All posts by Samantha Colaianni

Long-Term Care – Partnering with an Aging Life Care Manager®

by Frances Mir MSN, RN, CMC

Planning for long-term care as one continues to age can become a process that requires research, pre-planning, and financial overview. The good news is that there are opportunities for seeking a range of services and working collaboratively with professionals who can assist with the steps of long-term care planning. This article will focus on those areas to help you with this most important step in securing a plan.

Why is It Important to Plan for Long-Term Care?

Long-term care planning will require understanding your options, careful planning, and taking important “action”. Long-term care offers services which will assist in helping to maintain a life style that meets the current needs of the individual. These services may include, but are not limited to, personal care which assists with Activities of Daily Living; skilled care services for more extensive physician directed care; or care management services to assist in evaluating, planning, and coordination of your care.

Skilled long-term care services can be provided in either a home setting or a licensed long-term care community/facility.  Home based services may include personal care service or Physician directed Home Health care services for more skilled needs or short-term nursing or therapy services. Long-term care communities provide more extensive care with a full range of nursing and therapy services. It is recommended to take time in researching long-term care facilities, home health programs, and retirement communities prior to final decisions. Communicating with the administrative team of skilled care facilities to answer questions, assist with tours, and review state regulatory issues is essential in the planning process.

Who Needs Long-Term Care?

At least 70% of individuals over the age of 70 years old will require some type of long-term care. However, services are also available for those individuals, who have experienced a catastrophic injury, or have a physical or mental disability with special needs. Each care option may have their individual regulatory admission process for service provision, and it is important to review with each entity.  Preparing a plan which includes care, support and advocacy is important.

It is also essential to understand the cost related to long-term care services.  Financial review and planning are also very important and will, at times, determine the type of long-term care that will be provided. The plan will be based on your age, healthcare needs, priorities, and your personal financial profile. It is important to understand that not all government programs or health insurance benefits may cover your long-term care plan. Meeting with your insurance or financial representative, or the administrative team of the long-term care facility and/or home service is necessary to assist in understanding the cost related to care.

Enlisting an Aging Life Care Professional to Create a Plan

Creating a plan is the most essential step in long-term care planning.  Understanding your own personal healthcare needs with your personal physician, talking with your family about options for caregiving in the future, and financial and legal review are priorities.  However, identifying the important professional and knowledgeable resources in your community are also very key factors in ensuring a successful plan. One of those most important resources is an Aging Life Care Manager. This professional team member can assist with the assessment, coordination, planning, and evaluation of your overall care needs and plan. The Aging Life Care Manager has the experience and knowledge base to assist with maximizing community and healthcare resources to assist in minimizing cost related to the transition of long-term care. They can serve as the liaison for both out of town family members or other professional resources involved in the long-term care process. They will act as an advocate for the client whose family is caring for an older or disabled adult. These Aging Life Care Managers follow a strict code of ethics and standards of practice.

Professional Aging Life Care Manager services may be available by contacting the Aging Life Care Association at www.aginglifecare.org.  The organization promotes the highest standards of practice, with professionals who are experienced in many areas. There is an Aging Life Care Manager in your area, waiting to assist and partner with you and your family in this important step.  One does not have to be alone in planning for long term care.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

The Anatomy of an Appetite: Aging and Our Relationship to Food

Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

Many of life’s events involve food. From the grandest of celebrations to the smallest of gatherings, there is always a place for food. As an Aging Life Care Professional®, I recall a wonderful get together this care manager had organized to celebrate a client’s birthday, her ninetieth… I thought.  She so enjoyed her birthday cake. It was only after I re-did the math that I realized my enthusiasm was premature; Dorothy had another twelve months to go to before she reached her 90th year.

Dorothy took great pleasure in eating her birthday cake. But such enthusiasm for food is not shared by all adult seniors.  There are a variety of factors that may contribute to a decrease in appetite: the side effects of a medication, dentures that do not fit, loss of taste, feelings of loneliness as a senior sits down to a table for one and a myriad of medical conditions.  A wince as an older adult bites into an apple or a change in appetite after the start of a new medication are symptoms that may require a visit to the dentist or a call to the prescribing doctor.

