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Helpful tips for family caregivers

January/February 2015

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Music has a wonderful way of creating connections, even when you are unable to use words. In this issue, we show you how to put it to use to help you care for a loved one with memory loss. We urge you to do a self-assessment to determine whether you are stressed to the point of burnout. For your own health, it's important to know! Share this newsletter with a caregiving friend.

Music eases dementia care

When caring for a relative who has moderate to advanced memory loss, it can sometimes seem like they have disappeared into their own world. How do you create connection and support their quality of life when they seem capable of so little?


Music is proving to be one good answer to this challenge. Research shows that music is processed in parts of the brain that remain lively long after a person's ability to "name that tune" is gone. Hearing familiar songs brings up old memories, essentially reconnecting a person to his or her sense of self and to times past.


Music can be a fun and valuable part of your caregiving toolkit. For instance, you can

  • stimulate with happy tunes, especially music with a pronounced beat. This can help motivate your relative to get through tasks, such as bathing and dressing.
  • calm with soft, harmonious music that tends toward lullaby. Use quiet music to encourage your loved one to take a nap or to soothe at bedtime.
  • redirect to address or avoid agitation. For instance, play favorite sing-along tunes at a time of day your relative is apt to pace or become irritable.
  • connect with them through songs that prompt shared movement. Maybe dancing, or just toe tapping, swaying, or silly gestures.


You might collect some of his or her old records (or tapes and CDs) and play songs as needed. Alternatively, compile music on an MP3 player and have your relative listen with headphones.


For most purposes, strive for music that your relative knows and loves:

  • Songs from childhood, with happy lyrics
  • Music from youth (age 18–25), for memories of a lively time in life
  • Tunes of a favorite composer or performer that recall meaningful occasions
  • Hymns and other religious music for comfort


Observe your loved one's response to the music and make changes as needed.  

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Stress or burnout?

Most of us know it when we're stressed. We talk about it, and we talk about needing to do something about it…when we have the time.


But we might not be aware when we reach the point of burnout. That's because going numb is the nature of burnout. To be so worn out that you are beyond caring.


Put simply, burnout is stress that has gone on too long. It is an important distinction to understand. Burnout has more serious, long-term consequences for your physical health and for your emotional well-being.


Take a moment for self-reflection and assess yourself.


If you are stressed, you are

  • constantly on the go, urgently trying to get things done.
  • emotionally brittle, tending toward irritability and anxiety. Your thinking might be a bit scattered.
  • tired and not sleeping well, rushing through leisure activities.


If you are a stressed family caregiver, you are scrambling to keep up with the demands of your role. But you believe that you eventually can get everything under control, and doing so feels important to you. Getting stress relief is a goal.


If you are burned out, you are

  • doing less and less and still feeling exhausted.
  • Emotionally dull and hopeless, feeling there's no point in making an effort at anything because nothing ever changes.
  • frequently physically ill, catching every cold that comes around.
  • withdrawing from friends and activities and often overconsuming food, alcohol, tobacco, etc.


To put this in perspective, consider stress to be a blinking yellow light: Yield. Slow down. Find a way to weave in more breaks. Consider burnout to be a red light: Stop. You have given too much for too long. Change is needed immediately before burnout undermines your health and your ability to provide appropriate care for your loved one. 

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Solutions that reduce stress or burnout

Monitoring the condition of a loved one who is providing care is relevant for almost everyone in America.  Today it is estimated that approximately 65 million adults provide unpaid assistance to their relatives or friends.  That translates to one in four Americans providing unpaid care to a loved one.  The majority are women, many who are in their 40's and have their own husband and children to care for, and others who are in their 80's and are caring for their spouse 24-hours a day.  It is no wonder that research shows that these caregivers develop stress related illnesses, injuries and depression.


As the fastest growing U.S. population are those over age 85 and most desire to remain living at home, what are some of the solutions that family caregivers can employ to reduce stress and burnout?

  • Family Support Group
  • Respite Care
  • Professional Caregivers

Respite Care allows you as a caregiver to recharge, visit family, take a vacation without feeling guilty as you can place your loved one in a quality senior living facility (SLF).  Most SLFs offer 1 or 2 week respite stays where your loved one will receive supervision, physical therapy activities, meals, and the opportunity to socialize with other seniors.  This could be done periodically throughout the year and may prove beneficial to both parties.


Professional caregivers also allow you as a caregiver to receive continual daily opportunities to go to work, run errands, or continue a normal routine.  Most home care agencies will provide caregivers from 2 to 24 hours per day and from 1 to 7 days per week. Agencies can also be ulitized in a similar manner as SLFs for respite care if you believe your loved one will be more comfortable at home.  We suggest that you utilize an agency that has been in business for more than ten years; has a Registered Nurse; and insure, bond, and provide criminal background checks for their caregivers.


