Category Archives: News

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

Please Note: Senior Life Management does not specifically endorse the activities of these organizations, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.

Thrifty or hoarding?

hoarding

We all accumulate belongings over the years. But when is it too much?

According to Michael Tompkins, PhD, author of Digging Out: Helping Your Loved One Manage Clutter, Hoarding and Compulsive Acquiring, your family member may be in the early stages of hoarding if he or she:

  • keeps parts of the home off limits and the curtains drawn;
  • talks with you endlessly about the stuff. You’ve stated your concerns, offered help, even gotten angry, and yet there’s no action;
  • gets overwhelmed decluttering even a small area. It becomes a major job that can take more than a few hours or days;
  • often fails to pay bills. Not necessarily for lack of money, but because the bills can’t be located. Or the stamps. Or the checkbook;
  • is in debt because of compulsive shopping;
  • has trouble finding things and resists storing belongings out of sight;
  • puts off home repairs. He or she may not recognize the need. Or may not want to let a repairperson see the house;
  • insists on meeting you at your home. This avoids embarrassment or confrontation about the clutter;
  • rents one or more storage units. There is a seemingly unquenchable need for more storage space;
  • will not let you touch or borrow his or her possessions. Possessions are guarded fiercely and may be treated as if they are “friends.”

If these symptoms look familiar, your family member may well have a hoarding disorder. He or she literally lacks the ability to eliminate clutter. Suggestions for next steps:

  • Don’t rush to action. Force will only alienate your loved one. By maintaining your relationship, however, you may be able to help manage the problem.
  • Learn more. The most extensive studies on hoarding are done by scientists researching obsessive-compulsive disorder.
  • Consider professional help. Especially if there are safety risks. Consult an Aging Life Care Manager or in extreme cases, Adult Protective Services.

Might it be more than clutter?

If you are worried, it may be time to call in professional help. We at Senior Life Management understand the full range, from an exuberant joy of shopping to extreme conditions that can even become a health hazard. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, give us a call at 949-716-1266. We can help you get perspective and take the next steps.

 

I don’t need your help part 3

helping elderly

It’s not easy to lose abilities and admit you need help. The reluctant elder in your life is more likely to ease into acceptance if you provide good listening, compassion, and a commitment to working together. In this third installment of our series, we look at elders’ concerns around privacy and pride.

Privacy. Having someone underfoot can feel intrusive, especially if your relative is used to living alone. Perhaps he or she fears being judged, or that word of unhealthy food choices or alcohol use may get back to the family. Maybe your relative tends toward hoarding and is embarrassed. Or has worries about safety with a stranger or the risk of theft. All of these are reasonable concerns for any adult who values their independence. You can address privacy concerns by

  • starting with part-time help;
  • hiring a friend;
  • working with an agency that does background checks and drug testing.

Pride. “Do you think I need a babysitter?!” Our culture values self-reliance. Anything that implies a need for help suggests weakness or incompetence. When you approach your relative,

Please Note: Senior Life Management does not specifically endorse the activities of these organizations, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.

Safe Traveling for Older Adults

senior independent living

If Mom or Dad has summer vacation plans, be aware that older bodies are more vulnerable to the stresses of travel.

Begin with a pre-trip appointment with the doctor. Suggest a meeting with the physician 4–8 weeks ahead of the vacation. Ask the doctor to assess overall health for travel. Heart and lung issues are the primary culprits in terms of cutting a vacation short. Ask about precautions while traveling or things that can be done now to prepare.

Other medical issues

  • Plan to bring extra pills in case travel home is delayed. Check to see if a prescription renewal is needed.
  • Ask about the scheduling of doses when crossing time zones.
  • Pack prescriptions in the carry-on in case luggage gets lost.
  • Order oxygen for the flight. If your loved one has a lung condition, the airlines will require you to order oxygen from them. They need 1–2 weeks’ notice.
  • Ask the airlines for help with a wheelchair if your loved one has trouble getting around the airport.
  • Pack lightly and carry a wheeled suitcase to avoid back injuries.

Exercise during long seated trips. If drive time or flight time is more than four hours, your relative may be at risk of deep vein thrombosis. Although not common, this involves a clot that develops quite suddenly. It can result in a deadly embolism if it travels to the lungs. Cancer patients, overweight individuals, and people who have been recently injured or hospitalized are most at risk. Watch for painful pink or bluish hot areas in the thigh or abdomen.

Prevention involves seated exercises such as marching in place and “drawing circles” with the toes (while pointing and flexing to stretch the calf in all directions). Properly fitted medical compression socks may also help—just make sure they don’t bind at the knees. If possible, it is helpful to stand up and move about every hour or so.

