Dining Out With Diabetes-Friendly Meals — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

For many seniors, it is still a treat to eat out with family and friends.

That “treat” can bring with it a challenge, though.

Some seniors may find it difficult to choose the healthiest food from the menu when they eat out because they are trying to manage a chronic disease, such as diabetes.

Tips for Healthier Dining Out

We don’t want to stop eating out but need to make a few changes when we do to manage our health and diabetes.

If your senior — or you — is battling diabetes and trying to manage meals when eating out, these tips from the American Diabetes Association will help narrow the choices from a huge menu.

  1. Ask what is in a dish and how it is prepared; ask them to make it without extra butter, sugar or salt to manage your senior’s individual diet
  2. Request a smaller portion or put part of the meal in a doggy bag before you begin eating
  3. Skip the high fat dressings and toppings or ask for it on the side and dip greens instead of pouring it on
  4. Select items that aren’t fried or breaded
  5. Ask for substitutions of the high-fat side items with healthier options like fresh vegetables
  6. If you don’t see lower calorie items on the menu, ask for them because they are usually available
  7. Watch how much alcohol you drink, as it will impact your blood sugar

Eat for Health

The US Department of Agriculture has adopted a way to help us all make healthy food choices whether we have a chronic disease like diabetes or just trying to avoid it.

It is called MyPlate and you may have seen the icon and information on food packages.

MyPlate suggestions are based on age and have specific information for seniors.

Their tips include:

  1. Build a healthy plate using the MyPlate as a guide. Include all types of foods each day (and preferably at each meal) — vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low fat dairy and protein foods.
  2. Cut back on foods that are high in solid fat or added sugar or salt.
  3. Eat the right amount of calories for you to help manage your weight. You can do this by cutting back on portion sizes, not the variety of foods you choose, to manage weight while maintaining your health.

The American Diabetes Association version of MyPlate is called Create Your Plate. They encourage us to add lean protein on 1/4 of the plate, grains and starchy foods on 1/4 of the plate and non-starchy vegetables on 1/2 the plate. Add in a low calorie drink and a serving of fruit or dairy as a dessert to help keep your meal balanced and nutrient rich.

Managing portions in this way will help with weight management too!

Additional Resources

Here are a few articles about diabetes and nutrition for seniors that you might like to read:

Clinical Trial Innovation – Participating in Research From Home

Clinical trials are an important step in the progress toward treatments and cures — and thus our health.

You know the trials are important, so what stops you from participating?

Many say they fear the unknown.

Others say they don’t want to travel to the location.

Many fear they will get a placebo and waste time and energy for no personal results.

Can technology come to the rescue to improve results?

Clinical Trial Innovation

Removing barriers to improve the level of participation in study trials is something researchers have been striving to do to achieve successful outcomes.

A new trial has been established that will help do just that with the use of technology.

People who have hypertension, also known as high blood pressure, and are taking blood pressure lowering medications have been invited to join this study from the comfort of their own home.

Participants can use their own computer, tablet, or smartphone to access the study and enter data into the study app that they are already compiling – blood pressure readings.

This particular study also offers an added incentive. Cash!

Virtual Hypertension Clinical Trial

The Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Harvard Medical School and AchieveMint are conducting this online, virtual research study to learn about hypertension.

The goal is to better understand the management of high blood pressure and hopes to benefit many with hypertension in the future.

This is online-only survey includes a free blood pressure cuff to take readings.

It does not include medication and there are no live visits.

They are seeking participants who have high blood pressure —  greater than 140/90 — and are currently taking at least one anti-hypertension medication.

You should be over 18 years of age and live in the US.

You simply record your blood pressure reading with a blood pressure cuff they will provide. You then enter your blood pressure readings three times a week into the app installed on your personal computer, tablet, or smartphone.

Eligible participants can earn up to $100 compensation if they complete the study.

The only contraindications to participation are dialysis, chemotherapy, or radiation therapy.

The results of the study will be published to advance knowledge.

How to Join the Study

AchieveMint has this information to help you decide if this is something you can do:

  1. Complete screener questions online at link below.
  2. Provide consent and complete an initial survey.
  3. To verify that you are eligible for the study, we’ll need to check that your blood pressure is within a certain range. To do this, we’ll mail you a simple wireless blood pressure cuff so that you can submit your blood pressure measurements from home.
  4. If eligible, use an app and submit blood pressure measurements 3 more times over 12 weeks.
  5. Complete a final survey at 12 weeks.
  6. Receive up to $100 for your contributions to the study!

