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Helpful tips for family caregivers

July/August 2015

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July, the month of independence! For a family caregiver, "independence" takes on several meanings. There are issues about helping your loved one stay as independent as possible. That may mean addressing frailty or encouraging use of a walker as a way to stay active and engaged. If you are part of the "Sandwich Generation" who is caring for a parent as well as for teens or young adult children, independence has an entirely different meaning. Whichever way you slice it, here are some articles to help you happily promote independence for yourself and for those around you. Share this newsletter with a caregiving friend.

Subscribe. It's free!

July, the month of independence! For a family caregiver, "independence" takes on several meanings. There are issues about helping your loved one stay as independent as possible. That may mean addressing frailty or encouraging use of a walker as a way to stay active and engaged. If you are part of the "Sandwich Generation" who is caring for a parent as well as for teens or young adult children, independence has an entirely different meaning. Whichever way you slice it, here are some articles to help you happily promote independence for yourself and for those around you. Share this newsletter with a caregiving friend.

The "Sandwich Generation"

Parents are living longer. Children are often dependent for more years than expected. Add to this the ongoing responsibilities to spouse/partner and jobs, and there is little wiggle room for the millions of family caregivers who find themselves in today's "Sandwich Generation." 

 

It's easy to feel guilty and lose sight of the joy in your life when you are pressed on all sides. To support your resilience and make sandwich caregiving more gratifying, dedicate some quality time on a daily or weekly basis to each of your key relationships.

  • Ensure parent care is not just a rote set of to-dos. Instead, take stock of what you enjoy about the person or situation. Is there a daily comic you could share for a laugh? Or memories to savor by scrapbooking together or labeling old photos and recalling pastimes? 
  • Enlist the help of children living at home or nearby. Maybe your teen or young adult child can cook meals, do shopping errands, or drive mom where she needs to go. As with parent care, also identify activities you and your child can enjoy together. Look for your child's strengths and let him or her be the leader or teacher now and then.
  • Keep your noncaregiving relationships alive. Don't neglect your partner! Make dates for one-on-one fun time. Watch out for continual conversation about caregiving. And don't forget your friends. Caregiving may be a big part of your life, but it's not all of who you are.
  • Do something once a week to boost your professional self. Read an article related to your career. Make a call to a colleague for a quick networking session.
  • Take some "being" time for yourself. It's easy to get swept up in "doing" all the time. Give yourself at least 15 minutes a day for emotional or physical renewal. 
  • Seek assistance from a Certified Care Manager (CCM) so you do not experience caregiver burnout.  CCM's are trained and specifically educated health care professionals who will make an assessment of your loved one.

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Is your parent frail?

"Frailty" used to be a rather vague description, like "old age." Recently, however, it has been recognized as a cluster of conditions that deserve medical attention. 

 

The signs of frailty are:

  • Complaints of weakness or fatigue
  • Inability to walk up one flight of stairs 
  • Inability to walk more than one city block
  • More than five chronic diseases
  • Unintentional loss of 5% or more body weight in the past six months

 

Frail individuals over age 70 are more likely to become seriously ill from simple infections. They are more likely to be hospitalized and to become disabled. Not surprisingly, they are more likely to die sooner than their nonfrail peers.  

 

If your older relative has three or more of the five conditions listed above, contact the doctor for an evaluation. Many of these conditions can be improved. For example:

  • Fatigue may be tied to depression. Or it may be caused by not enough iron or vitamin B12. Or a problem with the thyroid. Appropriate medications can help. 
  • Muscle weakness can be offset with a 10-minute walk each day. Lifting light weights, such as a small can of vegetables, can increase strength. It is surprising how much even a little increase in activity can do to build muscle. 
  • Unintentional weight loss might result from not getting enough calories and protein or simply forgetting to eat. A between-meals protein supplement, such as a specially formulated drink, might be advised.
  • Lack of stamina could be caused by too many medications. Changing prescriptions or changing when drugs are taken can do a lot to reduce dizziness, fatigue, and other common side effects that lead to frailty. 

 

To keep your loved one out of the frail zone, help him or her stick to a wholesome diet and stay physically and mentally active. 

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When Dad resists a walker

For many older adults, use of a walker carries great stigma. It's a symbol of disability and often of isolation. In actual fact, a walker can be the key to staying safely and actively engaged with favorite activities.

 

A walker is superior to a cane because

  • it can bear up to 50% of a person's weight. A cane can hold only 25% of one’s weight.
  • it supports good posture. A walker keeps a person upright by reinforcing both sides of the body. A cane steadies only one side.
  • it is designed for people with moderate to severe balance problems or those with generalized weakness and arthritis. A cane is best for only minor balance problems or injuries.
  • it may include a basket or other device for carrying items. 
  • it may act as a chair when needed. Many walkers with wheels have a bench. Great for "standing" in line or when your loved one is suddenly tired or dizzy.
  • it stays where you put it! Canes seem to have a mind of their own, scooting out of reach when you least expect it.

 

If you have had the "let's get a walker" talk without success, make an appointment with the doctor to discuss balance issues. You might ask the doctor, "What's your experience with patients who fall? How careful should we be?"

 

Also get the doctor's input about the type of walker that is best for your loved one. The doctor may recommend that a physical therapist do a mobility assessment to determine the best way to stay safe and secure while walking.

 

If resistance persists, empathize with Dad's frustration that his body has given out on him in this way. Remind him that with a walker, he can still get around on his own to do what he pleases. Even if it's personally not a favorite, it's often the wisest choice for maintaining independence. 

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About Us

Senior Solutions was founded over 20 years ago by two sisters who shared backgrounds in healthcare, counseling and business.  They saw a real need in the Lehigh Valley for a company who specialized in helping families sort out the many services and resources available to them when they found themselves in the position of caring for an aging loved one.   These families often were overwhelmed with information and they started reaching out to Senior Solutions to help them through the complex maze of lifestyle and health care options available.  Senior Solutions soon became the place to turn for professional, unbiased assistance when comparing options or making sense out of overwhelming information.  We are here to help you come to an informed decision about your options.

 

Senior Solutions was one of the original care management firms in the Lehigh Valley area to become a member of the National Association of Professional Care Managers (NAPGCM).  This organization certifies members as Care Managers  through testing and ongoing training.  In 2015, the NAPGCM revitalized their name and trademarked the term "Aging Life Care™ Professional" and renamed their organization the Aging Life Care™ Association (ALCA).  This name change helps to clearly designate for consumers that they are dealing with experienced healthcare professionals who have been certified, tested and trained by the ALCA.  

 

In addition to providing Certified Care Management services, Senior Solutions started their own non-medical healthcare registry and agency to offer families the support they need to keep their loved ones healthy, safe and at home.  We have two offices, one in Allentown and one in Palmer/Easton, to help serve you when you require assistance with day-to-day care such as bathing, dressing, toileting, meal preparation, and other various in-home services.

 

Working side-by-side with you and your family, Senior Solutions can provide the support system you need to ensure proper care.  Let Senior Solutions be your helping hand.  You can be confident that our recommendations are unbiased and tailored to your individual circumstances.

For more information, please visit our website at www.senior-solutions.com  or call our Allentown Office at 610-435-6677 or our Easton/Palmer Office at 610-258-0700.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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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"It's amazing how much just a little physical activity helped my uncle get stronger. And fast!"


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