Along with the traditions of family gatherings and holiday meals, holidays tend to add to the stress a caregiver may feel. Holidays can lead to depression and feelings of isolation and loneliness for the seniors in your life. While loneliness and isolation can be year-round elements, holidays tend to amplify them.
For the elderly in your life, holidays can be especially hard. The reasons for this are as varied as the loss of mobility or independence, the loss of a spouse, sibling or friend. Aging relatives may remember the times when they used to be the host for the holiday meals and it can trigger a sense of frustration.
As a caregiver, how can you help your aging relative deal with the holidays and make them happy events for the entire family? Here are ten tips to make the holidays the best they can be for everyone:
- Take time to listen. Letting your relatives know that you are available to listen to them if they want to share memories or discuss sadness or loss or how the holiday is making them feel, will help them get through it. Put yourself in their place and empathize with them.
- Make certain they understand how important they are to you and how you enjoy having them around on the holidays (and other times of the year). It may sometimes be hard to mask your body language when you’re tired or frustrated but don’t let them feel like they are a burden.
- Even in today’s electronic age, spend some time with your mom and dad and hand write and mail some holiday cards. Keeping in touch with friends and family help heighten the enjoyment of the holidays.
- Does your parent live in an assisted living facility or a nursing home? If he is healthy enough, and the doctor agrees, ask if you can bring them to the house for the celebrations. If they’re unable to leave the facility, make sure you set aside several hours to spend with them on the holiday.
- Decorate their room – not only for the holiday, but year round. Bring cherished items from home to give the room a personal touch. When the holidays roll around, make certain you decorate the room to make it festive leading up to the holidays.
- Are your parents involved in a church or other religious or social club? Reach out to their friends and invite them to visit the assisted living facility. Having visitors to help while away the hours is a gift that is long remembered. Ask whether the facility has a room where you could host a holiday gathering and invite friends and family.
- Don’t be too concerned with gift giving for the holidays. Chances are, your parents long outgrew the need for gifts or would simply purchase items they wanted themselves. The best gift you can give is the gift of your time. Try to set aside a few hours a week and spread your visits out. A brief visit several times a week may be as welcome as an extended visit on only one day.
Holidays are stressful and busy times for everyone, especially for caregivers. But in the rush of the season, it’s crucial that you step back, slow down and remember what the holidays are for – friends and family – and give the seniors in your life the gift of your time and attention.
When it comes to the holidays, one of the greatest pleasures for many individuals is the time spent with friends and family on a shopping excursion. Even if the malls are crowded, spending time together and enjoying each others’ company is a great way to bond and gather up the necessary items for your holiday gatherings.
When you’re shopping – especially at this time of year – there are steps you need to take to assure your safety and security and here are a few of our favorite tips:
- Always stay alert to your surroundings. Don’t walk alone into dark or empty parking garages.
- Hold tightly to your purse and your belongings.
- Don’t leave your purchases unattended.
- Don’t carry a lot of cash. At this time of year it’s best to use a debit card rather than carrying cash. If a debit or credit card is lost or stolen it is easily replaced whereas stolen cash is simply gone.
- Shop with friends and family because there is proven safety in numbers.
- Be aware that pickpockets are busy this time of year and being in a crowded area makes you an easy target. Carry your purchases close to your body, keep your purse in front of you and zippered closed, carry your wallet in a front pocket rather than a back pocket.
- Make frequent trips to your car and stash the purchases out of sight. If you feel you’ve been followed or that there is too much traffic around your car and a lot of people have seen you put your purchases there, move your car to another location and use another entrance to get back into the store.
- If you feel nervous going to your car alone, seek out mall security and ask for assistance.
Holiday shopping can be fun and almost stress-free when shared with family and friends. Make a day of it and plan to spend the day rather than thinking you have to rush.
Reprinted from CDC.org
Although winter comes as no surprise, many of us are not ready for its arrival. If you are prepared for the hazards of winter, you will be more likely to stay safe and healthy when temperatures start to fall.
Many people prefer to remain indoors in the winter, but staying inside is no guarantee of safety. Take these steps to keep your home safe and warm during the winter months.
- Winterize your home.
- Install weather stripping, insulation, and storm windows.
- Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls.
- Clean out gutters and repair roof leaks.
- Check your heating systems.
- Have your heating system serviced professionally to make sure that it is clean, working properly and ventilated to the outside.
- Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys.
- Install a smoke detector. Test batteries monthly.
- Have a safe alternate heating source and alternate fuels available.
