Category: Tips for caregivers

Alarm Clock

The Risks of Sleep Deprivation in the Elderly & Their Caregivers

Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as people in their 20s, but many elderly people get much less sleep than they need. Common causes of insomnia or trouble sleeping can include health issues such as the pain from arthritis, some medications, and the need for frequent urination. Sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are also more likely in seniors. A cause we don’t often hear about is that as we age, our body’s internal clock adjusts to earlier sleep and wakeup times. If seniors stay up late, they are likely to wake up at their usual early hour, thus experiencing the side-effects of a sleep-deprived day. While sleep requirements vary slightly for each person, most healthy adults require seven to nine hours of sleep per night. How you feel in the morning is a better indication of what you need. Frequently waking up not feeling rested or feeling tired and wanting to sleep during the day are the best signs that you’re not getting enough sleep. Disturbed sleep and waking up tired are not part of normal aging. It’s important to get to the root cause of sleepless nights because not getting enough sleep carries with it several important health risks and concerns. Sleep deprivation can: Take a toll on nearly every part of your life, no matter how old or young you are. Be as dangerous for drivers as alcohol consumption, adding to the risks affecting a senior’s ability to be a safe driver. Make falls and other accidents more likely. Increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and other health issues. Cause depression, attention, and memory problems. Increase the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, and potentially speed their progression. Research suggests that poor sleep can cause dementia and dementia can

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The adult child of a senior experiencing the common behaviors that follow a brain injury puts her arm around the senior as they sit outside.

Are You Familiar With the Common Behaviors That Follow a Brain Injury?

There are many different types of brain injuries, but certain behavioral changes are common no matter what type of injury occurred. Some problematic behaviors may be more or less likely based on the area and severity of the trauma, but a loved one might demonstrate one or more of these common behaviors that follow a brain injury, regardless of the specifics of the injury.

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Cleaning

How to Help or Get Help in a Health Crisis

 Two of the most well-intended but unhelpful phrases spoken during a health crisis for a friend or  family member are: “If you need anything, just call me,” or “What can I do to help?” So, what can you say or do when you really want to be useful or when someone offers help you might need?   Why We Don’t Respond We all have reasons why we don’t or can’t respond when friends, neighbors or even family members really want to help but don’t know what we need: When we’re in the thick of caregiving, mourning or worrying, we can’t think of anything that we would feel comfortable asking anyone else to do. We might think that we are the only ones who know how to do what needs to be done. It could have been ingrained in us that it’s a sign of weakness to ask for help. We may think that the person asking is too busy to fit in one more thing. We are embarrassed about what we haven’t been able to get to and don’t want anyone to know. The person we are caring for doesn’t want anyone else to do it. We don’t realize how worn out and in need of help we really are. We forget how good it made us feel when we were able to help someone, so we don’t give someone else the chance to help us.   Have Suggestions Ready When my husband was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, I knew the risks of caregiver burnout and not allowing others to help. I also knew that family and friends truly wanted to be helpful. I vowed that I would follow my own advice to other caregivers and not only let people help me but give serious thought to what I could delegate

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Nurse holding hand

In-Home Care Reduces Hospital Readmissions

A poor transition from the hospital to home is often the reason for unplanned, expensive, and often traumatic readmissions, many of which could have been prevented. Quality in-home healthcare can help improve the transition and prevent readmissions during the vulnerable time after hospital discharge. Unfortunately, the majority of patients in the U.S. are sent home without any supportive services. Repeated hospitalizations can be even more traumatic for the elderly, many of whom live alone. Incidents such as falls, unsupervised medication, pressure wounds, infections and a lack of other necessary follow-up care can send an elderly patient back to the hospital within days or weeks of discharge. Studies show that people who live alone have a 50 percent higher risk of unplanned readmission compared to those living with others. In-home care provides a cost-effective supplement to medical-based care transitions. Hospitalization for Illnesses Three of the most common illnesses that require hospitalization and are prone to readmission are Congestive Heart Failure (CHF), Pneumonia (PN), and Heart Attacks or Acute Myocardial Infarction (AMI). Trained in-home caregivers can act as the critical link with other care providers, report early detection, and give much of the care necessary to prevent additional hospitalization. Dakota Home Care nurses and aides can monitor and report symptoms of these and many worsening or recurring illnesses: Congestive heart failure: weight loss or weight gain challenges, nutritional needs and restrictions, blood pressure monitoring, exercise requirements, etc. Pneumonia: oxygen requirements, medication reminders, good nutrition and the needed recuperation period for patients who have just been discharged. Acute Myocardial Infarction: heart rate monitoring, blood pressure, diet and exercise restrictions or recommendations, medication reminders and adjustments. Surgery that Requires Hospitalization Recovery from an operation takes time, especially for seniors. Not only do older bodies take longer to heal, but there are other factors to

