This weekend I was taking flowers to one of our precious residents for her birthday. When I walked into the assisted living community right away I noticed how beautifully the dining area had been transformed into the perfect setting for a birthday celebration. There were balloons, flowers, Happy Birthday signs, two kinds of cakes and more. (I also later found out that her son made homemade Butterfinger ice cream at his Mom’s request. YUM!) The resident’s family had done a lovely job celebrating their Mom and making her party special. I immediately was greeted by one of the daughters and we shared some friendly conversation and I told her how lovely everything looked for the party. It was during this conversation that it hit me…these adult children were in the phase of life where they still planned celebrations for their own children that were becoming young adults and making sure that their parent was celebrated as well. That is a TOUGH balancing act. Being so many things to so many people can be tough! So, I thought, what would be the best advice for new people coming into this role? The role of having a loved one in assisted living can be a challenge. What would be a good idea for their Mom on Mother’s Day? This family had it all figured out. Now for Mother’s Day of course balloons and birthday décor are not fitting. But taking time to spend time is the best gift of all.
Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that stirs emotions. I think of my friend who recently lost his Mom. I think of the women that would give anything for someone to call them Mom. I think of how far away my Mom is and that I will spend this holiday away from her. I think of how blessed I am that God chose me to be the Mom of my daughter. Now I could write another flowery post about celebrating Moms. Believe me when I say they (all Mom’s) very much deserve this honor.
But I’m going to say this with sincerity and heart. Take time to notice ALL the special Moms in your life. Sometimes they are biological and sometimes they are not.
Sometimes Mother’s Day can be hard to manage for people who live in assisted living. Let’s be honest it can be hard for many people, in general, depending on the circumstances. Life is tough. So instead of just being a “Debbie Downer”, here are some practical tips for making sure that all the ladies in an assisted living community are not forgotten this Mother’s Day.
Plan something that celebrates all the ladies in your community. Have a tea or an ice cream social. Honor each lady there. Chances are whether she had a child of her own, she helped “mother” someone through the years.
Be sure if family comes to visit others that your staff is sensitive, but not awkward about those ladies who do not have family present. Many times staff become like second families and can make someone feel extra special by sharing time and smiles. It can go a long way.
Now yes…I know this celebration is for the ladies. But don’t forget to be sensitive to the men as well. Mother’s Day to them may be very different than in years past. Some may be just fine and dandy. But be aware, we sometimes see sadness or other ways of sharing emotion as thoughts of a spouse that is no longer living or even memories of their late Mother resurface on this day. Be kind. Show understanding.
It’s not that we shouldn’t celebrate Mom’s…we absolutely should. It would be terrible not to enjoy holidays for fear of stepping on toes. That’s not the way to live. But in an assisted living or any other settings, we need to be considerate. Show compassion, show kindness, show patience and show love. You know your Mama….or whoever raised you taught you those values. Make her proud.
Happy Mother’s Day
Some of the toughest days for families can be the initial stages of the realization that their aging loved one doesn’t need to be alone. Maybe it’s Dad’s reoccurring falls that are frightening or the scare of an ER trip because Mom accidentally took too much medication. Whatever the cause for concern, don’t beat yourself up. As human beings, the aging process is difficult. Watching our parents or other loved ones’ deal with this is altogether more trying. It becomes at times a battle of wills. It is what many refer to as role reversal. And while it may seem like you are being paid back for your hard-headed childhood days…you must be strong and use good judgment.
First, you must come to terms with the role reversal. It is hard for us to wrap our heads around the idea that we are now the decision maker. Now, with this in mind…tread lightly and respectfully. We still respect our elders. But we must respect them enough to CARE for them and make tough decisions. It’s a difficult conversation when they don’t seem to want our help or don’t want to be a bother. But stay strong. It can be so trying to see our parents or aging loved ones become so vulnerable. If you have siblings try not to allow this time to be one where you pull apart or old sibling rivalries rear their heads. Pull together rather than away from each other. Regardless if you are an only child or have siblings, find a way to talk things out with a trusted friend. This role reversal is tough!
STAY STRONG! This can be hard when a parent becomes angry over independence issues but you are concerned for their safety. Don’t cave in or just put a literal band-aid on a gaping wound. Address the tough issues. Avoid letting them shut you out or try and convince you that everything is fine when you know clearly it is not. Don’t wait until you are in crisis mode before you address the issues that are at hand.
Talk to them with their physician. Go to those appointments and help be an advocate. Many parents welcome time with their children. It may be that during these appointments there is information that family members are not getting the full story. It also could be that the physician may need some information as to what is “really” going on. Your loved ones may not always remember or understand everything their physicians tell them either. As a complete CARE TEAM…you and your parent in conjunction with their primary care physician can make good sound choices.
