Handling Client Incontinence: How to Get Past the Awkwardness & Other Tips

Incontinence—the inability to control bladder or bowel movements—is a condition that commonly affects older adults, and many of you might care for clients with this condition. Your client may feel embarrassed or uncomfortable needing help with such a private and personal care task. For you as the CAREGiver, it can be unpleasant and awkward at first too. But there are ways to get past that awkwardness and help set your client at ease.

A few months ago, we asked members of the CAREGiver team who have had experience with personal care how they get past the awkwardness of helping a client with private activities like toileting and bathing. Thanks to Deidre and Kristi for sharing the following advice!

“Having a medical background, I was used to these kinds of situations before starting with Home Instead. But what I do is I make sure they know what I am going to be doing.
Then, while completing the task, I talk about something else like how their day was, what their plans for tomorrow are, or even something as simple as the weather. I think this helps the client see your confidence and helps keep their mind occupied with something else rather than the task that they may be ashamed of having to have help with.” –
Deidre

“I have found being sensitive to a person’s feelings is number one. Create an environment of comfort. Keep the bathroom warm, have plenty of towels, light a candle, all this is making your client feel safe and pampered. My Ms. J didn’t like mirrors so I steered her away from mirrors, just little things that I found I could do for her. Incontinence–well we all sneeze, or giggle, so brush off the embarrassment with a hug and a ‘I know what you feel.’” – Kristi

Here are some additional incontinence caregiving tips to keep in mind:

1. Be empathetic. Losing control of bodily functions ranks among the most stressful health issues, so approach the situation with patience, dignity and respect to ease your client’s anxiety. You may find it helps reduce your own stress level as well.

2. Adopt a matter-of-fact approach. This technique can help you overcome a client’s shyness or embarrassment. Use reassurance and a straightforward manner: “Oh, that’s too bad you had an accident, but don’t worry. It happens to a lot of people. Let me help you get cleaned up and into some dry, comfortable clothes.” You may have to fake this matter-of-fact attitude at first, and that’s OK. Pretty soon, you’ll find it comes very naturally.

3. Encourage your client to wear clothes that are easy to get on and off. Slacks with an elastic waistband can be pulled down quickly, enabling your client to get on the toilet faster and possibly avoid an accident. And if you do have to help your clients with cleanup, easy-off garments make it simpler to undress and re-dress them. On the other hand, clients with dementia sometimes remove their clothes at inappropriate times and places. In those situations, you obviously would not want to encourage your client to wear clothing that’s easy to remove.

4. Watch your client’s diet. Some foods make both bladder and bowel incontinence worse. Steer your client away from caffeine (coffee, tea, and some sodas), chocolate, spicy foods and a lot of fresh or dried fruit. However, it’s still important to make sure your client stays properly hydrated.

5. Always be prepared. Pack a small tote bag with supplies such as incontinence briefs or pads, wipes and even a change of clothes in case an accident happens when you’re out and about together. Don’t allow your client to become a hermit because of incontinence issues.

It’s important to note that CAREGivers who work with incontinence care situations should complete the Home Instead Senior Care personal care training. If you have questions about your training or a client care situation, please call our franchise office.

CAREGiver Training Refresher

Toileting

Using the restroom is a private activity, so requiring assistance while toileting can be very upsetting to a client. She/he may feel that her independence is in jeopardy, so treat your client with dignity and respect when assisting her in the bathroom. Here are some additional points to remember:

  • Clients may have a difficult time getting to the bathroom due to lack of mobility. Make sure the pathway to the bathroom is clear of clutter and throw rugs, and make sure lighting is sufficient.
  • Encourage the client to wear clothes that are easy to remove.
  • Provide privacy by either leaving the room or putting a towel over her lap.
  • Be patient. Allow your client plenty of time to use the restroom.
  • If available, encourage your client to use grab bars near the toilet and a raised toilet seat as these may help with physical limitations.

3 Tips to Help Seniors Avoid Diabetes Complications and 10 Superfoods

In the midst of the holiday season with decreasing daylight hours and temperatures so cold in Minnesota you only want to stay inside and eat hotdish, it’s difficult to get motivated to eat right an exercise. Yet, with the rate of Type 2 diabetes among seniors over 60 continuing to grow, it’s imperative that seniors and their caregivers stay informed and vigilant in fighting the disease. Given that one-quarter of seniors over age 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s likely you’ll find yourself helping a senior and their home care team manage a disease that brings along a host of potential complications whether or not they’re living in a senior care facility or living independently in their Minnesota home.

home care mn3 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Diabetes Complications

Type 2 diabetes rarely exists alone. It brings with it hypertension (high blood pressure), neuropathy (loss of feeling in the limbs) and vision trouble. Here are three ways you can assist seniors with diabetes.

1. Encourage adherence to the treatment plan As you probably know, when a senior receives a diagnosis of diabetes, their health care team will usually create a treatment plan that includes components like medication, diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. According to the Mayo Clinic, adhering to the treatment plan can delay or minimize complications that may arise from diabetes. Offer seniors encouragement and positive reinforcement about sticking to the care plan.

2.  Advocate good medication practices Seniors with Type 2 diabetes may take medication not only for blood sugar control but also for coexisting conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol. Managing a lot of medications can become confusing, especially for people with memory loss or other cognitive decline. For seniors who need help monitoring their medication regimen, consider suggesting a non-medical helper or use this medication tracker. These home care aides can provide medication reminders to help seniors stay on track with the many pills they may need to take each day. This in-home assistance can be particularly useful if you’re unable to visit your senior loved one every day.

3. Encourage regular medical follow-up Some diabetes complications come on so slowly a senior may not realize anything is wrong until it’s almost too late to fix the problem. Encourage seniors to schedule regular follow-up care from eye professionals and primary care providers. These routine visits can identify ‘silent’ complications like diabetic retinopathy (decreased vision), high blood pressure and heart disease in order to secure prompt treatment. If transportation to appointments is an issue, our home care team can help.