The AchieveMint Studies website will help you to complete the study surveys and to connect the necessary apps to your study profile.

Data Security

Security of personal health information is another concern many people have when considering using health apps on their smartphones and joining a research study.

This is what AchieveMint says about security:

All information about you and your study data will be stored securely at all times on limited access, encrypted servers. Only authorized research staff can view any study data and all analysis will be conducted using data that is anonymized (i.e. the data contains no identifying information about you). We will only share and/or publish results from this study using overall summary data with information from all patients combined; we will never report findings on any one individual person’s responses.

Getting Started

If this virtual study is of interest to your senior loved one or you as family caregiver, you can get started by taking the pre-screener now!

Using technology to make it easier for us to participate in clinical trials is an idea whose time has come and we look forward to more of these innovations to help find treatments and cure disease that plague our senior loved ones (and us)!

cureclick why volunteer wide

Health Technology Solutions – Will They Be What Your Senior Needs?

Seniors who are aging in place will be helped through the use of technology.

Family caregivers can get some help keeping senior loved ones healthy and safe by using some technology devices.

Just what is coming, though — what should caregivers be anticipating in the growing tech market geared toward seniors?

What holds promise on the horizon (or some innovations that are new and available) for the benefit of aging in place seniors and caregivers?

There are many products out there now that are meeting needs of our senior loved ones, but some of the developments about which we are hearing seem to be science fiction. Think Jetsons or Star Trek – beam me up Scotty!

If they help our senior loved ones, though, does it matter?

X-rays Via a Smartphone App

A new developer hopes to bring this idea to fruition. Todd O’Brien, the founder of ScanDx, wants to help assess potential bone fractures on site at the point of injury without special equipment.

Using a sound based app, Fracture Dx could make use of the knowledge that a fractured bone transmits less sound. Similar to using a tuning fork, this is how he describes the technology behind the app.

“FractureDx is an early-stage device that consists of a smartphone attached to a high-sensitivity microphone and stethoscope for picking up the resulting sound. A smartphone app interprets the soundwaves and automatically returns a diagnosis of fracture or no fracture.”

The idea is to prevent unnecessary x-rays and to determine if there is a fracture present. It won’t tell the degree or extent of the fracture yet but could help to determine if more medical care is needed. It would serve as a screening method hopefully reducing unnecessary x-rays, medical costs and radiation exposure.

There will be obstacles, of course, including doctor adoption of this shortcut and medical malpractice concerns, regulation including FDA approval, knowledge of its operation and who would be using the app.

The developer feels it will be most useful for first responders, athletic trainers, and perhaps even homecare nurses, who could keep the app on their phone ready for use.

This and other ideas will open the door for using portable diagnostic devices to help consumers and reduce medical costs. This device could lead to other applications such as bone density assessment or joint hardware failure.

This same innovator created a method to diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy using a similar technique.

Pocket Diagnostic App

Researchers at the University of Cambridge have developed a smartphone app that can measure color-based or colorimetric tests used in home or clinically remote settings. It will then transit results to a health professional for further assessment and treatment.

Portable point of care diagnostics will help reduce health care costs and make health and safety a bit easier for our vulnerable aging in place seniors.

This app takes an accurate reading off a color strip for specific tests for people with diabetes, kidney disease, and urinary tract infections. It more accurately reads the color result on the strip to avoid false positives.

Once the test is performed, an image of the strip is photographed in the smartphone app. The result can be saved and sent to the healthcare provider for a diagnosis and fast treatment interventions.

Heart Failure Disease Management

Congestive heart failure affects millions of seniors and can lead to poor health and high medical costs.

A new idea from Endotronix has a hardware and software strategy to help manage heart failure.

It will use remote monitoring with devices already in the home, such as blood pressure monitors, pulse oximeter, weight scales, and heart rate monitors, collecting data and sharing it with the health care team. It will collect the readings being taken and more efficiently communicate with healthcare providers.

The software allows improved communication between consumers (seniors and caregivers) and the medical team. It will have protocols so that care recipients get follow-up timely to prevent crisis situations. It will help not only people with heart failure but organize the response from the medical team more seamlessly.

