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Christmas Tree

10 Tips to Help the Elderly and their Caregivers Enjoy the Holidays

Holidays can be both a joyful and a stressful time for all of us, no matter what stage of life we’re in. But as a family member ages, it can become more and more difficult to continue the family traditions everyone expects, and at the same time ensure that our elderly loved one’s physical and emotional needs are taken into account. Caregivers often struggle with how to juggle events that can be highly stressful, confusing and even depressing for an elderly family member with the needs and expectations of others. Situations will vary based on the health issues and mobility of your elderly family member, but these 10 tips could help all families and the elderly person they care for find more joy in the holiday season: Simplify your holiday. Caregivers with young families have a lot on their plates during the holidays. An “I want to do it all” attitude can bring on a lot of stress. Simplify routines and modify traditions by making a list of all your chores and eliminating those that aren’t truly necessary. Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. Designate a “quiet room” for them and schedule time there for a break, when necessary. Modify festivities to accommodate limitations. Be conscious of potential difficulties with an event or holiday plans for someone with physical or emotional challenges. Find a way for them to be included safely or get them involved in something else during that time. Ask your loved one about their memories. Older people whose memories are impaired often can share stories and observations from the past. Use picture albums, family videos and music to help stimulate memories and encourage

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A man displays one of the warning signs of seasonal affective disorder – a lack of interest in enjoyable activities – as he waves forlornly out the window.

SAD Seniors: Warning Signs of Seasonal Affective Disorder and How to Help

The holiday season is often synonymous with joy, warmth, and togetherness as families come together to celebrate. However, it’s essential to acknowledge that not everyone experiences this time of year with the same festive spirit. The darker days of fall and winter can cast a shadow on some individuals, leading to a form of clinical depression known as seasonal affective disorder (SAD). While many may dismiss it as the winter blues, SAD can particularly affect seniors, triggering memories of past holidays spent with loved ones who are no longer present. As you gather with your family during the holidays, it’s crucial to be attentive to warning signs of seasonal affective disorder in your older loved ones. Identifying these signs early on can make a significant difference in their well-being. Some common indicators of depression, including SAD, include oversleeping, extreme fatigue, a lack of interest in activities that were once enjoyable, increased appetite or overeating, and in severe cases, even suicidal thoughts. However, depression in seniors during the holidays may manifest in more subtle ways. Look out for these additional warning signs that could indicate a need for assistance: Weight Loss: Has the senior noticeably lost weight? Sudden changes in body weight can be a red flag for underlying health issues. Appearance: Take note if there are unexpected changes in the senior’s general appearance. This could include unkempt personal hygiene or a significant shift in clothing choices. Household Upkeep: Assess the overall condition of the senior’s home. Any drastic changes in how the house is maintained may provide clues about their well-being. General Behavior: Observe any alterations in the senior’s behavior. Are they more agitated or forgetful than usual? Is mobility becoming an issue, requiring more assistance? Such behavioral changes might indicate a need for additional care at home. If any

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Holiday Stress

How Family Caregivers Can Relieve Stress During the Holiday Season

During the busy holiday seaso n, zeroing in on stress—what it is and how to cope with it—can be a vital part of self-care and burnout prevention for caregivers. A family caregiver experiences large and small changes in their life that may continue over time and make a usually stressful time, like the holidays, even more stressful. The first step to relieving stress is to recognize when you are feeling it in a negative way, and what is causing those feelings. Stress can be described in a number of different ways: Stress can feel like the inability to cope with a real or imagined threat to your mental and emotional well-being. You could compare the effect on your body to a “fight or flight” response. Stressors can be physiological or emotional events that you perceive to be stressful or out of your comfort zone. What is stressful for one person might not be stressful for another. Stress can have a short-term or a long-term (chronic) negative effect on your mind and body. Stress can occur when the mind-body-spirit connection is out of balance. Negative thoughts can cause a physical response that makes your spirit feel “down” or even makes you physically sick. Identifying stressors of the holidays that can be aggravated as result of your role as caregiver is the first step to relieving your stress. They can be physical, social, emotional, or economic. It can be helpful to make a list of what your stressors are. Some of the more common ones include: Less time for traditional activities, yourself, sleep, healthy eating, or exercise. Worries about finances. Wondering how to pay for holiday expenses along with new expenses related to caregiving. Responsibility for decisions, both day-to-day and those that affect the whole family, especially if they involve traditions that

