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Preventing flare-ups of COPD

Preventing flare-ups of COPD

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) thickens airways, making it harder to breathe in and get enough oxygen. Damage to the lungs also makes it harder to exhale and get rid of waste gas (carbon dioxide).

COPD is characterized by flare-ups that rather suddenly make breathing much more difficult. Often the patient needs to go to the emergency room. Every flare-up has the potential to make the disease get worse at a faster rate.

Here’s what you can do to prevent a flare:

Aim for quality air.

  • No smoking. If your loved one smokes, he or she has already been told to quit. Ask visitors and other family members not to smoke in the house.
  • Reduce exposure to common irritants. Keep the house well ventilated and free of dust, animal hair, and other allergens. Strong fumes, such as those in cleansers and paints, should also be avoided.
  • Limit exposure to outdoor pollution. Check for local air quality at epa.gov/airnow. Stay indoors when the pollution level is high.

Beware of infections. Any cold or respiratory infection can cause a flare.

  • Stay current on vaccinations. Make sure your relative keeps up with flu and pneumonia vaccines.
  • Avoid crowds. During flu season, your loved one should avoid public places. Ask friends to be mindful of their own health before visiting.
  • Wash hands frequently. Fingers and hands collect bacteria from everything! Have your relative avoid touching his or her eyes, mouth, and nose. Bring a personal pen for use in stores, at the doctor’s, etc. Carry hand sanitizer or wipes.
  • See the dentist regularly. Good dental hygiene helps protect against infection.

Promote overall health. Getting adequate sleep is important for a person with COPD. So is getting enough exercise. Walking is recommended. But talk with the doctor first. There are special lung-friendly activities designed for persons with COPD.

Frequent ER visits wearing you out?

They may not be completely preventable, but as the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can support you in doing what can be done to reduce the likelihood of a COPD dash to the ER. To find out how we can help, give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Red flags for COPD

red flags

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) is a lung condition that gets steadily worse over time. It is often characterized by “flares,” or “exacerbations,” periods when breathing suddenly becomes more difficult. It can be very frightening and often results in a dash to the emergency room.

It’s important to know the early signs of a flare and to have an action plan. If you know the signs and what to do, chances are good for managing the condition at home. Skip the stress and cost of trips to the emergency room!

Develop a personalized action plan with your relative’s health care provider. They may even have classes or nurse educators to help. Ask what you should do if your family member suddenly shows symptoms such as these:

  • Feeling more breathless than usual
  • Extreme fatigue
  • More coughing, with thicker phlegm or mucus
  • Needing to use a quick-relief “rescue” inhaler or nebulizer more often
  • Weight gain of three pounds or more in a day’s time. This may be due to fluid build-up. Check for increased swelling around the ankles.
  • Inability to sleep well because of breathing or coughing difficulties
  • Lack of appetite

Plan with the doctor what steps to take to address these symptoms. Among other things, the doctor may suggest

  • special medications
  • special breathing exercises
  • increased oxygen

Have these on hand and ready for use at the first sign of a flare. Call the doctor immediately if these treatments don’t help and the condition seems to be getting worse.

Does the person you care for have COPD?

We at Senior Life Management understand how frightening it can be to see a loved one struggling so hard to breathe. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we can help you do what you can do at home to keep things stable. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Is a reverse mortgage appropriate?

reverse mortgage

If your loved one is worried about having enough money, he or she may be considering a reverse mortgage.

A reverse mortgage enables a homeowner to turn some of the equity in a home into cash. You might think of it as an advance payment on the accrued value of the home.

An approved lender will give your loved one money once a month, or in a lump sum. Interest is charged as the money is drawn against the house. When the borrower is no longer living in the house, the loan generally must be repaid. Usually this happens by selling the house.

A reverse mortgage may sound appealing, but it is a very complicated loan that should be considered carefully. Be sure you understand:

  • The reason for getting the loan. Counselors strongly advise against using it for living expenses. If the money is to pay for care—at home or in a facility—you should consult with a financial or legal professional to explore all payment options.
  • Cost of the loan. The loan origination fee on a reverse mortgage is high—usually 10% of the loan amount.
  • Taxes, insurance, and maintenance.  Some lenders require that money be borrowed—with interest charged—and “set aside” to cover these expenses.
  • Surviving spouse.  Once the primary borrower dies, or moves out—to a nursing home, for instance—the house may need to be sold to repay the mortgage. A surviving spouse may have to leave.
  • Inheritance.  The mortgage must be paid back when the borrower dies. This may require that the heirs sell the house. Depending on how much is owed, there may be no money left from the sale.

