Category Archives: Health

Bathing and Dementia

Bathing brings many discomforts. Bathrooms can feel cold and drafty when a person is wet. And running water can be noisy. Nudity makes bathing very intimate, which can be distressing when a modest person needs help and may not recognize the helper.

Plus, bathing is a complicated process with many steps in a specific order. People with dementia may become confused and frustrated. They also may forget about the purpose of cleanliness.

Here are some tips to ease bath time:

  • Guard the senses. Sometimes people with dementia are hypersensitive. Heat the bathroom ahead of time. Be gentle and avoid scrubbing. Check the water for temperature—too hot?—and the water pressure from the shower—too hard?
  • Promote independence. Encourage your loved one to do things themselves. If you do need to take over, tell them what you are going to do before you do it. And give them a role so they can participate, such as holding the soap.
  • Preserve modesty. Even if you are helping a spouse, have a towel at the ready for undressing and dressing.
  • Maintain a routine. Most families notice that certain times of day are better than others. Bathing at the same time each day may make it easier.

Sponge baths work just as well. In terms of hygiene, all that’s needed is a twice a week wash, and even that can be just the highlights: armpits, folds of skin (under the breast, on the belly), groin, genitals, feet. Remember to keep the rest of the body covered with warm towels to minimize any chill.

Get creative

  • Try singing together. Or play music or old radio shows for distraction.
  • Consider using bath wipes. Warm by putting an open package in the microwave for 10 seconds.
  • Call it “spa time.” Use no-rinse soap on moist, warm midsize towels and massage in gently. Wipe off with warm, moist washcloths.

Tired of the bathroom battlefield?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management have developed many strategies and insights that can help you make bath time more pleasant. Make a vote for peace in the household and give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Signature Strength: Calm

Signature Strength

Many of us admire people who have the gift of remaining calm. Calm as a signature strength is the ability to respond to threats from a place of appropriate confidence. To remain “centered.”

It’s not always easy to achieve. Our bodies react to the stresses of modern life—including family caregiving—with the same fight-or-flight hormones that saved us in more physically dangerous times.

That said, you can intentionally cultivate the skills involved in remaining calm. People who are calm

  • have the ability to physically relax. You might use strategies such as focused breathing. Perhaps a mindfulness practice. Or activities that release tension.
  • accurately assess threats. It’s easy to overestimate the negative. Or get stuck thinking about “what ifs.” Calm individuals notice threats, yet keep them in perspective. Here’s where you want to apply a healthy dose of reality. Assess a problem situation. Yes, do look at the worst-case scenario. But remember to consider the likelihood of that extreme. Calm individuals spend most of their time focusing on the more probable outcomes in between chaos and serenity.
  • observe the situation with an awareness of their strengths. Calm individuals have self-confidence. They have an accurate and balanced assessment of their personal strengths. To develop this, take an accounting of your internal gifts. Also identify the external supports you have. For instance, your finances, friends, support services.
  • reduce anger. Anger clouds rational thought. It’s not that calm individuals do not get angry. They simply recognize their triggers. And they use strategies to calm themselves effectively before they blow. You might start by watching your thoughts. Avoiding judgment and fault finding in others may help you stay at ease.

As you look to become a more resilient family caregiver, you may find that cultivating the strategies of calm individuals helps keep your own journey centered.

Does calm feel far away?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management understand how stressful it can be to care for a relative in need. It helps to talk with someone outside the situation to get a clearer picture of the threats, as well as your genuine resources, to develop the confidence needed to remain calm. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. You don’t need to do this alone.

Preparing for a Safe Return

Alzheimer's Association

No one can keep an eye on another person 24/7. Even in the most vigilant household, a loved one with dementia—Alzheimer‘s or other memory disorder—may just find a way to slip out the door. After you have set up strategies to reduce the chance of wandering, it is also wise to pave the way for a speedier recovery if the worst occurs.