The potential for resolving the nutritional problem described above are far more likely than the changes an adult senior experiences as the end of life approaches.  He or she may lessen their food intake and ultimately refuse all nourishment. Family members are justly concerned, confused and frequently feel guilty.  Often, they fear they are starving a loved one to death if food, liquid or some form of artificial nutrition is not provided.  For an adult senior with advanced dementia, the scenario is made more complex.  As the dementia progresses it impacts on that part of the brain that controls swallowing. The chance of choking increases. In either of these scenarios it is important to recognize as the end of life nears the body adjusts to the slowing down process and minimal amounts of nutrition or liquids are needed, if at all. Now the focus becomes comfort care. Moistening the mouth with a special sponge, applying lip balm or offering a small amount of water through a straw, teaspoon or syringe.

Aging Life Care Professionals understand that while parents may have left specific directives for no heroic measures, a daughter may find it too cruel to discontinue nourishment or fluids. A son may hope for a last-minute miracle or a spouse may feel that only time will dictate when to say the last good-bye.  As Aging Life Care Professionals, it is our role to hold the hand of our client and reach out our other hand to support the family in whatever their decision may be.


Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the founder of Directions in Aging based in New Rochelle, New York. For over two decades she has assisted families in customizing plans of care and developing effective strategies to meet the needs of older adults. She has recently been appointed to the board of directors of New Rochelle Cares, a non-for profit organization devoted to helping senior adults live safely and fully at home.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

 

Finding What Matters as We Age

by Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC

The work of care managers is in itself rewarding. On a day to day basis, we play a large role in the lives of our clients and their families. We’re gifted with the opportunity to help those in need, to help improve the quality of life for the clients we serve, and to reduce stress and anxiety for worried families. Many would be quick to say that our work is significant, it seems obvious, right? But is it?

Pete Smith will be the keynote speaker on the final day of our 35th annual Aging Life Care Association National Conference. His discussion will focus on the journey of finding significance, personally and professionally. The key is to maintain your own individual sense of motivation and engagement and to stay focused on the things that actually matter. What are those things? Tough question. The answer starts with this: what are you going to think about in the last moments of your life?

Pete survived a stroke at the young age of 35. This experience left him reflecting on the life he had, which was like what many of us would describe our lives as at this very moment: “fine.” Pete began a mission of changing his lens and finding more significance in his life. His book Dare to Matter: Choosing an unstuck and unapologetic lifestyle, identifies the seven pillars of significance that can help us find more meaning and less self-doubt and fear in our work and in our personal lives.

Finding significance is a journey. It begins with self-reflection and insight into what truly matters to us. Significance is not about breadth or scope, it’s about depth. It’s easy to let external factors influence what we superficially view as significant. The key is to peel away the layers hiding the true message. This takes time, and lots of practice, but with guidance can be achieved.

 

Join us on Saturday, April 6th at the conference to hear the inspirational words of Pete Smith. His fresh perspective on finding meaning will get you thinking about living through a lens of significance. You’ll leave his session feeling re-focused, re-committed, and re-energized to the work that we do as Aging Life Care Professionals.


Harisa Paco, MSW, LSWAIC, CMC is a Certified Care Manager with Aging Wisdom. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Social Welfare and a Master’s Degree in Social Work with a focus on Multigenerational practice from the University of Washington. Harisa is co-chair of the Aging Life Care Association’s Seattle Unit Group and a board member of the ALCA Western Region Chapter.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Heart and Brain Health: Do One New Thing for Three Weeks

By Keri Pollock

A new year is upon us and with it usually comes a resolution to get healthier. We so earnestly want to engage in life improvements, yet, they have a way of falling to the wayside. Take heart! (Pun intended). You can start fresh any time of year. Not convinced? Here are some sobering facts to consider from the American Heart Association:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the U.S.
  • 1 in 4 deaths is caused by heart disease
  • 30% of the deaths among women in the U.S are caused by heart attacks and strokes
  • High cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking all contribute to heart disease

Let’s look at how you can make simple, effective changes that will benefit your heart and overall health. Choose just one, and you’ll be surprised at how much better you feel. Start with a visit to your health care professional before embarking on any significant changes in physical activity:

Get a baseline of your five most important health numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL Cholesterol, Blood Sugar, Blood Pressure and BMI (Body Mass Index). When you know these numbers, you can find out if you are at risk for developing heart disease or other health conditions.

Watch your weight. Extra pounds put stress on our bodies and hearts. Obesity is responsible for many health conditions that can be reversed or improved through weight loss.