Wearable, Stretchable Electronic Devices for Health

Wearables is a large market collecting health data for improved lifestyle behavior for us all including seniors. Wearable bands track our steps, our sleep, our hydration and our stress not to mention other biometrics.

Now a new wave of wearables is poised to measure the heart, brain and muscles using a second skin applied to our bodies.

One such new skin type device is able to connect to a smartphone and monitor sun exposure in real time using a stretchable electronic that is half the width of a human hair and applied to the skin.

The skin-like device contains a near-field communication antenna and microchip to send signals to the app.

This is expected to be just the beginning for stretchable electronic devices, which could have significant impact for other health solutions.


Has your senior communicated virtually with a health professional yet? If not, they probably will have a chance to do so in the near future.

Calling the doctor using a video screen, such as their smartphone, tablet or computer, to get an evaluation before you head out to the emergency room is happening for many right now.

Texting doctors and connecting on Facebook is another way many older adults and caregivers are using technology to access healthcare.

Telemedicine is being adopted by many medical practices and healthcare systems in an effort to reduce costs to deliver care.

Smartphone apps are in use now to get a virtual face to face exam with a doctor for diagnosis and screening such as Doctor on Demand.

For seniors and caregivers it means better access without having to transport fragile seniors, getting care when distance is great and when chronic disease management will keep seniors out of hospitals.

Telemedicine technology has improved with fast broadband service, improved audio and video hardware, and the use of electronic stethoscope.

It can eliminate the distance between seniors and healthcare providers — and thus better care.

Future of Aging in Place

Seniors are living longer and are staying in their home longer, too.

How can seniors get the support that they will need to stay in their homes safely?

Caregivers alone won’t be able to meet all their senior loved one’s needs, especially when caregivers have their own families to nurture and also if they are long distance carers.

Experts agree that one necessary part of aging in place will be the need for internet connectivity to drive health and safety technology devices. Home monitoring, telemedicine, socialization, safety devices, home comfort and other tech innovations will need internet services to communicate with each other and the entire caregiving network.

It won’t be enough to just live at home for seniors.

They desire — and we want for them — a safe, healthy experience and to maintain an acceptable quality of life while they live at home.

Technology innovation may be part of the solution to their desires.

Suddenly You’re a Caregiver – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Over 65 million Americans, primarily women — with the number of men increasing rapidly — provide unpaid care to loved ones.

Many take over these duties suddenly as a result of a traumatic event, such as an illness, injury, new diagnosis, or hospitalization.

Most new caregivers are unprepared for the role into which they are thrust, taking on responsibility for caring for older adults.

It is important that caregivers don’t let the physical and emotional strain lead to illness, depression and injury for themselves.

Family Caregiving

Rosalyn Carter said it best,

“There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.”

Many of us will be caregivers soon, if we aren’t already.

Some may be in the sandwich generation, caring now for seniors when they are still caring for their children or adult children who are still living at home. This has been termed triple decker sandwich caregivers (sandwiched in between others).

If you find yourself a caregiver, it is important to care for yourself as well, so that you can sustain all the duties required by those who are depending on you to care for them.

Tips for New Caregivers

Here are some tips we are reminded about by author Tory Zellick in an article published by the HuffPost50.

  1. Build a team: Form your network of people who can assist you with caregiving duties, household chores or emotional support. Being a good caregiver starts with knowing when and who to ask for help. Having these people available, especially in an emergency, will help you cope. Someone from your network can also help provide you much needed respite so you can continue being a strong caregiver.
  1. Get organized: You will be buried in a mountain of paperwork, including insurance information, medical forms, bills, medication lists, and more. Creating a system to keep it all straight and accessible will help you in the long run. You can use technology to help you organize health information and lists that will constantly need updating. Be sure to have access to your senior’s advance directives, too, using technology.
  1. Take care of yourself! We can’t say that enough. Get enough sleep, eat nutritious foods, stay connected with other parts of your life besides your caregiving duties, and seek out ways to relieve your stress. Caring for yourself allows you to care for others. As they say at the beginning of an airline flight, ‘put on your own oxygen mask first before assisting others.’

Check out our Caregiver Store and the Senior Care Corner® website to find resources to help you learn about your new role and cope with the situations you encounter.

Additional Resources

We feel strongly that caregivers needs support and tips to make their journey easier so we have want to share with you a variety of topics that support family caregivers we hope you will enjoy!

