Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Helping New Clients Adjust to Having a Caregiver for the First Time

The need for a caregiver is a life-changing event for most people. Sometimes this is caused by an unexpected event, like a fall resulting in a fracture, or it may be the expected gradual decline of old age.

The client may or may not have dementia. They may have a family caregiver who needs occasional respite, and this will be the first time they are having a “stranger” assisting them. At-home senior care can range from companion care to medical care by an RN. Whatever the situation, the goal is to have this first time be as comfortable and stress-free as possible for the new client.
Success or failure is greatly influenced by how much preparation and communication exists between all persons involved. Here are some ways that this will be a smooth transition from total independence to accepting some amount of assistance.

1. Clearly determine the role of the caregiver. What type of assistance is needed? Will the caregiver need to assist with personal care? Will meal preparation be needed? A realistic evaluation of the client’s abilities and weaknesses needs to be made. Families are not always able to make this assessment, so the assistance of professionals can be invaluable. Also consult with the client’s doctor for any medical complications that need to be addressed.

2. Determine the client’s previous experience with accepting help. Have they had professional cleaning help in the past? Have they used Meals on Wheels? Has someone been hired to mow the grass or shovel the snow? The use of any outside help gives the client a frame of reference for accepting help from the caregiver.

3. Determine if there is a family caregiver. Some clients have trouble accepting the help from a professional caregiver instead of a family member. It helps if they know this is temporary, and that their family member is returning. The client may or may not recognize the family caregiver’s need to have personal time away from the client to “recharge their batteries.” Perhaps presenting this new professional senior caregiver as a way for the family caregiver to enjoy their time away and not have to worry about the client will be easier for the client to accept.

4. Patience is key. This will probably be an anxiety-provoking experience for the client, especially if they are afflicted with Alzheimer’s. If possible, the first visit of the at-home senior care provider should be made while the family caregiver is at home also. Present the professional caregiver as helping the family caregiver out, so she can complete a task like working on her tax return. It may help the client to accept this stranger into their home if the help is for the other family member.

5. The caregiver should treat the client with respect. Ask the client how they want to be addressed. Do they prefer Mrs. Smith, or do they want you to use their first name? Avoid the use of terms of endearment like Honey or Sweetie unless the person seems to be open to it—but definitely not on the first day.

6. Allow the client to make appropriate decisions. Don’t say ”I’m making cereal for your breakfast.” Rather, ask if they would like cereal or pancakes. Give them the ability to be the “boss” in their own home whenever you can.

7. Try different approaches, especially if the client has dementia. If the client is resisting doing necessary tasks, maybe a sense of humor will help, or reasoning with them, or referring to the family caregiver or even their physician. If you say the doctor wants them to take this medicine, etc, they may be more inclined to take it. Change the point of reference to something more appealing. For instance, change showering into spa day, and include polishing nails and extra time to pamper the client.

8. Take suggestions. The family of the client should suggest some activities for the caregiver to share with the client. If mom likes to bake, have a box of brownie mix available for them to make. If Dad likes sports, have the game on for them to enjoy together along with typical snacks. Make a list of activities the client enjoys doing. Then the caregiver can use the list to suggest things for them to do while they are at the home together.

9. Follow the same schedule. Make sure the at home senior care provider knows the client’s usual schedule. Maintaining the routine can prevent stress and anxiety for the senior, especially if they have dementia. On the other hand, if they like to sleep-in mornings or stay up late at night, this would be a good time to indulge either.

10. Share a smile. Last, whenever caring for someone in their home, put a smile on your face. Whether you are a professional senior caregiver or the family caregiver, look like you want to be there with them and that you enjoy their company. The positive upbeat attitude you project will start off your beginning relationship with the client in a positive way.

Hopefully, each time a caregiver comes to the home, it will be easier for the senior person to accept and even enjoy the experience. Professional senior care providers will always try to have the same caregiver come to the home, so a trusting relationship can be developed.
However, if the client doesn’t feel comfortable with a certain caregiver, don’t be afraid to ask to try someone else. If at all possible, try to determine what it is about the caregiver that they don’t like. It can be as simple as some people like a more energetic, active personality and another may prefer a more quiet, calm personality. The agency will always try to match the client with the right caregiver for them.

