Eating Well While Growing Older – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

As we age, many older adults tend to change the way they eat. This change may be intentional for many and while for others it is done unknowingly.

Many will eat less thinking their bodies don’t need as much food because they aren’t as physically active as they once were.

This way of thinking may be true for overall number of calories but not for nutritional content.

Some older adults experience more trouble with chewing and swallowing foods when they eat, taste foods differently, don’t feel like preparing meals for one, feel lonesome during meal times, fear ‘healthier’ foods are too expensive, or overly restrict what they eat because they are trying to control a chronic disease.

One or all of these reasons may be influencing what your senior loved one is eating (or not eating) and impacting not only their health but, also unknowingly, their quality of life.

Caregivers can help by identifying potential gaps in their senior loved ones’ nutrition and then filling those gaps for their health.

Aging and Impaired Nutrition

A large percentage of older adults (those over 65) have multiple chronic diseases that can affect their nutritional status. According to the National Council on Aging (NCOA), 80% of seniors have at least one chronic disease and 77% have two or more.

A poor diet while aging can lead to frailty which results in becoming nutritionally compromised, making it harder for older adults to fight sickness or stress. Reduced muscle mass leading to impaired functional status and even malnutrition (undernutrition) can also occur.

A loss of muscle mass and strength can lead to falls. A senior falls every 11 seconds. Unfortunately, falls are the leading cause of fractures, head trauma, hospitalization and injury deaths for older adults, per the NCOA.

Cognitive impairment can worsen nutritional health because unintentional weight loss is common in those with dementia. Lower food intake, increased physical movement (pacing, etc.), reduced resting energy expenditure (metabolism), or a combination contribute to weight loss and impaired nutrition.

Getting enough healthy food, especially foods that include protein and essential nutrients, such as calcium and B vitamins, can make independence harder to maintain as our senior loved ones age.

Caregivers Can Help

Older adults may need help staying healthy, especially when their appetites begin to wane.

Family caregivers can help older adults stay on track, eat nutrient dense foods, shop for healthy foods on a budget, and facilitate putting meals on the table when they can’t always do it for themselves.

Here are ways family caregivers can help seniors eating well everyday from the National Institute of Aging and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (association of Registered Dietitians). Get them to…

  1. Eat a variety of foods from all food groups, don’t skip important foods
  2. Choose fruits and vegetables at each meal. Use fresh, frozen, or canned to stay in budget and make preparation as easy as possible.
  3. Eat a rainbow of foods to get the maximum amounts of essential vitamins and minerals.
  4. Include whole grains, protein, and dairy foods at each meal.
  5. Drink plenty of fluids, including water. As we age, our sense of thirst diminishes so we need to drink often. Avoid sugar sweetened beverages.
  6. Invite friends and families to share a meal to reduce loneliness and boredom. Most seniors will eat more when they have someone join them.
  7. Flavor food with herbs and spices instead of salt. The tastier a food is, the more they may eat.
  8. If dental problems are keeping your senior from eating a variety of foods, it is time for a dental checkup.
  9. If they aren’t eating enough, talk with the doctor about starting a nutritional/vitamin/mineral supplement.

Additional Resources

Caregivers can get creative when helping seniors eat a more nutritious diet.

Here are more ways you can help your senior avoid malnutrition that could keep them from aging in place successfully.

 

 




Cyber Attack Prevention for Personal Medical Devices and Data – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Protecting our senior’s digital footprint has been a growing concern for many family caregivers.

Lately a new menace has emerged which can be life-threatening for seniors (and caregivers) – cyber attacks of medical identity and the very medical devices that, in some instances, keep our seniors alive.

We recently discussed cyber security with a former U.S. Secret Service deputy director, who stated that identity threat should not be our primary concern anymore. He stated medical data breaches were more dangerous, cyber criminals stealing your health records. A social security number will sell on the dark web for 50 cents, but your medical record can be sold for $50, so is much more desirable by criminals.

The statistics are frightening. A medical data theft will occur at healthcare systems, though they are currently working hard to protect your data. In a recent survey, 91% of the healthcare organizations surveyed had one data breach during the past two years, 39% experienced two to five breaches, and 40% had more than five.