Alzheimer’s Detection and Diagnosis – While Researchers Seek a Cure

Would you want to know the risk you or your loved ones will develop Alzheimer’s dementia?

Alzheimer’s disease has a major impact on families.

At this time, there is no cure for Alzheimer’s.

It is the US’s 6th leading cause of death and more than 5 million people are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease.

Unfortunately, 1 in 3 people will die with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementias.

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that destroys brain cells and affects memory, impairing daily living.

The goal of early detection is finding and beginning treatment and lifestyle changes that can slow its progression.

Finding strategies that help you and your family cope with the progression of memory loss can improve the quality of life, not only for the family member with Alzheimer’s but also the rest of the family, especially the family caregivers.

New Detection Tool Shows Promise

Researchers at the University of California at San Francisco’s VA Medical Center have developed a tool that has been shown to be 87% accurate at predicting the onset of dementia within six years.

Using a series of questions, with no equipment needed, it can be administered in the doctor’s office. The doctor will review medical history, physical status, and cognition during the evaluation.

Risk factors are 70 years or older, poor scores on standard cognitive tests, history of coronary bypass surgery, slow functioning on everyday tasks like buttoning a shirt, non-consumption of alcohol and a body mass index less than 18.

The higher the score obtained on the tool, the higher the risk of developing dementia in six years.

This scoring system allows doctors to tell a person if they are at low, medium or high risk and follow up with their care according to the level of risk.

At this time there is still no tool that will prove that a person has dementia, it is subject to testing based on assessment protocols, risk factors and observed symptoms.

Assessment is based on a person’s medical history, neurological exam, medical exam, mental status testing and imaging of the brain.

Warning Signs of Alzheimer’s Disease

Here are the signs, from the Alzheimer’s Association, for which you can look to be present in your loved one if you suspect the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease.

  • Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  • Challenges in planning or solving problems
  • Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, work or leisure
  • Confusion with time or place
  • Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  • New problems with words in speaking or writing
  • Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  • Diminished or poor judgment
  • Withdrawal from work or social activities
  • Changes in mood and personality

If your loved one has one or more of the above signs, contact your physician to discuss what it means and options for treatment.

Testing for Alzheimer’s Disease

Through research, it has been found there are certain genes that can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Most healthcare professionals do not routinely recommend testing for these genetic markers because they indicate risk not certainty of developing the disease.

Genetic Testing

  1. APOE-e-4 is the gene which indicates the strongest risk for Alzheimer’s. It can be detected via blood test but is primarily used by researchers in clinical trials.
  2. Familial genes, “autosomal dominant Alzheimer’s disease (ADAD)”, are found in less than 5% of all Alzheimer’s cases. The ADAD genes run strongly in some families and will result in a diagnosis earlier in life.
  3. Amyloid precursor protein (APP), presenilin-1 (PS-1), and presenilin-2 (PS-2) are genes of interest whose mutations are related to Alzheimer’s.

Home Testing

Some companies have been marketing home screening tests.

Most experts agree that these tests should not be used to replace a complete evaluation by a healthcare professional.

Biomarker Testing

There is no current valid biomarker test available but research into beta-amyloid and tau levels in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) is underway and could hold promise.

Research suggests Azheimer’s disease in early stages may cause changes in CSF levels of tau and beta-amyloid, two proteins that form abnormal brain deposits strongly linked to the disease.

Measuring the amount of these proteins is a key indicator for diagnosing the disease but a standard procedure is still under study.

Another course of investigation is testing blood and urine levels of tau and beta-amyloid proteins as well as changes in the eye. Detecting the presence of these proteins throughout the body is one course of research currently funded by the Alzheimer’s Association.

Brain Imaging

Early detection using imaging is a very promising area of study.

MRI and CT scanning are often used to assess for Alzheimer’s disease and rule out the presence of other diseases that produce symptoms such as tumors or fluid buildup.

Molecular imaging tracer studies allow a chemical to bind with amyloid plaques in the brain and visualize more clearly a characteristic trait of Alzheimer’s.

Mild Cognitive Impairment

People who have been diagnosed with MCI are shown to have a significant increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s within a few years compared to people with normal cognition.

However, not everyone with MCI will develop Alzheimer’s and their cognition will not worsen over time.

Hope Continues for Alzheimer’s Treatment and Cure

Research into ways to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s as well as early detection is increasing rapidly.

The goal of early diagnosis is to provide treatment in the hope that strategies for future treatment can begin before irreversible damage to the brain occurs.