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Doctor Making Heart Shape With Hands

Get Transitional Care Services to Help Recover from Heart Surgery

Recovering from heart surgery means experiencing a variety of transitional care needs, from dietary changes to incision care, managing pain, swelling minimization, and more. The last thing an older adult wants after coming back home from such a traumatic event is to face the need for rehospitalization. To help an older loved one recover as comfortably as possible after heart surgery, review the following recommendations for effective transitional care: Incision Care Details on how to care for the incision will be supplied prior to being discharged from the hospital. Issues to be aware of include: Avoid extreme cold or hot water temperatures, as they can cause dizziness. Always keep the incision clean and dry. The incision can be gently washed (don’t rub) with soap. Do not use lotions or creams on incisions until healing is complete. Occasionally, a swelling or lump appears at the top of the chest incision, and can take several months to go away completely. If the incision is healing and dry, brief showers (no longer than 10 minutes) are normally permitted. If there are sutures in the chest, stand with back to the shower spray. If showers are not available, quick baths (limited to ten minutes) may be taken. Managing Pain In the beginning of the recovery process, there may be some incision or muscle discomfort in the chest area during physical activity, but this should not include any pain that is similar to the pain they experienced before the surgery. Itching, tightness and/or numbness in the area of the incision are common after surgery. If the surgery was bypass surgery, and if vein grafts from the legs were used, there may be more pain in the legs than surrounding the chest incision. Walking, daily activities, and time will help to decrease leg discomfort and stiffness.

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Senior woman in wheelchair and arm sling at the hospital

Questions to Ensure an Easier Discharge From the Hospital

It’s a great feeling to hear that an older loved one is ready for discharge from the hospital after a surgical procedure. However, as they hand you that mountain of discharge documents and instructions, a certain degree of stress and anxiety may start to settle in. Will the senior adult you love be able care for herself at home? The senior care team at Dakota Home care is on hand to ensure you can arrange for an easy discharge from the hospital to home by detailing the questions you will need to get answered prior to a hospitalization or surgery: Who will be able to answer questions about the medications? Should I contact the doctor, the pharmacist, or does the hospital have someone else for me to reach out to with questions about care? Will the prescription medicines cause drowsiness or confusion? What symptoms should I keep an eye out for that might suggest a problem during recovery? What sorts of tasks might be overwhelming to perform when coming home, considering the nature of the surgery (such as taking a bath or shower, getting dressed, going up or down the stairs, picking up prescription drugs, preparing meals, shopping, driving, etc.)? Who is going to pick up medications? Do I need to depend on a family member for this responsibility? Will they be promptly available when a refill is required? What type of medical equipment might be needed (such as a walker, crutches, or telehealth tools), and who will supply them? What activities are not advisable after surgery? What phone numbers should I have on hand? Taking the time to learn about what you and the senior loved one need to do to ensure an easier discharge from the hospital can make the transition back home a more manageable process. However,

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Man and Spring Flowers

Feeling Isolated and Lonely? Make the Most of Spring!

