Find Flexible and Convenient Work Opportunities as a Caregiver

My name is Sarah… pleased to connect with you online. As I approach my 46th birthday, I am “officially” entering the 21st century era of communications by finally getting around to trying my hand at blogging (better late than never, as they say!) Given the internal challenges I have been facing lately, I expect it will be a therapeutic exercise in laying out my situation and clarifying my thoughts. Meanwhile, I’m hoping you, the reader, will find this post to be helpful in some way as, together, we explore the possibility of entering the home healthcare or personal home healthcare market via the tools CaregiverUSA provides.

Here’s my backstory to give you some context. My husband David, a mid-level accounting manager, and I have been married nearly 19 years and have been busy rearing our two sons, Mike, now 16, and Zach, 14, at our home in a quiet middle-class Columbus, Ohio suburb. While we’ve had our ups and downs like everyone else, overall we have been blessed with good health, a vibrant family life, wonderful friends, and steady employment for David.

I must say David is great – he has always been totally supportive of my decision to resign from my frenzied position as a marketing manager for a major telecom company to be a stay-at-home mom, starting at around age 30. After all, what better investment can parents make than funneling their energy and gifts into their children’s well-being? As we see it, our job is to nurture and develop our sons into caring, responsible human beings who will, hopefully, make the world a better place to live.

To this end, I have proudly and happily worn the multiple hats of full-time homemaker for the last 16 years: layperson nurse, laundress, organic vegetable gardener, bargain shopper, home decorator, wardrobe consultant, meal planner, chief cook and bottle-washer, chauffeur, amateur psychologist, Cub scout den mother, sports team spectator, PTA chairwoman, social director, church bake sale point person, school basketball team fundraiser, holiday event planner, tutor, and, last but not least, housekeeper and organizer. In fact, I have been accused of being a “neat freak” by the men in my family. So what if I store the canned goods in alphabetical order?

But, I admit, kids grow up fast and things have changed; the boys don’t need me as much anymore. Mike is able to drive himself and his brother to and from school and their various sports and social activities. Mike got his license the day after his 16th birthday – we were so proud! It stings a little that they are at that phase where they really don’t want mom hanging around too much, particularly when the boys are with their friends.

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A mother explores her options to be a caregiver with CaregiverUSA.

So, I’ve found I am kind of restless, rather at loose ends at this crossroads in my life’s journey. This means it is time for a new challenge, a positive change. Besides, as David says, “How many times do you need to dust the shower curtains?” David thinks I need to get out of the house and find something I enjoy doing. Granted, while my husband does make reasonably good money, we both realize that with the prospect of putting two boys through college looming on the near horizon, it would be wise to figure out something for me to do that will allow me to put away some cash each week toward their higher education pursuits. I’m sure you’ve heard, in this election year, how college tuition costs are going through the roof! I know we’ll get through it, but we should be proactive in finding ways to increase our household income.

Of course, I’ve ruminated quite a bit about what I should do. Considering how much I enjoyed my former career in marketing, I always thought I could return to it eventually, once my children became more independent. But so much has changed since I left the industry at age 30 – in technology, in new best practices, etc. The learning curve would be very steep. Plus, I’ve heard so much about age bias in hiring (let’s face it – I’m well over 40, it happens) so it’s possible I might hit some resistance re-entering that particular job market. Of course, I know I could prevail, but the thing is, I have to really want it.

Truthfully, I don’t relish the thought of taking on a stressful position, and that certainly comes with the territory in a marketing career. I am really only interested in working part-time, and I considered healthcare, but have decided that at this stage in life, I don’t want to submit to the late-night study sessions and rigors of academia all over again. Because I love healthy cooking so much, I also toyed with the idea of opening my own “organic only” cafe, but David and I eventually decided the hours involved and the financial risk would ultimately not be the best choice for our family.

After much soul-searching, I’ve figured out something I’ve known inside all along, but never articulated before. The bottom line is: “I need to be needed.”

But please read on, because an exciting new development is unfolding. Ironically, despite all the things I have been doing the last several years to take care of others, it never crossed my mind that I would consider becoming a professional part-time caregiver – after all, that’s what I’m doing on this CGUSA website. But life has a way of opening up new possibilities where you least expect them.

Long story short: I love Facebook and these days, I am probably on there a bit too much. Several hours ago, in a light moment, I posted a funny meme about “Pre-empty Nest Syndrome.” It got several likes, which led to an old high school friend, Ashley, messaging me about her new career as a part-time personal caregiver and suggesting it may be good for me, too. Ashley used to tease and call me “Mother Sarah” way back in the day (I loved playing with little kids, and I would always be offering up home remedies to my friends’ random case of sniffles or sore muscles after a softball game). I asked her how she got into this field, given she had been an insurance adjuster for many years, and she told me about how she was able to easily find flexible and convenient work opportunities as a caregiver via CaregiverUSA.

 

Join CaregiverAsia to monetize and optimize your free time

I was interested, of course, but mentioned that I do not have any kind of nursing certification. No worries, said Ashley, neither does she! We actually jumped off Fcaebook and onto our phones, where we talked about how she was being paid to go into different people’s homes and cook, clean, organize, babysit – all the things I have been doing for years as a homemaker. She was so enthused about convincing me to do this I finally had to beg off the call so I could take action.

You’ve made your case, Ashley, this home caregiver situation is definitely worth looking into!

I am happy to report that I did not procrastinate. I hung up the phone immediately and went to the CaregiverUSA site, which is very easy to navigate, and just signed up, taking about 40 minutes to throw together and submit an appropriate resume highlighting my homemaker skills. I have already received the email acknowledgement for my application.