No Alerts for Stolen or Altered Health Data

Unlike an identity theft, no bank or credit card will alert you when your data has been stolen. Seniors will only uncover this particular theft when an emergency strikes and they need medical care, only to discover that their health data has been altered without their knowledge.

How will they know this? It could be only at the worst possible time, such as when your senior gets an emergency blood transfusion with the wrong blood type, is given a medication to which they are allergic, or are not resuscitated when they wanted everything done, because some criminal has stolen their health identity to get drugs illegally and changed your senior’s data to suit their needs.

Unfortunately, one of these or many other potential situations could be life threatening if the wrong treatment — or no treatment — is given based on bogus information in your senior’s medical record.

Blockchain technology put in place by healthcare systems may be the best way to counteract health data breaches but that is still in the future.

Another threat is hacking of their medical devices, especially those intended to keep them alive such as pacemakers or continuous delivery insulin pumps. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with manufacturers to prevent criminals from easily breaching medical devices, with the help of researchers who have already found loopholes which allowed hacking.

While no specific incident of medical device hacking injuring a person has been reported, one FDA official has said that any internet connected device is capable of being hacked and security measures must be implemented to protect consumers.

What can seniors and family caregivers do to protect them from becoming victims of this harmful type of cyber crime?

FDA’s Advice to Mitigate Cybersecurity Risk

The FDA has these warnings to consumers and tips to help us all lessen the risk of criminals hacking our medical devices.

  1. Don’t just turn on a connected medical device and use it without reading the instructions carefully. Make note of how the device looks in normal operation, such as indicator lights or readouts, and when it is not working as intended. Keep the instructions handy or bookmark them in your browser for quick reference.
  2. Be sure any medical device has been fully updated (firmware, operating system, or software) and continues to receive new updates, which can protect it from cyber attacks. Contact the physician who has prescribed or implanted devices for more information about needed updates.
  3. Be aware of firmware updates with security patches and watch for premature battery depletion, which could signal unusual activity levels and indicate malfunction/hacking.
  4. If your senior has any medical devices, don’t neglect routine care and follow-up healthcare appointments to check the effectiveness and safety of the devices to ensure proper functioning.
  5. Seek medical care immediately for any symptoms of dizziness, chest pain, or loss of consciousness.
  6. Do not ignore device alerts.
  7. If using specific types of insulin pumps, deactivate the remote bolus options which could allow hackers in close proximity to override the pump options and control insulin delivery. This was not a factory default, meaning it was added by the user. FDA warns to deactivate this option for added security.

Medical devices are life saving for many seniors but malicious activity could cause them to turn on the very people we want them to protect.

Family caregivers can protect their loved ones’ safety while using these devices. It takes a little diligence and regular updating, but shouldn’t be too difficult compared to the benefits.

 

 




 

Holiday Online Shopping Safety — Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Black Friday, the once biggest shopping day in our history which falls on the day after Thanksgiving has been outpaced by Cyber Monday.

Buying online on the Monday after Thanksgiving has become the largest shopping day and it all happens with the use of technology. For some it means shopping on the computer while others will use their smartphones. As a matter of fact, 80% of adults will buy something online with 30% occurring on our mobile devices!

No matter which way you (or your senior loved one) choose to shop for the best holiday deals you can find, security when you are surfing the net should be a number one priority.

What We Do and Buy Online

Many people not only compare products looking for the best prices and features, but also read reviews before buying and even look online standing in the store to see if there is a better deal elsewhere.

This means that we are engaging online for a fair amount of time visiting many different shopping sites and apps which could set us up for security breaches.

According to a Pew Research study, not only are we using technology to buy things, we are buying more technology online too!

We are buying gaming systems, tablets, phones, laptops, appliances, cameras, and the latest Internet of Things (IoT) devices for our increasingly smarter homes online through our technology.

Protecting Online Buying

The experts remind us as we approach the holiday buying season that everything we own or buy that is connected to the internet is at risk for cyber threats, scams, and identity theft.

Older adults who are new to technology or trying a new device should be encouraged by caregivers to learn about cyber hygiene to help protect themselves from people who want to steal something from them not just when they shop but all the time.

While it is important to learn about security, however, it’s important not to throw gasoline on the fire of any existing conceptions of online safety — or lack of it.

Hackers and criminals go on the prowl during the holidays so we should all be on our guard as we shop this season.