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How VA Benefits Can Help with In-Home Care

Veterans who need more care than family or friends can provide often ask us if their VA benefits will help to pay for in-home caregiver services from Dakota Home Care so that, combined with other VA benefits, they can remain in their homes. The simple answer is “Yes,” but qualifications must be met and claims must be filed, and sometimes the process can seem complicated and overwhelming. Fortunately, there are resources that can assist veterans in filing claims for healthcare, caregiver and other benefits. See the links to Resources at the end of this article. Reading the information compiled here will point you and your family members toward some of the VA resources related to in-home care. VA Services through Home and Community Based Services The Veteran-Directed Home & Community Based Service (VD-HCBS) program authorizes a monthly flexible spending budget that, based on assessed needs, enables a “severely disabled” veteran to pay for the services needed to live safely at home. It must be “a service-connected disability,” a disability that is related to active military service. Veterans participating in this program can use the budget to hire the help needed to provide for their personal care or to give support to their family caregivers.   North Dakota’s VD-HCBS headquarters is located in the Fargo VA Medical Center at 2101 Elm Street North, Fargo, ND 58102-2417 Directions (Google Maps) Main phone: 701-239-3700; Mental health care: 701-239-3700. Benefits advocates are ready to help assess your needs, give guidance on state and local VA benefits that may differ, and help to file the necessary claims to qualify. There is no charge for this service, and they will come to you. Aid and Attendance &/or Housebound Allowance If you receive a VA pension, you &/or a surviving spouse 65 and older may be eligible to receive additional monthly, tax-free,

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Protect Yourself and Others by Getting a Flu Vaccine!

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends a yearly flu vaccine as the first and most important step in protecting you and your family against contracting flu viruses. It’s not too late to get one. During COVID we stayed indoors and took precautionary measures that also prevented exposure to the flu and other viruses, like RSV. Now that we’re being less cautious and getting out more, cases of the flu and RSV, along with COVID, are filling hospital beds, especially with the elderly and children. Everyone who is at least six months of age should get a flu vaccine this season, even if they had one last year. Vaccination of high risk persons is especially important, in order to decrease their risk of severe flu illness.  Vaccination is also important for healthcare workers, and others who live with or care for high-risk people, in order to keep from spreading the flu to them People at high risk of serious flu complications include: young children, pregnant women, people with chronic health conditions like asthma, diabetes or heart and lung disease, people younger than five years (especially those younger than two), and people 65 years and older. The CDC states: “It has been recognized for many years that people 65 years and older are at greater risk of serious complications from the flu compared with young, healthy adults. It’s estimated that 90 percent of seasonal flu-related deaths and more than 60 percent of seasonal flu-related hospitalizations in the United States each year occur in people 65 years and older. This is because human immune defenses become weaker with age. So influenza can be a very serious disease for people 65 and older.” Consider your options Flu Shot vs. Nasal Spray: Many people choose to get the flu vaccine in mist form each year, rather than having

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Senior woman with headphones

What Qualifies as Clinical Music Therapy?