The number of people diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease by the year 2050 is expected to reach 16 million so we will all be touched in some way by this disease.

Some people may prefer not to know, but knowing gives you power to cope!

Until there is a cure, increase your knowledge and get support to help you plan for and manage the changes your loved one and family may be experiencing.

Service Dogs as Companions and Assistants for Seniors with Dementia

Dogs as companions for seniors is a topic we like to discuss.

That is but one of the roles a dog can fill for our loved ones, though.

Yes, having the unconditional love of a pet can provide seniors who wish to age in place one with whom they can exchange love and attention, especially when they are home alone.

Pets can give purpose to a life with few other roles to fill when a senior is retired, having mobility or health issues and is unable to visit others for socialization as freely as they once did.

Did you know there are dogs that are helping seniors with tasks, too?

Service dogs are not just for people who have disabilities, such as visual or hearing impairments, mental illnesses, seizure disorders or diabetes, anymore as they once were.

Specially trained and certified dogs are finding places in homes with people with dementia.

Service Pets

Service pets (usually dogs) are specially trained to do work or perform specific tasks for people.

They can guide blind people through the city streets, alert deaf people to ringing phones or emergency sirens, can pull a wheelchair or protect someone having a seizure. More are being used for people with autism too and now with dementia.

The animal is linked with the needs of a specific person and trained to meet their special needs.

Some things a trained dog can do:

  • Flip on a light switch
  • Pick up something that was dropped
  • Alert to sounds
  • Remind to take medications or get medications
  • Bring an emergency phone to the owner
  • Respond to a smoke alarm
  • Wake up the owner
  • Keep strangers away
  • Ease mobility by pulling wheelchair and providing direction to a safe walking path

Service pets are allowed in public areas under the American with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Most service animals are identified with a vest, badge or tags but this is not a requirement.

Owners may be asked if the pet is in service due to a disability and what tasks the pet is trained to perform.

However, a business or public location cannot demand proof of a disability to allow access to the animal and can’t charge the owner for their access.

The business is within their rights to demand the pet leaves the premises for behavior or threat.

An owner of a service dog can deduct the cost of training, medical expenses and maintaining a service dog on their taxes but not routine care, such as grooming or food, if they have a qualifying disability.

Dementia and Service Dogs

Is there a new breed in town that will help people with dementia have a better quality of life?

There just might be one, at least in terms of service and training.

Service dogs are providing comfort, companionship, and assistance for people with dementia and their family caregivers.

Because dementia affects processes in the brain, such as memory, object recognition, sequencing activities and language, specially trained service dogs can help fill the gaps by providing assistance.

Service dogs can provide both service assistance and companionship.

Dementia is considered a mental illness, which means that service dogs for people with Alzheimer’s and related dementias will have total access in public places under the ADA.

Dogs who will best fill the role of a service dog for people with dementia should have a temperament that allows them to follow commands and adjust to the mood changes in the owner and react accordingly.

Service Dog Roles for Seniors with Dementia

Dogs who assist people with dementia can be trained to:

  1. Guide their owner home if lost and will stay with the person barking out to get help
  2. Carrier of GPS coordinate locator in their collar to help families find their loved one
  3. Help with daily tasks, such as giving reminders about dressing, medications, eating — even waking them up if needed
  4. Keep the person with dementia from wandering out of the house when alone
  5. Mobility and balance support
  6. Companionship, relief of boredom and loneliness
  7. Provides tactile and cognitive stimulation
  8. Evoke memories and reminiscing
  9. Ease symptoms of Sundowning, relay a sense of calmness
  10. Help stick to the routine and guide them through their day
  11. Improves socialization, as they are conversation starters for people they meet (what is your dog’s name? etc)
  12. Send alarm if there is a fall in the home

Is there a role in your senior loved one’s life for a service dog?

Training Dogs to Meet Needs

Dogs can be trained for the specific needs of your senior loved one with dementia. Dogs are trained to the scent of the person for whom they care. This is how the dog would track them if they should wander from home.

Dogs trained to help people with dementia are led on a six-foot leash to walk in front of the person with dementia, not using a harness as with other disabilities.

The cost of training a dog for dementia caregiving is less than what one might pay for one or two months in an assisted living facility. If a dog could keep them home safely longer than that, the investment would pay for itself.