Unwanted isolation and loneliness or lack of connection can be byproducts of a long winter for anyone. Seniors and the handicapped are especially vulnerable. It’s difficult for them to be out and about, and it can be difficult for loved ones to visit them in person or take them places. We are all looking longingly for signs of spring. If possible, consider including others who have been homebound in your plans for the warmer days ahead. Spring Activities for Yourself and Your Loved One If you or a loved one or someone you care for has been stuck inside, fresh air and sunshine have been in short supply. Here are some suggestions for what you could do together on a spring day, depending on the person’s health and mobility: Open a window and sit close to it for a visit. Dress comfortably and sit outside. Enjoy the sunshine and whatever is growing. Take a sort walk around the neighborhood or a park. Interact with neighbors. Say “hello” to everyone you see while you’re out. Go out for lunch or bring in a take-out and eat it outside. Go on a scenic drive together. Point out spring blossoms and green leaves. Get a bird feeder and put it where it can be seen easily either inside or out. Bird watch. Visit a plant nursery and, if possible, buy something you can plant together. Bring flowers in. Wildflowers in a glass or even manmade blooms can brighten up a room. Draw or color pictures with a spring theme. Do it outside. Have an outdoor celebration of spring with family members. Make decorations for it. Do some spring cleaning. Help your loved one get rid of clutter. Find simple chores you and your loved one can do together to clean up the yard.

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Senior man shopping for flowers with caregiver

5 Common Concerns in Parkinson’s and What You Can Do to Help

Many people living with Parkinson’s disease receive the majority of their care at home from friends and family, particularly in the beginning stages of the disease. This makes it vitally important for family caregivers to understand the common concerns in Parkinson’s, and how to address them.  As a professional home care provider, we know firsthand the distinct struggles experienced by family members providing care for someone with Parkinson’s disease, and we want you to know you’re not alone! We’re here to provide strategies and to work with you to ensure your loved one is receiving the very best possible care at all times.  To begin with, keep in mind these common concerns in Parkinson’s:  Nutrition: A well-balanced diet helps minimize cell loss in someone with Parkinson’s. Consuming antioxidants, like those found in blueberries, broccoli, spinach, green tea, beans, and certain nuts, can also help combat oxidative stress.  Chewing/Swallowing: People with Parkinson’s frequently encounter difficulties with chewing and swallowing. Everyone caring for a person with Parkinson’s should learn the Heimlich Maneuver in case the person starts to choke.  Fall Prevention: Parkinson’s patients frequently have a hard time walking and balancing, so it’s helpful to modify the home environment in order to prevent the risk of falling. Installing items like customized toilet seats and grab bars where appropriate, and eliminating obstructions in the home such as throw rugs and doorsills, is a good place to start.  Anxiety and Depression: Overcoming anxiety and depression is a sizable part of the Parkinson’s battle. Watch the person closely for warning signs of depression, and have them diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.  Medications: Parkinson’s medications can have a number of side effects and can affect a person in a variety of ways. Some drugs could cause nightmares or hallucinations, for instance. Be sure your

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Post-it note that says Parkinson's disease

What to Expect in Each Stage of Parkinson’s

More prevalent in men, and more prevalent than muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, and Lou Gehrig’s disease put together, Parkinson’s disease affects around 7 – 10 million people around the world, with another 600,000 people in the U.S. diagnosed every year. And though each person’s experience with the disease differs in severity, there are five basic stages of progression. In honor of Parkinson’s Awareness Month, our home care team wants to help you better understand what to expect in each stage of Parkinson’s.   What Are the Stages of Parkinson’s Disease?  Stage 1: Referred to as early-stage Parkinson’s, during the course of this stage a person generally has only mild signs that may appear as follows:  Friends and family can usually observe changes in the person’s posture, balance, and facial expressions  Symptoms are only on one side of the body  Symptoms are bothersome, but not crippling  Uncontrolled tremors or shaking in one limb may be noted  Stage 2: During the second stage of Parkinson’s, a lack of ability to perform typical physical tasks may become more noticeable:  Symptoms will affect both sides of the body  The individual has minimal disability, and frequently encounters ambulatory or balance problems  Posture is affected  Stage 3: This stage is considered to be moderate Parkinson’s disease, and more significant impairment will begin to appear:  There is generalized dysfunction that is relatively severe  There is a substantial slowing of the body movements  Early equilibrium impairment may bring about the inability to walk straight or stand  Stage 4: Stage four represents advanced Parkinson’s disease and is accompanied by significant symptoms:  Tremors may diminish or disappear for unknown reasons during this time  The person is unable to perform daily tasks and typically cannot live alone  Rigidity and bradykinesia, or slow movements, are often noticeable  Stage 5: The last stage of

