Thanking Family Caregiver Heroes – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Each March we celebrate American Red Cross Month by recognizing heroes and thanking them for all they do for the community and others.

Since 1881, American Red Cross volunteers have been an essential part of our nation’s response to war, natural disaster and other human suffering. We’ve seen the triumph of the human spirit as people work together to help each other rebuild their lives and communities.

Family caregivers are heroes as well, bringing care and hope to senior loved ones.

A hero is defined as a person who is admired for their outstanding achievements or noble qualities, someone with courage who combats adversity with impressive feats.

Yes, family caregivers are indeed heroes!

Doing deeds that help seniors, pitching in with whatever task needs to be done, taking charge when seniors are unable to be in charge, and being responsible for meeting the wide-ranging needs of their senior loved ones are things that caregiver heroes do every day!

Family caregivers do this under great stress and with little thanks.

Ways to Thank Family Caregivers

Unsung hero family caregivers should be thanked for their help.

These caregivers often have help to accomplish all that they have to do for their senior loved ones as well.

It is important to find ways to celebrate all family caregivers.

Caring Village offers these 7 Ways to Thank a Caregiver:

  1. Say thank you!
  2. Write a letter or card to express your gratitude.
  3. Offer your help to lighten their burden.
  4. Give them a gift.
  5. Give them the day off and take over for them.
  6. Remind them to take time for themselves then help them do just that.
  7. Donate to a charity or organization in their name. Pass on kindness in a cause they will appreciate.

Additional Resources

Family caregivers need support to provide care for seniors as long as they need it. Caring for others is not always easy and at times comes with consequences whether physical, emotional or financial for caregivers.

Here are some articles that we believe will help caregivers care for themselves as they care for others.


Counteracting Sundowning Impacts – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Sundowning is a phenomenon that is faced by many caregivers of those with dementia.

It’s yet another challenge faced by our senior loved ones and family caregivers.

They may not realize there is a name for what happens in their home every afternoon and evening, but it causes them difficulty nonetheless.

The symptoms of sundowning include confusion, agitation, anxiety, ignoring directions, yelling, restlessness, combativeness, and irritability that could result in pacing and wandering.

There are often triggers that bring about these symptoms toward the end of the day such as:

  • Fatigue
  • Overstimulation
  • Darkening light
  • Hunger or thirst
  • Pain
  • Boredom

It is estimated that 1 out of 5 people with dementia will get sundown syndrome (sundowning), though some experts put the number up higher, to as much as 66%. (Sometimes older adults without dementia can be affected by sundowners.) It might be because the senior’s internal clock is broken when signals aren’t sent from the brain telling them it is time for awake or asleep.

Sundowning can be harmful for the person with dementia and exhausting for the caregiver.

Tips to Reduce Sundowning Symptoms

Caregivers need support to counteract the effects of sundowning.

These tips will help you reduce and possibly prevent some of the symptoms:

  1. Observe to determine if the symptoms are from an unmet need that you can address, such as hunger, thirst, pain, need to toilet, or boredom.
  2. Provide a late day nap that isn’t too long to prevent tiredness and fatigue.
  3. Avoid excessive television viewing and other noise or overstimulation during the day. Realistic TV, especially from the news, can trigger memories of events that are painful, sad or evoke anger.
  4. Keep the lights shining in the house as the sun sets.
  5. Give your senior a task to re-direct them and keep them busy. It could be a craft, a puzzle, or doing a chore such as setting the table for dinner.
  6. Avoid caffeine and sugar after midday.
  7. Play soothing music.
  8. Keep a routine.

Additional Resources

Caregivers, here are a few more articles that you might find helpful to avoid burnout dealing with sundowning and dementia.

 




Habits of Heart Healthy Seniors – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

February is Heart Month, when health experts want us all to remember to put our heart health on the front burner.

Caregivers can help their senior loved ones remember they are never too old to adopt and maintain heart healthy habits.

Heart disease is the number one killer in America. Heart attack, hypertension and stroke affect many of our seniors.

The unfortunate reality is that heart disease is often preventable.

Tips for Building Heart Healthy Habits

Family caregivers can help senior loved ones (and themselves) reduce their risk for heart disease by adopting habits that will keep them heart healthy.

Here are a few habits seniors and caregivers should learn:

  1. Know the warning signs of heart disease, (fatigue, short of breath, indigestion, sweating, irregular heart beat) which often appear before a heart attack occurs.
  2. Know your numbers. Learn from your blood work so you know what lifestyle changes will improve your personal health.
  3. Take any prescribed medication correctly, according to the doctor’s orders.
  4. Get moving with an activity you love and will do regularly.
  5. Stop smoking!
  6. Eat a healthy diet that includes fruits, vegetables, lean protein, and whole grains.

Additional Resources

We have a few other articles that caregivers will find helpful making heart healthy lifestyle improvements for themselves and their senior loved ones.


Don’t Let Hazards in Their Home Prevent Aging in Place by Seniors

As family caregivers we worry our senior loved ones are not safe at home when they’re living independently.