The more often the senior has a caregiver experience, the sooner the senior caregiver will be more comfortable with the client and the client will become more comfortable with the caregiver. In time, they could become friends, and the client will look forward to the caregiver’s visits.


Author Bio: Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

How to Recognize and Combat Geriatric Depression

How to Recognize and Combat Geriatric Depression 
It is a completely appropriate and normal response to feel sadness from any adjustment in life, such as weight changes, limited mobility, aches and pains and other circumstances that can be associated with aging. Fluctuating emotions are a part of life and being human. It is when that sadness is overwhelming, persistent and impacting quality of life that there is major cause for concern. Contrary to what many people believe, depression is not an inevitable part of aging, and one should never feel powerless if they believe they suffer from depression.
 It is estimated that 15 percent of Americans older than 65 years old suffer from this diagnosable, treatable mental illness, with a large majority of those individuals not receiving adequate-enough treatment or care, if at all. From those who only recently retired or are living in retirement communities to those receiving elderly home care, no one is completely exempt from this illness that affects people of all ages and from all walks of life.  

Why is it Hard to Detect?
As depression is a mental disorder, it can easily and often go undetected by family, friends, health providers and even the individual grappling with the illness. One reason that it often goes under the radar is because experiencing sadness, hardship and loneliness is something everyone undergoes at some point in their lives. This can make it hard for someone to distinguish “normal” human emotion from a more serious issue that needs medical attention. 
Another reason depression is hard to pinpoint may be because of the stigma that still surrounds the illness. This may explain why so many people, senior citizens included, fail to admit they suffer from a mental disorder that can be addressed and treated. Not to mention, seniors may often have less resources, limited mobility and smaller support networks that make it hard to reach out when they need guidance and support on how to deal with and manage their depression.
Depression and Other Health Issues 
Symptoms of depression in seniors can be physical, such as aches and muscle weakness, as well as cognitive, like illogical reasoning and forgetfulness. Not only can these be mistaken simply for signs of aging, but they also often are not symptoms that younger people with depression experience. Since depression in young ages is better understood and more readily recognized, people may not even realize that the symptoms an elder is exhibiting are indications that depression is present. 
Oftentimes, depression co-occurs with other health problems, making it even harder for health providers to diagnose. For instance, seniors with depression are at higher risks for cardiac diseases and death from other illnesses. This only goes to show that it is essential that depression be diagnosed and treated, as it correlates with lower quality of life, shorter average lifespans and risk of suicide. 
Symptoms of Depression
A senior who is suffering from depression may exhibit different symptoms from another person experiencing the very same mental illness. While it’s important to note that depression can manifest in many forms, you can gain a better understanding of it by considering these common symptoms:

  • Trouble sleeping or restlessness
  • Persistent, severe pain
  • Poor body- and self-image
  • Delayed thinking and forgetfulness
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Digestive problems and cramps 
  • Consistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness or apathy
  • Feelings of social isolation 
If any or all of these ring true for you or a loved one, consult with a doctor who can get to the underlying cause of these symptoms and give you the peace of mind and answers you seek.  

Common Treatments for Depression
When it comes to treating depression, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. What may work wonders for one person may not be as effective for another. That is why it is important to do your research to find the right treatment methods that will work for your circumstance or your loved one’s unique circumstance. Some of the more common treatment options include:Antidepressants–When considering medication, discuss the options thoroughly with a doctor so you can fully understand the potential risks and side effects before any new medication is introduced.
  • Antidepressants–When considering medication, discuss the options thoroughly with a doctor so you can fully understand the potential risks and side effects before any new medication is introduced. 
  • Counseling–Speaking with a therapist is another popular route people take. Therapy gives people the opportunity to voice what’s on their mind, hopefully feeling peace by talking through their problems and stressors in the process. 
  • Psychotherapy–If the potential for side effects from new medication is too great or risky, psychotherapy is a popular alternative. This is a common option often used for those who deal with intense stressors from their pasts.