Here are some tips from the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) to keep you and your senior safer online this holiday and all year long:

  1. Before you shop, be sure your connected device is free of malware by running a scan and updating your apps.
  2. Before you buy, update your passwords and logins to be sure they have double authentication and the strongest passwords you can make.
  3. Learn about the website before you buy. Check out other people’s experiences with reviews to be sure you will not be disappointed or scammed with a purchase.
  4. Avoid links in your social media platforms as cyber criminals can steal your information and infect your devices when you click these links.
  5. Don’t give vendors more information than they need for the transaction. Don’t give more info than the fields they request including passwords, Social Security numbers and other secure information.
  6. Don’t use free WiFi hotspots to buy products as your passwords and information is not secure there. Logging in and using passwords can be exposed. Limit access to your own device whenever using these hotspots.
  7. Don’t fall for online deals that look too good be true — because they probably aren’t. Often you won’t get the product or it will not be what you thought you were getting when you buy from a ‘dealer’ instead of a reputable online retailer.
  8. Be alert to phishing emails that warn you a package you ordered can’t be delivered unless you pay or click on a link. Don’t fall for it!
  9. If you are registering a new account, set up new and unique passwords. 68% of seniors (and many of those who are younger) use the same password for all accounts!
  10. Don’t fall victim to a giving holiday-season heart when the scammers look for donations. Charity scams will prey on your senior’s emotions so check to see if it is legitimate before you give them your savings.
  11. Be wary of emails that say your credit card or bank account has a problem that requires you to divulge personal information, passwords, click a link or pay money. We have gotten them from a bank, credit card, ‘Google Team’, Facebook friends and delivery services which were all fake emails.
  12. When shopping in a store, disable your Bluetooth and WiFi settings on your devices so the stores can’t track your movement.

Here’s a fun quiz you can do with your senior to test your skills spotting online scams. It was created by Home Instead Senior Care in partnership with NCSA.

The old adages have truth for us today: Buyer beware and better safe than sorry!

We hope you use some of these tips to enjoy safe holiday shopping!

 

 




Smartphone Safety and Security – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

More and more seniors have been sporting smartphones (who said they wouldn’t adopt this beneficial technology? Not us!).

In 2016, there were 1.5 billion smartphones sold worldwide and 70% of Americans own smartphones!

This is great news for family caregivers who are introducing their senior loved ones to a variety of apps for safety, fun, and remote health monitoring.

But what about keeping them secure when using their smartphone?

Security Tips to Avoid Scams

Is setting up strong passwords and limiting their public presence in social media enough to keep them from becoming victims of technology abuse and scams?

No. There are no guarantees in this connected world, when so much of our information is under the control of others. We can, however, make it as difficult as possible for someone who intends to do our senior loved one or us harm in the digital world.

Here are some tips for family caregivers, items for which we could be on the lookout and inform/remind our senior loved ones about potential pitfalls that could put them in the path of criminals looking to steal their identity and their nest egg.

  1. Spam text messages – people report responding to spam on their cell phones more often than they would on a computer. Examples of spam text messages include: cheap medications, free gift cards, and winning items. Once your senior clicks on the link for these ‘too good to be true’ offers, they are infected with malware that will collect sensitive information in order to steal their identity.

TIP: Experts say don’t follow links, click on items or respond with NO or STOP as directed, which only gives the scammer access. Install anti-malware on their smartphone.

  1. Bank messages – receiving a text message or email from your bank or credit card company indicating your account has a problem and please click this link and then directs you to add your account information and login – don’t do it! Your bank will usually call you if there is a problem and if they send an email, will already have your account information so won’t ask for it again.

TIP: Don’t give anyone by text, email, or phone your bank or credit account information unless you initiate the communication using a phone number, web address, or other contact information you have independent of the text message or email.

  1. Voice message – if someone your senior doesn’t know calls their smartphone letting it ring only once or disconnecting upon them answering and leaves a voice message stating they won something, don’t respond. Many people are intrigued and will call back only to be charged fees for a premium connection to an international number and other charges.

TIP: Don’t respond to any phone calls or voice messages from people your senior doesn’t know. Program the phone with names of all potential callers, no known name, no answer.

  1. IRS calling – someone identifying themselves as an IRS investigator calls and claims an arrest will be made if they don’t pay thousands of dollars in fines. Instructions for loading gift cards with increments of $500 and then giving the caller the code numbers to activate these cards.