Ashley says they move quickly, and told me I can expect to hear from them in a few days regarding the requisite background check, setting up my profile, etc. She described CGUSA as sort of a home healthcare match-making service, and told me there are a lot of people on the site looking for help with elderly parents, Alzheimer’s patients, child care, housekeeping and errands during illness. Of course, skilled nursing services from Registered Nurses (RNs), Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Certified Nurse Assistants (CNAs) are also in demand. Ashley said in ten days or less, I should be able to start looking at the CGUSA electronic job board for care seekers in my area, and, conversely, have potential employers contact me via specific searches on the website database.

Can all this really be happening so quickly? Absolutely. In this amazing human journey, we’ve all got to “seize the day.” I am so looking forward to seeing how fate will bring me together with “just the right people” at “just the right time” so we can learn, grow, and help each other through life’s joys, trials, and tribulations.

Strength Training Can Help You Look and Feel Younger

Looking for the fountain of youth? Pick up a set of dumbbells, a kettle bell or a resistance band. Strength training offers a multitude of benefits, including ramping up your metabolism to help lose or maintain weight.

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that it can also be very powerful in reducing the signs and symptoms of numerous diseases and chronic conditions, among them:

  • arthritis
  • diabetes
  • osteoporosis
  • obesity
  • back pain
  • depression
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Strength training can help you look and feel younger.

Strength Train to Maintain a Healthy Weight

The CDC asserts that strength training is crucial to weight control, because individuals who have more muscle mass have a higher metabolic rate. Muscle is active tissue that consumes calories while stored fat uses very little energy. Strength training can provide up to a 15 percent increase in metabolic rate, which is enormously helpful for weight loss and long-term weight control.

Strength Train to Feel Better

Regular strength training can help improve balance and reduce fall risk, decrease arthritis pain and strengthen bones, thus reducing fracture risk. It can also improve glucose control, improve sleep quality and state of mind and support better heart health.

Common Questions and Answers About Strength Training

Following are some common questions about strength training, and answers from trusted sources:

  • Won’t strength training bulk me up?

This question is most commonly asked by women who fear an overly muscular look. The truth is, to bulk up as a bodybuilder aims to do, you would need to spend a significant amount of time lifting very heavy weights and you would need to be eating a surplus of calories to support building serious muscle mass. You can easily find a strength training program that will help you gain just the right amount of muscle mass to crank up your metabolism and burn stored body fat so you actually end up leaner and tighter. If you combine strength training with a nutrition plan aimed at losing or maintaining weight you will find yourself losing weight or fitting into smaller sizes even if the scale doesn’t move much.

  • I walk/swim/take Zumba classes – isn’t that good enough?

The CDC reports that “While aerobic exercise, such as walking, jogging, or swimming, has many excellent health benefits — it maintains the heart and lungs and increases cardiovascular fitness and endurance — it does not make your muscles strong. Strength training does. Studies have shown that lifting weights two or three times a week increases strength by building muscle mass and bone density.”

Still not convinced? The National Institutes of Health (NIH) reports that an increase in muscle that you can’t even see can make it easier to do everyday things like get up from a chair, climb stairs, carry groceries, open jars, and even play with your grandchildren. Lower-body strength exercises also will improve your balance.

Michele Brannock, 69, of Upper Arlington, Ohio, picked up her first kettlebell six years ago. She worked with a trainer for six weeks to master proper form and said she has benefitted tremendously from for this particular form of strength training.

“I stand taller now,” she said. “My balance has improved, I have fewer aches and pains. I don’t have the tummy bulge anymore, and my back pain is completely gone. Nothing else I have done exercise wise has helped by back like training with kettle bells.”

So How Do I Get Started?

The National Institute of Health recommends doing strength training exercises for all of your major muscle groups on two or more days a week. You should not work the same muscle groups two days in a row. Your muscles need 48 hours or more to recover in between strength sessions. So you could either do a full-body strength training routine three days a week – for example, Monday, Wednesday and Friday or Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, or if you prefer to keep your strength sessions shorter, you might break them up into upper-body strength and lower-body strength sessions and work your upper body Monday, Wednesday and Friday and your lower body Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Strength training should complement rather than replace cardiovascular exercise, which is also important, as are balance and flexibility training. Here are more tips to help you look and feel younger:

  • Depending on your condition, you might need to start with very light weights – 1-3 lb. dumbbells. For exercises in which your bodyweight already provides some resistance – such as squats and lunges, you might not need to use weights at all – at first. Your goal should be to gradually increase the amount of weight you lift in order to continue to progress.
  • Choose a weight you can lift for 10-15 repetitions. Your first rep should not feel very, very hard, but your final rep should. You want to be able to complete 10-15 repetitions with good form – if you cannot; your weight is too heavy. If you can complete 15 reps and feel like you could still do many more, your weight is too light.
  • Take at least two counts to lift the weights and two counts to lower them.
  • Exhale as you lift the weights, and inhale as you lower them. If you cannot sync your breathing perfectly at first, do not stress about it – the most important thing is to never hold your breath while exercising.
  • Or, check out these recommendations from the CDC.
  • You can also join a local gym or recreation center, sign up for a group fitness class, hire a personal trainer or purchase an exercise DVD – or check one out from the library – if you want additional guidance.

Use the Internet to expand your world – be sure to surf the web safely

According to the Pew Research Center, in 2015, 58 percent of adults ages 65 and older were using the Internet. There are many benefits to be found online, but there are dangers as well. This article will explore both and offer advice to help you surf the web safely.