Role reversal is no walk in the park. But much like raising children can be so incredibly tough…tending to aging parents in role reversal can be gut-wrenching because we view them as well…the parent. Remind them how much you love them. Be nurturing and be kind. Let them know that you want to help take care of them just as they took care of you. Maybe it wasn’t perfect. But life just isn’t. Do the right thing and seek guidance from a physician and trusted friends along the way.
Tis the season for SNEEZING! Many are already in the thick of it! But allergies can be more than just a simple achooo!!! Being attentive and proactive is key when it comes to seniors and allergies. Check out this list from Christopher Randolph, MD, a member of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology’s Asthma & Allergic Diseases in the Elderly Committee be informed and ready to conquer allergy season.
- Randolph offers the following suggestions to help caregivers make allergy season more bearable for their loved ones:
- Look for the signs.Allergies don’t discriminate between the young and the old. Dr. Randolph says that people falsely assume the elderly do not get seasonal allergies when they are just as likely as anyone else to be affected when spring blooms begin to appear. In fact, adult-onset allergies are not unusual. Caregivers should be on the lookout for the traditional signs like sneezing, a runny nose, and itchy eyes so they can nip them in the bud.
- Inform their doctor. Randolph points out that it can be difficult for a physician to diagnose allergies in older individuals, especially when they’re focused on catching and managing larger health issues. Allergy symptoms can easily take a backseat to more weighty symptoms, like pain, depression, and changes in memory.
- Be aggressive.“Allergies have a larger impact on the lives and health of the elderly,” explains Dr. Randolph. It makes sense; allergy symptoms, such as a nasal congestion and an irritated throat can be extremely dangerous for seniors with pre-existing cardiovascular problems or lung disease. This is why Dr. Randolph feels that allergies in the elderly should be treated as rapidly and aggressively as possible.
- Avoid traditional antihistamines.Antihistamines, the class of drug most commonly prescribed to treat allergies, can be dangerous to seniors. Potential side effects from these medications, especially older varieties, include confusion, drowsiness, urine retention, dry mouth and eyes, and dizziness. In addition to these symptoms being irritating, they can contribute to dangerous falls and even urinary tract infections (UTIs). Furthermore, Dr. Randolph says that antihistamines can potentially cause changes in mood or behavior in the elderly and may lead to dangerous interactions with other commonly prescribed medications.
Instead of reaching for an over-the-counter antihistamine, speak with your loved one’s doctor or pharmacist about alternative allergy treatments. They will likely recommend a nasal steroid or some form of topical medication.
- Try drug-free solutions.Seasonal allergies are triggered by increases of pollen and mold in the environment. Minimizing exposure to these allergens is an obvious way to avoid bothersome reactions. This is not always easy, but a few lifestyle changes can help.
Getting outside to breathe in the fresh air, exercise and soak up a little sun is very important for seniors, but doing so during allergy season can leave them feeling worse afterward. Weather forecasts these days typically include a pollen count or allergy forecast. Use this to your advantage and try to avoid planning outdoor activities for when outdoor allergens are particularly high. If you and your loved one must go outside, remember to wear sunglasses to avoid eye irritation. As soon as you come home, make a point of washing your hands, showering and changing into fresh clothes to avoid introducing allergens into the house. If you and your loved one enjoy opening the windows for fresh air, try to do so only on low pollen days as well.
Make sure that your air conditioning unit is serviced regularly and equipped with a High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filter that can remove allergens from outside air to keep them from entering and circulating around the house. If your loved one also has indoor allergies to things like dust and pets, they may benefit from using an air purifier.
Both average life expectancy and the prevalence of diabetes are continuing to rise.
For seniors, type 2 diabetes is a growing problem, and a larger proportion of newly diagnosed diabetics are older in age. Treating and diagnosing diabetes amongst the elderly can be a challenge. Since April is National Defeat Diabetes Month, let’s look at how this impacts seniors specifically.
So, what are some differences in diagnosing diabetes among the elderly when compared to diabetes in the young?
1. Elderly people who are at risk of developing diabetes, or who have already developed the disease, may not exhibit the classic symptoms expected.
2. Age-related changes can mean that some symptoms will be masked, or harder to spot.
All diabetes complications can occur amongst older patients. Cognitive complications are more common amongst the elderly. Further problems may include pre-existing or co-existing health problems. Many elderly diabetic patients are pre-disposed to hypoglycemia. Understanding diabetes is an important step. Education, of both the patient and caregiver, can be important in recognizing warning signs before a crisis occurs.