- Prevent carbon monoxide (CO) emergencies.
- Install a CO detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Check batteries regularly.
- Learn symptoms of CO poisoning: headaches, nausea, and disorientation.
Get your car ready for cold weather use before winter arrives.
- Service the radiator and maintain antifreeze level; check tire tread or, if necessary, replace tires with all-weather or snow tires
- Keep gas tank full to avoid ice in the tank and fuel lines.
- Use a wintertime formula in your windshield washer.
- Prepare a winter emergency kit to keep in your car in case you become stranded. Include
- food and water;
- booster cables, flares, tire pump, and a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction);
- compass and maps;
- flashlight, battery-powered radio, and extra batteries;
- first-aid kit; and
- plastic bags (for sanitation).
Be prepared for weather-related emergencies, including power outages.
- Stock food that needs no cooking or refrigeration and water stored in clean containers.
- Keep an up-to-date emergency kit, including:
- Battery-operated devices, such as a flashlight, a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio, and lamps;
- extra batteries;
- first-aid kit and extra medicine;
- baby items; and
- cat litter or sand for icy walkways.
Many people spend time outdoors in the winter working, traveling, or enjoying winter sports. Outdoor activities can expose you to several safety hazards, but you can take these steps to prepare for them:
- Wear appropriate outdoor clothing: layers of light, warm clothing; mittens; hats; scarves; and waterproof boots.
- Sprinkle cat litter or sand on icy patches.
- Learn safety precautions to follow when outdoors.
- Be aware of the wind chill factor.
- Work slowly when doing outside chores.
- Take a buddy and an emergency kit when you are participating in outdoor recreation.
- Carry a cell phone.
- Protect your family from carbon monoxide.
- Keep grills, camp stoves, and generators out of the house, basement and garage.
- Locate generators at least 20 feet from the house.
- Leave your home immediately if the CO detector sounds, and call 911.
When planning travel, be aware of current and forecast weather conditions.
- Avoid traveling when the weather service has issued advisories.
- If you must travel, inform a friend or relative of your proposed route and expected time of arrival.
- Follow these safety rules if you become stranded in your car.
- Stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away, but continue to move arms and legs.
- Stay visible by putting bright cloth on the antenna, turning on the inside overhead light (when engine is running), and raising the hood when snow stops falling.
- Run the engine and heater only 10 minutes every hour.
- Keep a downwind window open.
- Make sure the tailpipe is not blocked.
Above all, be prepared to check on family and neighbors who are especially at risk from cold weather hazards: young children, older adults, and the chronically ill. If you have pets, bring them inside. If you cannot bring them inside, provide adequate, warm shelter and unfrozen water to drink.
No one can stop the onset of winter. However, if you follow these suggestions, you will be ready for it when it comes.
The holiday season is usually a joyful time of year meant for getting together with family and friends. It’s a time to reflect on our lives and loved ones, and certainly a time for celebration. The holiday season, with it’s celebrations and it’s decorations, is not without its health and safety risks. In fact, it can be one of the most dangerous times of year for seniors. Here are tips for keeping your loved one safe during the Holidays.
From Comfort Keepers.com
Winter is an especially important time to keep an eye on seniors to make sure they are living as safely, healthfully and happily as possible.
Here are a few tips to help seniors during the season:
- Check on elderly loved ones regularly, or if you live out of town, arrange for neighbors to check in and provide their number to call in emergencies.
- Help your loved one arrange for someone to keep sidewalks shoveled and de-iced.
- Make sure seniors have emergency supplies.
- Arrange for transportation during severe weather to medical appointments or the grocery store.
- If your loved one is physically or cognitively impaired, arrange for someone to stay with him during weather emergencies.
Holiday Safety Tips
Trees, lights and candles an important part of holiday traditions but pose a danger when not used safely.
Tree and decoration tips:
- Buy an artificial tree that is labeled “fire resistant.”
- Choose a live tree that has green needles that do not break when bent between the fingers. The bottom of the tree should be sticky with resin. When tapped on the ground, the tree should lose only a few needles.
- Place trees away from fireplaces, vents and radiators. If using a live tree, remember to keep the stand filled with water.
- Use only noncombustible or flame-resistant decorations.
- Use indoor and outdoor lights that have been tested for safety by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Use only newer lights that have thicker wiring and safety fuses to prevent wires from overheating.
- Before using, check lights for cracked sockets, damaged wires or loose connections. Throw out broken sets.
- Follow manufacturer’s guidelines for stringing lights together. UL recommends using no more than three standard-size sets of lights together.
