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Helpful tips for family caregivers

April/May 2015

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Time for some spring cleaning: in the legal department, in the dental department, and in your mental environment. Share this newsletter with a caregiving friend.

Does the advance directive need updating?

Once an advance directive for healthcare is complete, most of us want to set it aside as "DONE."

 

But circumstances, priorities, and preferences all change with time. Consider a review and an update with any of these life events:

 

  • Change in health. Hospitalization or a serious illness may change life priorities and end-of-life wishes. Be sure to revise the advance directive to reflect these changes. Don't forget to share new perspectives with the person who has been chosen to make those decisions (the healthcare agent).
  • Age. Is this a "zero" birthday year, starting a new decade of life? That's a great review trigger. But once your relative reaches age 70, you might step up the pace and review the directive on every "even year" birthday (72, 74, 76, and so on).
  • Death. You or your relative may have experienced the death of a loved one since the last directive was written. This may shed new light on end-of-life preferences. It may also reveal who is the person best able to serve as the healthcare agent. It's important to note the people named (including alternates) and to consider if they are still the best people for the job. If not, take the time to document the preferred healthcare agent.
  • Marriage. Has there been a marriage (or divorce)? Does this alter the thinking about who should be the healthcare agent? Update the document with any name changes.
  • Move. Has your relative moved permanently to a new state? Every state has its own advance directive form. Make sure you are using the legally valid form for the new state of residence. 

 

Once an update is completed, destroy all outdated versions. Distribute copies of the new document using the guidelines in our earlier article about tips to ensure you can find the advance directive when you need it.

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Preventing dental disease

Older adults are at high risk for cavities and other dental problems. The steps to prevention are not complicated. But aging makes some special strategies necessary.

 

Flossing and brushing teeth are powerful basics. The guideline is to floss once a day and brush at least twice a day, using a soft-bristle brush. Arthritic joints and numbness in fingers can make these tasks difficult. If your relative has problems, consider

  • making an oversized handle on the toothbrush. Make a built-up handle by wrapping it in foil or bubble wrap
  • switching to an electric toothbrush. Electric toothbrushes have larger handles and timers to ensure a two-minute brush
  • consulting with the dentist about floss alternatives. There are special floss holders that keep the string taut and make it easier to floss. In some cases, the best alternative is a toothpick or water floss appliance
  • buying toothpaste in a pump-style dispenser. This eliminates the hassle of removing the cap or squeezing out the paste

The dentist may also recommend daily use of a fluoride rinse or gel.

 

Adequate saliva is essential to cavity control. Unfortunately, more than 400 prescription and over-the-counter drugs are known to cause dry mouth. Review your loved one's medicines with the doctor or pharmacist. Ask if there are alternatives that do not have a "dry mouth" side effect. Also have your relative

  • limit use of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco
  • drink lots of water and/or sugar-free beverages
  • suck sugar-free candy to stimulate saliva production. Or chew gum with xylitol, a sugar substitute shown to prevent cavities
  • use an alcohol-free, antibacterial mouthwash

 

Twice-yearly dental exams and oral cleanings are key. This permits early detection and treatment of cavities, gum conditions, and lesions in the mouth. Cleaning removes cavity-causing plaque and keeps gums healthy. If your relative can't or doesn't brush regularly, you might have him or her see the dental hygienist more often.

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Removing "junk stimulation"

If you were asked to name the stresses in your life, you might think first about all the tasks and responsibilities you are juggling. Or challenging relationships. Or financial difficulties.

 

Less obvious are the stressors in your environment that can tax your nervous system behind the scenes. "Junk stimulation," like junk mail, simply overwhelms the brain for no real purpose.

 

Clutter and noise are two stimulants that create unnecessary stress.

  • Clutter. Studies clearly show a link between physical clutter and stress. Clutter distracts. It calls for our attention and limits our ability to focus. Getting rid of clutter is like changing any bad habit. Start small with an area where you can see noticeable improvement. Consider five minutes to de-clutter one shelf or one drawer each day. Or dedicate an hour or two on a Saturday to de-clutter one room. Arm yourself with three boxes or sturdy bags: Trash, Recycle, and Give Away. Remember the guideline: If you haven't used it in a year, you don't need it. You'll be surprised at how clear your mind feels when you are not tripping on clutter, searching for "lost" items, or bombarded with overly abundant visual input.
  • Noise. Stop and listen. Do the sounds you hear really add to your well-being? Loud noises. Unpredictable noises. Noises we can't control. Noises with negative content. These are the sounds that distract our attention and disturb our ability to think or remember well. If traffic noise is irritating, can you open a different window to let in less street noise? Turning down the ringer on your phone can reduce that jangled feeling when the phone rings. If the TV is blaring, will the viewer wear headphones? Or could the TV be relocated into a room with a door? Eliminating unwelcome sounds is a great way to give your nervous system a rest.

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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 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.

 

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"I'm glad we reviewed my mother's advance directive. It's amazing how much can change, even in just a few years."


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