People with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as everyone else. Eating well balanced meals is the main goal. While a healthy diet and exercise alone can help some with type-2 manage their diabetes, there are many who need medications to help keep blood glucose levels down. Insulin is required for people with type-1, and sometimes necessary for people with type-2 diabetes. With the help of your healthcare team, you can find an insulin routine that will keep your blood glucose levels under control. The good news is: with a proper management plan, you can control your diabetes and feel good.

Watch a Short Video

Even with proper healthcare, home care assistance and involved family care providers, it can still be helpful to access experts who can help you with specific issues. Dr. Amy D’Aprix, MSW, PhD, CSA, is the Executive Director of the DAI Foundation on Caregiving and hosts an “Ask Dr. Amy” program for Home Instead Senior Care. Recently, she was asked, “My husband is a very severe diabetic. He takes insulin four times daily. He suffers from severe depression and has chronic pain throughout his body. He sleeps a lot. What can I do to help him?”

Dr. Amy’s Response: You and your husband are facing a challenging situation. In terms of his physical condition, I encourage you both to speak with your husband’s doctor. Pain and depression can usually be managed with the right combination of medication, therapy, diet and exercise. Ask the doctor about all four of these. It’s important to get the pain under control, because people who suffer from chronic pain tend to manage their diabetes less well than others. Your doctor may need to refer your husband to a pain specialist. Once the depression and pain are being well managed, you can help your husband stay on track in terms of diet and exercise. You can also help by making time to enjoy the activities you used to enjoy as a couple before your husband became ill, as much as possible. Lastly, you can help your husband by taking good care of yourself. If you are rested and healthy, you will be better able to care for him.diabetes home care

Controlling Weight Key to Avoiding Diabetes

Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, examined the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) at 50 years of age, weight, fat mass, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and waist-height ratio and discovered that all factors were strongly related to the risk of diabetes. Participants who were obese (BMI 30 or greater) at 50 years of age and who experienced the most weight gain (more than 20 pounds) between the age of 50 years and entry into the study had five times the risk of developing diabetes compared with weight-stable participants with normal BMI (less than 25) at 50 years of age. Ask your doctor to recommend a good diet and exercise program. If you’re having trouble managing mealtimes, why not consider joining friends for lunch at a senior center or local coffee shop. Shopping, meal preparation and mealtime companionship are among the most requested services provided by local Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured.

diabetes diet10 Diabetes Superfoods Seniors Can Say “Yes!” To

Seniors who receive a diagnosis of diabetes may feel they have to give up all the foods they love. That’s not entirely true. Sure, they may have to say no to ice cream and white bread, but you can help the senior you care for adapt by offering new choices that will satisfy his or her desire for sweets and starches while keeping blood sugar levels stable.

1. Berries Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries — they all offer a sweet touch to any meal without elevating blood sugar levels too much.

2. Skim milk and fat-free yogurt Choose milk fortified with Vitamin D, which can help seniors maintain bone health. When it comes to yogurt, look for sugar-free varieties.

3. Citrus fruits Avoid fruit juices (which almost all contain added sugar) and go for the whole fruit. Oranges, lemons and limes can be eaten whole or used to add zest to other dishes. The exception? Grapefruit. Most seniors should avoid this citrus fruit because it contains compounds that may interact with medications.

4. Sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes satisfy that craving for a starch with the meal but don’t cause post-meal blood sugar spikes the way white and red potatoes do.

5. Whole grains Whole grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice and barley allow your senior to enjoy bread with meals.

6. Tomatoes Tomatoes are loaded with Vitamins C and E, along with iron. Eat them raw or cooked. (Read the labels of canned tomatoes and spaghetti sauces, which can contain undesirable levels of added sugar and salt.)

7. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables These nutrient powerhouses include spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens and many others. Seniors who take a ‘blood-thinning’ medication like warfarin (Coumadin) should avoid dark green leafy vegetables, but all others can consume these with abandon.

8. Beans Packed with fiber, beans of all types — navy, kidney, pinto — provide protein along with the essential minerals magnesium and potassium.

9. Fatty fish Choose fresh or frozen fish like salmon once a week or more to garner the healthful effects of its Omega-3 fatty acids.

10. Nuts Almonds, walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts provide nutrients and protein, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable. Go for unsalted varieties.

Changing one’s eating pattern can be very difficult, especially for elderly loved ones. Instead of telling them what they can’t eat, help your senior with diabetes overcome dietary challenges by suggesting foods they can say ‘yes’ to every day.

The Trees Are Up! Be a Santa to a Senior!

senior videoIf you’re wondering what the Be a Santa to a Senior program is all about, one senior who received a gift from us last year explains it perfectly, “It shows there are angels on Earth.”   Trees are set up all over Minneapolis making it easy for you to be an “angel”. Tags on the trees show names of appreciative seniors like the one in this video that can’t wait to receive a gift. KSTP reporter Joe Mazan interviewed Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis’  own John Stuck as a proud supporter of the Be a Santa to a Senior program.

Be a Santa to a Senior St. Louis Park
Be a Santa to a Senior tree at the Byerly’s pharmacy in St. Louis Park, MN

Join the Be a Santa to a Senior Campaign

The Be a Santa to a Senior® campaign is all about helping seniors who are alone or in need. The campaign, which first launched in 2006 by our parent organization, helps seniors get a little TLC during the holidays. The Minneapolis office of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, the world’s largest provider of non-medical in-home care and companionship services for older adults, has partnered with local non-profits groups like East Side Neighborhood Services in Minneapolis, Little Brothers Friends of the Elderly, Meals on Wheels and several Lunds/Byerlys, several nursing homes and low income housing to provide gifts and companionship to seniors who otherwise might not receive either this holiday season. It began with just one nursing home, and has since grown into a movement.senior_gift_tag

Now you can help brighten a senior’s life too.

How to Participate in Be a Santa to a Senior

Here’s how it works:
1. Head to any of the following locations:

  • Byerly’s in Minnetonka and St. Louis Park
  • Starbucks 2661 Campus Drive, Plymouth, MN
  • Starbucks 16725 C.R. 24, Plymouth, MN
  • Starbucks 7802 Olson Memorial Highway, Golden Valley, MN
  • Home Instead Senior Care of MPLS, 9684 63rd Ave N., Maple Grove, MN 55369
Barista Susan standing next to their EMPTY tree! Thank you to all the Starbucks customers in Golden Valley who participated in our Be A Santa to a Senior program!!!
Barista Susan standing next to their EMPTY tree! Thank you to all the Starbucks customers in Golden Valley who participated in our Be A Santa to a Senior program!!!