Benefits of Internet use

  • Stay connected / reconnect: From e-mail to social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, going online offers easy options to keep in touch with friends and family or even connect with former school pals or co-workers.
  • Enjoy a smoother customer service experience: Whether you have a question about your gas bill or need to schedule a service appointment for your vehicle, sometimes hopping online can allow you to avoid a frustrating phone call during which you wait on hold for an extended period of time or have to navigate a frustrating voice-prompt phone system.
  • Tap into a wealth of information right at your fingertips: You can easily research many topics online – from working on your family tree to researching major purchases in advance to learning more about relevant health topics, you can discover a lot by accessing the Internet via your computer, tablet or smart phone. You can even take courses online, whether you want to pursue a degree or certification to change jobs or return to the work force, or you might simply enjoy taking a class because you welcome the challenge and the chance to acquire new knowledge.
  • Find free or cheap entertainment options: Some people save money by giving up cable service and using a service such as Netflix or Hulu to stream television shows and movies to their computers, tablets, smartphones or televisions via the Internet. You might also enjoy watching funny cat videos on YouTube, looking up song lyrics, reading books and magazines online, discovering bloggers you enjoy following and/or playing online games.
  • Shop from the comfort of home: You can find just about anything you normally buy at the store online and save time and gas money by shopping online.
  • Access coupons and other discounts: Many companies offer sales and coupons via their websites, social media pages or e-mail.

Dangers of Internet use

Of course, while there are many benefits to be found online, there are also dangers, so it is important to become savvy about cyber security if you use or are going start or continue Internet use.

Cyber security is general Internet safety, which focuses on protecting computers, networks, programs and data from unintended or unauthorized access, changes or destruction.

“It has been said, just as you use locks to keep criminals out of your home and other personal items, you also need to safeguard and secure your computers and mobile devices such as your cell phone, iPad, etc,” Chief Technical Officer of CaregiverUSA R.E. Dean said.

“Many crimes that occur in real life are now conducted or at least facilitated through the Internet. According to the FBI’s Scams & Safety, many criminals target seniors via e-mails and web sites with scams about charitable donations, auctions, health care and prescription medications. Because they think seniors did not grow up with today’s technology, scammers don’t think seniors will be as savvy about Internet safety and risks. In addition, they feel that seniors are less likely to report scams, because they are simply embarrassed. The best way to protect yourself from scammers is to educate yourself and be proactive.”

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Here are some tips on how to use the internet safely.

How to protect yourself online

The United States Department of Homeland Security offers the following tips for staying safe online:

  • Choose passwords that mean something to you and you only; use strong passwords with eight characters or more that use a combination of numbers, letters, and symbols.
  • If you use social networking sites such as Facebook, be sure to limit the amount of personal information you post online and use privacy settings to avoid sharing information widely.
  • Keep in mind that most businesses or organizations don’t ask for your personal information via e-mail. Beware of any requests to update or confirm your personal information.
  • Avoid opening attachments, clicking on links, or responding to e-mail messages from unknown senders or companies that ask for your personal information.
  • Install and regularly update the security programs on your computer, such as anti­-virus, and anti-spyware. These programs can help to protect the information on your computer and can easily be purchased from software companies on the web or at your local office supply store.
  • Beware of “free” gifts or prizes. If something is too good to be true, then it probably is.
  • It is important to add only people you know on social media sites and programs such as Skype; adding strangers could expose you and your personal information to scammers.
  • If you seek medical advice online, be sure to find out who is providing the information. Many pharmaceutical companies create websites with information to sell products. Look for sites ending in .edu (for education) or .gov (for government).
  • Avoid accessing your personal or bank accounts from a public computer or kiosk, such as the public library.
  • Don’t reveal personally identifiable information such as your bank account number, social security number or date of birth to unknown sources.
  • When paying a bill online or making an online donation, be sure that you type the website URL into your browser instead of clicking on a link or cutting and pasting it from the email.
  • When shopping online, make sure the web site address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure.
  • Look for the padlock icon at the bottom of your browser, which indicates that the site uses encryption.
  • Type new website URLs directly into the address bar instead of clicking on links or cutting and pasting from the email.
  • Keep your mobile devices in your possession at all times, and always be aware of your surroundings. Click here for more tips regarding mobile devices.

Visit the Department of Homeland Security cyber programs site for more information including tips and free resources.

Additional helpful web sites through which you can educate yourself about common scams perpetrated online, learn to protect yourself and even report fraud include:

The federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. This site also has information on warning signs of identity theft and what to do if your information is lost or stolen.

  • The Better Business Bureau’s site, is a good place to research stores you plan to shop with online.
  • The FBI’s Scams and Safety site, provides tips on how you can protect yourself and your family from fraud.
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Why the CaregiverUSA site is safe.

How CaregiverUSA keeps you safe on our site

Caregiver USA has taken many steps to make sure your experience on our web site will be a safe one. We make sure that all vendors who partner with us discuss their cyber security policy, PCI Data Security Standards (DSS), and are in compliance with Caregiver USA Security policies.

“There are three levels of cyber security, and we have taken great care to ensure that we have taken every step possible to provide maximum security in all three levels,” Mr. Dean said. “At the basic level, we ensure our content management system updates, plugins, and themes use the latest versions. We encourage our site users to use strong usernames and passwords. We back up our web site and system regularly. We use SSL encryption (https://) and we provide information available for system contacts.

“Advanced level Security includes installing a firewall to block potentially dangerous traffic. In addition, when working with third-party software and vendors, we review their standards, policy and compliance documentations.