In Addition to Treatment
Because of the nature of old age, many seniors suffer from loneliness and feel cut off from past enjoyments, resources and people they can rely on. While not to be considered a cure or treatment for depression, having an elderly caregiver can help ease their burdens and make their daily lives a bit easier. Companionship and some assistance navigating day-to-day tasks is something found in elderly care services. If you are concerned about a loved one who lives alone and suffers from depression, do your research to see if this is something that can be beneficial for your family. 
If you fear you or a senior family member suffers from depression, remember there will always be resources and help. The road to feeling better and regaining lust for life may seem intimidating at first but one that doesn’t have to be navigated alone. Those suffering from depression can reach out to family, friends and health providers and find the help they deserve to continue living the happiest, healthiest, most fulfilling life possible.  

Author Bio: Susan Ashby joined the Superior Senior Care team in July of 2014 as Community Relations Manager. With over 27 years of experience in geriatric health, Susan brings a wealth of knowledge and insight to Superior Senior Care and plays an integral part in connecting consumers and communities with resources for independent living.

Thanks Susan for a great guest post

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Neat Sheets for Your Aging Parents

I recently received a few samples from to review. I have to say this is one of the best products I've seen.

I wish I had had them for my mom especially in her last few weeks when eating was a huge challenge due to her insistence on feeding herself despite tremors and loss of function. We went through a lot of towels and expensive chux, and they didn't keep her dry when we had soups or other liquids which were her favorites.

These can be so helpful for caregivers and to keep your aging parents neat and dry when eating or drinking. So much about caring for aging parents involves preserving their dignity and independence in any way possible. These are cute protectors without the appearance of a large baby bib!

The sheets remind me of those little paper bibs you get at the dentist office, but larger. These sheets are 13 x 22" and have adhesive strips to hold them in place. They are absorbent on the front and repellent on the back, and disposable. They're also very durable and can be reused if they aren't soiled. 

As a home health care nurse, these would have come in handy many times. Your car becomes your home away from home and many a snack or meal is eaten on the road. How many times I've spilled mayonnaise, mustard or coffee!! Could have saved me! Even now, I often eat breakfast on my way to work these days and they worked out well.

I saw a testimonial on their website about people using them at a large Bar B Que party. That would be a great use! There are many ideas for use almost everywhere and in any situation. They come in 4 designs and are available in packs of 20, 80, 100 or 400 and reasonably priced.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Helping Your Senior Parent Downsize From a Distance

By Clair Wentz

Life has a way of separating loved ones, and this often is true of adult children and their parents. Distance often makes the heart grow fonder, but it does not make helping a senior accept downsizing any easier. However, adult children should help their aging parents take the steps necessary to move into the final stages of life in any way they can. Whether this means assisting them as they move into a senior retirement community or simply a smaller space, distance does not have to mean helplessness.

photo from Pixabay

If You Can, Make an Appearance

Family obligations and preferences pertaining to quality of life are just two of the reasons why adult children may live far from their parents. While living near your elderly parent is ideal, it is not always going to be an option. Still, if your parent is facing a move, it is nice to take a trip to provide emotional support while explaining to him or her, in person, why it will be better.

If you are planning to move your parents into a smaller space, explain the financial benefits that they, their children, and their grandchildren may eventually see from such a wise move. This may seem like a selfish approach, but explaining that money saved could also go toward reasonable travel and other hobbies will make it clear that it is not all about you. Downsizing will minimize the stress that an aging loved one may feel to maintain an unreasonably large property.

Taking Care of Business from Afar

If you and your parent decide that life in a senior living facility is more suitable, many of the responsibilities of caregiving will be taken care of by a staff of professionals. Many senior living communities will handle daily care and provide necessary rehab and even potentially memory-strengthening services.