2. Locate the Christmas trees, and choose any ornament with a senior’s name on it. You will find gift suggestions for the senior printed on the ornament.
3. Purchase the item(s) listed, put the item in a gift bag, return to the store with the ornament and deliver them to a store employee.

Hurry! The program ends soon, giving us time to gather and distribute the gifts to seniors. If we are going to meet and possibly exceed last year’s amazing accomplishment of delivering over 2,000 gifts, we need your help! Your participation can make a difference!

About the Be a Santa to a Senior Campaign

Here’s how the program works. The Home Instead Senior Care network partners with local non-profit and community organizations. Together they identify seniors who perhaps live alone, do not have family members nearby, or are experiencing financial difficulties. The program targets many seniors who otherwise might not receive gifts or visits from family during the holidays.

be_a_santa_to_a_senior_mplsHome Instead Minneapolis then works with local businesses and retail stores that are willing to help by placing trees and ornaments within their various locations. The involvement from busy stores gives the program visibility and provides a convenient way for shoppers to volunteer their assistance during the busy holiday season.

Since its inception, the Be a Santa to a Senior has attracted nearly 60,000 volunteers throughout North America, and has provided 1.2 million gifts to over 700,000 seniors who are in need of assistance or companionship. Now you can join the movement and help a senior in your Minnesota community.

Need Further Information?

The Be a Santa to a Senior website, provides a locator tool that enables you to find a store by zip code.

Having “The Talk”

home care mnWe’ve all heard about how important it is for parents to have “the talk” with their tween children. While conversations about puberty, sex and drugs may seem daunting to parents (and mortifying to the children), most make sure that their kids have the information they need and their values are heard. So why is it so hard to have “the talk” with our aging parents? You know, the one that starts out asking them if they should really be driving on snowy Minnesota roads and ends detailing their end-of-life plan. The answer is obvious, though the “aging parents talk” is equally as important. Many experts agree: by the time you approach age 40 and a loved one is around 70, you should have had the “talk” about issues such as home care, financial choices, health, driving, dating and end of life. The Home Instead Senior Care® network refers to this concept as the 40-70 Rule®, a program launched in 2008 to start important conversations early, before a crisis occurs.

Backed by new research with seniors, their adult children, senior care and legal professionals, Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis now wants to take those important conversations further. The 40-70 Rule: An Action Plan for Successful AgingSM and accompanying resources encourage individuals and families not only to start those vital conversations soon, but to finish them. You’ll come away with  a plan that encourages individuals of all ages to ACT (Assess, Consider, Talk) on their desires and wishes for the future, then put their plan into action. As high schoolers take their ACT to get into a good college, get your ACT to plan for your future and your Mom or Dad’s.

Interactive Conversation Tree

senior care mnHave you really had the conversation with your loved ones about end-of-life wishes? Finances? Future living preferences? When a family lacks clear communication surrounding a loved one’s choices as they age, frustration arises, most often at the worst time. If a senior never expresses his or her desires about end of life care, for example, bedside arguments between family members about “what he would have wanted” or “how she wanted to go” can result. Click here to walk through an interactive guide to find resources that can assist you with the aging considerations you have yet to discuss with your family. If you’ve already had a conversation about health (for instance), click Yes and move onto end-of-life. If not, click No and assess your Mom’s health, considering risks and genetics. Move on from there to making sure Mom is up to date on medical checks and preventative screenings. Each step links to the Action Plan for Successful Aging which includes checklists, thoughts to consider, conversation starters, and resources. This step-by-step approach will open the door to having “the talk” and ensure that all of  the important topics are covered.

Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis takes a look at the importance of planning ahead financially for your aging situation through the lens of a mother and her young daughter.

Action Plan for Successful Aging

4070_Aging_PlanBuilding on your conversation, the next step in the 40-70 Rule® is the Action Plan for Successful AgingSM.  Put your plan into action with the assistance of noted experts in aging, finances, health, end of life and communication. This resource will take the guesswork out of some of the issues that many families eventually face. Included are conversation tips and considerations for a variety of circumstances such as living alone, blended families, dementia and religious preferences – topics that so many families are dealing with in today’s world. This Action Plan is written for the individual who wants to face aging with confidence so you may be filling it out with someone you love including a parent, spouse or friend or even for yourself! Topics include:

Living Choices – Where would your patients like to live as they age? Will they stay in their Minnesota home or live in a care facility? Do they need to adapt their home for safety? Who would they call in the event of an emergency? These basic questions will ensure that the family is on the same page about the senior’s future living preferences.

Finances – Have your senior patients calculated the cost involved with meeting their retirement wishes? Have they met with a financial advisor to determine how much they will likely need to cover long-term health care expenses? Calculating the cost now and planning ahead financially can help yield greater peace of mind as they move forward.

Health – Have your patients outlined their goals for a healthy lifestyle as they age? Have they factored their current diet into this equation? Are they up to date on medical checks and health screenings? Addressing health concerns early can be a valuable, preventative tool in successful aging.

End of Life Care Wishes – Many families are not having this important conversation. Without it, they cannot gain a clear understanding of what their parents would like to accomplish before they die or where they would like to end their life. Discussing this difficult topic now will help ensure that the family has a unified plan and advanced directives in place moving forward.

Driving – Most seniors dread the idea of losing the independence associated with driving. Yet, families must be able to address their concerns about driving abilities, not only for the safety of their senior parent but for all with whom they share the road. While the driving topic can often be an emotional one, this chapter provides tips to navigate those emotions and discuss options for independence without a license.

Relationships and Dating – Perhaps Dad passed away and Mom has been spending a lot of time with an older gentleman friend. This can create family awkwardness if intentions aren’t clearly communicated. It’s important for families to talk about the nature of their parents’ relationships and their wishes for companionship as they age. Watch this hysterical video from Mary Maxwell to put yourself in the proper frame of mind!