 

When you Need an Energy boost

elderly home care

When caregiver fatigue strikes, many of us reach for caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, cola, chocolate, or an “energy shot” drink, the effects are immediate. Like a reliable friend, caffeine seems to help us keep going.

Pros and cons

Studies have shown many benefits from caffeine. It can enhance performance. It increases productivity and elevates mood. It may even reduce or delay Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

On the other hand, caffeine can be hard on the heart. It’s like giving your heart a stress test on a regular basis. It’s known to cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat and can contribute to high blood pressure. Insomnia and anxiety are also common side effects.

Too much of a good thing?

High-caffeine energy shot drinks are increasing in popularity, especially among older adults. Take caution. In a four-year time span, the number of adults going to the ER because of energy drink intake doubled. Among adults age 40 and older, the rate quadrupled! Although the numbers are small, clearly there is a trend. Symptoms ranged from palpitations and anxiety to actual heart attacks.

The Food and Drug Administration says that 400 mg of caffeine per day is likely safe. A 5 oz. cup of caffeinated coffee has about 100 mg. A can of cola about 50 mg. Energy drinks, by contrast, vary dramatically, having from 200 to 500 mg of caffeine.

If you want to quit

Caffeine can be addictive. Tapering off, or down, is easier than going cold turkey. One approach is to make your coffee or tea half decaf. Or switch to smaller servings or fewer drinks per day.

Another option is to respect your fatigue. Try to get enough sleep at night. And if life allows, consider a short nap midday. Listening to your body may be a wiser approach than reaching for a cup of joe or a high-impact energy shot.

 

Opioid Addiction and Serious Illness

serious illness

Morphine, hydrocodone, fentanyl . . . with the opioid crisis in our country, it can be scary to hear that a frail or seriously ill relative needs this type of medicine. What are the risks of addiction?

Fortunately, addiction is rarely an issue for individuals dealing with cancer or a painful terminal condition.

Understanding Addiction. People who are “addicted” have such an intense desire for a drug, they do whatever it takes to get more of it. Their craving overpowers their concerns about relationships and their ability to function in the world. People with a painful, serious illness rarely behave this way.

The need for more medication. Over time, the body develops a “tolerance.” This means that a higher dose of the drug is needed to achieve the same relief. This is just a biological truth. A legitimate need for more medication is a far cry from an addictive craving that sparks irrational behavior.

Breakthrough pain. It is also very common with cancer and other conditions to have pain spikes in between doses. A booster dose of the medication is then essential. It is not a sign of addiction. Simply part of the unpredictability of pain.

Possible signs of addiction

  • Going to multiple doctors for pain medicine
  • Going to multiple pharmacies to fill prescriptions
  • Using up a prescription early
  • Taking ALL the breakthrough doses

If you are worried. Ask your relative’s health provider if they are concerned. If your loved one has a history of substance abuse, let the doctor know early on. Ask about trying different types of pain medication. Perhaps the opioid can be used in rotation with others. Spiritual distress can also be a source of physical pain. If medication is not enough, ask if a visit with a chaplain—a medical member of the clergy—is possible.

At Senior Life Management, we know how hard it can be to navigate the medical system. Hospital staff mean well, but they are short on time and have many patients to care for. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can advocate for your loved one and help be sure that he or she is supported for genuine healing. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. You don’t have to do this alone!

Before you Quit your Job

quit job

It may be true: Your aging relative needs more and more care. You know you are the best person for the job. But it’s too much to do on top of your own work. Think twice before exiting the workforce, however. There are some stiff financial consequences.

For example, if you are mid-career, you are in your prime income-earning years. This is when you want to double down on retirement savings. If your employer offers retirement matching funds, you want to be in a position to grab them! And continue contributing to Social Security.

According to a Met Life study:

Men age 50 and over who left work to care for a parent lost an average of $89,107 in wages. The impact on their Social Security benefits was $144,609. Loss of pension income, $50,000. Altogether, early retirement cost male employees $283,716 over their lifetime. Caregiving women age 50 and over got hit much harder. They tended to leave work sooner. Lost wages averaged $142,693. Women lost $131,351 in Social Security. Figuring lost pension at $50,000, early retirement cost female employees $324,044.

Consider these options:

Hiring help at home may be less expensive than losing your wages. Suggest sharing the cost with your siblings. (Show them this article!) Then no one among you bears the sole financial burden. You might take advantage of an adult day center to provide care during your work hours. Ask about flex-time options so you can work when others can care for mom or dad. Investigate Family Medical Leave. If your company is big enough, you may be able to take weeks or months off. (It is unpaid.) That may get you through a crisis and buy you time to make other arrangements.