“High-Level Security includes HIPAA compliance and separate PHI and non-PHI databases,” Mr. Dean said. “We have a disaster recovery strategy in place and a redundancy of hardware strategy. We have a two-factor authentication via an additional login, security via text, code and e-mail link. We make sure the system file/folder permissions are set up properly and ensure site access permissions and/or IP as needed.”

How CaregiverUSA keeps you safe in “real life”

At CaregiverUSA, we are not only concerned with your safety while using our web site but also in real life. We recognize that you are using our site to seek care for yourself or your loved one that will be delivered in person. We have taken many steps to make sure that the professionals you connect with through our site are people you can trust and feel safe letting into your home – people we would trust with our own families and welcome into our own homes.

CaregiverUSA caregivers are trustworthy professionals dedicated to providing high quality, dependable care. Every staff member at CaregiverUSA has been fully screened and has extensive experience. Prior to hiring any care provider, we:

  • Perform an employment reference check with three references.
  • Conduct verification of licenses, certifications and registration for positions including but not limited to registered nurse (RN), licensed practical nurse (LPN), certified nursing assistant (CAN) and home health aide (HHA).
  • Validate work history.
  • Run comprehensive federal, national, state and county-level background checks on all caregivers.

5 Ways to Prevent Falls in the Elderly

How many of you are caring for the elderly, or are looking for part-time elderly care? It’s not easy. There are so many things to look out for, and so many challenges to face.

One of the biggest challenges is prevention of falls in the elderly. There are many other things to talk about when it comes to caring for the elderly but accidental falling can be a nightmare and is an ongoing plight feared by many. So how do we prevent falls in the elderly?

We know that falls, and the resulting complications, can be very dangerous for old people but they are also one of the most common risk factors – it’s just too easy to let them happen. According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, “One out of three older adults (those aged 65 or older) falls each year but less than half talk to their healthcare providers about it.” So this problem is not only widespread, it is also hidden. Caregivers end up in a difficult position of having to prevent things before they can happen.

So, What Can We Do?

Many risk factors and prevention techniques have been identified in medical and healthcare literature, so let’s go through some of the more important among these. This might go a long way in saving the lives of our loved ones. Some of these risk factors are intrinsic and you may need professional help before you can notice them, for example, examination for back problems. Other factors are environmental and to some extent they cannot be controlled easily. But there are other factors that are within the power of caregivers – both formal and informal – to deal with.

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Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination.

Medication

Forewarned is forearmed. Some medicines can make a person dizzy or drowsy, or affect balance and co-ordination. This applies to everyone, not just the elderly. Caregivers might not always be in a good position to know this – medical confidentiality and lacking pharmaceutical knowledge might hinder this. But the elderly or their legal representatives should be able to ask their doctors or pharmacists to identify those medicines (whether prescribed or over-the-counter) that increase the risk of falling. The doctors especially, should be able to tell whether any particular medicine is a risk to any particular patient.

Footwear

Remember that awful, horrible feeling when you wrench an ankle wearing thick soles on uneven ground? Think of this, only much worse, if an elderly person’s feet wobble too much wearing high heels with no ankle support. Backless shoes, even slippers with smooth soles, all pose a variety of footwear-related risks. In Asia, another type of footwear to worry about are the communal slippers used for many bathrooms (they could be wet, too). There are many ways footwear can be unsafe – they can interfere with a safe and proper gait, they can be too slippery, or they can be too large and be a tripping hazard. We should ensure our elderly not only have proper and safe footwear for going out, but also for using within the home – this is especially important for bathroom slippers since the elderly may need to access a potentially wet floor late at night, possibly without wearing their glasses, while urgently rushing to answer the call of nature.

Tripping / Slipping Hazards

We already mentioned smooth-soled shoes as a slipping hazards. But there’s more. The bathroom is a particularly dangerous place for the elderly when it comes to a fall risk. The floor can be smooth and wet, and placing loose rugs may do nothing to solve this problem – they might even increase the risk of slipping (remember how frequently the elderly may need to use the bathroom at night). Bathrooms often also have little kerbs, especially at the shower areas that are naturally often quite wet. Try to use rugs with a rubberised underside, to prevent elderly users from slipping on them, and of course try to keep the floors dry. Rough surfaces or rubber mats are another potential safety measure.

But that’s just the bathroom. Falls can happen anywhere in the house or outside it, so watch out also for objects cluttering the floor, uneven ground, slopes, and smooth surfaces.

Walking assistance such as walking sticks is a great way to prevent falls in the elderly.

Assistance

Now, this might be a bit difficult. So far, we’ve talked about removing problems, or learning information. That’s not expensive. But sometimes we may need to make some investments for the long term. We don’t really need to wrap our elderly in tons of cotton wool everywhere they go, but it would help if grab rails or other supports are installed in the more important places, such as indoor stairs or places that may often have wet floors, like the bathroom. Walking aids should also be chosen carefully. A walking cane for the elderly should not be too heavy, and should be adjusted to the correct height so that a cane-assisted walking posture does not itself turn out to be a falling risk.

Diet

Protein, calcium, essential vitamins and water. All these sound very commonsensical. However, what an elderly person needs for a suitable diet may not be the same as what healthy middle-egd adults need. Some changes are common to all elderly – for example, switching to softer foods. Moreover, a healthy diet can go a long way to prevent numerous other problems that increase the risk of falling. Diet also needs to cater to a person’s specific medical issues, for example, seniors with blood pressure issues or suffering from diabetes may also need special care diet-wise, to prevent fainting spells from suddenly standing up.