- Make sure extension cords are rated for the intended use.
- Check outdoor light labels to make sure they have been certified for outdoor use. Only plug them into a ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protected receptacle or a portable GFCI.
- Turn off lights before going to bed or leaving the house.
- Keep burning candles within sight.
- Keep candles out of reach of small children and pets.
- Extinguish candles before going to bed or leaving the room or house. Do not leave children, or adults with dementia, alone in a room with burning candles.
- Keep lighted candles away from items that can catch fire, such as trees, decorations, curtains and furniture.
- Always use non-flammable holders.
- Use battery-powered candles whenever possible to avoid fire risk.
- Do not burn wrapping paper or plastic items in the fireplace. They can ignite suddenly and burn intensely.
- Place a screen around the fireplace to prevent sparks from igniting nearby materials.
Keeping Walks Clear
Falls are always a concern for seniors. Winter poses a special risk, so put down road salt, cat litter or sand to keep sidewalks, steps and driveways as slip-free as possible.
Persons over age 65 — especially those with a history of high blood pressure and heart disease — should leave snow shoveling to others. The combination of strenuous work and blood vessels constricted by the cold air raises the risk of heart attack. Falls and severe muscle strains are also risks.
However, seniors who are able to shovel walks should:
- Dress warmly and in layers, along with a hat and gloves, to retain body heat and prevent hypothermia. To avoid slipping, wear boots with non-skid soles.
- Before starting, limber up with light warm-up exercises.
- Push the snow in front of you, rather than try to lift it. If you must lift, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back.
- Take frequent breaks. If you become dizzy or numb, stop immediately and go inside. Call 911 if you experience chest pain or other heart attack symptoms.
Protect Against Hypothermia
Seniors generally produce less body heat. That makes them especially susceptible to hypothermia, which if not detected early, can be extremely dangerous. Conditions such as stroke, Parkinson’s disease and severe arthritis — even some medications — can limit the body’s response to cold, leaving seniors even more vulnerable.
Hypothermia prevention tips:
- Limit time outdoors and stay indoors on windy days. Go inside if you begin shivering.
- Wear warm, layered clothing of natural fibers. To reduce heat loss, wear a hat, gloves, warm socks and boots. Cover your mouth to protect your lungs.
- Keep the thermostat at a comfortable level, wear warm clothing and use enough blankets to stay warm at night.
- To keep your body temperature up, eat hot, nourishing meals and drink warm beverages.
Seek medical attention immediately for anyone you believe is suffering from hypothermia. Keep the person dry and warm with blankets. Do not rub limbs to warm them. Encourage the person to drink hot, nonalcoholic, caffeine-free beverages.
Home Heating Safety
House fires are a special concern for seniors. They also need to beware of the dangers of carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide replaces oxygen in the bloodstream and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea, convulsions and even death. The effects can happen even faster for someone with a respiratory or heart condition.
To prevent home heating problems:
- Have all chimneys and flues inspected yearly and cleaned as needed.
- Before winter, have the furnace inspected to make certain it is in good, safe operating condition.
- Install smoke detectors on all floors and carbon monoxide detectors in areas where fuels are being burned. Replace batteries annually.
- Open a window slightly when using a kerosene stove.
- Place space heaters at least three feet from curtains, bedding, furniture and anything else that might burn.
- Keep a fire extinguisher handy, replace as needed and know how to use it.
Avoid driving during and after winter storms, but if you must drive:
- Keep the gas tank full.
- Let someone know your destination, route and expected time of arrival. Bring your cell phone.
- Keep an emergency travel kit in the trunk, including a snow shovel, blankets, flashlight, water and first aid kit
- If your car gets stuck, stay with it. Start the car and use the heater for about 10 minutes every hour. Keep the exhaust pipe clear of snow, so fumes do not back up in the car. Keep arms and legs moving to keep blood circulating and stay warm. Keep a window open to let in air.
For more information on winter safety and other emergency preparedness tips, visit the American Red Cross.
As a caregiver you’ve seen your parents’ health fade a little bit every year. It could be something as simple as being more forgetful, or stumbling when she walks or maybe your father is dealing with an illness or one or both of them are recovering from a hospital stay. They’re determined to remain in their own home and for the time being that might be an option.
The ability to age in place is a powerful motivator for many seniors as they are accustomed to being independent and taking care of the family and are not comfortable in the role of accepting care. Talk with them and discuss the possibility of equipping the home with a medical alert device and the two of them with medical alert pendants. These devices can save lives as well as providing peace of mind for both your parents and you, as the caregiver, for those times when they are home alone.
