joint stress

Pull down shelving units that make it easy to get things off the shelf without a stepstool or reaching

Home Helpers

Reachers to help get things not within easy reach

Furniture risers that go under table legs to accommodate wheelchair or bed for easier transfers

Talking clocks or watches, thermometer, and blood pressure monitor

Voice activated phone dialer

Pill reminders for smartphone or talking pillbox

Large print/buttons for calendar, computer keyboard, TV remote control and phone

Playing card holders

Doorknob extender turns round knobs into levers

Light switch knob to allow easier grasp of small switch

Recliner chair lever extender to make it easier to reach footrest control

Wireless remote control (maybe a smartphone app) for outlets to turn on/off lights or anything plugged into outlet

Button, zipper and sock pulls to help with independent dressing

Key turners-extensions for keys to provide handle for leverage

Bathrooms

Specially designed pen that punches open blister packs for pills (“Wish I thought of it” invention!)

Handheld shower sprayer

Raised toilet seats

Toilet arms

Toilet safety frames

Bedside commodes

Shower chairs and benches

Built up handle covers for toothbrush or hairbrush

Walk-in tubs

Grab bars

These products can be found in a variety of places including home improvement stores, kitchen stores, or online at rehab or medical product websites.

Most of the products are very reasonably priced, especially considering the tremendous gain they provide for seniors to aid in remaining independent.

Making accommodations and finding ways to work smarter, not harder, for seniors who age in place will benefit their safety and your peace of mind!

Promise me you will always remember – you are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. ~ Christopher Robin

Coping with Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Parkinson’s disease is a chronic and progressive movement disorder whose symptoms continue and worsen over time.

Nearly one million people in the US are living with Parkinson’s disease.

The cause is unknown and there is currently no cure but there are treatment options, including medication and surgery.

Parkinson’s disease in every stage of the process causes frustration and disruptions in daily tasks for seniors and their caregivers.

Managing Symptoms

The goal for family caregivers is to help manage the symptoms to reduce the impact on the life of the loved one with Parkinson’s.

Symptoms can be different for each person.

Common symptoms include:

  • rigidity
  • rest tremors
  • uncoordinated movements
  • slow movements
  • postural instability
  • fatigue
  • constipation
  • depression

Caregivers Help Cope

Caregivers are often the ones to help those with Parkinson’s complete their tasks of daily living especially as the symptoms progress.

Here are some tips to help you cope:

  1. If your senior experiences what is known as “freezing,” when muscles suddenly lock up especially during walking, use an auditory or visual cue such as counting with each step or picturing an object and stepping over it.
  2. If your senior is having tremors, the hallmark symptom of Parkinson’s, have them purposefully move the affected body part to alleviate the symptoms.
  3. If your senior is having trouble eating food due to uncoordinated movement, try balance-enhancing exercises such as Tai Chi to regain coordination in day to day movements.
  4. If your senior has postural instability, that is they look like they are leaning into the wind, balance exercises and physical therapy can improve muscle strength to help with balance and prevent falls.
  5. Be sure to take the medications intended to help symptoms as prescribed.
  6. Be ready to discuss any changes or concerns with your senior’s doctor.
  7. Be aware that the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease can fluctuate throughout the day and week. Understanding these fluctuations and helping your senior loved one do as much for themselves as they can on any given day will help you both cope better.

Additional Resources

We have a few other posts that you might find informative about Parkinson’s Disease and Caregiving.

It is important for caregivers of people with Parkinson’s to take good care of themselves too because this disease can be slow to progress and you may be caring for them for an extended period of time.

Naturally you are happy they are with you for years, but this level of caregiving can take a physical and mental toll on you so be sure to practice self-care daily.

Family Caregiver, Care for Yourself to Be at Your Best in Caring for Others

Do you care for aging parents, grandparents or other elder loved ones?

Are you still caring for your own children at the same time?

Maybe you have young adult children who, like many, “boomeranged” back home and now you care for them, maybe including supporting them financially?