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Caregiver helping senior man get out of bed

Preventative Steps All Caregivers Need to Take to Avoid Bed Sores

Bed sores, also known as pressure sores, affect upwards of one out of every ten older adults, and are even more prevailing in those who smoke, are living with a chronic illness like diabetes, or who have thin or fragile skin. Bed sores are not merely extremely painful – they can easily progress to infections that can become life-threatening. Pressure sores are a result of a reduction in blood flow when remaining in one place for a lengthy period of time. For people with decreased mobility or who are confined to a bed or wheelchair, the battle against bed sores can feel endless. Still, it is critical for those caring for a senior loved one to learn about bed sore prevention. So how can you avoid bed sores in seniors? These guidelines can help protect your loved one’s sensitive skin from painful and dangerous sores: Change Positions Often Help the person change position every couple of hours if confined to a bed, or hourly if confined to a wheelchair. Use lifting devices to prevent friction while repositioning. Utilize Supportive Devices Place specialized cushions and pads: Beneath calves to protect heels In between ankles and knees To lie at an angle, to protect the hips Practice Skin Care Wash the skin with a mild soap and warm water, and apply lotion. If the skin is too moist, apply talcum powder. Massage areas vulnerable to pressure sores to boost circulation. Help With a Healthy Diet and Staying Active Consult with the senior’s physician for dietary and supplement tips for improved skin health. Encourage the person to quit smoking. Improve hydration. Implement exercises each day per doctor’s guidelines. If your loved one develops a pressure sore despite taking the proper preventative measures, it may progress through these four stages: Stage 1: A bruise-like

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Senior woman with bruised skin

Prevent and Treat Bruises on Seniors With These Tips

Of the numerous changes that take place as people grow older, senior bruising is one that can be alarming for family members to observe in their loved ones. It is essential to talk to the senior’s physician whenever there’s a health concern, but it is also important to realize that bruises on seniors are really very common. These bruises can be the result of the thinning of the skin and a lessening of fat that is typical with aging. Even a little bump to older skin can result in much more pronounced bruising than that on younger skin. Dakota Home Care, the top provider of home care assistance in Bismarck, Mandan, and Fargo, recommends the tips below to help lower the risks for bruising, and to help heal bruises when they do occur: How Can I Help Prevent Bruises on Seniors? Assess the safety of the senior’s home and property, making certain there are broad walking paths clear of objects the individual might trip over or bump into. Our home care team can help assess the person’s home for safety risks as well. Encourage the senior to wear long pants and sleeves when performing activities that could possibly result in an injury to the skin, like housework or gardening. If the individual smokes, offer support to help them quit. Smoking decreases collagen production, which can lead to easier senior bruising. Ensure that the person’s diet includes plenty of vitamin C, which plays an important role in collagen production. Find out whether the senior takes any of the medications listed below, as they can raise the risk of bruising (NOTE: Do not stop any medication without the doctor’s guidance): Corticosteroids Aspirin Antiplatelet medications Anticoagulants (coumadin, heparin) NSAIDs (Advil, Aleve, and ibuprofen) What Should I Do to Help Heal Bruises on Seniors?

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New Year

New Year’s Resolutions for Caregivers

Many family caregivers feel like they don’t have time to do much of anything for themselves. Their entire focus is on how they can be a better caregiver. As a caregiver, when you look ahead to the new year and think about what you would like to change or do better, are any of those thoughts focused on your mental and physical health or only on the loved one you are caring for? Not making resolutions or a plan for self-care can be detrimental for you and the person you are caring for. The lack of a conscious plan of self-care can result in caregiver burnout. Make specific plans to care for yourself. As the new year begins, it’s okay to resolve to do everything you can to keep your loved one comfortable and safe. But add to your Things-I-Should-Do List at least three or four things you want to do that will ultimately make you happier, healthier and a better caregiver in the long-run. Here are nine examples. In the New Year, I resolve to: Make a “help wish list” and refer to it when people ask what they can do to help me. Not having to think about what you need or want will make it easier to accept help when it is offered. Make sleep a priority. Do what many young mothers do: sleep when the “baby” sleeps. Don’t feel guilty when you don’t use possible sleep time for something “more productive.” Eat the equivalent of three healthy meals a day, even if you have to eat smaller portions more often. Cut down on food preparation time, and when you do cook, make enough for several meals. Include lots of plant matter in what you and your loved one eat. Make a list of the things I