In your generous desire to help, be careful you don’t shortchange your own future.

Thinking of a family vacation?

At Senior Life Management we have observed that a special family trip builds priceless memories. Don’t let a disability quash the thought! As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify needed support services and find an outing that matches well with your loved one’s abilities. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

To find the accessibility of national parks service, go to the National Park Service website. Select a park of interest. Under the “Plan Your Visit” menu, go to the page for Accessibility.

Accessible National Parks

national parks service

If the person you care for has trouble getting around, you can still go on a family vacation. Many of our national parks service has special accessibility programs. Our national parks service is our treasures, and park staff is working to ensure that all Americans have access.

To find the accessibility of national parks service, go to the National Park Service website. Select a park of interest. Under the “Plan Your Visit” menu, go to the page for Accessibility.

Here are some of the features you might find:

  • Accessible trails. These trails have a firm and stable surface. In fact, some are wood boardwalks. All are wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Not all of them are flat. Look for information about slope to make decisions about difficulty.
  • Accessible camping. A number of national parks offer accessible campsites. These campgrounds may have surfaces that are more groomed and stable. And they also have restrooms with wheelchair access.
  • Accessible opportunities. Some parks offer touchable exhibits for the visually impaired. Others have hearing systems that help amplify the sound of the ranger’s voice on a tour. Some parks have cabins that are built to accommodate wheelchairs.

America the Beautiful Passes

With an America the Beautiful Access Pass, the National Parks Service waives entrance fees for persons with permanent disabilities. The pass covers more than 2000 national parks and national wildlife refuges. To get the pass, applicants must mail in documents to prove their disability. They also need to prove citizenship or residency. A limited number of parks can issue the pass on site.

An Access Pass covers the admission price for a single, noncommercial vehicle. Or, admission for the disabled individual and up to three others for parks that charge a per-person fee. Plus, the pass may provide discounts beyond the entrance fee. For instance, there may be discounts on extra amenities, such as camping, swimming, and boat fees.

Thinking of a family vacation?

At Senior Life Management we have observed that a special family trip builds priceless memories. Don’t let a disability quash the thought! As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you identify needed support services and find an outing that matches well with your loved one’s abilities. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

 

Kari’s Communication Korner

Helpful tips for family caregivers

Boundaries, agreements, and jumping in to help. They are all a part of caring for an aging family member. Not an easy dance! In this month’s issue of our newsletter for family caregivers, we look at the common problem of too much empathy. Does that describe your situation? We also look at the importance of a written agreement if a relative is going to be paid to provide care. Last, we look at things you can do around the house when a loved one has trouble breathing.

Empathy: Can you have too much?

Our brains are predisposed to feel the emotions of others. This capacity, called “empathy,” fuels our most altruistic acts as humans. And it fosters sweeter and deeper relationships.

But it is possible to be overly empathetic. If the doorway to your heart is always open to feeling another’s emotions—pain, sadness, anger, fear—you are on a sure path to burnout when caring for an ailing elder.

Signs of too much empathy

  • Inability to identify your own needs or feelings. Can you answer these questions: “What am I feeling right now?” “What would I like to do?” “What do I need?” If this seems difficult—or impossible—you may be overly empathetic.
  • Unexplained physical or psychological exhaustion. Taking on the emotions of others is deeply tiring.
  • Generalized anxiety (overwhelm) and low-level depression. A lack of boundaries leaves you at the mercy of another person’s situation. Feeling powerless is a precursor to anxiety and depression.

What you can do

Retain your compassion: care deeply but hold enough self-awareness that you don’t lose your own identity.

  • Pay attention to the signals of your body. Do you get tense when someone you care about is troubled? Learn to distinguish between your own feelings and the distress of another.
  • Practice relaxation techniques. Release physical and emotional tension. Deep breathing, guided imagery, and progressive relaxation are simple and easy to implement.
  • Get support from others. Talk with other family caregivers to gain and maintain perspective. They share your need to care and to set healthy personal boundaries.

Keep track of things you do for yourself. When you are overly tuned in to others, it’s easy to unconsciously ignore your own needs. The upshot is burnout, and then everyone loses. Strive for balance. Each day do at least one thing that is just for you.

When family is paid for care

In many families, care of an elder relative falls predominately to one person. This typically begins with assisting occasionally for a few hours, and it can be a very loving connection. But as the needs increase, so do the hours. While the care may be given willingly, it does eat into the care provider’s personal time and may force a cutback in his or her work hours.

Time is a scarce resource! It is fair and appropriate to compensate members of the family who provide reliable care.