Health Care Decisions For A Loved One With Alzheimer’s

More than 5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s, which is the 6th leading cause of death in the United States. In 2015, more than 15 million caregivers provided an estimated 18.1 billion hours of care for those who have this disease. Early detection can allow you to get the maximum benefit from available treatments, participate in decisions about your care and planning for your future and access care and support services for you and your family.

If you are concerned that you or a loved one is exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer’s, it is important to make an appointment with your/your loved one’s primary care physician. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so the chief treatment goals are to:

  • maintain quality of life
  • maximize function in daily activities
  • enhance cognition, mood and behavior
  • foster a safe environment
  • promote social engagement, as appropriate

One key decision you will need to make or help your loved one make, is whether care should be provided at home or in a healthcare facility. As making the appropriate health care decisions for a loved one with Alzheimer’s is important.

Michele Lynn and her sister had to make that decision when their mother, now 99 years old, was diagnosed with dementia 10 years ago. Her mother spent a short period of time after diagnosis in her own home.

“Mom and my sister both lived in New Jersey at the time, and I was in Ohio,” Ms. Lynn said. “My mother is very strong-willed and had a great desire to be independent. My sister visited Mom every day and felt that as a retired person she should care for Mom herself. We talked about the responsibilities my sister would have. I emphasized that my sister would not have family support close by. She would be responsible for hiring and monitoring help. Caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s is a 24/7 job. It would have been nice if we could have had a companion during the day to help with Mom, but ultimately, as the disease began to progress, we decided that it was in everyone’s best interest to find a good Alzheimer’s care facility.”

Ms. Lynn’s mother spent eight years in a small memory unit in New Jersey.

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What’s your health care plan for a loved one with Alzheimer’s?

“Then, my sister moved to Florida, and I found the right home for Mom in Ohio,” Ms. Lynn said. “I had full responsibility for selecting her residence. I was looking for somewhere that would offer peace and quiet; and cleanliness and the attitude of the staff were very important to me. At one place I visited, I heard members of the staff standing around, complaining; at another the floor in the dining area was filthy. The place I selected was beautiful and clean, and the attitudes of the staff were amazing.”

All was well for the first year and a half that her mother lived in the memory unit at that facility, but then things changed.

“I had to get very demanding about training for the staff and how certain procedures were handled,” Ms. Lynn said. “My mother fell and was badly hurt, and I heard four different versions of what had happened. I also found out that men were trying to get into her room, seeking interaction. Mom was falling in the middle of the night. After installing an exterior lock on the door, the falls stopped. Other lapses in care occurred. I acted as an advocate not only for Mom but for other residents, too. All of the patients deserve respect and attention. Just because someone has dementia doesn’t mean they aren’t aware of what is going on around them.”

Ms. Lynn emphasizes that just because your loved one is receiving professional care, that doesn’t mean they don’t still need you.

“You have to be there and listen and pay attention,” she said. “You have to remember that you are trusting staff with a precious being who won’t be here forever. Advocate for your loved one to ensure they are safe.

“Do the things your loved one likes to do. Do what you can to bring them joy. My mother loves flowers, so I bring flowers that we arrange together. She lights up. I also arrange for musical groups to sing for the residents. Music is a wonderful therapy for memory patients.

“I’ve also never stopped finding outside help. Hospice has become involved as Mom has declined. They provide an extra set of eyes and ears for my mother. They also provide me much-needed support. It’s important for me as a caregiver to get personal support.”

Pamela Williams, now a registered nurse, previously worked as a nurses aide in an advanced Alzheimer’s unit at a long-term care facility and also cared for her grandmother at home after her Alzheimer’s diagnosis. She agrees with Ms. Lynn that a support system is so important when caring for someone with Alzheimer’s.

“We were fortunate because she was diagnosed pretty early,” Ms. Williams said. “She had a really great physician who put her on a couple of medications that really helped to slow the process. At first she mainly just needed help with medication management, laundry, cooking and cleaning. My parents lived right next door, and my aunt and uncle lived just a mile and a half away. One of my sisters and one of my cousins was still in town, so we had a great family support system. I moved in initially, and when I moved out my parents moved in with her, choosing her house over their own since hers was all one level and they knew that at some point, she wouldn’t be able to go up and down the stairs in their home.”

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What are the signs and symptoms of Alzheimer’s? 

Eventually, her grandmother’s care needs increased.

“She began to need help with bathing and other personal care,” Ms. Williams said. “That is definitely something you need to consider if you plan to care for your loved one at home – that is a daily need, and a personal one. By then I was living a mile away and would drive over once a day to help my parents with her. I was a nurses aide at the time and was more comfortable with it. She was my grandmother, and I loved her and was happy to help.

“As her needs progressed, at times my parents would get stressed out and need a break. If you are a caregiver and you don’t have family and friends close by who are willing and able to offer respite care like we did, I think it is so important that you seek out other resources. Contact your Area Office on Aging or whatever resources your community has to offer.”

Ms. Williams points out that care needs will change and increase over time, and it is important to be prepared for that.

“Know that even if symptoms are mild early on, they will get worse,” she said. “We were very lucky that my Grandma wasn’t aggressive, never got sundowner’s, never wandered, but I saw these symptoms in others at work. Some of the patients I cared for forgot how to walk, how to speak. Their care needs were extensive. New symptoms can present at any time, and that can change the course you need to take. There is no cure for this disease, so inevitably, there will come a time that you will either need to find a healthcare facility with an Alzheimer’s unit for your loved one or you will need resources to support you as a caregiver. Don’t wait for that to happen – research those options before you have a desperate need for them so you can take your time and make the right decisions for your family.”