You may be members of the “sandwich generation” who are struggling to deal with the responsibilities of aging parents and growing children.

A 2013 Pew Research Center report addressed sandwich generation caregivers because their numbers were growing quickly and there were specific issues related to this group of people that needed to be discussed.

Family Caregivers

The Pew report found that almost half (47%) of adults in their 40s and 50s have a parent age 65 or older.

These adults are either raising a young child or financially supporting a grown child (age 18 or older). As many as 44% are caring for children under 21 years old in addition to their aging parents

In addition, about one-in-seven middle-aged adults (15%) is providing financial support to both an aging parent and a child.

According to the most recent report from the National Alliance for Caregiving, 34 million Americans provided care for older adults in the past year.

Many Family Caregivers Negatively Impacted

Nearly half of these people stated they did not have a choice in becoming a caregiver.

These caregivers are providing not only assistance with daily care but also other tasks such as communicating with health professionals, advocating for their care, transporting them to receive care and also doing skilled nursing tasks with little training.

One in five of these caregivers report that their personal health has declined since becoming a caregiver and feel they have both physical and emotional stress from caregiving.

Unfortunately, six out of ten are employed working on average 34.8 hours a week.

Even though sandwich generation caregivers often report feeling pulled in every direction they report happiness at the same rate as those of their age who are not caregivers.

Don’t Overlook Caring for the Caregiver

It is no wonder that family caregivers who are juggling that many responsibilities wear thin easily.

Getting pulled in every direction, trying to make everyone happy, keeping everyone safe, and meeting everyone’s expectations can be overwhelming.

The last person you might think of keeping healthy is yourself, the caregiver.

It is very important that you stay healthy to meet everyone’s needs.

  1. Get enough rest. If you are tired and irritable, you will have a more difficult time meeting other’s needs. You need to rest to allow your body to recover and heal from the day’s events.
  2. Keep yourself organized so you can manage your time and talents effectively. Make use of technology to schedule activities for everyone in your network for whom you are responsible. You should also schedule time for yourself to get health checkups and respite time.
  3. Have someone ready to back you up when needed. Another person who can take over a few of your duties such as family members or friends can really come in handy. Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. Now is a great time to build your caregiving network so that you have support to lean on and people who can help you when needed.
  4. Learn all you can about the special care needs of your senior loved one so that you can perform duties with the least stress. Most caregivers find hand-on demonstration works better than written instructions especially for medically related tasks.
  5. Determine all your financial options with helpers, paid caregivers, flex time at work, insurance policies, tax credits, family medical leave and other potential benefits. Talk to your employer about your situation to let them know what you need and pursue possible flexible arrangements to help you cope with your responsibilities. Avoid spending your own money on your senior’s care because you will find it difficult to earn enough in the near future for your own retirement and aging needs.
  6. Investigate the possibility of home modifications and technology systems that could make your caregiving experience easier. Some simple changes like moving their bedroom to the first floor or lowering often used items to shelves in reach can help.
  7. If possible, get a durable power of attorney for your senior loved one so that you can get health information and financial information when needed. Being able to access medical information and financial records can be important at times so being prepared ahead of time can relieve this burden in an emergency.
  8. Encourage and facilitate planning for aging with your senior loved one. Be aware of their financial status, long term care insurance and potential caregiving needs.
  9. Realize when more help is needed and you can’t do it alone. If aging parents are no longer capable of remaining where they are, it will be in their (and your) best interests to admit it and get help.
  10. Don’t ignore your own health needs. Get regular checkups, take prescribed medications, get preventive care such as mammograms and immunizations and seek respite so you have time to spend with family and friends to help your own mental health.

Be careful that your caregiving does not take over your life. Find ways to relieve your stress and renew your attitude to face all your caregiving challenges head on.

“Most stress comes from thinking of the past or the future. The present moment is always the most powerful time in your life”.
Craig Townsend

 “When everything seems like an uphill struggle, just think of the view from the top”
Anonymous