On May 3, 2022, we published a blog titled The Music Is Still There: How Caregivers Can Harness the Restorative Powers of Music Therapy. Because some of the information was only available by clicking on a link, we are making that information more easily accessible to caregivers in a series of blogs based on one or more of those links. This second blog in the series focuses on Setting the Record Straight: What Music therapy Is and Is Not, a Press Release from the American Music Therapy Association (AMTA).* Music can be therapeutic in many ways, but not all the uses of music in caregiving can be classified as Clinical Music Therapy. The AMTA “supports music for all and applauds the efforts of individuals who share their music-making and time; we say the more music the better!” To help us understand the difference, they give examples of therapeutic music that does not require a clinical music therapist, such as the following: Helping a person with Alzheimer’s listen to a playlist of his/her favorite songs Groups who regularly perform in assisted living facilities or nursing homes Celebrities who perform in hospitals A person playing the piano in the lobby of a care facility or hospital Nurses or other caregivers playing background music to improve patients’ mood A high school student playing a musical instrument for residents of a nursing home A choir singing Christmas songs on a floor of a hospital Music can be magic for all of us in different ways, and its power doesn’t usually fade when we’re affected with dementia. We can observe the magic of music in the following examples: People who can play complete songs on the piano or sing every word to an older song, even if they are in the middle stages of Alzheimer’s

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The Music Is Still There: Music Therapy and Memory

How Caregivers Can Harness the Restorative Power of Music Therapy When the world shut down in March of 2020, for a while live music stopped, too. Many musicians lamented that “Music is who I am, and now I have nothing.” Perhaps during the Pandemic, most of us appreciated the talents of all musicians more than we had before. But how much do we as caregivers for people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or other neurological diseases know about the music stored in our brains and how most of us will “have it” until our brain function stops completely? Although I’d heard accounts of how some people with Alzheimer’s had a seemingly miraculous restoration of memories, speech and even movement when given the chance to listen to familiar music from their past, I knew very little about the science behind those temporary breakthroughs. I did have one personal experience that touched me deeply and made me want to learn more. Singing with Margaret While sitting at the bedside of my 93-year-old friend who was dying and hadn’t spoken for more than a day, I took her hand and began talking about the experiences we’d had leading music for our church congregation. With her eyes still shut, she said softly, “I miss the hymns.” I began singing some familiar hymns and was joined by her hospice nurse. Soon Margaret was singing some phrases of the music with us. She couldn’t remember all the words, so she lamented, “I can’t sing anymore.” With tears rolling down my cheeks, I said, “Margaret you are singing! Keep singing with us.” Accompanied by recorded hymns on the nurse’s phone, we sang together for about 20 minutes, until Margaret drifted off again. Even though she couldn’t talk, Margaret’s music was still “Alive Inside.” Alive Inside: The Story of Music

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The Emotional Rewards of a Caregiving Career

The COVID-19 Pandemic caused many people to rethink what they want to do to make a living. They realize that they have a choice when it comes to their work environment, and they are looking for a job that not only meets their financial and flexibility needs but is also emotionally fulfilling. Many people have discovered that a caregiving career can fill all of those requirements. When I learned Dakota Home Care is hiring in-home caregivers at various skill levels, I immediately thought of several people I know who love their jobs caring for others. I hope that sharing their stories might help some of our readers tip the balance in favor of a caregiving career with us. You can go to the “Join Our Team” page on our website to read quotes from people who are currently working for Dakota Home Care. KaDee’s Story KaDee was the first person who popped into my head. She helped care for my dad more than five years ago, but I still remember her positive attitude, her genuine concern and her kindness, even though he wasn’t always kind to her. She and I became Facebook friends, and in January, after 20 years as a CNA, she posted this: (I asked her permission to share it with you.) “I’ll tell you what, nothing compares to the joy you’ll feel when you give [an elderly person] an amazing shower and they tell you they love you just because you cleaned them. Or the bittersweet happiness you feel when [someone] grabs you by the hand when they’re almost too weak to eat and just won’t let go of you because you helped them, and your presence is comforting them…. “Being a CNA is not easy. It [can be] exhausting, emotional, aggravating, fast pace, heartbreaking…., but I

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Benefits of Finding the Humor in Caregiving