According to the American Diabetes Association, “Diabetes is a common disease, yet every individual needs unique care. We encourage people with diabetes and their families to learn as much as possible about the latest medical therapies and approaches, as well as healthy lifestyle choices. Good communication with a team of experts can help you feel in control and respond to changing needs.” It is important to have regular checkups with your primary care physician and communicate any concerns. Dealing with diabetes will be so much easier when you have a team approach.
April is National Poetry Month. I truly enjoy reading poetry. I have written some poetry myself. I suppose it is because I like music so much. As I looked through many collections and books of poetry, I found odes to love, seasons and even family pets. But there was an entry I found that I thought was especially fitting for this blog. May we all find time this month to enjoy the beauty around us. Look at the beautiful flowers…the azaleas are the most beautiful this year that I have seen in my life! Also, look for the beauty in the people around us.
A Tribute to the Elderly
I thought upon the elderly
And whispered a prayer,
Giving thanks to God
For their sojourn here.
Such kind and gentle souls
From generations ago,
What they are to us,
They will never know.
A sure and beaten path.
A guide along the way.
The dedicated laborer
Who’s now old and gray.
Patriarchs and matriarchs,
And early pioneers.
The bridge that has brought us
As we’ve journeyed here.
Soldiers of great sacrifice,
Treasured more than art.
We honor, love and cherish them
Deep within our heart.
Every year we look for different ways to enjoy the holidays and come up with new activities to keep our seniors engaged. One of the ways that we can be certain to have a sure-fire good time for all is to include children or young people in whatever we have planned. The inter-generational activities prove to be a good time for all. Last week one of my sister facilities shared some photos of coloring Easter eggs using shaving cream. Such a fabulous fun! Something, where everyone can get their hands a little dirty and be creative at the same time, is a great idea for all ages. We are planning is to invite some local children who are out on Spring Break this week and do Shaving Cream Marbled Easter Eggs. Want to make some of your own? Here is what you need and what to do.
SHAVING CREAM MARBLED EASTER EGGS
Items You will Need:
3 or 4 colors of liquid water or food coloring
Jelly roll pan or disposable pan
Paintbrush or pencil to swirl your colors
Cooking cooling rack
Paper towels or wax paper for under the cooling rack to catch the paint drips
Towel to clean up messes
Apron or old shirt
Set your cooling rack up with paper towel or wax paper below
Fill a section of your pan with shaving cream – I did 3 sections, each section had two colors that gave us 3 different color combinations
Sprinkle several drops of each color of food coloring on the shaving cream
Place your egg in the pan, and swirl the egg around until is covered with colored shaving cream
If shaving cream becomes overly mixed just make another section and add food coloring and swirl again
Allow eggs to dry overnight. Shaving cream will partially dry, leaving a nice mess that needs to be cleaned up.
Using a paper towel rub off the dried shaving cream from each egg.
Show your beautiful eggs off!
Recently I was helping a young lady prepare an answer for a pageant onstage question. The question was, “What is a news story that you are following and what is your opinion on the matter?” After digging into the headlines, I landed on a topic that for me hit a little close to home. The topic…opioid addiction. I have typed this out and backspaced and stared at the words more times than I care to admit. Years ago, I went to great lengths to make sure that absolutely no one knew that opioid addiction was a subject I knew anything about. But sadly, I know all too well. Not on a personal level. But I guess observing the effects of addiction ravage your father’s body and mind are a bit personal. My Dad died in 2001 at the age of 56 years old. Now that I am 42 years old…I realize just how young he was when we lost him. His official cause of death was renal carcinoma (kidney cancer). But I know that his life was cut short due in part to the large amount of prescription pain killers he took every day. He was an addict and he knew it. We all knew it and it wreaked havoc on our lives. Opioid addiction is an epidemic that affects many different age groups and the elderly are not immune to this problem.
Agingcare.com reports that 40 percent of the prescription drugs sold in the United States are used by the elderly, often for problems such as chronic pain, insomnia, and anxiety. According to the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information, as many as 17 percent of adults age 60 and over abuse prescription drugs. Narcotic painkillers, sleeping pills, and tranquilizers are the most commonly abused medication types. When drugs come from a doctor’s prescription pad, misuse is harder to identify. We assume that pharmaceutical drugs are only used for treating legitimate medical conditions, and this is typically how seniors begin using these drugs. Doctors often prescribe older patients medications to help them cope with age-related physical and mental changes, such as depression, limited or painful mobility, and shorter, more irregular sleep cycles. Over time, seniors may develop a tolerance to a drug, so achieving the same “coping” effect requires larger and/or more frequent doses. The result is an inadvertent addiction to a specific medication.
Questions to Ask if You Suspect Prescription Misuse or Abuse
- How much are they taking? If Mom used to take one or two pills a day, but now she is taking four or six, that’s a red flag. Looking at the dosing instructions on the pill bottle or container can give you a clue whether they are abiding by the prescriber’s instructions.