TIP: IRS will not call your senior demanding payment information. Do not give anyone gift card codes for payment.

  1. Local government – receiving a call from the local sheriff or other law enforcement saying your senior missed jury duty and now owes a penalty of $1,000 (or some other amount) and requesting immediate payment.

TIP: Law enforcement will never call for payment for fines, including jury duty. Contact law enforcement to report this scam.

Actions for Caregivers

Caregivers can take actions to help keep their seniors’ smartphones more secure with these actions.

  • Install protection with a strong PIN or use a fingerprint to open the smartphone in order to protect it in case it is lost or stolen. The latest technology, on several phones now, allows for facial recognition or retinal scanning, which gives more protection.
  • Activate Find My Phone – if your senior’s smartphone is lost, accidentally left somewhere or where other people could take it, being able to locate it using this app will help caregivers locate their older adult’s phone. Misplacing a smartphone is not uncommon.
  • When the smartphone might be misplaced inside the home, keep the ringer on so that if the phone’s location is forgotten, another could call the number in order to uncover its hiding place with less effort.

There are so many great benefits from increased communication, safety, health, and remote monitoring for older adults that come with the use of smartphones, not to mention how they will become the hub for smart home features in the future. This is why it will be important for family caregivers to create a safe environment for seniors to accept them and use them securely.

Small precautions will help gain huge paybacks for caregivers and seniors!

 

 




10 Cancer Prevention Tips Based on Trusted Research

We used to call it the “Big C.” The word cancer put fear into our hearts!

Cancer is a group of diseases, not one particular kind. It is characterized by the uncontrolled growth and spread of abnormal cells in the body. This unchecked growth can lead to death. The treatment is directed at removing or stopping the spread of these malignant cells.

We know a lot more about cancer prevention and see cure as expected in most cases, though not nearly all.

The cause of cancer is not always known but the risk factors are more clear. Many are modifiable through lifestyle changes.

As of January 2016, there were 15.5 million people with a history of cancer and still alive (survivors). Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the US after heart disease.

The evidence that we should put into practice the latest recommendations has been called by experts and researchers to be “compelling.” That is a pretty serious word in the scientific community and not used lightly.

The American Cancer Society estimates that at least 42% of newly diagnosed cancers are preventable with lifestyle behavior change.

Some of these recommendations we have heard for many years over and over again. But, when will we take heed and begin to actually make the necessary changes for our overall health and in particular, to prevent cancer?

Hopefully now!

These are admittedly simple steps that we can all begin taking toward health.

Family caregivers can encourage and intervene to help their senior loved ones adopt some of these guidelines for a healthier lifestyle. You are never too old for health!

Latest Cancer Research

Diet, Nutrition, Physical Activity and Cancer: A Global Perspective report produced by the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund (WCRF) is described as the most comprehensive scientific report to date.

Here are their key findings:

  1. Being overweight or obese is a cause of 12 cancers. There appears to be an overwhelming link between body fat and cancer.
  2. Drinking alcohol is a cause of six cancers, even one glass of alcohol a day can increase your risk of getting some cancers.
  3. Physical activity can help protect you from 3 cancers and also helps you manage your weight. Activity can give powerful protection against cancer development.
  4. Healthy eating can reduce cancer risk as well as aiding weight management.
  5. Lifestyle factors can also impact survival rates after a cancer diagnosis including the effect of the cancer treatment.

Caregivers’ Tips for Cancer Prevention

Here are the latest guidelines for prevention backed by scientific evidence that we can all follow – caregivers and seniors.

AICR/WCRF Cancer Prevention Recommendations:

  1. Maintain a healthy weight – stay within the healthy range and preferably at the lower end of the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart range and avoid weight gain in adult life. Body fat triggers hormones that can produce cancer growth.
  2. Become and stay physically active – walk more, sit less every day. Exercise of 150 minutes of moderate activity a week can help keep hormone levels in check. Sitting for extended periods can increase cancer risk so get up every hour for a walk.
  3. Eat a diet rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits and beans – plant foods rich in fiber and nutrients reduce the risk of cancer. Plant foods also contain phytochemicals which protect cells from damage.
  4. Limit fast foods and other processed foods which are high in fat, starches or sugars – also helps manage weight.
  5. Limit red and processed meat – eat only moderate amounts of red meat, pork and lamb and limit processed meat. More than 12-18 ounces of red meat (considered a moderate amount) shows convincing evidence of increasing colorectal cancer risk.
  6. Limit sugar sweetened drinks – choose water or unsweetened drinks. Helps with weight management.
  7. Limit alcohol consumption – despite potential protective effect against heart disease, evidence is clear that alcohol in any form is linked to cancer.
  8. Do not use supplements for cancer prevention – a healthy diet and other lifestyle factors are more beneficial. Some high dose supplements can increase risk for cancer.
  9. Breastfeed your baby if you can – evidence that breastfeeding can protect mother against breast cancer.
  10. After a cancer diagnosis and treatment: follow these recommendations.

Fighting to Prevent Cancer

Prevention is the first step to fight cancer. These lifestyle changes are imperative for our health.

Avoiding smoking and time in the sun unprotected are also ways you can reduce your risk of cancer.

It is also vital to participate in early screening tests to detect cancer and get treatment for a cure.

We can’t prevent all cancers, but given the devastating effect they can have, both on those afflicted and their loved ones, we should do all we can for prevention and early screening to get treatment to be survivors.

Defeating Falls Before They Defeat Our Seniors – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Little is scarier to a family caregiver of a senior loved one than to watch them fall and feeling helpless.

Rushing to their side and hoping they are not injured is all we can do in the moment.

The numbers of seniors who fall every day is quite astounding. Actually, 1 in 4 people over 65 fall each year.

Falls for older adults can mean injury (such as bone fractures or traumatic brain injury), hospitalization, or even death.

Shockingly, every 20 minutes a senior dies from a fall. That MUST be unacceptable to us!

A real threat to being able to age in place as our seniors age is falling.

Causes of Falls

Older adults are at risk for falling anyplace and anytime. However, there are proven ways to reduce falls.

There are several preventable causes of falls, including physical and environmental factors that are present for most all aging adults.

Physical Culprits

Changes in our seniors’ bodies as they age can lead to falls.

  • Impaired vision and hearing
  • Declining physical health and chronic disease
  • Slower reflexes
  • Loss of sensation in feet
  • Physical pain
  • Dropping blood pressure especially when getting up or changing position (hypotension)
  • Illness
  • Dehydration (leading to confusion)
  • Medication usage – taking more than four medications increases risk. Changing medication – new drugs, increasing or decreasing doses can put seniors at jeopardy.
  • Declining muscle strength and balance can increase the potential for falling

Environmental Culprits

The environment in which they live only adds to the danger when obstacles that cause falls are put in our senior’s path.

  • Inadequate lighting
  • Clutter
  • Too much furniture
  • Electric cords
  • Throw rugs
  • Slippery flooring
  • Spills or wet spots
  • Small pets and their toys
  • Steps

Quick Tips To Reduce Home Hazards to Defeat Falls

No particular action can guarantee that your senior won’t fall.

However, everything you do to overcome dangers — physical and environmental — will reduce the likelihood of falls and the injuries that can result.

  • Remove clutter and throw rugs (or tape them down securely)
  • Install adequate lighting, including motion activated lights, nightlights
  • Install grab bars
  • Put handrails on both sides of stairs in home and porches
  • Complete home repairs, especially uneven flooring, wobbly railings, or broken walkways
  • Place everyday items in their reach, especially in the kitchen and bathroom
  • Clean spills immediately, repair any leaks that result in wet floors
  • Remove ladders and step stools
  • Wear shoes, non-skid socks, or slippers in house
  • Move electrical cords out of walkways and any place they could get under foot
  • Get your senior’s vision and hearing checked and encourage use of adaptive aids
  • Encourage adequate fluid intake to prevent dehydration and related confusion
  • Monitor medication administration for safety, throw away all expired and unneeded medicines
  • Help them participate in balance training exercises
  • Set up an exercise plan that incorporates activities they love, weight bearing activity, and core strength building
  • Help them eat well to maintain strong bones and muscles
  • Remind them to use any assistive devices, such as canes or walkers, and ensure they are using them correctly
  • Encourage them to get enough sleep at night
  • Reminders and, potentially, more presence by others, especially during times of the day when at greater risk

Family caregivers can be helped to keep their seniors safer in their homes by using technology. There are many devices, including home monitoring, fall mats, medication reminders, home alerts, water temperature alerts to prevent scalding, automatic shutoff devices for stoves, and other devices that can sync with your smartphone to give you more peace of mind. More are on the way, too.