We hope that completing this plan will help you be better prepared for the road ahead. Download the 40-70 Rule: An Action Plan for Successful Aging to share with your senior loved one, or explore the additional program resources available around these topics so that you and your family has the tools they need to create a successful plan for aging.

Senior Safety Starts at Home

Is home a safe place?

Falls are among the leading causes of death and injury in the senior population especially here in Minneapolis where icy sidewalks can be a hazard.  33% of trips to the ER are caused by falls and other accidents at the home. But families can greatly reduce the risks of accidents by ensuring that their older loved ones have the proper home medical care and support. In fact, Home Instead Senior Care polled over 100 emergency room physicians and 48% said home accidents experienced by seniors could be prevented. Unfortunately, the most common response from families when a senior visits the ER due to a home accident is “I was afraid something like this would happen.”  Yet 85% of seniors have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging.

Watch the video below, “Warning Signs that a Senior is Struggling”, to learn how to spot the warning signs that your parent or senior loved one might already be struggling with mobility and some ways to help. These are just the first steps to making your senior’s home a safe place to be.

Doctors Orders

Many people experience problems with their sense of balance as they get older. 100% of ER doctors said that poor eyesight, mobility problems, balance issues, impaired motor skills and dementia are all very serious risk factors for seniors as potential causes of injuries or accidents at home. In addition, problems in the visual and skeletal systems and the nervous systems can be the source of some posture and balance problems, medical experts say. A circulatory system disorder, such as low blood pressure, can lead to a feeling of dizziness when we suddenly stand up. Problems in the skeletal or visual systems, such as arthritis or eye muscle imbalance, also may cause balance problems. Set up a doctor’s appointment for your senior loved one to determine if he/she has any of these issues.

The CDC offers these tips on how older adults can remain independent and reduce their chances of falling:

grab bar
Some of the most common recommendations include installing assistive equipment in the bathroom and handrails on stairs, removing clutter and tripping hazards, and improving lighting.
  • Exercise regularly. It is important that the exercises focus on increasing leg strength and improving balance, and that they get more challenging over time. Tai Chi programs are especially good.
  • Ask your loved one’s doctors or local Minneapolis pharmacist to review her medicines — both prescription and over-the counter — to identify medicines that may cause side effects or interactions such as dizziness or drowsiness.
  • Have her eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year and update her eyeglasses to maximize her vision. Read more about how a senior’s safety is affected by their senses.
  • Make her home safer by reducing tripping hazards and adding grab bars inside and outside the tub or shower and next to the toilet, adding stair railings and improving the lighting in the home.
  • To lower her hip fracture risk, make sure she is getting adequate calcium and vitamin D from food and/or from supplements, and that she gets screened and treated for osteoporosis.
  • Consider purchasing a medical alert system. Lifeline with AutoAlert provides an added layer of protection by automatically placing a call for help if a fall is detected and you can’t push your button because you are disoriented, immobilized, or unconscious.

Risk Factors at Home

65% of seniors’ homes have at least one potential safety issue, according to adult children. The most common issues are tripping hazards, bathrooms without assistive equipment, and storage that is too high or too low.  100% of ER physicians say it is very important that families of seniors invest in basic home safety modifications. Some of the most common recommendations include installing assistive equipment in the bathroom and handrails on stairs, removing clutter and tripping hazards, and improving lighting. Visit one of Liberty Oxygen & Medical Equipment’s 8 locations for a great selection in adaptive equipment.

Check out ways to help make your senior’s home safer by completing a room-by-room safety check.

This video shows simple things you can do to make life easier for your senior loved one using lighting, color and security measures. Suggestions include fixing lighting in dark pathways or rooms, using contrasting color on walls and counters, checking alarms and making sure all doors are secure.

Home Safety Considerations for Families Living with Alzheimer’s

If you are part of a family living with Alzheimer’s disease, it’s important to remember that one of the keys to aging at home is doing so safely. A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease does not have to signal the loss of independence and freedom. As many as 70 percent of people living in the U.S. with Alzheimer’s today are doing so in their own homes.

Safety at home begins with adapting the environment to support the changing abilities of the person with Alzheimer’s. We offer some free resources for recognizing and dealing with the challenges of caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Be sure to re-evaluate home safety measures regularly as the disease progresses. Pay special attention to garages, work rooms, basements and outside areas. Inside the home, there are simple things you can do to modify your kitchen, living room, bathrooms and bedrooms to make them safer for the person with Alzheimer’s.alzheimers caregiver mn

  • Invest in installed, working fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.
  • Lock or disguise hazardous areas using child-proof locks and doorknob covers.
  • Limit access to places with knives, appliances and poisonous chemicals.
  • Add textured stickers to slippery surfaces, remove throw rugs, minimize clutter and limit access to stairs to reduce risk of falls.

Enroll the person with dementia in an emergency response service designed specifically for individuals with Alzheimer’s or a related dementia who wander or may have a medical emergency. Should the individual become lost, a caregiver can report the situation to an emergency response network including the local Alzheimer’s Association chapter and law enforcement agencies that will work to get the individual home safely. You may also want to consider a web-based GPS location management service to remotely monitor the person with Alzheimer’s. Learn more about these resources in this video.

If you enlist the help of caregiving professionals to provide care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s or dementia, they’ll be able to point out additional suggestions to make your home a safe environment. Here at Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis, we provide a home safety evaluation as part of our initial in-home assessment to offer recommendations specific to your living space and the needs of the person with Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Caring for a Loved One with Cancer or Arthritis

caring_cancerThe stress of caring for a seriously or chronically ill senior can take its toll on a spouse. A study from the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center found little difference in quality of life between patients and spouses, but found significant differences based on the phase of their illness, specifically whether the patient was newly diagnosed, facing a recurrence or living with advanced disease. Couples coping with advanced disease had significantly poorer overall quality of life. Spouses reported lower confidence than patients in their ability to manage the illness, and more uncertainty about the illness; patients also reported more social support than did spouses. Exhausted. Anxious. Overwhelmed. If you are the caregiver of a loved one in MN with cancer or arthritis, it is likely that you relate to all of these emotions. Transportation to and from appointments around Minneapolis, frequent hospital stays, and the sheer scope and duration of the illness are challenges many caregivers of these patients face. What is a caregiver to do when they have little time to care for oneself? One solution is to get respite help. Home Instead Senior Care of Minneapolis CAREGivers are trained to provide specialized care for seniors with serious health issues such as Arthritis and Cancer and, based on our home care experience, offer the following tips and advice to family and professional caregivers.