Do you smoke? Quit! Stopping smoking is one of the best things you can do for your health. Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death. Check out these resources at smokefree.gov website for support.

Manage blood pressure and cholesterol. Uncontrolled high blood pressure is one of the biggest risks for heart disease and other harmful conditions, such as stroke.

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Drinking too much alcohol can raise the levels of some fats in the blood (triglycerides). It can also lead to high blood pressure, heart failure and an increased calorie intake.

Engage in physical activity. Move more. Walk 20 minutes each day. Take the stairs. Find a class – water aerobics, dance, tai chi, gentle yoga — at your community center. It all counts!

Eat healthy. Eat smart. Add color. Reduce added sugar. Add more fresh vegetables and fruits to your diet. Choose lean meats and healthy fats. Eat more fish. Take a cooking class. Work with a nutritionist. The Mediterranean diet is often cited as one of the healthiest and good for your heart.

Get enough sleep. Seven to eight hours each night is what’s recommended. Sleep is restorative. Our quality of sleep influences everything from mood, to thinking, to reaction times, even our weight.

Prevention is key. Often, heart disease can be prevented when you make healthy choices and manage health conditions. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. You don’t have to change everything at once. In fact, if you try to make too many changes, you are more likely to fail.

Need a little extra incentive? Consider this: What’s good for the heart is good for the brain!

Pick just one thing – exercise, diet, losing weight, managing BP and cholesterol, quitting smoking, or getting enough sleep – and try it for 21 days (the length of time it takes to develop a new habit). Then, add another heart healthy choice. Before you know it, you’ll be well on your way to improved well-being, a happier heart, and a healthier lifestyle that you can maintain.


Keri Pollock is an ALCA Administrative Partner directs marketing and communications for Aging Wisdom, an Aging Life Care™ practice based in Seattle, WA. Pollock serves on the Age Friendly Seattle Task Force, the Creative Aging Programs Advisory Committee at the Frye Art Museum, and on the Alzheimer’s Association Discovery Conference planning committee.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Living a Heart-Healthy Life…With a Scoop of Ice Cream

By Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM

Although American Heart Month is about to end, heart disease among adult seniors shows no signs of letting up. In fact, it is the number one cause of death in older adults and has been for the last two decades.

According to Dr. Jeannette Yuen, a cardiologist in the Scarsdale Medical Group in Harrison, New York, the most common types of cardiac disease are: Coronary heart disease, where plaque builds up in the arteries that inhibits blood flow; Arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm that develops due to changes in the electrical impulses through the heart; Heart attack, which occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked by a blood clot; and heart failure, when the heart’s muscle becomes too damaged to pump blood to the heart.

While chest pain is one of the prominent symptoms associated with heart disease, there are other symptoms not to be ignored: pressure and/or heaviness in the chest that can be mistaken for indigestion, shortness of breath, palpitations, a rapid heartbeat, sweating and nausea.  For women, there can be a group of unique symptoms: extreme fatigue, pain in one or both arms, back, neck or jaws. Also, there may be shortness of breath without chest pain.

As Aging Life Care Professionals®, we recognize that in the senior population heart disease may co-exist with other chronic conditions. Treatment for one condition may have a negative effect on another condition. It is for this reason that we obtain a full medical history, such as medications that are currently being taken and ones that have resulted in adverse reactions. We guide the caregivers so that they are aware of the symptoms that are out of the norm and recognize the importance of having open channels of communication between our clients and their physicians.

For both the family and the Aging Life Care Professional, there are no sweeter words than to hear a family member “is stable.” To that goal, if, for example, a pacemaker has been implanted, it is important to have it tested at regular intervals. It is also important to take medications as directed, not skip a dose, or abruptly stop a medication without consulting with a cardiologist.  While the importance of exercise has always been touted to strengthen the heart and improve circulation, as care managers, we must question if such expectations are realistic based on the physical and cognitive conditions of our clients.

Finally, there is the inevitable recommendation to eat a healthy diet. While this is certainly important, it is also important to include moments that are simply for the joy of them. I choose to go with poet Jenny Joseph, who wrote: “When I am old I will wear purple with a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.”  To which I add, while wearing purple with a red hat, I will eat ice-cream, whenever the urge comes over me. If not now, then when?