What should you look for in a medical alert device? Here are some items to take into consideration:
- The technology of the console itself. Look for a device that provides two-way voice communication
- Make certain both the pendants and the consoles have been approved by the Underwriters Laboratories as Home Health Care Signaling Devices.
- Check into the range of protection the device offers. There are some systems that provide protection up to 300 feet from the console and others that provide coverage up to 1,500 feet from the console. Determine where the console will be placed then choose a range that will suit your needs. If your parents like to go out of doors, make sure the unit will still work when they are outside.
- The pendant should be waterproof and lightweight. You want your parents to be comfortable wearing the device and you want to know they are protected even if they are in the bathtub or shower.
- Look for pedants that do not need to have batteries to replace.
- Does the equipment come with a lifetime warranty? Will there be a cost if it needs to be replaced?
- What happens if the power goes out? Is there a battery back up in place and if so, for how many hours will your loved ones be protected?
- Does the service provider you’re going to work with have a plan in place in the event of a power outage? At LifeFone, the emergency response center is notified if the power goes out and notifies loved ones. The base unit has a back-up battery that can last anywhere from 32-60 hours.
- Does the medical monitoring device provide a way to answer the telephone from the pendant? With LifeFone, a phone call can be answered by simply pushing the button on the pendant and speaking into the speaker console (this can be done from across the room which means your parents won’t have to rush to answer the telephone)
- Do you have to sign a contract with the provider of your medical alert system or is it a month-to-month situation? LifeFone does not require a time commitment meaning you can cancel at any time and get a full refund for any unused, prepaid service.
These are some of the basic questions you will want to ask a potential medical device provider before making any kind of a purchasing decision.
For some, the role of caregiver for an ailing or aging parent is one that has been planned for. For others, being thrust into the role of caregiver, in many cases while still raising your own family and holding down a full time job, is not one for which you’re prepared.
Feeling overwhelmed, underprepared and even unappreciated are emotions many caregivers go through. You may feel guilt, anger, frustration, sadness and anxiety, but these feelings are natural. Along with the negative feelings that may ebb and flow during the course of caring for aging loved ones you will also experience gifts that come with that role including, compassion, courage, forgiveness and a sense of understanding and fulfillment.
Whether you’re trained in the area of health care or if this is your first experience caring for an aging or infirm relative, there are some steps you can take to familiarize yourself with what lies ahead and what you can do to navigate the changing family dynamics.
Below are some tips to help you as you move into your new role:
- Before you can begin helping your aging loved ones you need a baseline of information on what they need, how you can help, what signs and symptoms to look for. Ask their doctor if he’s seen changes in their health or behavior and what you should expect. Ask him to review the medications list and frequency the medications should be taken, it’s best to compare this list with the medications you have found in your parent’s home to make certain they are taking the correct medications.
- If your parents haven’t seen a doctor recently, make an appointment for a comprehensive check-up. There could be underlying medical conditions that could be easily addressed which could make it possible for them to age in place and which may make your role of caregiver an easier one. Also, ask the doctor at the visit whether he feels your parents are able to remain living independently. Keep in mind that if they are borderline with needing in home care or moving to an assisted living facility, simply equipping the home with a medical monitoring device and them with a medical alert pendant you may be able to extend the time they can remain in their own home.
- What exactly do your loved ones need? Are they keeping up with personal hygiene as in bathing and getting dressed for the day? Are they taking their medications as prescribed? Do you notice any signs that may be alarming; such as forgetting to turn off the stove when they’re done cooking? Are they able to keep up with light housework and cooking? Do they need help paying the bills or doing heavier outside yard work? If they are overwhelmed with cooking meals and are perhaps not eating as healthy as they should be? If that’s the case look into a Meals-on-Wheels program or prepare meals for them and deliver them throughout the week. Knowing what your parents need will help gauge the level of involvement.
- Involve your family members in the role of caregiver. Ask for help with items you simply cannot take on. Look into county-offered services for the aging. Make notes and keep a folder of information available for all family members on any signs of deterioration in your loved ones. Put all medical information and prescription information in that folder as well.
- Prepare for any eventuality. In the event your parents reach the point when they can no longer live alone, what will the options be for their living arrangements? Will they move in with a family member? Do they need to explore assisted living or nursing home arrangements? Begin researching these options now as you don’t want to have to make decisions in the event of an emergency and be faced with an untenable situation. Be sure to involve your loved ones in the conversations and ask what their feelings are on where they may eventually be living. Preparing could also mean looking into hiring a part time home healthcare aide or a nursing service to come in and check on their mental and physical health on occasion.