4 Self-Care Tips for Caregivers of Cancer Patients

1. Invite others in.
As the primary caregiver, no one knows your loved one’s situation as intimately as you do. You may find it hard to break away or trust others to take your place, even in the simplest of tasks, but this is exactly why you should. Inviting a friend or family member to pitch in can be a breath of fresh air for all involved, and it gives you a much-needed break.

2. Delegate transportation.
Between treatments, doctor visits and follow-ups, a cancer patient’s calendar can be grueling to maintain alongside your other day-to-day responsibilities. Delegating your loved one’s transportation to and from appointments to a trusted third party may bring some relief to your strained schedule. If family and friends are not available, contact us to inquire about transportation services as a convenient alternative. We’ll even stay with the senior during the appointment and participate in the doctor’s consultation to take notes for you.

3. Take a coffee break.
Or, take a walk, do some yoga, or just do a little bit of nothing at all. No matter how busy and stress-filled the days get, taking quiet moments for yourself is essential to your wellbeing. As a caregiver, what is essential to your wellbeing is essential to your loved one’s wellbeing. Be intentional about carving out a few minutes several times a day to do something that refreshes you, however simple that something might be.

4. Remember.
The work you are doing is hard work, but it is also good work. Yes, caring for a cancer patient can be physically, mentally and emotionally draining, but your efforts are vitally important. You are making a real, tangible difference in the life of someone you love. Don’t give up, but do take care of yourself.

caring arthritisMore Than Joint Pain: Understanding Seniors and Arthritis

4 suggestions to help support a senior as they deal with the stress of living with arthritis pain:

1. Do your homework.
Did you know osteoarthritis pain usually worsens at the end of the day? Or that arthritis causes more activity limitation in its patients than cancer, heart disease or diabetes? Understanding basic facts about arthritis, as well as the individual symptoms and needs of a senior, is key to understanding the challenges of those who suffer from this disease. Taking a moment to read about types and symptoms of arthritis, maintaining an open dialogue with other members of your senior’s care team, and asking the senior questions about his or her arthritis pain will help you in your efforts to provide excellent care.

2. Put yourself in their shoes.
If you suffered from chronic arthritis-related pain, how would that affect your ability to go about a normal day? What struggles would you encounter in daily chores such as cooking meals, running errands or maintaining your home? Imagining your own life with arthritis can help you understand how everyday tasks can become painful challenges. As your senior discovers his or her problem areas, consider ways you can help provide solutions. Perhaps a home helper is in order or other non-medical services such as assistance with transportation, personal care, meal preparation or medication management.

3. Recommend appropriate, accessible fitness programs.
Regular exercise including stretching, aerobics and strength training can help reduce fatigue and improve strength and flexibility, according to the Arthritis Foundation. Exercising through chronic pain, however, can be intimidating for many senior arthritis sufferers. Encourage physical activity by helping the senior investigate programs at local fitness or community centers where he or she can exercise in a group setting with other seniors. Or, consider directing seniors and their family members to a resource like Get Mom Moving, an online program designed to keep seniors active in ways they enjoy most.

In this video, Dr. Eric Otterberg discusses tips for preventing and living with arthritis. Brought to you by Home Instead Senior Care and the Arthritis Foundation.

4. Be an encourager!
Make sure your senior patients know they are not alone. When you run across a program or piece of information they may find helpful, give them a call or drop it in the mail to them. When you see them, ask direct but gentle questions about their arthritis pain and how it affects their day-to-day activities. Simple gestures like these may not seem significant, but they communicate that the daily challenges facing your senior patient have not gone overlooked. Above all, encourage them to keep going, even in the toughest times.

This arthritis sufferer says it best: “Living with this disease is really hard. There have been days I’ve wanted to give up – just become part of my couch – but I don’t. I fight through the pain, pinching and discomfort every day. If I give up, the arthritis wins; and who wants to lose to arthritis?”

Senior-Friendly Home Adaptations

by John Stuck
adaptive_remodeling_mnIf after reading our blog post, 5 Housing Options for Seniors: the Advantages and Disadvantages, you’re considering the Aging in Place or Living With Family options, you may need to make some home adaptions to keep your senior loved one safe in their (or your) Minnesota home. As we mentioned, home modifications can be expensive but armed with expert advice, a solid plan and a clear vision that both you and the senior share, the experience can be positive. Most importantly, you will be rewarded with a sense of safety and security.

Research conducted by Home Instead, Inc.  provides a compelling look at senior home safety. The survey of ER doctors, seniors and adult children reveals that home isn’t always the safe haven that seniors and their loved ones dream about.  100% of ER doctors in the U.S. and Canada say it’s very important for adult children to perform a safety check of their aging parents’ homes once every year. But in the last year, only 44% (41% in Canada) have done this. Watch the Aging in Place video shown on our Housing Options blog post for some special considerations. To help families reduce the risk of injury in a senior’s home, we’re offering a free home safety checklist, an online safety assessment and recommendations for inexpensive modifications that could ensure the safety of older loved ones as part of the organization’s Making Home Safer for SeniorsSM program. To request a free home safety checklist and other materials, please call us at 763-544-5988 or fill out our contact form.

To gather this important information, we worked with specialists such as Dan Bawden, a remodeling contractor and the founder of the Certified Aging in Place Specialists (CAPS) program for the National Association of Home Builders. He offers some concerns for bringing your senior loved one into your home, along with affordable and easy fixes. (Prices are “typical” but may vary somewhat by geographical area.) Click here to download this information, print and share with a senior.