Strategies that support a quick return

  • Get an ID bracelet or necklace. Be sure to note “Memory Loss” and “ICE: [your phone number].” First responders know that “ICE” stands for “in case of emergency.”
  • Introduce your loved one to neighbors. Give the neighbors your phone number and ask them to call you if they see your relative out and about. You can even ask local merchants who know him or her to do the same.
  • Keep a recent photo on hand. Only a recent photo—not a favorite photo from 10 years ago!—will truly help first responders if they must look for your family member.
  • Make a list of possible destinations. Include your relative’s favorite places. But also list familiar places from the past: work, church, a previous residence.
  • Add GPS sensors on shoes or in a bracelet. These sensors can trigger an alarm on a door and/or help locate someone who has wandered. Some require a monthly fee.
  • Register with the local police and consider a Safe Return type of program. The Alzheimer’s Association sponsors a nationwide “Safe Return” program that is networked with local law enforcement. If your family member wanders, one call triggers an alert for help. A special bracelet also provides anyone finding your relative a number to call.

If your loved one does get out, spend 15 minutes looking close by. Then call 911 and any other services you have in place.

Does the chance of wandering scare you?

If you are concerned, give us a call at 949-716-1266. At Senior Life Management we understand the anxiety that wandering presents. How it can impair your sleep and make for very stressful days. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you make arrangements at home that discourage wandering. We can also help you make preparations for a speedy recovery. You don’t have to do this alone.

 

2019 Medicare Improvements

Medicare Advantage

Here’s some good news to start the year! In 2019, we’ll see improvements in coverage across the major Medicare plans.

About two-thirds of people on Medicare use “original Medicare.” Patients with original Medicare can go to any health care provider that accepts Medicare. Original Medicare pays for 80% of costs after a yearly deductible. The remaining 20% is paid out of pocket. In addition, your loved one may have a supplemental insurance. Sometimes this is called “Medi-Gap.” Medi-Gap policies pay the deductible and that 20%.

There is also a “Medicare Advantage” plan. If your family member has this coverage, he or she must go to providers who are part of the plan’s network. Medicare Advantage programs usually cost less than a combined original Medicare and Medi-Gap policy.

Starting in 2019

“Donut hole” is closing early

Medicare Part D has been paying roughly 75% of medication costs up to a set amount per year. Patients paid the balance of 25%. If costs were higher, the patient had to pay a greater percentage out of pocket (35-44%). If your relative’s drug costs reached a second threshold, additional medicines were then covered 95% by Medicare, 5% by the patient. In 2019, that “donut hole” gap in coverage is “closing,” meaning it is getting smaller. And a year earlier than planned. This year Medicare will extend coverage of brand name drugs at 75% up to the second threshold. Then 95% coverage will kick in. Generics will have a 63% coverage rate after the first threshold. The following year, generics will be covered at the 75% rate as well.

Nonmedical support services

Some Medicare Advantage Plans have been given permission to expand coverage beyond traditional medical care. With a doctor’s orders, for instance, they have the option to offer policies that provide for things like the installation of grab bars or a wheelchair ramp. Check your loved one’s plan to see if it includes this type of coverage.

Want to switch policies?

Wish your loved one had a different plan? As of 2019, those with an existing Medicare Advantage plan may switch to a different plan within the first three months.

Do you find Medicare confusing?

You aren’t alone! As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help you decide if there’s a plan that would be better. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

 

 

The Power of Sleep

emotional stability

When your schedule gets tight, is sleep one of the first things to go? According to the experts, that’s all too common. And it makes about as much sense as deciding to do without food, air, or water. Sleep is that essential.

Most adults need 6 to 8 hours of sleep per night to maintain their emotional stability.

Sleep promotes brain function and mood.

  • Mental focus. Sleep helps keep us sharp. It supports concentration, problem-solving, emotional stability and productivity.
  • Emotional stability. Sleep helps us cope with change and difficult circumstances of our emotional stability. Too little sleep contributes to reactivity and/or depression.
  • Prevention of memory loss. New studies indicate that the brain may use sleep as a time to clean out the harmful proteins that build up in persons with Alzheimer’s Disease.

Sleep is essential to physical health.

  • Healing and repair. The tissues of the heart and blood vessels particularly need sleep time for repair. Getting too little sleep for too long doubles your risk for a heart attack or stroke.
  • Maintaining normal weight. Lack of sleep changes the production of hormones that regulate hunger and blood sugar. This can lead to weight gain and/or diabetes.
  • Fighting infection. Adequate sleep helps keep your immune system strong.