About the Author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is the founder of Directions in Aging based in Westchester County, New York. For over two decades she has assisted families in customizing plans of care and developing effective strategies to meet the needs of senior adults.

This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Keeping Love in Your Life as a Caregiver

By:  Linda Fodrini-Johnson, MA, MFT, CMC, Aging Life Care Professional

I am going to give you some tips to keep love the focus throughout your entire life and not let the challenges of aging get in the way, keeping in mind that love is the most important factor in the lives of millions of people everywhere. When I ask new clients what gives their life meaning and value, it is usually the love of a family member or partner. I think that love is essential to keep at the center of any challenges that life might put in your way. Think of older couples making the hard decision to sell their home of fifty years and move into a retirement community. It means that they have to discard many of the treasures that they have collected, all with meaning and memories. However, if you keep the focus on “what do we need now?” and “what is most important?”  the letting go will be just a little easier.

In the aging process, it can progress to total dependency, brought on by a progressive illness like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s disease to one or both partners. Or maybe the burdens of living with diabetes or pulmonary illnesses for you or your partner have taken over as a central theme to your daily living.

The goal is not to let that aging or health-related diagnosis get in the way of your relationship. The goal then becomes making sure that there is always a priority for joy and fun, balancing joy with the extra care time it takes to manage some of these age-related challenges.

Tips for Keeping Love in Your Day:

Express Yourself

Start and end every day with “I love you!”

Prioritize Touch

Sexual activity and touch are important to human health; it improves the immune system, reduces the risk of prostate cancer, contributes to better cardiac health, and more. If this is an issue for you, talk to your medical or mental health providers for ideas. Those deprived of physical touch are often more sickly.

Practice Self-Care

If you have to provide care for your partner, find time every day for just “you time”; a walk with a friend, time alone in the garden, go to a movie, play a round of golf, go for a swim, etc. Never give up all that you enjoy just because your love pulls you to care 24/7. If you do, you will not have the joy or energy to give your partner what is needed and your own health will suffer. Unfortunately, it is often the well spouse/partner who is the first to pass away because of this problem. Join a support group to keep yourself in check. We offer a group once a month; it is free and might be just what you need so you can “self-care” without guilt.

Make Your Environment Age-Friendly

If the “stuff” in your life prevents you from getting the level of support you need, or the social interaction that actually attributes to good health, it might be time to bring in a professional Care Manager/Aging Life Care Professional to work with the two of you in making a challenging decision like moving to supportive living. That would mean moving with what you value most for the best quality of life, letting go of the “stuff” and focusing on the important aspects of the here and now.

Enlist a Professional

This journey we call life is a roller coaster with joys and challenges.  If this is a challenge, find an Aging Life Care Manager (www.AgingLifeCare.org) to help you focus on the “love” in life and resolve the challenges with a professional navigator.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Tips to Stay Safe During the Severe Polar Vortex Weather

As the polar vortex descends on the US, many people are being confronted by cold weather they have never experienced before.  All of this greatly impacts the safety and well-being of the elderly, especially when weather events strike unexpectedly or with speed. Here are some tips from the experts in aging well to help aging adults get ready for winter weather.

Before a Storm
  • Stay informed and sign up for severe weather alerts through your local city or state resource
  • Refill prescriptions and have an extra supply of other medical necessities
  • Buy extra food, including non-perishables, and bottled water (and don’t forget pet food or supplies if needed)
  • Keep vehicles filled with gas and have tires checked for safety
  • Clear debris from downspouts and gutters
  • Have trees inspected and remove any dead limbs
  • Have evacuation routes planned with identified medical centers
  • Identify an individual or company to shovel snow from driveways, stairs
  • Make sure outside furnace vents are clear and carbon monoxide alarms are working
  • Inspect outside plumbing, insulating any exposed pipes
  • Know the locations of emergency warming stations in your city
Prepare for Power Outages
  • If using oxygen, bi-pap, c-pap or other equipment, you will need a generator
  • Purchase battery operated, plug-in lights that automatically turn on when the power goes out
  • Make sure you have working flashlights within reach and extra batteries
  • Keep cell phones charging so you have a full charge at power loss
Plan for Caregivers
  • If you rely on caregivers, consider the following:
  • Arrange for a live-in caregiver
  • Build a relationship with neighbors that may be able to temporarily fill-in
  • Plan temporary or respite stay with a nursing home, assisted living community, or hospice
Safety
  • Keep areas around space heaters clear
  • Use space heaters with automatic shut-off
  • Gas stoves or ovens should never be used as a heating source
  • Do not attempt to climb ladders
  • Do not walk on frozen stairs, sidewalks, or driveways

For more winter weather tips and planning, visit the Winter Safety section of the National Weather Service.

