Helpful tips for family caregivers
This month we focus on three areas where you can make changes to keep difficult problems at bay. Pass it forward.
Burnout is more than stress. And it isn't just undesirable. It's a risky condition.
The consequences of burnout include
- emotional depletion, often leading to depression;
- reduced resistance to common illnesses, such as colds and flu;
- increased likelihood of a chronic disease, such as heart disease or diabetes;
- lack of energy to do what is necessary for your relative.
Some stress is inevitable when caring for a loved one. But unrelenting stress is bad for everyone. Think of a candle. If you leave it lit 24/7, it will quickly burn through. But if you let it rest between periods of use, it will last a long time. You are like that candle.
Use these strategies to avoid reaching the burnout zone:
- Accept the realities. Sometimes life is cruel and unfair. Acknowledge your grief. Acknowledge any frustration or resentment. At the same time, value the ways you are skillfully addressing life's challenges.
- Get help. Develop a specific list of things others can do. And keep it up to date. Consider what tasks friends or family could take over. If there are no volunteers, hire help.
- Give yourself time away. You may need quiet time to replenish. Or conversation and social activity. Or both! Respite is essential. Aim for personal time on a regular basis. Even 15 minutes a day can do wonders.
- Care for your body. Sleep! Eat nourishing foods. Find a physical activity you can do at home (hula hoop anyone?). Keep up with dental and medical checkups.
- Maintain other interests. Don't forsake your family, work, or hobbies. They help add meaning to your life.
- Cultivate gratitude. Take a step back and reflect on the ways that caregiving has helped you grow personally. Be sure to let those who are pitching in know how much their efforts mean to you.
- Find community. Identify at least one person you can comfortably talk with, perhaps a friend, pastor, or therapist. Join a caregiver support group.
More than a home
Mom wants to stay at home. But you think she'd be safer and less isolated in assisted living.
On the surface, your loved one's preference to stay home might seem a desire to stay among comforting knickknacks. But research with elders reveals that the actual house or physical surroundings have little to do with it. Most of the value of "aging in place" has to do with staying in one's community.
Elders who remain living at home
- stay connected socially with friends and neighbors;
- remain involved in community organizations (church, exercise club, volunteer group, etc.);
- feel safer. Even in high-crime neighborhoods. They sense their community will provide help in a crisis;
- Enjoy continuity in healthcare by not having to change doctors;
- Retain self-esteem and feelings of competence. They know where to find what, and they know who is who in the community.
These are not benefits to throw away lightly: belonging and safety, connection and self-esteem. All have a large impact on physical and emotional health. Studies even show an impact on life expectancy. If a move takes your relative out of his or her historic community, you can expect big consequences.
- Before making a move: Consider if more can be done to support your family member in safely remaining at home. Would hired assistance make a difference? The extra effort or expense may be well worthwhile. Do the calculations carefully. Depending on what's needed, periodic assistance at home may be less expensive in the long run.
- If a move is necessary: Try to stay close to the old neighborhood. Understand that no matter how attractive a new residence, a lot will be missing for your relative. To him or her, a reduction in fall risk is an idea. The loss of access to friends is a reality.
Physical activity improves brain health
We all know that physical activity is good for the heart, good for the blood pressure, and good for the waistline. Now it appears that it is good for the brain, too.
Brain scans show that the parts of the brain essential to decision making and memory are larger among physically active older adults. These individuals also seem to think faster and remember better than seniors who do not exercise. The research suggests that
- regular physical activity may help ward off the changes associated with diseases that cause memory loss and dementia
- even frail adults can benefit from physical activity that is tailored to their needs
Researchers are not ready to firmly link any specific amount of physical activity to better memory in late life. But the evidence of benefit is growing. Maybe this is just the news to motivate Mom or Dad (or you!) to get into action.
What kind of activity is advised?
- Choose enjoyable activities that get the heart pumping. A walk with a friend. Dancing. Swimming. In other words, some moderate intensity activity that works up a bit of sweat. Use activities that are fun and build on previous interests.
- Start slow, with an eventual goal of 2-3 hours a week. Though the "perfect" amount is not yet known, 30 minutes a day, 5-6 days a week is the usual recommendation. Start with less time and less intensity. As stamina builds, add time and pick up the pace. Variety and enjoyment are important.
- Supervision for frail adults. If your relative is frail or has problems with getting around, start with an assessment by a physical therapist. He or she can suggest an appropriate program of activity and tell you how to build it up over time.
Frail or not, always check with the doctor before having your relative take on new physical activity.(Return to top)
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 www.caremanager.org 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.
"I was so burned out, life seemed pointless. The family caregiver support group helped me climb out of the hole."