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Elderly Eating

Eating and Nutrition Difficulties with Alzheimer’s and Other Dementias

Eating can be difficult for people with Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia. They may have difficulty feeding themselves, resist being fed, don’t recognize food they are given, have trouble chewing and swallowing. They don’t know they are thirsty or forget to drink. They may even try to eat non-food. Many people with Alzheimer’s want to eat only childhood comfort foods. Regular nutritious meals become more and more of a challenge. Unintended weight loss is common. Many seniors develop problems that make them not want to eat or make it hard to maintain good nutrition, even if they don’t have a specific type of dementia. Click to read our blog “Why Seniors Don’t Want to Eat & What You Can Do About it.” It’s not surprising that many of these same challenges are also present in people with dementia: Poor appetite – not motivated to eat; nothing looks good Chewing and swallowing problems; choking and food aspiration Fatigue—too much effort, lack of eye-hand coordination Missing or broken teeth; ill-fitting dentures Medication side-effects Loneliness or depression This  blog also contains strategies for dealing with eating challenges. Below are some challenges experienced more specifically by people with dementia and strategies for their caregivers. Taking Medication Remembering which medications to take and when becomes a problem. In the early stages, putting pills in a pill box marked with the days of the week can help your loved one and a caregiver see that the pills for the day have been taken. At first, my husband who was diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer’s, could fill the pill boxes himself. I kept a close eye on him and discovered that, before long, he would sometimes miss a pill or put two of the same ones in one day’s box. I started filling the morning and night

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Flowers with smiley faces in the middle

How the SMILE Technique Eases the Challenges of Senior Personal Care

Take a moment to close your eyes and visualize yourself like this: You have spent most of your life taking care of and assisting others – as a parent, in your profession, by volunteering in your community, and as a grandparent. After a lifetime of living independently and being in control of making your own decisions, you’ve unexpectedly aged to the point that you now are the person in need of help with bathing and other senior personal care tasks. Imagine the sense of loss, vulnerability, and fear. If you’re taking care of a senior loved one, it can be helpful to place yourself in their shoes when experiencing problems related to helping the person with personal hygiene tasks. The struggles your loved one is feeling are real, and a little patience and empathy can go a long way towards promoting a sense of peace about accepting your help. Let’s face it: permitting someone to help with such personal services as bathing, dressing, and bathroom needs is awkward at best, and can feel as though dignity is ripped right away from the person if not managed sensitively. At Dakota Home Care, we’re very familiar with these challenges, and suggest keeping the SMILE concept in mind to help these sensitive situations feel more comfortable for both you and your senior loved one: Safety: Assistive devices such as electric razors, grab bars, a bathtub chair and a handheld shower can be beneficial. Modesty: Ensure privacy in the room and maintain modesty as much as possible. Independence: Empower seniors to retain the ability to make choices, to express their own personal style, and to do as much as they are able to independently. Levity: Be accepting of imperfection. Make it fun. Etiquette: Treat the individual with dignity, as a respected adult. Dakota Home

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Caregiver explaining something to a senior woman

Managing Incontinence in Seniors

Incontinence in seniors, or a loss of bladder control, is an uncomfortable and delicate issue. It can trigger a variety of problems, from skin sores to social isolation, which creates secondary problems for individuals who are afraid to leave home in case of an “accident.” Yet while bladder leakage causes as many as 25 million people in America to suffer with difficulties, the affliction seldom receives the attention and discussion warranted. With the lack of communication and clear information about managing incontinence in seniors, many older individuals and those who care for them feel as though little can be done about the problem.

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