Tips to support good sleep:

  • Exercise daily (but not right before bed), and get some sunlight each day.
  • Maintain a steady sleep and wake schedule throughout the week, including weekends.
  • One hour before bedtime, wind down with calm activities. Cut out bright lights, such as from a TV or computer screen.
  • Avoid heavy eating, caffeine, and alcohol for several hours before bedtime.
  • Make your bedroom a cool, quiet sanctuary for sleep, and use your bed only for sleep or sex.
  • Use short daytime naps for a boost if necessary (maximum 30 minutes). Naps can otherwise interfere with nighttime sleep and do not provide the same type of healing rest.

Sleep is not a waste of time! Getting enough sleep not only feels good, it gives you the stamina and resilience you need to juggle all your responsibilities effectively with emotional stability.

Losing sleep over caregiving?

At Senior Life Management, we understand there are only so many hours in a day. It’s hard to get everything done so it’s tempting to stay up late or get up early. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help. Start the new year out protecting your health. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. You deserve a good night’s sleep!

 

Stress or Burnout?

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.

Do you recognize the signs of burnout?

At Senior Life Management we see dedicated family members who, frankly, are fried! They are beyond stress and are dangerously in the realm of burnout. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we know it doesn’t have to be this hard. There are options. Give us a call and let’s start the conversation: 949-716-1266.

Exercise and COPD: an oxymoron?

COPD

Does Mom say she feels too weak to exercise? Does Dad run out of breath just walking down the street? People dealing with COPD often believe that exercise will make things worse. Actually, in moderation, quite the opposite is true.

Very real benefits. Even people with severe COPD can become more physical. Something as simple as arm lifts or singing can improve breathing and reduce fatigue. Exercise also helps with the fuzzy thinking many older adults experience with their COPD—because it gets more oxygen to the brain. Plus, people who engage in physical activity even just three times a week have been able to reduce the severity of COPD flares. If they have to be hospitalized, they get home sooner. Best of all, it’s not that hard to achieve these improvements.

Talk with the doctor first. Don’t challenge your loved one to a mile starting out! A balanced approach is required with COPD. The goal is to stretch breathing capability and stamina a little bit at a time without getting overly tired. Your family member’s doctor can give guidelines about when to stop and when to push past that initial feeling of “today is not a good day.”

Ask for pulmonary rehabilitation. The doctor may be able to prescribe a special exercise class for people with COPD. Exercising under supervision supports your loved one to feel safe. A class also presents the chance to talk with others who face the same challenges, which helps combat the isolation and depression that are common with COPD.

Tips for making it easier. Have your loved one

  • pick an activity that is pleasurable;
  • start small and increase gradually;
  • find an exercise buddy. This adds fun and supports commitment;
  • ask to be trained on “pursed lips breathing.” This technique makes it easier to exhale deeply and bring in enough oxygen.

Does better breathing feel impossible?

At Senior Life Management we have seen how people with COPD who didn’t think they could exercise can actually improve their breathing with very light, supervised activities. Even a physical therapist coming to the home a few times can guide your relative to exercises that will reduce that scary feeling of air hunger. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you get the support needed to make each day the best it can be.

When your Parent Drinks Too Much

parent drinks

Alcohol is a sensitive subject. Consider asking your parent’s doctor or a respected friend to initially bring up the subject. Tell them the reasons for your concern: slurred speech, unexplained falls or bruises. Be specific in your examples. Your parent will have less face to save with a trusted friend or professional than with their own child.

If you do talk, don’t say “alcoholic.” Even if it’s applicable, this is a loaded term. Tread lightly. A confrontation will just make your relative defensive and could jeopardize your relationship long term.

Instead, clear yourself of judgments about what he or she “should” do. Your relative is an adult and has the right to make unwise or unhealthy choices. He or she is doing the best they can, using the coping strategies that are readily available to them.

Open the door. Let them know that you notice some things aren’t working well and that you care. Rather than preach, create an invitation: “I notice you’ve been falling” (or losing weight, or seeming kind of withdrawn). “Are you concerned? Want to talk?” If yes, great. If no, just make it clear you’re available any time.