- Undertake a financial check-up and review legal documents. While your parents may be hesitant to share bank account or credit card information, impress upon them that sharing that information can help with long term care planning needs. If you, and other family members, have an understanding of their financial situation you will be better able to navigate the roads that lie ahead. You will also want to ask if your parents have a will. Where they keep their life insurance and medical insurance papers. Who do they want to designate as a healthcare proxy or power of attorney? This information needs to be decided upon prior to deterioration in mental or physical health as you don’t want to be making decisions under duress.
- Safety proof the home. If your parents are determined to age in place, then your role as caregiver could mean doing a safety check up of the home to make certain it is safe. Mobility issues plague many seniors and removing trip and fall hazards, making sure there are clear walkways and that the rugs are non skid and are securely in place can go a long way in keeping trip and fall incidents to a minimum. Make certain smoke alarms are installed and working. Check that hallways and rooms have proper lighting and consider installing motion activated lights. Check the water temperatures to make sure that hot water isn’t going to scald them. Make certain they have access to adequate healthy foods and that they are, in fact, eating the food you’ve shopped for or prepared. Post a list of emergency phone numbers by the telephone and in other locations around the house where they can easily access them. Keep in mind, though that in the event of a medical emergency or a trip or fall accident they may not be able to reach the telephone and may be in too much pain or unable to dial the telephone – this again, is a reason to give them access to a medical alert pendant. At the push of a button emergency medical personnel are summoned and your parents will have access to an experienced call center representative from LifeFone who will stay with them until help arrives. LifeFone representatives will also call family and doctors to alert them.
Caregivers sometimes find themselves toiling in isolation. It may make sense to interact with other caregivers, ask them how they address particular situations and just simply talk with someone who understands what you’re going through. Being a caregiver for your parents, is one that may be fraught with tension but it can also be a time to reconnect and build new memories that will carry over for a lifetime.
Aging is an inevitable fact of life and with aging comes the realization that we may be faced at some point with the inability to live independently. Whether making a move to an assisted living facility or moving into the home of a family member, aging-in-place is a dream that many seniors do not want to give up on.
Are there ways to age “successfully” so that you can stay independent? Are there steps you can take today (regardless of your age) to assure that you are healthy, remain active, and are able to live in your own home for as long as possible? Yes. There are steps you can take, lifestyle changes you can implement and devices you can equip your home with that will make it possible for you to age-in-place for a longer period of time. What does “successful” aging mean? It is a lifestyle that incorporates health and wellness and overall activity into daily routines.
Retirement and aging usually go hand in hand and this can mean a change in household income. Because of diminished income budgeting can become a concern for seniors, but there are ways to successfully age on a budget.
What can you do today, on a budget, that will help you age gracefully? Here are some tips:
- Keep your mind active. Read books. Do crossword puzzles. Keep up with daily world events and news in the newspaper or on the Internet. Keeping your brain active and involved could help stave off dementia.
- Save money by growing your own vegetables or herbs. Starting a garden, whether you have a large plot of land or will be undertaking container gardening on a patio means you will have something to do daily with caring for the plants. Growing your own also provides ready access to fresh fruits or vegetables and provides heart healthy options for meal choices.
- Stay active in your community or church by volunteering and attending activities those groups have planned. Getting out of the house, socializing and being involved in a cause or group you support boosts mental and emotional health and well-being.
- Stay in touch with friends and family. It’s easy to “forget” to pick up the phone and call your children or grandchildren. Make a weekly date to touch base. Set aside an hour (or more) and settle in for a chat just to catch up. If you’re internet savvy set up, or have a family member set up, a private family Facebook group where you can talk freely and share family photos without the worry of strangers seeing your information.
- Age-proof your house by clearing out clutter, making certain all carpets and rugs are slip proof. Update or upgrade your bathroom with grab bars and non slip surfaces in the bathtub and bathroom floor.
- Prepare for health or medical emergencies and offer peace of mind by investing in a home medical monitoring device. Wearing a personal safety device means that at the push of a button, medical help can be summoned. Whether you’re unsteady on your feet or are dealing with other health issues such as diabetes or heart conditions, a medical alert system can be a literal life saver.
Talk with your family members so they are aware of your desire to age-in-place and work with them to make this dream a reality.