Signs of Alzheimer's are not to be mistaken with age related changes

Living with Alzheimer’s – is more than just memory loss.

Following are 10 warning signs that you or a loved one might have Alzheimer’s:

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgment
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

For more details on each of these symptoms, visit Alzheimer’s Association‘s website.

How can you tell the difference between Alzheimer’s symptoms and typical age-related changes? The following chart from the Alzheimer’s Association can help:

Signs of Alzheimer’s Typical age-related changes
Poor judgment and decision making Making a bad decision once in a while
Inability to manage a budget Missing a monthly payment
Losing track of the date or the season Forgetting which day it is and remembering later
Difficulty having a conversation Sometimes forgetting which word to use
Misplacing things and being unable to retrace steps to find them Losing things from time to time

There is a wealth of information available through the Alzheimer’s Association website, or by calling the association’s 24/7 Helpline at 1-800-272-3900. You can also jump right to a section of the website that will help you map out a personalized action plan for your family at https://www.alzheimersnavigator.org.

Serenity For Seniors

An aquarium stocked with colorful tropical fish does the trick.

Happiness is watching the pretty things go by – and these seniors were full of eager anticipation as they watched me set up an aquarium at their day care center. Their faces lit up when I released into the once neglected tank, dozens of tiny fish – brilliantly hued neon tetras flitting merrily with multi-colored guppies.

All it took to transform the tank were a few packets of gravel, a dozen aquatic plants, a filter pump, an under-gravel air stone, and an overhead light. And, a deft eye and hand to place the entire lot in a pleasing arrangement. Half-a-day’s work and hey presto, the magic of an undersea world was up and running… adding new life literally to the recreational needs of the center’s seniors.

Mrs. Richards (not her real name), who is 95, likes to spend a few minutes each day watching the fish, especially when they rush to the surface during feeding time. “They are so beautiful… I see they have been growing slowly, but steadily, over the last few weeks.”

Watching the fish in an aquarium brings her a sense of serenity, says Mrs. Richards.

Some dental clinics have taken to placing aquariums in their waiting area. Watching the fish can be effective in reducing anxiety in patients awaiting dental surgery, according to medical studies.

This is especially true in elderly patients who experience reduced muscle tension and lowered pulse rate after watching the fish before going in for treatment.

Sure, maintaining the cleanliness of the aquarium and making sure the water is balanced for the well-being of the fish, can be hard work, in addition to making sure that they are fed regularly.

Fish can also get distressed when the water gets too hot or too cold, or if there is not enough light.

But the effort to maintain the aquarium is worth the while, especially when it brings benefits – the calming effect and a feeling of serenity that it bestows on elderly people when time hangs heavy on their hands.

A Purdue study in 2009 shows that aquariums had a good influence on the nutritional intake of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients exposed to the aquaria averaged an increase of 17.2 per cent in the amount of food they consumed. Weight also increased significantly, and the patients required fewer nutritional supplements.

In addition to the nutritional benefits, there was also a noticeable decrease in physically aggressive behaviors among the patients.

Feng shui advocates also say that moving water is considered beneficial in balancing “chi”, and a well maintained aquarium in the right location increases wealth and luck.

What next? Perhaps a koi pond in the open area outside the day care room, where flowering plants already abound. Seniors sitting around a koi pond may well feel refreshed as they enjoy a spot of sunshine, watching the graceful sight of swimming koi.

The 4 Common Types of Dementia

Did you know that dementia is not one disease, but a name for many different brain diseases?

Before the late 1800s, dementia was an umbrella term for many types of unrelated mental illnesses, and there was very little medical understanding from ancient times. The haphazard developments in medical knowledge in this field are why we have many different conditions, lumped under one word. It is an unfortunate legacy, especially when combined with the social stigma and the wrongful association with natural aging.

Today, medical research endeavor to unravel the intricate web of dementia so we can have a better understanding of these diseases, in the hope of prevention and one day – a cure. Though there are many types of dementia, the most common ones are Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Disease Association.

1. Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s is a “type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, behavioral and other intellectual abilities serious enough to interfere with daily life”, according to Alzheimer’s Association. Alzheimer’s disease makes up some 50%-70% of dementia cases – there is a clear organic process of deterioration. The early symptoms of Alzheimer’s are difficulty remembering recent conversations, names or events, as well as apathy and depression. As it progresses, symptoms include impaired communication, poor judgment, disorientation, confusion, behavior changes and difficulty speaking, swallowing and walking.

 

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What are the common types of dementia?

2. Vascular dementia/ Multi-infarct dementia

Previously known as post-stroke or multi-infarct dementia, vascular dementia is caused by problems in the brain’s blood supply, often after a series of strokes or bleeding in the brain. The location, number, and size of the brain injury determine how the individual’s thinking and physical functioning are affected. The early symptoms of vascular dementia are impaired judgment or ability to make decisions, plan or organize. Memory loss is not a common initial-stage symptom in people with vascular dementia as it is in people with Alzheimer’s.

3. Dementia with Lewy Bodies (DLB)

DLB is a type of “progressive dementia that leads to a decline in thinking, reasoning and independent function because of abnormal microscopic deposits that damage brain cells over time”, as per Alzheimer’s Association. Medical science doesn’t know what causes DLB, but it is specific enough – there is cognitive decline and can only be confirmed by a post-mortem brain histology that shows Lewy bodies in the neurons. People with DLB often have early symptoms such as sleep disturbances, well-formed visual hallucinations, slowness, gait imbalance or other parkinsonian movement traits. Memory loss and thinking problems are also common symptoms in DLB as it is in Alzheimer’s.