The wisest course is to draw up an agreement. Putting everything in writing can go a long way toward preventing family discord or misunderstanding.

Elements to include

  • Types of tasks to be performed. Cooking, cleaning, transportation? What about intimate care, such as bathing or toileting?
  • A start date. Don’t arrange to pay someone for work done in the past. Decide on a start date and begin payments going forward.
  • Documentation of hours worked. And expenses, mileage driven, etc.
  • Rate of pay. How much and how often the family caregiver will be paid.
  • Clarification about time off. Is there vacation pay? What about sick pay? Who will provide care when the caregiver isn’t there?
  • A termination clause. How much notice will be given?

Taxes. The IRS says that a paid caregiver—even a relative—is an employee. See our March 2016 article about taxes when hiring a family member.

Consult with an elder law attorney. He or she can help clarify the issues and make sure that decisions made now do not jeopardize future government benefits.

Hiring a relative can be awkward. Be sure the risks to the family relationship are worth the benefits or convenience of hiring a relative. Remember the old adage, “Don’t hire someone you can’t fire.”

Is breathing difficult?

If the person you care for has a lung condition, there may be times when breathing is a challenge. Start by noticing patterns:

Is there a time of day, type of activity, or emotional state that triggers the difficulty?

Is the person sitting, lying, or standing?

Here are some strategies to consider:

Home environment

  • Remove dust and replace furnace filters frequently.
  • Eliminate or reduce strong odors. Bleach, paint, perfume. They all exude chemical particles that can irritate the lungs.
  • Raise the head of the bed. Lying flat makes it harder for some people to breathe.
  • Institute a No Smoking policy. No secondhand smoke in the house. And, of course, the patient should not smoke.

Quick tips

  • Find a better position. Sometimes it helps to sit up straight or brace elbows on a solid surface, such as the arms of a chair or a table.
  • Turn on a fan or open a window.
  • Add moisture. Consider a humidifier.
  • Pace yourself. Plan the day so there are few activities, and time to rest in between. Even a shower counts as an activity.

Stress reduction

  • Guided imagery or deep-breathing exercises. These strategies can calm the anxiety that comes with not enough oxygen.
  • Slow, focused breathing. Breathing slowly through pursed lips helps some. Counting to extend an exhale helps others.

Talk with the doctor

If these strategies don’t ease the difficulty, talk to the doctor. There are medications that can open the airways. There are also specific breathing exercises. Does your loved one like to sing? Believe it or not, joining a singing group might help. Or ask the doctor if there’s a “Second Wind” or “Better Breathers Club.” These support groups help people get appropriate exercise and provide opportunities to share tips about living with breathing limitations.

Please Note: Senior Life Management does not specifically endorse the activities of these organizations, but offers their information as a sample of the kinds of materials and services that are available.

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Last day with a wonderful new friend

Life care planner Kari Buist-Baker & Martha Lopez on their last day together. Martha completed her intern hours with us to finish up her Masters in Gerontology. Martha is a wonderful asset and will be greatly missed. The Senior Life Team wishes her the very best in her next endeavor.

life care planner

Six Month Anniversary for our Star Nurse

Janis came to SLM in 2014 with over 20 years of experience as a nurse assisting seniors with their medical and life management needs. Her hospital, home health and skilled nursing facility clinical and management background brings a broad knowledge of assessment skills. She loves getting to know people and hearing the stories of their lives and careers. Janis earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Cal State Dominquez Hills. She enjoys dancing, country music, walking, beautiful garden flowers and laughing with her son. Janis also cares for her mother who has medical and cognitive issues, she knows first-hand the struggles families go through when caring for an ailing loved one.

Pilgrims prevailed because they were humble enough to accept Indians’ help.

Humility is the heart of Thanksgiving, it takes humility to appreciate others’ contributions to our lives. True humility is capable of learning and adapting to changing circumstances. Therefore in its purest form humility can inspire both optimism and innovation, these are made possible when loss is refined by fire of principled perseverance.

Instructed by their principles and spurred on by hope, the Pilgrims acted on the strength of their commitment during a difficult voyage and first year, while enduring a grave crop failure and the deaths of almost half the 102 original Mayflower passengers. The Pilgrims learned practical skills from the American Indians that were necessary for survival.

The pilgrims’ experience reveals that many of our life accomplishments depend not only upon our individual talents, faith and personal commitment, but also upon our ability to learn from the wider web of principles, people and circumstances.

There is always someone to thank. Moreover, giving thanks for just one thing may also unleash myriad memories other people, successes, circumstances and simple kindnesses to be grateful for as we sit down to dinner this Thanksgiving Day.

  • Gleaned from an article in the OC Register