With knowledge of local resources, An Aging Life Care Professional® can  build an emergency weather plan for your aging loved one. Find one to consult at aginglifecare.org.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Don’t Wait for a Crisis: Ways to Create an Aging Plan Now

It’s easy to put off planning for a parent or loved one’s care when that person is still healthy and able to care for themselves. Rather than wait for a crisis to strike, take time to plan for how you can maintain your loved one’s  safety and quality of life. Here are five strategies to keep status quo. 

When An Aging Parent is Fine…Strategies to Maintain Status Quo

by Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM – Member of the Aging Life Care Association®

As an Aging Life Care Specialist™, I’m often contacted by family members asking for reassurance that they are not overlooking a need of an aging loved one. Because these are not emergency or crisis calls, these meetings give me an opportunity to discuss current care and future planning.

During a thorough assessment, I evaluate a broad array of areas including medical history, cognitive function, financial status, familial and community supports, as well as status of critical health and legal documents. When these questions don’t raise any red flags, I find myself having to reassure the family that they fortunate. But, at the same time, like a good scout – be prepared and practice prevention.

So just what is it I am telling families? It’s something like car maintenance. No squeaking brakes, or dashboard lights on, but you still bring your car in for maintenance. Some older adults, if you excuse the analogy, are just like that. Blessed with good health – realistic and accepting of their needs – they can remain safely in their homes.

To maintain status quo, Aging Life Care Specialists suggest five strategies:

1. A medic alert pendant or bracelet. Look for a system that has a fall alert built into its sensor. Unlike the commercials, there is no need to dial the phone, the sensor picks up on the fall and calls the designated numbers immediately.

2. Maintain a current list of all medications (and know where to find the list).

3. A notation of any food, medication, or latex allergies .

4. Prominently display a Community DNR (this is different than a hospital DNR).

5. A daily check-in call. Such calls allow for an adult child (or designated caller) to pick up on the slightest of changes in a parent’s cognitive status. Infections in older adults travel at lightning speed with altered mental status as one of the hallmarks that something is wrong. Urinary tract infections are notorious for causing this altered status.

One particular service that facilitates much of the above is Vial of Life . The Vial of Life program helps individuals compile their complete medical information and have it ready in their home for emergency personnel to reference.

These small but essential steps go a long way in helping an aging adult maintain his/her independence while at the same time living safely in their beloved home. Don’t wait for an emergency to seek the help of an Aging Life Care Specialist. Connect with one now to start the assessment process and build a maintenance plan that maximizes quality of life for everyone. Search for an expert at aginglifecare.org.

About the author: Miriam Zucker, LMSW, ACSW, C-ASWCM, is an Aging Life Care Specialist practicing in Westchester County, New York. A social worker by training, she also serves on the faculty of The Brookdale Center for Healthy Aging and Longevity where she helped found the Certificate Program in Geriatric Care Management.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Dementia & The Holidays: Tips for a Stress-Free Celebration

Celebrating the Holidays with Dementia

by Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager

The holidays can often be a time filled with high expectations, requiring lots of energy and engagement in non-stop activities. For the individuals and families living with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia, it can be challenging and a time of high anxiety. Festivities can agitate, confuse, and overstimulate persons living with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias. Meanwhile, caregivers can feel anxious, frustrated, and lonely.

To minimize the anxiety and encourage a happy holiday season for the entire family, a little advanced thought and planning can go a long way in ensuring everyone has a wonderful time. Remembering that the holidays, at their best, are a time for enjoying one another’s company and sharing gratitude for each other can make some advanced planning go a long way.