Dogs trained as dementia caregivers and in service to people with dementia are providing assistance with daily tasks, companionship, confidence and purposefulness in the life of people with dementia. In addition, they essentially anchor the reality of the senior.

Research is underway to find out how having a trained assistance dog may impact the progression of the disease, it may help slow down memory loss.

Here is a video that you might like describing dementia service dogs.

This loving friend, companion, and anchor helps people with dementia maintain a meaningful day and improves their quality of life.

Preventing Anemia in Senior Loved Ones – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Seniors, as they age, often have many physical complaints.

Some of those are related to specific medical conditions, others seemingly come out of nowhere.

Anemia can cause many common health complaints, including fatigue, loss of energy, pale skin, cold hands and feet, shortness of breath, irregular heart beat and dizziness.

Our seniors are at risk from the effects of anemia, which is a treatable disease.

These are some of the potential causes of anemia as we age:

  • An inadequate intake of iron containing foods
  • Chronic medical conditions, which is known as anemia of chronic disease
  • Multiple medications can affect hemoglobin levels
  • Unknown bleeding
  • Blood diseases
  • Cancer
  • B12 deficiency

A blood test is needed to determine a diagnosis and then a cause needs to be determined to decide on the best course of treatment. A discussion with your senior’s doctor is recommended.

Tips to Prevent Iron Deficiency Anemia

If you are worried that your senior’s diet may me lacking key nutrients, such as iron, here are some suggestions for improving their diet.

  1. Eat foods rich in iron, such as dried fruits, lean beef, dark green leafy vegetables, beans and iron fortified cereals.
  2. Eat foods rich in folate, such as citrus fruits, bananas, dark green leafy vegetables, and fortified grains.
  3. Include foods containing vitamin B12, such as fortified cereals and soy products, as well as meat and dairy foods.
  4. Take vitamin rich foods with citrus foods; they are good sources of vitamin C, which makes it easier to absorb iron.
  5. Ask your senior’s doctor if supplements would be helpful.
  6. Check with their pharmacist to be sure their medications are not worsening anemia.
  7. Ensure the doctor has checked for sources of bleeding that could require treatment.

Eating a nutritious diet and talking with your senior loved one’s doctor about their symptoms will help keep your senior healthy!

Additional Resources

Here are some additional resources about nutrition and aging for you to learn more to help your senior (and yourself) be better nourished:

Aging in Place Caregiving Options When Seniors Choose Living at Home

Your senior loved one has decided that it is important they stay in the community instead of living in an institution as they age.

Aging in place is the way most seniors (and future seniors) say they want to live.

Now you, as your senior’s family caregiver, are being called upon to provide care and find help for them for a multitude of tasks.

What types of things will your senior need?

What things are you able to do or provide to meet their needs so they can remain independent?

Caregivers of All Kinds

What types of interventions, and therefore helpers, will your senior loved one require to remain at home — safely, comfortably and independently?

There are many types of helpers your senior may need, depending on their functional status, now and how they might change in their future. Remember that aging in place requires planning, not just for the here and now but for the future as well.

While family caregivers can and do provide much needed care even above what they are trained to do, they are not the only care providers that should be used.

There may be a long list of needs with which someone can help along the way and every possible resource should be used.

Caregivers are often overburdened and get burned out when they are the only ones on whom their senior loved ones are able to depend for help.

Family Caregivers

What are some things most family caregivers do?

They can stop by and check up on senior loved ones to be sure they are doing okay.

They keep in contact frequently in a variety of ways, including telephone, FaceTime, email and perhaps even Skype for long distance carers.

They often help with light housework, shopping, food preparation and companionship.

They can oversee seniors’ finances.

They perform hands-on care, including things nurses often do, like changing bandages or administering medications.

They go with seniors to healthcare appointments and drive them where they need to go when seniors are no longer safe behind the wheel.

They make sure they have what they need, like proper clothing, food in the fridge, a good book to read or a glass of water beside them when they are thirsty.

They try to help them stay well and enjoy their days.

Home Helpers

If your senior needs a bit more help, perhaps more often than a family member can provide, then homemakers or helpers could be a good option.

Home helpers can cook meals and do the grocery shopping.

They can clean the house and do the laundry.

They may be able to provide your senior with transportation to doctor’s appointments, shopping, getting medicine, beauty shop trips and other places they want to visit.