Comfort and Safety: Senior-Friendly Homes
Security Osteoporosis changes the height of some seniors, making it difficult for them to look through a door’s peephole. The Fix Add an additional, lower peephole to your front door at a cost of about $40.
Glare Glare from windows in a living or family room also can be a problem for seniors, whose eyes are more sensitive. The Fix Mini, micro or Venetian blinds can be purchased for as low as $35 to $50 and installed for about $35.
Inadequate Storage Wonder what to do with all of your elderly loved one’s possessions when they move in with you? The Fix Turn your attic into a storeroom for your senior’s possessions by installing 3/4 inch plywood sheets to your attic floor beams. Use screws, not nails, so they can be removed to get to wiring and plumbing in the future. Cost for a 150 square foot storage platform: $900.
Falls Seniors may be vulnerable to falls, particularly on or near stairs. The Fix Remove area rugs on and near the top and bottom of stairs. Make sure railings are on both sides of the stairs. Cost to add railings on one side: between $200 and $300.
Lighting Macular Degeneration and other eye issues can make older adults susceptible to vision problems. The Fix Recessed lighting — four lights placed about four feet from the corners of the ceiling — provides excellent bedroom light for older adults. Cost installed: about $150 per light fixture or $600 for a bedroom. Remodeling using contrasting colors (e.g. on stairs) can help with depth perception.
Tripping Changes in floor height between a hallway and bedroom door entry can be a tripping hazard. The Fix A wood transition strip can be installed to even out the difference. Cost? About $100.
Burns Older adults with mobility issues can be vulnerable to cooking accidents. The Fix Ovens on the market now open from the side, making it easier for someone in a wheelchair or with a walker. Cost: between $800 and $1,000.
Scalding Hot water from older faucets and valves in the shower and tub could scald a senior with neuropathy. Too cold and it can startle a senior, leading to a fall or other injury. The Fix A device in newer faucets controls the temperature and equalizes pressure when someone is showering and another family member flushes the toilet. Cost to replace older faucets and valves: about $500. Add another $500 if tile work and repairs are needed.
Slick Surfaces Bathrooms are the most dangerous rooms in the house because of slick surfaces that can contribute to falls. The Fix Install grab bars. Very attractive decorative grab bars are available at home improvement stores for about $50-$75 each. Cost to install, including the bar, about $200.
Arthritis Older adults with arthritis often cannot open round door knobs. The Fix Put lever handles on interior doors and in and out of the house. If you don’t want to replace the entire door knob, lever door knob adapters cost around $20 and can be purchased at online specialty equipment companies.
Entry Hazards Seniors coming to the front door with groceries or other packages may be at risk of dropping their merchandise or, even worse, falling. The Fix Family members or a contractor can construct a shelf on the outside of the house on which to set keys and packages. Shelves and brackets can be purchased at home improvement stores. Cost for materials and installation, $75.
Kitchen Faucet Navigating a kitchen faucet and separate spray hose can be difficult for some seniors. The Fix Kitchen faucets may be replaced with an all-in-one faucet and spray hose for easier use. A soap dispenser can then be placed in the hole that once held the spray hose. Cost for the improvement, about $350.
Kitchen Tasks Kneading bread and other kitchen tasks that might require sitting are more difficult for seniors in wheelchairs. The Fix A rolling island can be safer and more convenient. Cost: about $500.
Carpets Thick family room carpet can be a safety hazard for some seniors. The Fix A low-pile commercial grade carpet is cheaper than conventional carpet, is easier to keep clean and safer for walkers and wheelchairs. Cost: about $20 per square yard; half the cost of regular carpet and pad.
Doors Hinged closet doors may be more difficult for seniors to navigate around and take up more space. The Fix Replace hinged closet doors with bi-fold doors that fold back onto the wall for full access, and add a light to the closet; for an estimated cost of $500.
911 Emergency Could your senior loved one get help fast in an emergency if he or she were home alone? The Fix A telephone is available that prompts the numbers plaque on your house to flash when a caller dials 911 so the ambulance can more easily locate the house. Cost: about $450.

5 Fixes Under $500

In addition, Bawden offers the following safety suggestions for budget-conscious families.

  1. Replace wall-mount shower heads with handheld shower heads on a hose.
    Handheld shower heads are both convenient and safe because a senior can use the device as a fixed shower head – adjustable to the proper height – or convert it to a handheld one.
    Cost: generally less than $100. With a plumber’s help, could be up to $175 to $200.
  2. Install grab bars on the wall near the shower or tub.
    Seniors who become unsteady on their feet or start to have balance problems could be tempted to grab on to a towel bar or shower curtain and put themselves at risk of falls. Head to a big box store or super center.
    Cost: typically $30 to $60 for a good quality bar. With a pro’s help, an estimated $175 to $200 per bar for parts and labor.
  3. Convert to lever handle faucets.
    Water flow and temperature could be easier for arthritic fingers to control with a lever faucet, rather than one that twists on and off.
    Cost: usually between $170 and $250. Add about $150 to $200 for a plumber to install.
  4. Add lighting to closets and pantries.
    Dark closets could not only be safety hazards, they could make dressing more difficult for seniors.
    Cost: With attic access, a qualified electrician could install a light for around $250. Cost to add a battery-operated light: typically less than $25.
  5. Add swing clear hinges.
    Narrow doorways could be difficult for walkers and wheelchairs to navigate. Replacing standard hinges with “swing clear hinges” allows the door to swing completely clear of the door opening. This can add an extra 1.5 to 2” of clearance without widening the doorway.
    Cost of a handyman or trim carpenter: about $150. A pair of these hinges generally costs between $20 and $30.

Note: Estimates shown are U.S. only. Costs may differ in Canada. Contact a local Home Instead Senior Care franchise office in Canada for more information.

Many issues could impact an older adult’s ability to remain at home, including the effects of aging on the senses. Don’t shy away from talking with an aging parent about sensitive issues such as home safety.

A little extra help at home could be just what an older adult needs to stay safe. In fact, doctors estimate that 61% of seniors in the U.S. (66% in Canada) who come to the emergency room could benefit from more help at home.

5 Housing Options for Seniors: The Advantages and Disadvantages

by John Stuck
When adult children are choosing housing options in Minnesota for their aging parents, there are 5 choices to consider, aging in place, living with family, assisted living, and skilled nursing homes. Each of these options has its advantages and disadvantages that need to be discussed and seriously considered before making any final decisions. Home care can supplement family and senior facility care to ensure that your loved one’s personal and nursing care needs are being met. This 5-part video series provides a glimpse into what each option would be like & will help guide you in making a senior housing option.