4. Parkinson’s disease dementia/ Mixed Dementia

Alzheimer’s Association explains Parkinson’s disease dementia as an “impairment in thinking and reasoning that begins in a region that plays a key role in movement”. Changes in the brain gradually spread and initially affect mental functions, including memory and the ability to pay attention, make sound judgments and plan the steps needed to complete a task. An estimated 50 to 80 percent of those with Parkinson’s eventually experience dementia as their disease progresses, according to Alzheimer’s Association. The average time from onset of Parkinson’s to developing dementia is about 10 years. If dementia develops, symptoms are often similar to dementia with Lewy bodies.

Mentioned above are only some of the common types of dementia, and up-to-date there are over nine types discovered. As different types of dementia can have similar overlapping symptoms, it may be difficult to diagnose dementia just by the symptoms alone. Take note of the signs and early symptoms of dementia. People with deterioration in cognition and personality should seek medical help upon the onset of symptoms. Alzheimer’s Disease Association offers help through programs and support services for patients and their families.

Where Should You or Your Loved Ones Live Out the Golden Years?

It is often said that home is where the heart is, but how do you decide where home should be as you or your loved ones age and health decline? Whether you are facing the decision personally or helping an aging parent decide where to live out the golden years, there are many factors to consider. This article will review the key issues that must be addressed when making this decision and also look at how to find resources to support your decision.

First let’s take a look at your main options: independent living/remaining in one’s own home, living with family, or moving into a nursing care facility or assisted living facility.

Independent Living/Remaining in One’s Own Home

This simply means continuing to live in your own residence or perhaps downsizing to a smaller, easier to care for dwelling, but enlisting minimal help, if any at all.

Living with Family

As they age, some people choose to move in with family members who can help care for them, or to have family move in with them.

Nursing Care/Long-term Care Facility

The care provided in a nursing home/long-term care facility care can vary and is usually most appropriate for someone whose needs exceed those that can be met by family and/or community supports.

“Often this is someone who has significant medical issues that need to be monitored and managed frequently by skilled nursing,” said Erin Frankenfield, a social worker with the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging (COAAA). “Or, this might be someone who has significant memory impairment and requires special programming and supervision to ensure their safety is met, as well as activities tailored to their cognitive capacity. Nursing homes have some private rooms available, but those are more costly. Usually, you have a semi-private room that you share with someone else. Medicaid will only pay for a semi-private room.”

Assisted Living Facility

“An assisted living facility can be an appropriate choice for someone who can live in their own private room,” Ms. Frankenfield explained. “However, there are some facilities that are specific to memory care and severe dementia patients. Also, assisted living has regular nursing care but not as intensive as that provided in a nursing facility. Assisted living facilities often provide meals, homemaking and a living space that is more ‘homey’ rather than ‘medical’ (like you would find in a nursing facility). Often, assisted living facilities will be more selective about accepting patients with extensive medical issues, partly due to the capacity of the facility to safely and adequately care for the multiple health complications of someone who has several and severe health issues.”

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Where should you or your loved ones live out the golden years?

Making a Decision

Determining where you or a loved one should live in the autumn of life is a big decision and should not be made lightly.

“When figuring out how to choose the appropriate care setting for someone, it’s important to first determine how much assistance someone requires to complete their activities of daily living (ADLs),” Ms. Frankenfield said.

These include:

  • Managing medication
  • Handling environmental tasks such as shopping, laundry, cooking and cleaning
  • Heavy chores
  • Yard work
  • Home maintenance
  • Bathing, dressing, grooming
  • Toileting
  • Mobility – getting in and out of the shower/bath, up/down the stairs, in/out of bed, ambulation – getting from point A to point B
  • Making phone calls
  • Driving or arranging transportation
  • Managing finances/legal matters

“It is also important to consider whether there are any memory deficits or ongoing issues with confusion,” Ms. Frankenfield said. “For example, are they forgetful about whether or not they have eaten or taken their medication? When they leave the home alone, do they get lost? Do they get out of bed in the middle of the night and wander?”

After taking an honest and thorough look at how much help someone requires, next, it’s important to determine if there are enough family and/or community supports to sustain that person either in their environment or in a family member’s home.

“There are options for living in the community with assistance,” Ms. Frankenfield said. “There are private pay home health companies that supply trained personal care aides to assist with ADL tasks, cleaning and running errands. Paying privately for care in the home can be costly, and choosing a company is difficult as there are a lot of companies out there. The cost of private paying for a personal care aide can range, and most companies would like someone to commit to a block of time versus an hour.”

For those who opt to remain in their own home or live with a relative, many communities provide a plethora of senior services, which could include home-delivered meals, a homemaker and/or personal care aide, emergency response pendant, assistance with obtaining durable medical equipment such as hospital beds, wheelchairs, grab bars, shower chairs, etc.

“In Columbus, Ohio, for example,” Ms. Frankenfield said, “there is a program called Senior Options, or for someone who requires a lot of assistance with personal care and is Medicaid eligible, there’s a program called PASSPORT managed through the Central Ohio Area Agency on Aging. These two programs are designed to assist people who meet certain income guidelines and who require a certain level of assistance, so they can live in the community setting with supports. COAAA also offers a lot of other resources and assistance with information about long term care, and they are always available to take calls for such information.”

To find resources in your own community, try Google searching for “resources for seniors” in your city or state, or visit the Administration for Community Living website.