Before your relative takes out a reverse mortgage, talk with a HUD-approved reverse mortgage (HECM) counselor. These professionals are free, or very low cost. Call 800-569-4287 for a referral.

Concerned about finances?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management understand the many demands involved in elder care. As you consider the financial side, give us a call at 949-716-1266. We make it our business to understand the local resources for our clients.

When Dad Resists a Walker

Walker

For many older adults, use of a walker carries great stigma. It’s a symbol of disability and often of isolation. In actual fact, a walker can be the key to staying actively engaged with favorite activities.

The benefits of a walker

  • It can bear up to 50% of a person’s weight. (A cane holds only 25%.)
  • It supports good posture. A walker keeps a person upright by reinforcing both sides of the body. (A cane steadies only one side.)
  • It is designed for people with moderate to severe balance problems or those with generalized weakness and arthritis. (A cane is best for only minor balance problems or injuries.)
  • It may act as a chair when needed. Many walkers with wheels have a bench. Great for “standing” in line or when your loved one is suddenly tired or dizzy.
  • It can be rather stylish, with modern accessories, such as a smartphone clamp, a coffee cup holder and a basket for carrying things.
  • It stays where you put it! Canes seem to have a mind of their own, scooting out of reach when you least expect it.

If you have had the “walker talk” with no success, make an appointment with the doctor and directly ask, “What’s your experience with patients who fall? How careful should we be?”

Also get the doctor’s input about the type of walker that is best for your loved one. Perhaps he or she will do a mobility assessment. Or make a referral to a physical or occupational therapist to create a plan for safe walking.

Empathize with Dad’s frustration that his body has given out on him in this way. Remind him that with a walker, he can still get around on his own to do what he pleases. It’s often the most effective choice for maintaining independence.

Is mobility a struggle?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we understand. At Senior Life Management we have helped many older adults come to terms with the need for a walker. You don’t have to do this alone. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

Balance exercises to prevent falls

If remaining independent is a goal for your older relative, bringing some balance to his or her life is essential—balance exercise, that is.

All it takes is short but consistent focus for Mom or Dad to significantly reduce the chance of a fall. In one study, two 15-minute sessions of balance exercises over a six-month period was enough to make a difference. That’s only 30 minutes a week. Depending on your situation, this may even be something you can do together.

  • Routines are simple. Mom won’t be daunted by the balance activities recommended by the National Institute on Aging. Standing on one foot and heal-to-toe walking are easy to do at home.
  • No muss, no fuss. No special clothing, no special gear, and not even much floor space is needed for balance activities. Dad can even hold on to a table or chair until he feels more stable.

Tai-chi

It turns out the most effective exercise for preventing falls is tai chi. This gentle activity has been practiced in China for centuries. Tai-chi involves slow, graceful movements combined with controlled breathing and awareness of the body’s position.

Research has shown that people who practiced an hour of tai-chi three times a week for three months experienced a 43% reduction in falls. They also had a 50% reduction in injuries from a fall.

Tai chi is best done with a teacher and in a class. But if that’s not an option, there are DVDs that teach tai chi. The local library may even have some to lend out.

Get the doctor’s okay first

There are many reasons a person might have poor balance. Just to be safe, ask for a fall risk assessment before starting an exercise program. You want to be sure your loved one has all the bases covered.

Does your Mom or Dad need help with balance?

The exercises aren’t difficult, but they do take time. And it’s much easier to stick with them if they can be done with others. Let us help you explore the options. As the Orange County experts in aging well, we at Senior Life Management are quite adept at helping older adults become more physical and focus more positively on their bodies. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

 

Aging and the self-fulfilling prophecy

self-fulfilling prophecy

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t—you’re right.”

—Henry Ford

It turns out this truism applies to the ways we perceive the aging process itself. Research shows that older adults who view aging as a time of continued learning and development are physically more resilient. They seem to weather a setback and regain their mobility and independence more readily. They stay healthier and live longer than their peers who view aging primarily as a time of decline.

As a society we tend to hold aging in a negative light. But studies have found that advanced years do indeed bring many benefits. When compared to younger generations, for instance, older adults generally are more able to

  • focus on the positives
  • tune out the negatives
  • relax and accept who they are

The wisdom of aging may be that older adults recognize life is too short to “sweat the small stuff.” And with accumulated years, they have developed more coping skills for life’s inevitable rough spots.