For those whose parent is merely downsizing, hiring a regular caretaker is recommended. Senior Directory explains that many elderly adults can live independently, but having a caregiver who pops in a few times a week is always a good idea. Family Caregiver Alliance provides advice on how to make a decision regarding the necessity of an in-home caregiver.

Regardless of having an in-home caregiver, there are several tasks which adult children can take care of to support and care for their parent. A Place for Mom suggests that long-distance caregivers remain in tune with their loved one’s condition, staying in regular contact through phone calls.

Organize Documents and Finances

In addition, a long-distance caregiver can keep documents organized that pertain to the senior’s health and other affairs, including finances. Speaking of finances, paying medical bills is another duty that a senior should not have to worry about. If they have a Medicare plan that helps cover their bills, the duty of paying attention to any changes in their plan should fall on both you and your loved one so that you don’t learn the hard way that something you thought would be covered no longer is. There are great online resources that can keep you both in the know about these changes, walk you through the process of enrolling for or updating a plan, and for learning what is offered in their state. Coordinating appointments when necessary is another way care can be given, even from far away.

While it may seem that living hours or even states away from an elderly loved one ties the hands of a caregiver, this is not the case. There is plenty that caregivers, often adult children, can do to aid an aging loved one. This long-distance care takes many forms, whether it means providing emotional support via communication or taking care of the many administrative tasks a senior is rarely capable or willing to do on his or her own. Taking care of some of these duties should help ease the burden that distance imposes on an adult hoping to help care for a senior parent.

Claire Wentz is creator of and author of the upcoming book, Caring from Afar: A Comprehensive Guide for Long-Distance Senior Caregivers. Claire is a former home health nurse and recognizes that our aging population means many more people will become senior caregivers over the years. Specifically, she is interested in providing assistance and support to those caregivers who do not live near their loved ones. She hopes her writing will inform them, uplift them, and give them peace of mind when they need it.

Thanks Claire!

Friday, August 31, 2018

Great Caregiving Book from Tina M Marrelli, RN

I want to bring to your attention a great book, A Guide for Caregiving by Tina M. Marrelli, RN. Marrelli is an RN who has written extensively about home health care nursing for nurses. Her books have been considered as bibles for home health care.

This time around she has written a guide to caregiving for caregivers. Marrelli covers the basics of caregiving and then delves into some specific care issues for diseases such as Alzheimer's, COPD, Cancer, etc., and cargiving issues such as caring for bedbound patients and providing incontinence care.

It's very easy to read and follow and covers all your questions. The American Journal of Nursing awarded the book 3rd place in its 2017 Book of the Year awards. It's truly worth your while!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Nursing Home Compare

I know that the current administration has made many changes that diminish or limit protections for our aging loved ones in nursing homes. But there are a lot of things you can do to help you find the BEST place for Mom or Dad or other aging loved ones.

Remember that long term care is not covered by Medicare. If skilled care is needed after an acute illness or injury an short term stay in a nursing home will most likely be covered as long as rehabilitation is progressing. Non-skilled care in a nursing home is an out-of-pocket expense, and choosing the best option is of utmost importance. Discuss this with your discharge planner, case manager and MD. has several pages of checklists and information about nursing homes. They even have a comparison site called Nursing Home Compare that provides you specific information about Medicare related information to help you make decisions. Be sure to explore all of the tabs and print information to review as needed.

A wonderful checklist is downloadable from the site and they offer an in-depth description about all of the things you can find on their website to help making the choice for a nursing home a better experience for you and your family.

Not all nursing homes are created equal and will not appear on the list if they are not certified to accept Medicare for skilled nursing care. But you can find out information through state survey information. "Note: Nursing homes are not included on Nursing Home Compare if they are not certified by Medicare or Medicaid. Those nursing homes may be licensed by a state. For information about nursing homes not on Nursing Home Compare, contact your State Survey Agency."

In addition to information about Medicare certified nursing homes, Medicare also provides a well-defined list of alternative long term care living situations for your loved ones. 

Make informed choices and involve family in the decision making process to ease tensions down the road.