Casual help. Rediscovering meaning, purpose, and connection is one route to recovery. Separate from a conversation about alcohol, help your loved one explore ways to feel engaged with life, perhaps through involvement with others. Maybe you can go together to a social activity to make the first time easier. Or you might help remove barriers by providing transportation or covering costs.

Formal programs. Older adults also respond well to short-term interventions that address the specific isolation and loneliness of late life. If your loved one shows interest, help him or her find a recovery program that is geared to the needs and concerns of aging.

Is alcohol a problem?

Alcohol use is surprisingly common in late life. At Senior Life Management we see it frequently. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you strategize about optimal ways to approach the situation. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Late-life veterans’​ issues

late life issues

If the person you care for is a combat veteran, you may not have heard much about those experiences. You are not alone. In generations past, veterans made it a point to put the war behind them and “forget.” But things can take a dramatic turn in later life. As they face the challenges of serious illness, many vets start having symptoms that appear to be a delayed form of PTSD.

Common triggers

Physical pain, need for medication, or dependence on others can bring up old, traumatic memories. Dad may start to have nightmares or insomnia. Or you might notice an unexplained change in Mom’s temperament. Researchers believe this comes on because the stress of illness makes it too hard for the mind to continue suppressing the bad memories. For instance:

  • Trouble breathing from an illness such as COPD brings up past anxieties.
  • Pain can provoke memories of one’s own or another’s injuries.
  • Medications for pain or other conditions can cause fuzzy thinking. This in itself interferes with keeping combat memories at bay.

Moral and spiritual concerns

Sadly, combat veterans have seen the worst humanity has to offer. Your family member may have had to bury feelings about things he or she was called on to do in the line of duty. As the reality of “meeting one’s maker” draws closer, however, overpowering emotions of shame, guilt, and regret may arise.

What you can do

Veterans typically don’t like to talk about their wartime experiences. But they will talk with another vet. The Veterans Administration is aware of these late-life issues. They have counselling available for vets and for family members. In addition, hospice and palliative care programs often have a “We Honor Veterans” program. Their practitioners are specially trained to support the care needs of those who selflessly answered the call of duty.

Let us help.

At Senior Life Management we have deep respect for the contribution of our men and women in uniform. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can guide you to resources that will help ease the invisible wounds your loved one carries from their service. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Signature Strength: Courage

courage

In the tradition of “positive psychology,” we encourage family caregivers to know and use their signature strengths. These personality traits can become reliable tools. Courage, for example, has many faces beyond bravado and derring-do. See if you recognize yourself in these descriptions.

Honesty and integrity are facets of courage. Are you a person who insists on living by your values? Do you prize authenticity? Courage is at the root of what it takes to

  • know your limits and take respite breaks when you need to;
  • talk compassionately with a family member about behaviors that are not healthy;
  • ask a sibling to participate more in helping out with Mom or Dad.

Steadfastness. Another aspect of courage is the willingness to continue even if the going gets tough. Think about ways you advocate for your parent with the healthcare system. Or perhaps you’ve found yourself calmly handling once-unimaginable tasks in personal care or wound care.

Maintaining focus. Courage also involves feeling several things at once, yet staying focused. A courageous person may feel fear. But they steady themselves with a belief that they can have an impact. The thoughtfully courageous assess situations with eyes wide open. They see the risks. Rather than run, they look for ways to reduce the chance of a negative outcome.

Tempering qualities. The roar of a lion—a blustery manner or righteous indignation—may look like strength. But that type of courage is not usually constructive in family dynamics. Better to remember that lions can be tender too, and they work for the overall good of the pride.

Courage may not be something you think of as your signature strength. This fresh look at the many sides of courage may help you see the daily bravery you exhibit as a family caregiver.

Are there days when you don’t feel like a lion?

We all feel that way from time to time. Usually it’s when there is more to be done than we think we can accomplish. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help you look authentically at the situation, and find your courage to take the next step. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Preparing for Cold and Flu Season

vaccine

 

Did you know that 60% of people with flu symptoms leave the house during their illness?