Some are specifically designed to help prevent falls and others are to keep them safe when completing tasks independently at home.

All types can make every day tasks easier, reduce fatigue, and limit seniors from situations that could leave to falls.

If your senior does have a fall, be careful assisting them up so that you don’t compound any injury. Check out our video on how to properly get a senior up after a fall.

While you can’t prevent every fall, you can be proactive in reducing and hopefully defeating falls!

 




 

Lifestyle Medicine for Prevention and Wellness – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Lifestyle medicine — are you familiar with it?

Is this something new? Is it something helpful for older adults and therefore should family caregivers encourage this intervention?

According to the American College of Lifestyle Medicine, “Lifestyle medicine is an evidence-based approach to preventing, treating and even reversing diseases by replacing unhealthy behaviors with positive ones — such as eating healthfully, being physically active, managing stress, avoiding risky substance abuse, adequate sleep and having a strong support system.”

The goal of lifestyle medicine is to put the person in the driver’s seat to control their own health by addressing the cause of disease instead of just the symptoms.

Avoiding the side effects of chronic disease treatment by preventing the disease in the first place is what lifestyle medicine tries to achieve. Lifestyle medicine can begin healing the body toward health.

Prevention is key.

Prevention Leads to Wellness

Most would agree that prevention is the better option than diagnosis and treatment. Researchers have found that changing our lifestyle by smoking cessation, healthy eating, and becoming physically active could prevent 80% of chronic disease.

Lifestyle medicine, when properly used, is said to to improve purposefulness, increase energy, and give you a positive outlook on life, according to physician’s who prescribe these interventions.

Lifestyle medicine interventions can impact:

  • Heart disease
  • Cancer
  • Cognitive function
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Pain
  • Weight management
  • Telomeres

Recommendations from major scientific bodies, including the American Cancer Society, the Diabetes Prevention Program, the American Heart Association, and the national Cholesterol Education Program, focus on lifestyle improvements as a means for prevention.

Foundation of Lifestyle Medicine – Tips for Change

There are six key areas for improvements in our lifestyles that will improve our health at any age.

These are the areas caregivers and their senior loved ones should implement change for their health.

  1. Nutrition – eat a balance at each meal including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and dairy products. Meet the bodies’ need for nutrients by including a variety of foods, especially those the nutrients of concern, because they are often eaten in inadequate amounts such as fiber, magnesium, calcium, potassium, and vitamins A,D, E, and C
  2. Physical Activity – move it or lose it, 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, choose something you enjoy so you will keep doing it
  3. Sleep – repair and heal our bodies during sleep which needs adequate time and sleep quality
  4. Tobacco Cessation – large cause of death, time to stop
  5. Stress Management – managing and recovering from stress
  6. Healthy Relationships/Socialization – connections impact our health

Experts now agree that genetics are not as important as a healthy lifestyle when improving our health.

Lifestyle medicine is simply lifestyle as medicine. It should be the first line of treatment where you work with healthcare professionals who help you make changes.

Continuing an unhealthy lifestyle will rob you of the life in your (and your senior loved one’s) years!

 




When Our Senior Loved One Says NO – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Appointment time for the doctor or hair dresser is fast approaching but your senior loved one is refusing to get out of their pajamas.

You need to go grocery shopping but can’t leave them home alone and they won’t get in the car.

It is time for a much needed shower but they won’t enter the bathroom, no matter how many times they are asked.

These scenarios and many more are encountered all too frequently by family caregivers.

In fact, research has shown that 77% of adult children think their parents are stubborn.

Unfortunately, their stubborn refusals impact the well-being of family caregivers. Anger and frustration at their behavior can quickly turn into resentment, which could change the way you care for them.

What is a frazzled family caregiver to do?

Strategies To Use When They Say NO

Finding coping strategies to help you deal with your senior loved one when they get stubborn and refuse, not only your advice about handling a caregiving situation, but refusal of care that you know is necessary, is important to their safety and your mental health.

Here are a few ideas to help you cope and perhaps even cajole them into doing what you think is important from A Place for Mom.