“Living in the community can also be enhanced by using an adult day program,” Ms. Frankenfield said. “Usually, they provide transportation. These type of programs are convenient for a working family that needs to have their older adult family member in a safe environment during the day while the working members of the family are not able to be home with them.”

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Assisted living has regular nursing care but not as intensive as that provided in a nursing facility.

To find information on adult day programs, residents in Central Ohio can contact the COAAA. In other areas, you can conduct a Google search for your city and state plus “adult day programs.”

National Church Residences also has several programs in Columbus and throughout the United States.

Funding the Care Scenario of Your Choice

Whether you and your family choose care at home or in a facility, there will be a significant cost involved.

“Older adults and their families need to look honestly at what they can afford as far as time and money to safely and reliably support the care needs of the family member concerned,” Ms. Frankenfield said. “The cost of private pay for a nursing facility or assisted living is very expensive, and both the cost and quality of the facilities range widely. There is a useful link on the Medicare.gov website: ‘Find Nursing Homes.’ It links to different nursing facilities, including their ratings and is a good place to do research.”

There are four different sources for funding a stay in a nursing facility or assisted living facility. These are:

1) Private pay

2) Long-term care insurance

3) Medicaid

4) Veterans’ benefits

“Medicaid is state-funded insurance, and eligibility is based on income and assets,” Ms. Frankenfield explained. “If someone has several assets and would like to explore qualifying for Medicaid, they could consult an elder law attorney for assistance in determining how or if these assets could be protected.”

Regardless of the decision you make, it should not be arrived at lightly. Take your time to really consider all of the key issues and research your options so you can make the best decisions for you and your loved ones.

Fall and Injury Prevention in the Elderly

The medical journal American Family Physician reports that falls are the leading cause of injury-related emergency department visits and the primary cause of accidental deaths in adults ages 65 and older. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, approximately one in three adults ages 65 and older falls every year. It is no surprise that fall prevention in the elderly has become a priority for most caregivers.

“Injury from a fall is definitely a concern as we age,” said Timothy Kirkpatrick, MD, an emergency department physician. “The core becomes weaker, balance degenerates, reaction time slows, vision dims, and we cannot compensate quickly when off-balance. Falls can have serious repercussions, including hip fractures and head trauma.”

Some signs that you are or a loved one is at risk of falling include an unsteady gait or a gait that includes a lot of shuffling. You also want to pay attention to how many steps can be taken without assistance. This may be the primary step to assess any fall-related risks for injury prevention in the elderly.

Fortunately, there are a number of risk factors that can be modified or managed.

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Fall and injury prevention in the elderly can save lives.

“It’s important to have your vision checked frequently, including assessing for potential cataracts and macular degeneration,” Dr. Kirkpatrick said.

He continued: “You also want to be aware that certain medications can make you dizzy. Pain medications, especially if new to you, can make you loopy, fatigued and less aware of your surroundings. Pay careful attention to how you feel any time you start a new medication such as antibiotics, blood pressure medications or blood thinners, or any time the dosage of one of your medications is adjusted. Even some over-the-counter medications can affect how steady you are on your feet, such as antihistamines like Benadryl or medications marketed as sleep-aids.”

Additional risk factors, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, include:

  • Lower body weakness (one sign of this is needing to push with your hands when standing up from a chair)
  • Vitamin D deficiency (that is, not enough vitamin D in your system)
  • Foot pain, numbness in your feet or poor footwear
  • Needing support – such as from a cane or walker – when walking
  • A history of falling – people who have already fallen once are more likely to fall again.
  • Home hazards or dangers such as
  • broken or uneven steps,
  • throw rugs or clutter that can be tripped over,
  • no handrails along stairs or in the bathroom, and
  • dimly lit doorways, steps and stairwells.

Most falls are caused by a combination of risk factors. The more risk factors a person has, the greater their chances of falling.

Dr. Kirkpatrick recommends taking the following actions to help the risk of a fall or injury from a fall:

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Assess all fall risks to prevent falls in the elderly.
  • Remove throw rugs.
  • Provide good lighting.
  • Remove or secure carpet and treads on stairs.
  • Ensure all cords are out of the way/never crossing a footpath.
  • Refrain from rearranging furniture, as people are more likely to bump into or trip over things if the layout they are familiar with changes.
  • Eliminate clutter – keep kids’ toys picked up, and don’t stack things like magazines and papers near a doorway or stairway where they might be knocked over into the footpath.
  • Install hand rails where needed – ensure they are secure and don’t wobble by bolting them into studs rather than anchoring into drywall.
  • In the winter, ensure all outdoor walkways are kept thoroughly shoveled and well salted.
  • Get rid of any glass-topped tables
  • Install non-slip tread strips or bath appliques on bathtub and shower floors.

It is important to note that some fall-related injuries actually occur when people are struggling to get back up from a fall, Dr. Kirkpatrick said, and can even occur without a fall.

“When a hip breaks,” he said, “it is often not the fall that breaks it but the act of getting back up or twisting/turning when standing, and hips can even break from the simple action of getting up from a seated position. To reduce the risk of breaking a hip, chairs for the elderly shouldn’t be too soft and deep, and of course they should not be unstable. Also consider installing handrails to help get off the toilet or out of the shower.”

It is possible to reduce the risk of breaking a hip as described above and to modify the overall risk of a fall/fall injury by developing or improving good self-care habits.

Dr. Kirkpatrick recommends eliminating or reducing alcohol consumption, and exercising regularly to improve balance and strengthen the core. The CDC especially recommends Tai Chi to improve balance. You also can talk with your doctor/advise your loved one to talk with his or her doctor about fall prevention.