Most caregivers are responsible (or at least feel that way) for their aging parents and their ability to safely age in place in the home of their choice.

Unfortunately, caregivers may be unaware of the hazards lurking in their seniors’ homes where they plan to age in place.

It is a good idea for family members to take a long, hard look at the condition of their senior loved one’s home so that potential hazards don’t put them at risk.

Locating hazards could take expert help. Some hazards are easily correctable though others may take some work or even professional assistance.

Hidden Dangers Need Our Attention

Seniors who live in older homes, some of whom may still be living in their very first home, likely have issues that need to be addressed for their safety.

As our loved ones’ bodies change with age, so should their homes. Even newer homes can be hazardous, especially if not designed with the needs of older adults in mind.

Maintenance and simple upkeep, such as cleaning the window screens and painting, are one piece of the puzzle. Older homes can have health hazards not visible to the naked eye that need to be addressed.

Here are some considerations for caregivers when determining the health of a senior’s ‘forever’ home.

  1. Is the air healthy? Does someone smoke or did they in the past? Has the air filter been replaced lately in the heating/cooling system or the ducts cleaned?
  2. Is there dangerous mold present? Are there damp places that need repair or cleaning? Is the basement or attic leaking? Some types of mold are toxic so it needs to be identified and corrected and then a way to keep the house dry in the future installed.
  3. Are gutters and downspouts in good repair? Are the windows and doors free of leaks?
  4. Is the tap water safe to drink? Does the water come from a well or pipes? Is the water system in need of repair? Has well water been tested lately for contaminants?
  5. Are the chemicals stored safely? Are spray bottles with cleaners used correctly to prevent airborne exposure to harmful chemicals? Are there old chemicals on shelves in the garage or home storage that are flammable and need to be properly disposed of?
  6. Is radon present? Is there a detector installed in the home? If radon is present, can it be remediated?
  7. Is carbon monoxide (CO) building up from unvented ovens or heaters, equipment that is not functioning properly, or car exhaust seeping into the home? Is there a CO alarm in the home? Does your senior know what to do if the alarm sounds?
  8. Has the chimney been swept recently? Ventilate all heat sources especially gas, wood and kerosene.
  9. Is there lead or asbestos present that might be airborne? Dust from worn paint may contain lead. Lead in the water from failing solder in pipes may be ingested.
  10. Is the home free of falling hazards like loose throw rugs and clutter? Are the floor boards and flooring secured to prevent trips and falls?
  11. Is there adequate lighting in all parts of the home inside and out to prevent falls in the dark?
  12. Is there a gun stored unlocked in the home?
  13. Is the poison control number listed next to the phone? (800) 222-1222

Expert Tips To Reduce Home Hazards

Caregivers have a lot to think about just keeping their senior loved ones healthy and happy without worrying about the hazards in their homes.

Here are some expert tips to help you investigate and correct any hazards that could impact safe aging in place.

Air Quality

There are many indoor air contaminants that make breathing the air inside the home more harmful than outdoor air pollution.

In addition to asbestos, dampness and old chemicals, harmful items that could be polluting the indoor air include carpets and carpet pads, glue or adhesives used in construction, pests such as cockroaches and dust mites, dust, mold, formaldehyde from smoking and pressed wood products, lead in water and painted surfaces, pet dander,

Solutions: proper home ventilation, keeping area dry, installing solid surface flooring, disposing of chemicals, proper pest control, keep living areas clean, wash bedding weekly, change out old mattresses, remove standing water and eliminate places for water to collect, don’t smoke indoors, remodel if sources of formaldehyde are present, keep pets clean and off furniture, and keep your air filters and ducts clean.

Radon

Nearly 1 out of every 15 homes in the U.S. is estimated to have elevated radon levels.

Radon is a gas found in the ground throughout the entire US and seeps into older and even newer homes leading to dangerous air. You can’t see, smell or taste radon.

It is also the second leading cause of lung cancer and the number one cause in people who don’t smoke.

Testing for radon is the only way you will know if your senior’s home contains dangerous levels. Kits are easy to get and use and are inexpensive.

Solution: If the levels are high, a system to vent the radon can be installed.

Managing Household Trash

As a nation, we tend to keep things that some might consider to be trash. It is not just the weekly garbage that is sitting in our home creating a hazardous situation — although if your senior can’t dispose of their home trash because they can’t get it to the curb or carry it to the refuse center or even from the kitchen to the garage or garbage can this is a different problem caregivers will need to address.

The trash seniors accumulate over the years can become hazardous. Old paint cans, solvents, oil, grease, car products, paint brushes or rollers, plastic products, pressed wood or wood scraps, old cleaning products, pest control products, yard products like fertilizer or weed killer and also yard waste that is piled up, hobby items like glue, batteries, gasoline, mothballs, and medications. Add to that the weekly trash of spoiled food, milk jugs, paper towels, personal care items and food waste.