Aging in Place

This means seniors are able to remain in their own home safely and securely. This is a good option to consider if your parent is mostly functional in all areas of their life. When considering this option, it’s important you consult an Aging in Place Specialist to assist you in making any modifications to your parent’s home.

The advantages of this option are that it allows the senior to remain safely and securely in their own residence while keeping their independence. This maintains a familiar environment for your parents and fosters socialization with family, friends, and the community.

The disadvantages are the possible expensive financial investment and time needed to provide safe home modifications, and parents may be reluctant to make these changes to their own home. The average annual cost of this option varies depending on the modifications and home care services your parent may need.

Living with Family

This option can be a labor of love and very rewarding for the family members, but there are many things to consider with this option.

The advantages of this option are its low cost of care, intergenerational bonding, and keeping your loved one close to you in your Minneapolis home.

The disadvantages are the stress that becoming a primary care giver can place on that person, the wear and tear on your home, and caregiver burnout from caring for your parent, your own family and your job. Read more about Caregiver Distress. The average annual cost of this option is approximately $5,000 that covers out of pocket expenses such as transportation, food, extra utilities, etc. Read “Your Place or Mine?” to get helpful advice on making this decision.

Independent Living Communities

These are designed for seniors who are able to live on their own, but would like the convenience and security of living in a retirement community of their peers.

The advantages of this option are a smaller space to maintain, outside maintenance services, possible security of a gated community, enjoyment of being around peers, and it may offer activities, help and services that are needed as the senior grows older.

The disadvantages are the extra monthly fees to the residents, restrictions for grandchildren to visit, possible transportation options may be limited, and proximity to family. The average cost is approximately $3000/month.

Assisted Living Services

This includes 24 hour oversight, food, shelter, and a range of services for the senior. This is a good option when your parent requires more support from professional caregivers and needs help with basic living needs.

The advantages of this option are there are that many are available, on-site medical and pharmaceutical assistance, accommodations for the seniors’ changing physical needs, driving and housekeeping services, social activities, and exercise facilities.

The disadvantages are the financial burden of the monthly expenses, depression of the senior for the loss of independence, limitations of possessions that may be brought to the facility, and less socialization with friends and family members.

Skilled Nursing Home

This includes 24 hour care with registered nurses and medical professionals who are able to care for your loved one. This is an option if your parent is no longer able to care for themselves, and is in need of specialized medical care for physical, mental, or emotional conditions.

The advantage of this option is the skilled medical care that your parent will receive, 24 hour assistance with daily living needs, exercise facilities, and physical therapy. There is often a hospital or medical facility close by the home. Often times, there are separate living areas for seniors with Alzheimer’s Disease which can accommodate for the special care needs and advanced security precautions to ensure your loved one is safe.

The disadvantages are the financial expenses, the time it takes to choose which facility that would be best for your parent, availability of the facility, and the proximity for family members to visit. The average annual cost is approximately $77,000.

These 5 options need to be considered seriously and carefully by the senior and family members to make the best, most informed decision for your aging parent for the years to come.

Your Place or Mine?

by John Stuck
When you begin to notice that your senior loved one is having difficulty maintaining independence in their Minneapolis home, families most often have some decisions to make. Could independence be maintained by hiring home care? Is Mom and/or Dad a candidate for a independent senior apartment? Maybe moving them to a Minnesota assisted living facility is the best option? More adult children are choosing to move their senior loved one into their home. That is why Home Instead Senior Care Minneapolis created the Too Close for Comfort Campaign. Download this guide for boomers and the seniors who live with them.
too_close_for_comfort_booklet

The reasons different generations decide to live together are as varied as the families themselves, but three factors often come into play:

  • Shared Caregiving: Families are coming together to share caregiving duties — either an elderly loved one needs care or an older adult is providing care to his or her grandchildren.
  • Finances: The economy is affecting everyone, especially Minneapolis seniors living on fixed incomes. Moving in with family can sometimes save money on food, utilities, and other essentials.
  • Physical or Emotional Support: Seniors may feel the need for the physical or emotional support of extended family after losing a spouse, dealing with health issues, or having problems maintaining their property.

See how one family found the decision very easy to make and how they’re making cohabitation work for their entire family.

If you’re already living the intergenerational life, perhaps your family has encountered a few challenges. Regardless of the situation, you or your senior loved ones probably have many questions, such as:

  • Is it best financially to maintain separate residences or to move in together?
  • Do you have the resources to take care of your elderly loved one in your home or should you hire home care? Read our latest blog post on the cost of home care and how to pay for it..
  • What role will adult siblings play?
  • If you’re a senior, will you lose your independence?
  • Should you move Mom or Dad to your home, or should you move into theirs?
  • Is the home safe for a senior and, if not, what changes need to be made?
  • How do you handle separate bank and savings accounts, and joint expenses?
  • Are there young children at home? If so, what do they think about it?

senior_family_meetingCommunication is the key to making your combined family work, says Matthew Kaplan Ph.D., Penn State Intergenerational Programs extension specialist. “Families must address the issues at hand — from multiple perspectives — when they arise…Ask yourself, ‘What can we do to come together and figure things out?'”

Independent research conducted by the Boomer Project on behalf of Home Instead Senior Care sheds new light on the growing population of family caregivers who are choosing to live with and provide home care for a parent.  One of the factors driving this trend is the need for emotional support. For details, view and print the Executive Summary of this research.

The Ups and Downs of Living Together

So what do multigenerational families say about the experience? Living together has its ups and downs.

Positive feelings of care and accomplishment can mix with stress. “Each family member has needs that should be taken into consideration. Individual needs, though, need to be viewed in the context of the health of the overall family unit. People need independence, but interdependence and family unity are important as well, particularly in today’s hectic and demanding world,” Kaplan says.

Support, Inside and Out

If families are living together and seniors need care, adult children will need support inside the home, whether the support comes from other family members or in the form of professional respite assistance.

“The best time to discuss this issue is when you’re willing to give up your house,” Kaplan notes. “That’s when it’s time to get your spouse and children behind the idea and communicate with adult siblings. Talk to your brothers and/or sisters and let them know you may need respite help.”