Get this self-fulfilling prophecy working in your loved one’s favor! Try asking some of these questions to help him or her identify the special strengths of aging:

  • If you were suddenly 20 again, what skills or wisdom would you miss?
  • What has helped you through hard times in the past? Look for ways to emphasize these skills or resources.
  • What people, activities, or situations tend to leave you feeling positive? Consider ways to emphasize these resources. For many older adults, family and social interactions bring the greatest joy.
  • What is the ‘gift’ in your situation right now? With aging, we frequently come to realize that in every situation the good coexists with the bad. Even people with incurable diseases can usually identify something positive they have learned as a result of their condition.

Is the glass looking half empty?

Let our strengths-based approach give everyone a fresh perspective. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help with a realistic picture of the glass-half-full side of the equation. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

The Power of Sleep

power nap

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.

Sleep promotes brain function and mood.

  • Mental focus. Sleep helps keep us sharp. It supports concentration, problem solving, and productivity.
  • Emotional stability. Sleep helps us cope with change and difficult circumstances. 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.

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!

Smartwatches for Seniors

age friendly smartwatches

 

The makers of smartwatches are now designing products for older adults. And they just may have come up with an acceptable alternative to the standard “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up” pendant. Perhaps you’ve tried to get your loved one to wear a personal emergency response system (PERS) pendant—only to hear, “No. I don’t like it.” Many older adults consider the pendants ugly and stigmatizing.

The new smartwatches offer advantages:

  • Unlike home-based emergency response systems, they work anywhere there is a cell signal.
  • They are easy and natural to wear.
  • GPS features enable using the watch as a locator device for persons with dementia.
  • They can do dual duty as fitness trackers, measuring heart rate, number of steps, etc.
  • They send and receive text messages. Some even handle phone calls.
  • Apps are available for things like setting a timer for pill reminders, or scheduling appointments. Soon even EKGs for heart monitoring.
  • They tell time!

On the downside:

  • Will your loved one use all these features? Or will the apps just be confusing? The options are likely too much for those with memory problems.
  • How useful is the watch in an emergency? Screens are small and several steps may be required. Practice may be necessary ahead of time.
  • So far, the automatic fall detection apps still have a few bugs to work out.
  • Not all smartwatches offer a companion service for 24/7 connection to a trained professional who can triage the need for help.
  • Those with hearing loss may have difficulty hearing a respondent if the device isn’t held close to the ear.
  • While smartwatches are definitely more stylish, they are still big. They seem to appeal more to men than to women.
  • These devices need to be regularly charged.

Meeting resistance to a PERS device?

Many family members find their loved one simply won’t wear the device. A smartwatch may be the solution, but they aren’t for everyone. As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management can help you determine the best ways to protect your relative in the case of a fall. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

A New Year Reflection

Psychologist Hanson

After the hubbub of the holidays and in the darkest nights at year’s end, nature seems to beckon us to reflect.

Rather than make a resolution about exercise or diet, consider looking at your approach to family caregiving and personal qualities you might nurture to become more resilient in this role.

Psychologist Hanson, PhD, studies resilience. He reports that resilience depends on three key strategies and the use of mental resources that support them. To cultivate greater resilience in yourself, review your past year while gently but candidly considering these questions:

  • How did you manage the challenges you faced? What personal qualities supported a smooth or positive process? Did you listen well? Or perhaps you called upon your courage and persevered. Thinking about it now, were there approaches you took that exacerbated the problem? What might you want to do differently in the future?
  • How did you take care of yourself? Did you say “no” when you reached your limit? Or maybe you didn’t say “no” and had a tougher time as a result.
  • How did you access or cultivate resources? Were you inquisitive? Did you research your loved one’s condition? Perhaps you demonstrated compassion for yourself by reaching out for help. Identify people you can count on. Begin to build your support system. Are there people you’d like to thank or recruit?

Consider making a list of qualities that were helpful, things “done well.” Create another list of “not so skillful.” Everyone will have things they wish they had done differently. This isn’t about beating yourself up. Simply a constructive assessment. Make a symbolic break from the year. Burn, shred, or otherwise destroy the list of actions or qualities you’d like to let go of. Post the remainder—those you want to keep and emphasize—where you will see them often for encouragement in the coming year.

Not much bounce in your “bounce back”?

As the Orange County experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management see this often. There’s so much to juggle, it can get overwhelming. The more resilient you are, however, the better the care for your loved one. We can help you ease your load and make optimal use of resources. Give us a call at 949-716-1266. Let us help you become a more resilient caregiver and put a little more bounce in your step.

Signature Strength: Wisdom

positive psychology

Each of us has strengths . . . and, well, areas that could use improvement.

As a family caregiver, you may often feel inadequate. Or guilty. Or think that you aren’t doing enough.

Such negative self-assessments are common.