- Has their behavior or mood changed? Are they argumentative, sullen, withdrawn, secretive or anxious?
- Are they giving excuses as to why they need their medication?
- Do they ever express remorse or concern about taking their medicine?
- Do they have a “purse supply” or “pocket supply” in case of an emergency?
- Have they recently changed doctors or drug stores?
- Have they received the same prescription from two or more physicians or pharmacists at approximately the same time?
- Do they become annoyed or uncomfortable when others talk about their use of medications?
- Do they ever sneak or hide their meds?
How to Help a Loved One Manage Their Prescriptions Responsibly
- Stay as connected as you can and make sure you know what medications your loved one is taking and why.
- Check that they are following the prescribed dosage(s).
- Encourage them to use painkillers and sedatives only when necessary and to taper off as soon as they can.
- Look for alternative treatments. If a senior has an ongoing problem with pain, for example, a pain management specialist may be able to suggest strategies for controlling it without drugs.
- Remind them to always avoid alcohol when taking painkillers or sedatives.
- Encourage them to bring all their medications to their doctor when they go for their annual checkups, so the physician has an up-to-date record of exactly what they are taking.
If you suspect your loved one may be misusing or abusing their medications, consult with their prescribing physician to devise a solution. It may be useful to inquire about psychological tests to check for mood or behavior disorders and research treatment facilities that specialize in programs specifically for seniors. Many insurance plans cover stays at in-patient addiction centers. It is difficult to face these problems, but the repercussions of sticking your head in the sand is worse for them and you. Addiction is not something that happens only to the addict. It affects the entire family. Don’t just try to sweep problems under the carpet.
Need help??? Get help!!
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA’s) (National Helpline, 1-800-662-HELP (4357),(also known as the Treatment Referral Routing Service) is a confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
With Spring in the air, many people of all ages are looking to hit the road. Elderly travelers need to be sure to plan appropriately. Medications, meal planning and safety are a few of the concerns. But once you have the perfect plan and an ideal destination in mind…what about the budget? Where can you get the most bang for your buck? Here is a list of travel discounts specifically for seniors when you are ready to “hit the road jack.”
Alamo Car Rental has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.
Alaska Airlines was 10% off for ages 65+. It is now reported to be 50% off. Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call first to ask about the discount and fees before making plans or booking.
American Airlines has discounts and deals for seniors 62 and up. Various discounts can reach up to 50% for non-peak periods (Tuesdays through Thursdays). Other fees, however, are unknown. Airlines like to wiggle out of things; call before booking.
Amtrak has a 15% discount for seniors. But they have a whole bunch of restrictions to go along with it.
The Avis car rental company has discounts and deals ranging up to 25% for AARP members.
Best Western motels have a 10% discount for seniors age 55 and over.
Comfort Inn motels have discounts ranging from 20% to 30% off for seniors age 60 and over.
Southwest Airlines is reported to have various discounts for ages 65 and up. But the usual warnings apply: call first, find out about other fees, etc.
Spring forward sounds so chipper. My last blog detailed the fact that I don’t sleep very well. I’m not so sure how much “pep in my step” I will have when we lose that hour of sleep this coming weekend either. But it’s not just the grogginess that comes with the time change. According to statistics, due to the loss of sleep and increased stress from exhaustion, automobile accidents and heart attacks increase dramatically. Scientists have found that on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time begins heart attack rates increase by an astonishing 24 percent. But take heart! These practical tips can help avoid knocking your natural circadian rhythm completely out of whack.
Tips for adjusting to daylight saving time from agingcare.com
- Get some sun: Exposure to natural sunlight helps regulate your body’s natural rhythms. Depending on where you live, the weather may be too cold to spend too much time outside, but you can at least pull up the shade and sit in front of the window for a few minutes.
- Work up a sweat: Engaging in some form of cardiovascular exercise (walking, jogging, biking, swimming) in the late afternoon or early evening may help you fall asleep easier.
- Develop an appetite for good sleep: Eating and drinking can actually disrupt your sleep. Plan to finish meals and snacks 2 to 3 hours before bedtime because digestion wakes up your body. Alcohol and caffeine are also “sleep interrupters” when consumed before bed. Limit caffeine to the morning and finish your alcohol consumption by early evening. Smoking before bed can also stimulate your body and make it hard to sleep.
It’s important to keep in mind that seniors may need more time to adjust to the transition. What is a minor annoyance for most adults could present a significant obstacle in the routine of older adults, particularly those living with dementia or other cognitive impairments. Be sure to check on these individuals and make sure that they are getting adequate sleep and seek medical advice if you notice a problem. Take small steps to prepare for the change for you and your loved ones and enjoy the longer hours of daylight and the warmer days.