Here are some stress busters that have worked for other families and might prove successful for your celebrations:

  1. Let guests know what to expect before they arrive. If your loved one is in the early stages of dementia, it’s likely family and friends won’t notice any changes. The person with middle or late stage dementia may have trouble following conversation or tend to repeat him- or herself. Family can help with communication by being patient, not interrupting or correcting, and giving the person time to finish his or her thoughts. Make sure visitors understand that changes in behavior and memory are caused by the disability and not the person. Understanding, acceptance and patience go a long way.
  2. Adjust expectations. The challenges of caregiving responsibilities combined with holiday expectations can take a toll. Invite family and friends to a conversation ahead of time. Be honest about any limitations or needs, such as keeping a daily routine, or making modifications to plans to minimize holiday stress. The goal here is time together. Your loved one will enjoy the company of friends and family. Let their presence be their present!
  3. Be good to YOU! This is often the hardest step. But giving yourself permission to do only what you can reasonably manage is one of the most precious gifts you can give yourself. If you’ve always had a large group at your home, consider having only a few guests for a simple meal. Let others participate by having a potluck dinner or ask them to host at their home. This is the time to be especially gentle and kind with yourself. This is also a great time to practice saying “No” and pace yourself.
  4. Involve the person with dementia. Focus on activities, traditions and memories that are meaningful to the person with dementia. Your family member may find comfort in singing old holiday songs or looking through old photo albums. Involve the person in holiday preparation. As abilities allow, invite him or her to help you decorate, prepare food, set the table, wrap packages, or address holiday cards.
  5. Maintain a normal routine. Sticking to the person’s normal routine will help keep the holidays from becoming overly stressful or confusing. Plan time for breaks and rest. Make sure to have favorites at the ready: holiday music, movies, clothing and food. All these familiar favorites can bring comfort and build enjoyment into a holiday celebration.
  6. Use the buddy system. Plan ahead to have family and friends take turns being the buddy to your loved one. This is a great way to encourage one-on-one time as well as to shield the individual with dementia from distress. It also gives a break to the primary caregiver.
  7. Engage an Aging Life Care Professional®. Aging Life Care Professionals are the experts in aging well.  We understand dementia, aging, family systems, and the myriad of challenges and obstacles that families experience in caring for a loved one.  An Aging Life Care expert can help anticipate issues and address them before they happen, offering the options and wise counsel on how to navigate the holidays successfully. Our focus is on the well-being of the older adults in your life, while also helping you to care for yourself.  By engaging an Aging Life Care professional, you are working with someone who takes a holistic, client-centered approach to caring for older adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you.

By setting realistic expectations, involving others, maintaining a routine, and keeping activities and traditions to a select few, you can ensure yourself, your loved one, and family and friends a low stress, memorable, and successful holiday season.

Author Lisa Mayfield, MA, LMHC, GMHS, CMC, Principal, Fellow Certified Care Manager, founded Aging Wisdom® in 2003, recognizing early in her career that problem-solving and thoughtful, personalized care management were what most people needed, not therapy, to address the challenges and concerns of aging. When she discovered the Aging Life Care profession (AKA geriatric care management), she immersed her herself fully in the profession, and Aging Wisdom was born.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association™ and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.

Home for the Holidays? Signs Your Older Loved One May Need Help

Home for the Holidays? Signs Your Older Loved One May Need Help

By Amanda Lewis, BA, CMC, Certified Care Manager, Aging Wisdom, LLC

 

In our work as Aging Life Care Managers®, a common story we hear around the holidays goes something like this: Debbie first noticed a difference in her mom at Thanksgiving. The traditional holiday family foods that Debbie’s mom always created from memory, not recipe cards, tasted and looked different. The usual care she took with place settings and decorations was noticeably different too. She also observed her mom struggling with day-to-day tasks and activities that used to be second nature to her. It was obvious something had changed, but Debbie wasn’t sure if she should be concerned or what she should do.

The holidays are busy, filled with activities, traditions, distractions, and visits with family and friends. It’s often the time when those who live apart geographically can spend extended, precious time together.  If you haven’t seen the older adults in your life over several months or years, it’s not unusual to notice changes when you are together for a few hours or days. You may observe uncharacteristic behavior, lifestyle changes, and routines, just as Debbie did with her mother.