A more balanced assessment would acknowledge that you also have qualities that shine.

Most of us believe that to be better people, we need to focus on our trouble spots. Over the next months, we will be drawing on the science of positive psychology, which shows that cultivating what works is just as productive as scrutinizing the things that aren’t working well. For example, each of us has characteristic “signature strengths.” Wisdom may be one of yours.

Wisdom and knowledge

Are you the type of person others turn to when they need advice? If so, you probably have the strength of wisdom and knowledge:

  • Curiosity and a love of learning
  • Willingness to look at all sides
  • Ability to change your mind
  • A tendency to take time to reflect, look inward
  • An understanding of social dynamics
  • Empathy

Wisdom is more than being smart. It’s a special kind of intelligence that blends the heart and the brain. The more life experiences you have had—including losses—the more opportunities you have had to develop a wider perspective. The wise individual is able to listen to the heart but not be overcome by emotional extremes.

Using both sides of the brain. Wisdom is commonly associated with age. Brain studies reveal that older adults use both sides of their brain—the analytical side plus the more intuitive side—more equally than do younger adults. As one scientist put it, “they are in all-wheel drive.”

Cultivate your wisdom. Learning from the habits of wise individuals can help you foster this strength. Explore something unfamiliar. Try a new perspective. Pause and reflect. Strive to interpret the actions of others with kindness and compassion.

Reducing the Risk of Falling

older adults

Has your mother fallen recently? She’s not alone! One out of four older adults 65 and over experiences a fall each year. That makes falls the leading cause of injury for older adults.

Falls are serious business. A few statistics: In the U.S. an older adult dies once every 20 minutes as a result of a fall. Disabilities from a fall include injuries that can be life changing: a traumatic brain injury or broken hip. Especially for seniors, falls pose a danger to an independent lifestyle. They often usher in a permanent need for daily assistance.

Who is at risk for falling? Has Mom or Dad fallen twice in the past year? Have you noticed balance or gait problems? Has there recently been a severe fall? These are signs of “high risk.” Other signs involve poor vision, or taking medicines that list dizziness as a side effect.

A fall risk assessment

To be safe, ask your relative’s doctor to do a fall risk assessment. This includes a review of

  • underlying medical conditions. Many chronic diseases affect and the ability to get around.
  • the home environment. The doctor can write an order for an occupational therapist or other trained professional to do a home assessment. They can identify simple ways to remove hazards and make the home safer.
  • medication use. Some types of drugs, or daily use of four or more prescription drugs, increase the risk for falling.

Preventing falls

A recent review of numerous studies show that some strategies are better than others. The most effective measures for preventing a fall include:

  • Exercise, especially activities that promote balance.
  • Getting regular eye exams and following through with corrective procedures.
  • Removing hazards around the house.
  • Wearing sturdy shoes and slippers. A firm sole is better than a soft cushy one because it’s easier to feel the ground below.

Are you worried about a fall? As the Orange County expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Life Management understand the difficulty of your situation. You can’t be pushy about changes. And at the same time, the consequences can be pretty serious. Put our experience to work for you. Give us a call at 949-716-1266.

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.

I Don’t Need Help” – Part 1

treat older

It’s a common refrain and the bane of many family members: Your loved one is having trouble, yet he or she refuses outside help. This can put your relative at risk. But if the worst happens and things go south, it also ends up making more work for you. Doubly frustrating when you know it could have been prevented.

Rather than battling head on for acceptance, you might try a softer approach:

Build empathy. Ask your loved one what their concerns are. Just listen and try to identify the hot-button issue underneath the reaction:

  • Is it an issue of cost? – He or she may not know about Medicare coverage or the actual cost of the service. Your loved one may also underestimate his or her financial resources.
  • Is it an issue of control? – Fear that this is the beginning of the end in terms of living independently.
  • Is it an issue of privacy? – “My home is my refuge from others.” Or concern about being judged for lifestyle choices.
  • Is it an issue of pride? – “I don’t need a babysitter!”
  • Is it lack of knowledge (or denial) about their health? – Some people minimize the toll an operation or disease is likely to take.
  • Is it an issue of feeling loved? – “My family will take care of me.”

Validate feelings. All of these are valid reactions and worthy of exploration. You might start with, “I hadn’t thought of it that way. I see why you’re concerned….”

Explore thoroughly. Before problem solving, ask more questions. “Tell me more about that. It’s important that I understand.” The more your relative feels “heard” and the more you genuinely comprehend his or her issues, the easier it will be to work together to find a viable solution.

In subsequent articles, we’ll talk about ways to address these concerns with dignity and respect.

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.