Abraham Lincoln was criticized when he laughed at something during the Civil War. In response he said, “If I didn’t laugh, I would surely cry.” Those of us who are caregivers, either professionally or for a loved one, know that can be true of us, too. If we’re able to see the humor in what might be seen as a sad or challenging, it can lighten the moment for both the caregiver and the person being cared for. Unexpected actions can sometimes be the norm, so it’s important to let go of what we can’t control and try to embrace what can be funny about it. A personal example was often finding my father naked from the waist down. It’s important to remember to exercise some caution when employing humor as a coping mechanism. If our humor belittles or is perceived as being made fun of, then it can have a negative effect, and it won’t change behavior. Putting too much pressure on ourselves to see humor where there might be none can add stress to an already stressful situation. Sometimes a caregiver support group is the best places to share your humorous stories. Almost every caregiver can be encouraged to share something comical about caregiving in a group with others who can relate. Most of us have heard about the positive physical and psychological effects of humor and laughter. Research reveals many benefits, including: Decreasing stress hormones Improving respiration and increasing oxygen in the lungs Boosting our immune system Releasing feel-good hormones including norepinephrine, dopamine, and endorphins Increasing coping abilities when faced with life stressors Relieving guilt by knowing that humor and laughter are good for your body and spirit Here are a few ideas to help you find or create humor in caregiving [from Salt Lake County Aging

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Planning for Care

Planning for Care as You Age at Home: Long-Term Care Planning

No matter how old we get, most of us still feel young inside. It’s hard to imagine that, if we or our parents live long enough, some body parts will start to wear out, and we or they will need help doing at least some of the daily tasks that now seem easy for us. Research shows that one out of two North Dakotans will need additional care sometime during their lives. The risk that eventually you or your spouse will need care that you or other family members can’t provide is 65 percent. If you or a loved one suddenly needs care without prior notice or planning, many difficult decisions will have to be made quickly under duress. Fortunately, you can reduce the stress of making last-minute decisions with long-term care planning. Many people don’t realize that helpful options and many decisions can be worked out in advance, providing a plan of action when your situation changes and helping you and everyone in your family to feel more secure before the need for additional care arises. You may already have some of the knowledge you need to make informed decisions. For example, if one of you has a condition such as diabetes that could become debilitating, you can ask your doctor what lies ahead and what care might be required. My Personal Experience with Long-Term Care Planning I guess you could say that I and my family were lucky that my husband had a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia several years before he could no longer care for himself. Even though it was difficult for him to come to terms with his diagnosis being accurate, we began immediately to make plans for the days ahead. Most of the things we did would be smart for anyone to

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Choosing an Agency

Questions to Ask When Choosing a Home Healthcare Agency

If you or a loved one need more care than your family can provide, a wide range of in-home care services are available. When faced with this situation for the first time, many people have no idea where to turn. What you might not know is that you don’t have to go to several different places for medical and non-medical in-home assistance, or for day, night or hourly services. A professional home healthcare agency can help you with all of these needs. If you live in one of these North Dakota communities, Dakota Home Care can provide quality, affordable, personalized home care services, regardless of your age or health challenges. You can call us at (701) 663-5373 to schedule a free in-home consultation to learn how our experts in home care can help. Whoever you talk to, it is good to have a list of questions to be answered that will make you feel comfortable and assured you are getting the quality services and care you are looking for. Every situation is different, so make note of which of these questions and related services are most likely to enable you or your loved one to get the care needed to stay at home. Do you have references I can talk to about their experience with the type of services I need? If I just need a break from caregiving now and then, do you provide respite care? If my loved one is in good health but can no longer manage all the tasks of daily living and/or self-care, do you have certified home health aides that can assist with a range of home care needs? (click for examples) Are your aides screened, trained and supervised by a skilled professional? What times of the day or night and for how long

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contemporary large multi-generation family sitting by served festive table on Christmas day