The following are common signs that may signal a cause for concern and action. Use this Cause for Concern checklist for clues or changes that warrant attention:

Areas of Concern  

Cause for Concern

Yes /No

 

Concerned friends/

neighbors

They notice worrisome changes, step in to help when they can, but when the changes are such that they’re concerned for your loved one’s safety, it’s time to step in.  
Their home It’s not as clean or sanitary as you remember growing up. Routine maintenance, inside and outside, are neglected. You may notice hoarding tendencies, the trash not being taken out or the fridge filled with spoiled food.  
Finances Bills are unpaid or paid more than once; an unusual number of payments to telemarketers, charities, and television advertisements; utilities are at risk of being shut off; money is hidden; and/or the mail or newspapers are piling up.  
Eating habits Is there weight loss? No appetite or missing meals? You discover moldy, rotten food in the kitchen, or a burnt pan on the stove that your loved one can’t explain. Your parent says they just ate lunch but there is no evidence to support this.  
Medications/

health care

Medications are being taken incorrectly. Your parent doesn’t know why they are taking certain medications. They’re confused about their doctor’s advice, not filling their prescriptions, or missing medical appointments.  
Safety Your love one has difficulty using the stairs. They have had repeated falls. They seem less cautious about strangers and you are worried they may be vulnerable to abuse.  They lack the safety awareness they once had, and you wonder what they would do in an emergency.  
Hygiene Your parent’s clothing may not coordinate, it may be soiled, worn for days, or not appropriate for the weather. Are they bathing infrequently and not attending to oral hygiene? You may notice body odor, bad breath, neglected nails and teeth, and sores on their skin.  
Driving The car has new scratches or dents that can’t be explained. Regular car maintenance is being ignored. Your parent may mention they got lost while driving or ran out of gas. Or, they may seem too nervous to drive or don’t have insight that it’s time to give up the keys.  
“Mom is fine” So your father says. Mom agrees, though your gut tells you otherwise. They’ve learned to compensate for one another and may be afraid or embarrassed to share that they are struggling.  
Uncharacteristic behaviors Your parent is unusually loud or quiet, paranoid, agitated, making phone calls at all hours. Your loved one no longer initiates activities, is more withdrawn and isolated, and you wonder if sleeping all day is now the norm.  

 

The more items you answered YES to in the Cause for Concern checklist, the higher the likelihood your older loved one needs support. Even if you responded YES to just one question, you will benefit from being proactive and planning ahead.

What Next? Be Proactive

Whether you live near or far, there are steps you can take to ensure your loved one’s health and well-being and give yourself some peace of mind:

  • Talk with your parents/older loved ones. Start with a conversation and talk about your concerns. Consider including other people who care about your parent/s in the conversation, such as other loved ones, close friends, or clergy who may be able to come alongside your parents as they make these changes.

 

  • Regular checkups. If you’re worried about weight loss, depressed mood, memory loss or other signs and symptoms, such as those described above, encourage your older loved one to schedule a doctor’s visit. This can help to identify and address any possible causes of changes. Ask about follow-up visits as well. Offer to go with them and take notes. Remind them how nice it is to have an advocate.

 

  • Take care of safety issues. We can’t cover our parents in bubble wrap, but we can review any potential safety concerns with them. Start by prioritizing what needs to be addressed first. Then suggest small, manageable changes so they don’t become overwhelmed. Include your parent in the discussion and decisions. Go at a pace they can accept. Be patient.

 

  • Engage an Aging Life Care™ expert. Also known as a geriatric care manager, an Aging Life Care expert is a health and human services specialist who acts as a guide and advocate for families who are caring for older relatives or disabled adults. Visit the Aging Life Care Association website to locate an expert near you and/or your loved one.

 

  • Seek help from local agencies. The Eldercare Locator,a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, connects you to services for older adults and their families. You can also reach them at 1-800-677-1116.

It’s not always easy or comfortable talking with parents or other aging loved ones about concerns, as sometimes they won’t admit they need help, and other times they don’t realize they need support. Assure your parents that their health and well-being are a priority for you and that you are in this together. Fortunately, there are many options and resources for supporting them and you. You are not in this alone!

 

Amanda Lewis, BA, CMC, is a Certified Care Manager at Aging Wisdom with over 5 years of experience in care management. She assisted clients living with severe chronic medical conditions optimize their health and quality of life.


This blog is for informational purposes only and does not constitute, nor is it intended to be a substitute for, professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Information on this blog does not necessarily reflect official positions of the Aging Life Care Association® and is provided “as is” without warranty. Always consult with a qualified professional with any particular questions you may have regarding your or a family member’s needs.