Furthermore, 70% of them go to the drugstore.

That’s a good reason to stay clear of the pharmacy during peak cold and flu season!

Good preparation involves a lot more than a vaccine. Cold and flu germs are highly contagious. If an infected person sneezes, anyone within a 3-foot radius is likely to get exposed. And those flu germs live up to 24 hours on hard surfaces. Not to mention that the sick person unwittingly starts spreading germs as early as three days BEFORE feeling any symptoms and continues to be contagious up to 24 hours after the natural break of a fever.

Tips for yourself and for your loved one

  • Get the flu vaccine. Even if it’s not a perfect match with this year’s influenza virus, it will minimize the intensity of symptoms.
  • Get eight hours of sleep at night. In one study, those who got fewer hours were three times more likely to catch a cold.
  • Wash hands often. Touching hard surfaces (counters, doorknobs, the poles on public transit) is a sure-fire way to bring germs into your body.
  • Frequently clean surfaces at home and work.
  • Shy away from crowded situations.

Avoid the pharmacy by stocking up ahead of time on

  • soups, teas, and other fluids to keep well hydrated;
  • fever reducers: Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin;
  • saline drops or a neti pot to gently flush nasal passages;
  • honey and/or cough drops to soothe the throat;
  • decongestants (to dry up the nose), cough suppressants (for nighttime sleeping), expectorants (for daytime purging of mucus in the lungs). Consult with the doctor beforehand to be sure there are no conflicts with prescribed medicines;
  • lots of tissues. Don’t keep used ones around;
  • humidifiers to ease breathing;
  • wedged pillows to sit (and sleep) more upright.

We all feel that way from time to time. Usually it’s when there is more to be done than we think we can accomplish. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help you look authentically at the situation, and find your courage to take the next step. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Does Mom have a Drinking Problem?

drinking problem

 

Alcohol use is on the rise among older adults. And it’s not easy to spot. Many of the signs resemble common problems of aging drinking problem. And who wants to think that when Mom stumbles, for instance, it might be because of drinking problem?! There’s a lot of shame associated with drinking, so older adults—especially older women—often hide the activity of drinking problem.

Chronic drinking

About two-thirds of older adults with drinking problems have been drinking much of their lives. They’ve been “getting away with it.” Or they may have stopped in middle age, and then relapse in late life.

Late-life triggers

The remaining one-third of older adult drinkers with a problem are people who may even have been teetotalers in their youth. Keep your eyes open! Even if Dad never seemed interested before, alcohol could be his “comfort” now.

Loss makes elders particularly susceptible, for instance after the death of a spouse or a move to a new living situation. Pain or failing health are other common triggers. Even something as happy as retirement can pull the rug out, removing friendships, identity, and daily routines. With so much idle time, it’s easy to fall into a drinking habit without realizing it. When one drink becomes two or three, it can lead to dependence.

Loss of meaning and purpose are huge culprits

Loneliness and isolation lead to depression and anxiety. Without social contacts, it’s just too easy to “self-medicate” the emotional pain with alcohol. Older women generally, and men who have lost their partners, are especially vulnerable to drinking in later life.

Signs of a drinking problem

  • Unexplained falls and bruises
  • Moodiness, irritability
  • Poor sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Forgetfulness
  • Changes in appearance and hygiene
  • Increased secrecy, hiding bottles

In a follow-up article, we will describe constructive ways to raise this sensitive subject with your loved one, as well as things you can do to help him or her.

Are you worried?

Maybe this is a new issue. Or maybe your relative has been a lifelong drinker at no small expense to the family. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management know how delicate this issue can be. And sometimes even painful. Give us a call at 949-716-1266 to talk about the options. You don’t have to face this alone.

 

Preparing for Joint Replacement

joint surgery

If your loved one is slated for joint surgery, don’t underestimate the impact. Expect that he or she will have reduced energy and greater needs.

Limited mobility will create surprising challenges. Things you take for granted will need extra care and attention for joint surgery.

Plus, the body simply needs time and energy to rebuild bone, muscle, and nerve connections after joint surgery.

There is much you can do ahead of time to help prepare a smooth path for recovery.

Support physical preparation for success

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