“When a decision to combine families is made, expectations must be set right away,” he said. “Family members must listen and become engaged in the conversation. The more the family buys in at the beginning, the more likely they will be to come up with great ideas.”

Setting aside time for your nuclear family is important too. “Consistent daily scheduling allows for formal and informal interaction,” Kaplan recommends. “If you do things right, the result is a strong, more unified family.”

Home Instead Senior Care worked with Matthew Kaplan Ph.D. to develop these tips for the multigenerational family.

  1. Take a family partnership perspective. Everyone needs to be informed and to give input into the arrangements.
  2. Set expectations right away. People understand it’s not just what they get out of it, but how they fit into the family.
  3. Ask for help. Engage your children in responsibilities around the home and make it clear to adult siblings that you expect them to be involved. If extended family members will not help with respite care, arrange for a professional caregiver service.
  4. Distinguish between private space and shared space. Shared space should be stocked with material inviting for all ages and items that could stimulate discussion, such as a child’s project or “brag book” of photos. Make clear rules regarding the private spaces set aside for each member of the household.
  5. Make family unity key. Routines, rituals and traditions help draw the family unit together. Plan a family movie or game night or take a walk together.
  6. Keep lines of communication open. Recognize the importance of “my time” and “our time.” Try to take everyone’s needs into account. Visit www.4070talk.com for more information about bridging the communication gap between seniors and their boomer children.
  7. Find threads of common interest and build on those to develop deeper relationships. Focus on activities that provide simple ways to generate a common bond, such as ethnic cooking, family history, health or wellness.

“The main challenge of a multigenerational family is navigating individual needs and family needs,” Kaplan noted. With open communication and a well thought-out plan, the process of moving and experience living together with a senior loved one can be beneficial and rewarding.

Successful Family Gatherings With a Senior Who Has Alzheimer’s

By John Stuck
senior giftsIn November, we had a great chat with Dr. Amy D’Aprix and Confidence to Care author Molly Carpenter about dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias around the holidays. In case you missed the live chat, download the transcript here! This sparked a lot of conversation from those caring for a senior with Alzheimer’s which continued in December when we chatted with expert David Troxel about Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias: Handling Anger and Combativeness. View the transcript of that discussion as well! molly carpenterBetter yet, join Molly Carpenter on January 21st in a live webchat where you’ll learn tips from other caregivers who have been in similar situations, discuss the successes and challenges you face day to day and share your advice and offer solutions. Register Today!

Whether you’re anticipating a holiday get-together in Minnesota, an anniversary celebration or a family birthday party, including a loved one with Alzheimer’s often requires special considerations. Here are four pieces of advice about hosting a successful holiday family get-together with a family member who has Alzheimer’s:

1. Stick to a familiar environment. Even if Grandma isn’t able to cook the meal this year, consider gathering at her home in Minneapolis like always. Less change, less anxiety.

2. Adjust expectations. If your loved one with Alzheimer’s can’t handle cooking the meal, go the easy route! Purchase the entire cooked meal from a grocery store and use disposalable or dishwasher-safe dishes. Same great family time, less hassle and stress.

3. Prep the kids. Talk to younger family members ahead of time about being patient with Mom or Dad and offer conversation tips. For example, instead of saying, “You already asked me that, Grandma,” just politely answer her question and change the subject to something new.

4. Create opportunities to reminisce. Keep traditions alive such as decorating cookies or doing a craft. Great activities keep the kids busy, and your loved one may not struggle as much with their memory when they’re recalling happy stories from long ago.
alz_app
Hopefully these tips are helpful to you and your other family members who are adapting to the reality of your loved one’s memory loss.

Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Advice App

In addition to trying this advice, I invite you to download the free Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Companion iPhone app, you can search for helpful tips there, too.

Gaining the Confidence to Care Book

This book focuses on both memory and behavior symptoms that family caregivers often need help with, including their senior loved one’s resistance to common personal care activities. Each of these chapters offer plenty of care approaches and prevention tips, and begin with a relevant and moving real-life family caregiver story.

cta-book-large

Get 3 Free Chapters now Or, Get the Entire Book for Free!

To request a free copy of the book, go to our Contact Us page, enter your information and, in the Comments section, provide your address and note that you’d like the Confidence to Care book. We’ll ship it to you for free! If you’d like to share about your experience with Alzheimer’s and the holidays or managing your loved one’s repetitive behaviors, join our book discussion.

One of the chapters in the book focuses on Anger and Aggression. Here’s a snapshot of what some of you have shared about your experience with anger and aggression in a loved one with Alzheimer’s or other dementias:

“My husband was such a gentle man, but now he has fits of angry outbursts.”

“Mom is quick to raise her voice and become angry with me. I am her daughter and live-in caregiver for the past 2+ years.”

“My mom-in-law has dementia, & it’s really getting bad. She slaps me, curses me, but I just walk it off. It’s really hard, but that’s what I do. It’s really, really hard. Believe me.”

My hope in sharing these experiences is that if you’re dealing with similar behaviors, you’ll find some amount of comfort and hope in the realization that you are not alone.

(Before I go on, I should also mention that not all people with Alzheimer’s or other dementias eventually become violent or aggressive. While these situations happen in some cases, not everyone experiences these behaviors.)

If you are at a loss for how to deal with a loved one’s aggression or anger, I want to assure you that there are ways to help minimize those behaviors.

Here are a few couple tips from the Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias Daily Companion app that the caregivers in our Minneapolis community found most helpful:

  1. Arguing with someone with dementia isn’t helpful. It often adds to their frustration and anger. Try redirection instead.
  2. Look for triggers. Was your loved one scared, tired or frustrated? Did you push them too hard to take that shower?

For additional tips, you can download the app for free or access aggression and anger tips via the Home Instead Senior Care Dementia Support Network online.

(By the way, many of you have asked about an Android version of the app. Currently it is only available for iPhone, but an Android version is in the works! Stay tuned.)

Finally, I invite you to learn more about our Alzheimer’s and dementia CARE services where you can request a CAREGiver who can assist and monitor your loved one so that you can enjoy your holiday gathering as well.