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About Us

Senior Solutions: Providing Healthcare Guidance To Families For Over 24 Years


Navigating the complex maze of lifestyle and health care options and decisions facing seniors today can be overwhelming. Where do you turn when an aging parent, spouse, or loved one is in need of assistance? There is a multitude of options out there but which one is the most appropriate and affordable?  And how do you know which choice is the right one for you and your family?


According to the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM) families require guidance that leads to actions and decisions that ensure quality care and an optimal life for those they love, thus reducing worry, stress and time off work for family caregivers. In addition families require assistance with the two most common causes of senior hospitalizations; Falling and Medication Mismanagement.


How does a family know that they need the services of a Professionally Certified Geriatric Care Manager (GCM) and how does the family find a GCM to guide their loved one that resides in the    Lehigh Valley?  The answer; when caring for an aging family member becomes overwhelming or if:

  • The person you are caring for has limited or no family support

  • You have recently become involved with helping the person & you need direction about services

  • The person you are caring for has multiple medical or psychological issues

  • The person you are assisting is unable to live safely in their current environment

  • Your family is either “burned out” or confused about care solutions

  • Your family has limited time and/or expertise in dealing with your loved ones chronic care needs

  • Your family is fighting about what care decisions should be chosen

  • Your loved one is not pleased with the current care provider and requires advocacy & advice

  • Your loved one is confused about their own financial and/or legal documentation

  • Your family needs education and/or direction dealing with behaviors associated with dementia

Finding a GCM is as easy as going to and typing in your loved ones zip code and when you do, your search will reveal that Senior Solutions of Allentown and Palmer Township PA not only has the most and the most experienced GCM’s but Senior Solutions introduced the Lehigh Valley to the concept of Geriatric Care Management in 1990.. Wanting only to be associated with the highest level of competency in elder care, Senior Solutions became early members of the then newly established NAPGCM. Senior Solutions 4 GCM’s hold themselves to that same standard to this day with 2 Registered Nurse GCM’s and 2 Master Level Certified GCM’s, including an MSW. As such the Senior Solutions GCM’s are continuing their tradition of excellence as NAPGCM members.


So what exactly can one expect from a Senior Solutions GCM or care manager? Senior Solutions founders’  would  described themselves as “surrogate daughters” qualified to provide services for beloved seniors such as ASSESSMENTS– evaluating them in their home environment – CRISIS INTERVENTION – responding to unexpected crisis situations – MONITORING – visiting seniors in their home or their community to maintain ongoing contact and medication management – TRANSPORTATION & ADVOCACY – arranging and accompanying seniors to doctors’ appointments, etc. - CARE PLAN DEVELOPMENT & PLACEMENT – providing a plan to provide the highest possible quality of life and evaluating alternative living options such as independent living, etc. HOME CARE ASISTANCE – assessing needs for homecare and assisting seniors in finding the right personal or companion care.


And although it is not always the case, many times Senior Solutions GCM’s do not have to look very far to find a non-medical home care provider as Senior Solutions has been providing home care since 1992. Non-medical home care is care provided in ones’ home or a senior living community, where the caregiver is not required to do medical procedures such as giving injections, treating an open wound, or administering intravenous medications, etc. however a Senior Solutions a caregiver can provide companionship, assistance with bathing, dressing, walking, wheelchair assistance, cleaning, cooking, laundry, shopping, and transportation to friends, family, church, shopping, hair dresser, and physician appointments. In addition Senior Solutions caregivers are specially trained in doing activities with loved ones who are dealing with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other specific diagnosis.  Also Senior Solutions employees are fully bonded and insured and pass a physical, criminal, and drug test.


What separates Senior Solutions from other non-medical providers are a number of very important factors: 1. Senior Solutions provides FREE in home assessments by a Registered Nurse (RN)

               2. Senior Solutions caregivers are trained and supervised by an RN

               3. Senior Solutions has been providing home care to families in the Lehigh Valley for over 22 yrs

               4. Senior Solutions can serve the entire Lehigh Valley with locations in Allentown and Easton, PA


 Therefore if you are looking for a healthcare professional who can act as a points of contact for out-of-town relatives, team with physicians, attorneys and facilities for coordinated care, assist with discharge planning after a hospitalization, provide nutritional assistance, facilitate socialization programs, act as mediators and even arrange for financial and legal planning, or are simply looking for companionship and assistance for your loved one in their home Senior Solutions Certified Care Managers and Home Care Services is your # 1 choice in the Lehigh Valley as we are your partner in caring for those you care about.



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Please Note: Senior Solutions does not specifically endorse the activities of any organizations mentioned here, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.


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"Pop's memory is pretty far gone. Thankfully, music helps us keep him on an even keel."

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