  1. Accept the situation. This is very difficult, but the reality is that your senior is an adult and should be able to make their own decisions when they have the information they need even when you don’t agree with them. The caveat here is if they are putting themselves in an unsafe situation. Sometimes you have to intervene.
  2. Decide how important the choice is. This is when you have to step back and decide if their decision is safe or if it will put them at risk. One example is them refusing to take all their medications. Are some medications essential and need to be given somehow or are there some like vitamins that they can live without? Would a liquid be easier for them or a patch that slowly delivers medication through their skin without the need to swallow — what are the options for medication administration without arguments? In other words, pick your battles and find workarounds.
  3. Don’t beat yourself up. Sometimes things are truly out of your control and all you can do is sit back and hope for the best, but be ready to take over when needed.
  4. Find an outside outlet for your feelings. Having a friend or family member with whom you can unleash your feelings, talk it out, and vent your emotions will help you maintain your calm, caring attitude toward your senior loved one and help you keep your sanity. Perhaps an online chat or Facebook group who are experiencing what you are can give you support.
  5. Try to understand the motivation behind their behavior. Try to determine the root cause of their behavior. Are they trying to make you upset or worry, is this response a way to hide their inability to do what is asked, is the behavior a habit, do they understand what is being asked or are they confused, are they depressed and acting out, or are they trying to be independent and make their own decisions (good or bad)? Understanding the why of it might help you create a plan of action for the how of it to help you overcome the behavior.

Every day is different when caring for older adults. Some days will be good and others will be a struggle.

Being a family caregiver is an important role that many of us are called upon to fulfill.

Staying healthy physically and mentally as a family caregiver should not be overlooked or pushed to the bottom of the list. Therefore, finding ways to cope with your daily challenges will help them and you!

Additional Resources

Here are a few more resources that will help you handle challenging behaviors.

 




Deprescribing Unneeded or Potentially Harmful Medications – Family Caregiver Quick Tip

Family caregivers know all too well about seniors and polypharmacy.

Polypharmacy refers to regularly taking five or more prescribed medications, which may lead to the use of unnecessary medications and possibly ineffective or harmful medications.

Two-thirds of older adults take medications regularly. 36% of older adults take 5 or more prescription medications and 67% of older adults use more than five prescription drugs, over-the-counter (OTC) medications, and supplements daily.

Many of the medications seniors are prescribed and are taking may at some point be inappropriate for them, according to the Beers Criteria for potentially inappropriate medication use in older adults, and can lead to harmful side effects and adverse drug events.

Unfortunately, one-third of all hospital admissions for older adults are due to adverse drug events.

Tips to Reduce Adverse Drug Events

Family caregivers can help keep their senior loved ones safe with a few of these tips.

  1. Keep an updated list of prescription medications and OTC medicines/supplements, including their full names, dosages, times taken and prescribing doctor if your senior has many physicians.
  2. Have a medication review completed at least annually by your senior’s healthcare provider and/or pharmacist to determine if there are inappropriate medications, unnecessary medications, or overlap. This will require full disclosure of what OTC and supplemental pills are being taken.
  3. Check out Deprescribing.org, whose mission is to help seniors and medical practitioners back off medications when doses are too high or stop medications that are no longer needed. It is important to decrease or stop prescription medications only with the knowledge of a physician because ill effects can occur when medications are reduced properly. They have information about your senior’s medications and information to help them make decisions with you and your senior about medication usage.
  4. Be ready to talk to the doctor or other medical provider about your senior’s medication. Use these 5 questions to be prepared.
  5. Use Medstopper to learn more about your senior’s medications and to determine if your senior loved one is taking a medication that may be inappropriate or to get information about how to decrease the medication safely. Do not stop any medication without  first discussing it with your senior’s doctor.
  6. Be observant of any side effects, new symptoms, or decline in function in your senior, especially when new medications are taken.
  7. Ask the doctor if there are combination pills that could mean taking one pill instead of two to reduce the potential for incorrect administration or medication errors.

The key to staying safe with multiple medications is to know what your senior is taking and regularly discussing their medication list (including all OTC and supplements) with the doctor to be sure they are all necessary and appropriate. Open communication between caregivers, seniors and their healthcare team will benefit your senior loved one.

Being your senior’s advocate could prevent tragedy from polypharmacy.