Has your senior dumped trash in the yard or in some part of the home and it is beginning to pile up and create noxious gases? Dumped trash especially chemicals can spread to groundwater and affect the safety of the water in their well. Have they poured chemicals into their septic tank which are now seeping into the well water?

Solution: Ensure your senior loved one has any assistance needed in managing and removing household trash on an ongoing basis.

Fall Hazards

Falling in the home is a real danger for many seniors. According to the National Council on Aging, every 11 seconds an older adult is treated in the emergency room for a fall and every 19 minutes an older adult dies from a fall.

Solutions: Caregivers can reduce the risk of falls by keeping the home free of clutter, removing all potential sources of trip and falls such as throw rugs, loose floorboards, installing hand rails, install grab bars, clean spills promptly, position furniture to allow for easy walking, provide adequate lighting in all walkways and closets, use night lights for wayfinding, and evaluate their health.

Checking their medications for any that could lead to dizziness, having regular doctor visits to check for illness or confusion that could lead to falls and be sure your senior can see well by getting an annual eye exam.

Keeping your senior loved ones safe and in their home as long as possible makes everyone happy.


Senior Women and Heart Disease – Reasons to Go Red Wear Red!

Heart disease is the #1 killer of women in the US and the leading cause of disability.

Of the estimated 83.6 million people affected by heart disease, 42.2 million are over 60 years old.

For the 60–79-year-old age group, 70.2% are men and 70.9% are women. For the 80+ year-old age group, 83.0% are men and 87.1% are women.

The older our seniors get, the more likely they will be to develop heart disease.

Unfortunately, heart disease can occur at any age, making it important for caregivers to look out for themselves too.

Once affecting largely men, heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks are rapidly increasing in numbers of women.

Two-thirds of women who have heart attacks fail to fully recover. In part because women have heart attacks at older ages than do men, they’re more likely to die from them within a few weeks.

On February 3 we wear red to spread the word that heart disease and stroke can be preventable with lifestyle changes!

In addition to wearing red, there are many things that you and your senior loved one can do, starting today, to help prevent heart disease and lower your risk.

Treatable Risk Factors

There are many risk factors associated with developing heart disease.

There are some over which we have control and can impact with lifestyle changes and others over which we have no control.

Things like heredity or family history, being male, menopause, or age are factors that are unmodifiable.

The following are risk factors we can modify without a great deal of expense and with small lifestyle changes. Even a small change can make a big difference!

  • High Cholesterol
  • Obesity
  • Stress
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Excessive Alcohol Intake
  • Physical Inactivity

Tips Reduce Heart Disease Risk

Here are things your senior and you can do to reduce the likelihood of developing heart disease:

  1. Get checked out by your doctor!  Know your numbers so you know where to start to make changes. Knowledge is power!
  2. Reduce the overall fat in your diet.  Bake, broil and roast your protein foods. Reduce fried foods, eliminate sources of trans fat, and switch to unsaturated fats.
  3. Portion control to avoid obesity.  Eat healthy quantities without overdoing it. ½ plate vegetables, ¼ plate protein and ¼ plate of starch. Skip the second helpings to control calories. A weight loss of 5%-10% of your body weight can greatly reduce your risk.
  4. Stress management techniques and coping mechanisms such as avoiding your stressors, keeping a journal, learning to say no, reducing your “to do” list, expressing yourself, taking a warm bath, lighting scented candles, listening to your favorite music, working in your garden or reading a good book can help you reduce stress. We all feel stress at times but ongoing stress can harm our bodies and lead to reactions such as overeating, high blood pressure and smoking.
  5. Control your blood pressure by reducing your salt intake. New recommendations of 1500 mg each day will help you lower high blood pressure. Ditch the salt shaker and use other seasonings to add flavor. Read food labels to avoid high salt foods. Take your prescribed medications as directed. More than 73% of women ages 65 to 74 have high blood pressure.
  6. Keep your blood sugar in control. Follow your treatment plan as directed by your healthcare team.
  7. Quit smoking!
  8. Reduce your intake of alcohol to help your overall health. Alcohol can raise your blood pressure and lead to excessive calorie intake.
  9. Get moving! Take a walk or a swim or an activity you enjoy. Keeping your body moving with regular moderate to vigorous activity will pay off big dividends in your weight, blood pressure and stress.

Exercises for Senior Adults

The American Heart Association recommends that seniors follow this plan:

complete 8-10 exercises with 6-8 repetitions (per exercise/per side) 2 days a week

This amount and duration of specific exercises has been shown to improve heart health.

Some of the exercises they prefer for seniors include:

  • Leg raises
  • Arm raises
  • Balance exercises
  • Chest stretches
  • Abdominal exercises
  • Leg stretches
  • Tricep extensions

Here are some stretching and flexibility exercises that shows you how to do each one safely from the American Heart Association!

Check out this personal heart disease risk calculator to help you and your senior manage your health and reduce your senior’s risk.

You can help your senior live a healthier life and keep yourself healthy to care for your loved one in the future.

Start today!