Companions can come and just sit with your senior loved one to be sure they stay safe while family caregivers aren’t present and to provide some socialization so seniors aren’t lonely.

There are virtual versions of companions now that can help keep your senior company using technology.

Paid Home Care

Nursing services can help seniors with their medical needs.

Do they need help administering medications, monitoring their medical condition or blood work, or changing bandages?

There are many agencies available to that can provide these specialized services.

Your senior’s doctor is a good reference for these activities.

Senior Centers

There are also centers available that seniors can attend during the day.

They generally serve a nutritious meal, offer a wide variety of activities, and provide social opportunities to keep attendees active.

Transportation to and from the centers is often available.

Respite Programs

Respite care for family caregivers is available from a variety of organizations when they simply need a break in order to provide their best care to senior loved ones.

Community Partners

There are a variety of community resources and services that your senior will need as they age in place.

Think of all the things they have done around their house that they may no longer be able to do due to mobility or chronic health conditions.

Community resources will be able to complete these tasks for them, allowing them to stay in their homes.

Doing the yard work could be a definite need for seniors who want to live in their forever home but can no longer cut the grass, rake the leaves, clear the snow or prune the rose bushes away from the windows.

How about a handyman on speed dial who can change light bulbs, replace fire alarm batteries or repair the loose board on the front porch steps? There are going to be innumerable small home repairs that will be needed so befriending a good handyman will be vital to aging in place!

How about someone to do more detailed home repairs, such as widening the bathroom door so that the wheelchair will fit through it to use the bathroom? Maybe they want more lighting in dark spaces of the home or grab bars in the shower? A construction company, electrician, plumber and other home care experts will need to be available to get and keep your seniors home ready for aging.

The sooner larger home renovations are made, the easier it will be for your senior loved one to be safe and comfortable in their home.

Another community partner that may come in handy for seniors aging in place is a home meal delivery service. Your senior may not have the strength, interest or skills to cook healthy meals for themselves, at least once in a while. Instead of not eating and becoming malnourished, getting a company or agency to deliver healthy meals to their door is a great service to look for before it is needed.

There are many companies that provide this type of service and trying a few to find one that cooks food the way they want is a good thing to find ahead of time.

The beauty of a meal delivery service is that having someone besides a family caregiver come to the home each day allows another check on their well-being and someone to provide socialization.

Robotic Caregivers

This is a very new and, for some, controversial topic, but the rise of the robot caregiver is coming.

There are some already in use in other countries, doing some things that help to enhance aging in place for seniors.

They are not intended to replace a human’s touch but help with various tasks of caregiving, depending on the device.

We have had robotic vacuum cleaners in our homes for some time and these caregiving robots are not much different in concept.

Plan Ahead For Caregiving

Some of these options can be costly and are typically the responsibility of seniors or their families to pay.

Needless to say, this will require some advance financial planning. Don’t wait until it is needed to determine how seniors will cover the cost of their aging home care.

Understanding what their needs may be and that family caregivers can’t do it all for them is also a good conversation to have with your senior loved ones in advance.

Being realistic that family members need a support network of community helpers to keep seniors safe at home will be essential to meeting their needs without burnout!

Planning ahead and discussing all potential options for your senior loved one with the whole family including your senior loved one may result in more successful aging in place.

Dementia Interventions to Improve Daily Life for Seniors and Caregivers

Senior loved ones who have been diagnosed with dementia, especially in the later stages, may send family caregiver looking for ways to make the day to day routine easier.

How can you help improve the quality of both your lives?

There are complementary strategies that might improve how your senior loved one feels and participates in the events of the day.

The goal of complementary interventions is to promote well-being and are used in conjunction with conventional medicine — not in place of it.

Caution with Some Alternative Strategies

Have you considered trying something different to help make the day go easier with your senior who has dementia?

Alternative health therapies such as herbal supplements and medical foods are often purchased by caregivers hoping to see some improvement in memory or daily function in their senior loved one.

Unfortunately, these therapies are unproven and rely largely on personal testimony rather than actual scientific evidence.

Some of these items can be harmful and caution should be the watchword. Some may interfere with prescription medication, not contain what they say or just cost you money you don’t have.

Your senior shouldn’t stop taking prescription medications without the doctor’s approval because you think these alternatives will help.

Therapies For Comfort and Symptom Management

Other types of complementary therapies may not change the trajectory of your senior with dementia’s disease course, but they may give them some comfort and relief when provided.

Complementary techniques are not invasive, meaning they don’t puncture the skin or enter the body, and most are considered generally safe.

They may not all have scientifically proven effects as the research hasn’t kept up with the marketing, but they have shown relief for many and are therefore being studied more now.

These therapies may help with related symptoms such as sleeplessness if not the actual dementia.

Always talk to your senior loved one’s physician to discuss the safety of these options as each person is different and their needs vary.

These complementary approaches include:

  1. Aromatherapy – using essential oils derived from plants applied on the skin, diffused into the air or used in a bath. There is some who believe they help with relaxation and may even help with memory improvement especially lemon balm and lavender oil.
  2. Massage – hands on manipulation of soft tissue often done in combination with aromatherapy. Some evidence has been found that it can help with anxiety or depression but further research is needed.
  3. Meditation – this technique may be more important for stress relief in the caregiver but can help to settle down a person with dementia who is anxious. Trying to focus thoughts and releasing them can give calmness.
  4. Acupuncture – thought to help relieve muscle pain and fatigue by stimulating nerves, it has been studied in relation to dementia but more research is needed to show a benefit.
  5. Exercise – physical activity, especially when it becomes routine, not just an activity to distract, can prove to be both mentally and physically empowering. It can relieve stress in as little as 10 minutes of activity. Find an activity that gives joy in addition to movement such as yoga.
  6. Creative arts – drawing, painting, pottery, music, creative writing, storytelling, poetry, dance and movement, drama with the help of an art therapist or OT/PT. It has been found that for some people with dementia, their creative side is not negatively impacted but may also be enhanced. Researchers believe that creative expression is both healing and whole-making when the person can use this media to express themselves when words or thoughts are lost.
  7. Socialization – engaging with others can help memory, it can help stimulate the brain and keep the brain focused.
  8. Using technology – a recent study found that people who used a computer when they were 85 and older were 53% less likely to be diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment than those who did not use a computer. Technology can aid socialization, link to family, provide music and even a means of communication.
  9. Music therapy – not just listening but also making music with music that is recognizable; allows the person with dementia to reminisce; they often remember lyrics even when communication is greatly diminished.
  10. Doll therapy – dolls can often provide a safe and comfortable feeling for seniors with dementia. It can give them a sense of purpose in their day, something to love and nurture. Dolls can help manage behavioral symptoms of dementia such as anxiety, aggression and wandering.

Parkinson’s Caregiving Tips

If your senior loved one is one of the one-quarter to one-third of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) who also have dementia, you might be struggling with ways to meet their unique needs.

The best thing for caregivers with these special needs is to seek out others who can give you support through in person or online support groups. Learning from people who have firsthand experience can be extremely helpful.

People with PD and dementia may have difficulty with their attention and concentration which can appear when they try to shift from one activity to another. They may have difficulty problem solving or organizing an activity and especially find it hard to do more than one thing at a time or multi-tasking.

This can be problematic for caregivers when day to day care is affected like dressing choices or completing one task fully before starting another without regard to time sensitivity.

Your senior loved one with PD and dementia probably also has an impaired sense of direction, word finding trouble and short-term memory difficult which negatively impacts their daily life (and yours).

Having impaired motor control and sleeping during the day are often associated with this diagnosis too.

Recommendations to Improve Quality of Life

  • Get a medication review to see if any medications are worsening some of their symptoms
  • Participate in research studies that could provide support
  • Get your senior’s attention before talking, asking a question or giving a command
  • Always maintain eye contact with them
  • Give them choices instead of questions that are open ended for example:

Don’t: What do you want to wear today?

Do: Would you like the blue outfit or the brown outfit today?

  • Be sure to talk slowly so that they can understand what is said, don’t rush them
  • Be prepared for healthcare visits with a list of questions, medication list, and any symptoms to discuss
  • Declutter the environment to reduce confusion
  • Remember to keep them engaged and socialize with others
  • Keep a routine, schedule activities
  • See an occupational therapist (OT) to get suggestions on improving the home environment and eating assistance, such as weighted utensils
  • Keep head of bed elevated for sleep and wear them out during the day with activities so that they sleep well at night
  • Caregivers are encouraged to attend support groups to get personal tips and practical caregiving help from others in the same situation

Caregivers can schedule some of these complementary activities into the day to help manage and give back some quality of life to both you and your loved one with dementia.