Enjoying the Holidays With Seniors: Tips for Family Caregivers

Holidays can be both a joyful and a stressful time for all of us, no matter what stage of life we’re in. But as a family member ages, it can become more and more difficult to continue the family traditions everyone expects, and at the same time juggle our elderly loved one’s mental, physical and emotional needs. Caregivers often struggle with how to plan meals and family gatherings that won’t be highly stressful, confusing or even depressing for an elderly family member, but at the same time will meet the hopes and expectations of others. How can you make celebrating holidays with seniors enjoyable for the entire family?   Solutions vary based on the health, mental, and mobility issues of your elderly family member, but at least some of these 10 tips for enjoying the holidays with seniors could help families and a loved one they care for find more joy during the holidays:   Simplify your holiday season. Caregivers with younger families of their own have a lot on their plates during the holidays. Over-the-top expectations and an “I want to do it all” attitude can bring on a lot of stress. Simplify routines and modify traditions to reduce stress by making a list of all of your chores and then eliminating those that aren’t truly necessary. Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability, confusion or exhaustion, so consider designating a “quiet room” and schedule time for a nap, if necessary. Modify festivities to accommodate individual limitations. Figure out how to continue traditions but perhaps in slightly new ways that include your loved

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When Is It Time to Find In-Home Dementia Care for a Loved One?

The time is long past when one has to feel guilty for not being able to provide every service their loved one needs, or to keep going until you can’t go on any longer, either physically or emotionally. Too many caregivers wait to get help until caring for their loved one becomes a 24/7 job, and their own health is in danger. Taking care of yourself–the caregiver–is as important as taking care of your loved one who needs care. Looking into what services are available should begin as soon as you assume that position, or if your loved one receives a long-term-care diagnosis, such a dementia. If you’re reading this, you’re already on the Dakota Home Care website. When you’ve finished, return to the Home Page and click on Home Care Services. That will give you an idea of the wide variety of services we offer. Home care isn’t just for older adults with dementia. Our personalized long term care services are appropriate for anyone in need of help at home. An early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia might mean that life can go on at home with only a few changes to accommodate for noticeable differences in cognitive or physical abilities, such as helping with finances or installing safety bars. Dementia progresses at a different rate and with different symptoms in each person. It’s important to check in with your loved one regularly to assess the situation. If you’ve noticed one of these 10 signs that your loved one can no long provide all of their own care, you’ve probably already stepped in to help: Feeling isolated; no longer able to go out Declining health; becoming more frail Frequent accidents, falls or injuries Unable to maintain a tidy or clean home Poor hygiene; infrequent bathing or changing clothes

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MRI Test

Advances in Tests for Diagnosing Alzheimer’s Disease

If you are postponing having yourself or a loved one tested for possible Alzheimer’s disease because you’ve heard it can only be conclusively diagnosed by a brain autopsy after death, wait no longer!  Research completed and reports released in the last 10 years, show that new advances in tests for diagnosing Alzheimer’s disease now make it possible to determine with a high degree of certainty whether or not Alzheimer’s is the cause of common behavioral indicators of dementia. Having an early diagnosis helps people with Alzheimer’s and their families: Plan for the future Take care of financial and legal matters Address potential safety issues Learn about living arrangements Develop support networks Have opportunities to participate in clinical trials for possible new treatments Reluctance to go to the doctor when you or a family member has memory problems is common. Some people hide their symptoms, or family members cover for them. That’s understandable, because Alzheimer’s dementia is associated with loss—loss of independence, loss of a driving privileges and loss of self. People may wonder if there’s any point in a diagnosis, if there’s no cure for the disease. They don’t want to know. My family benefitted greatly from a somewhat early diagnosis. My husband started showing signs of cognitive impairment about two years before he consented to be tested. Then, through a combination of in-person testing with a neurologist and brain imaging, in 2016 we were given a conclusive diagnosis that he had a combination of both Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia. Because he had more than one cause for his dementia, he was not able to participate in clinical trials for Alzheimer’s treatments, but he was started on FDA approved medication to help slow its progression, and we knew to watch for signs of TIAs or small strokes. As a family

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Communicating with Gestures

15 Tips for Communicating with Mid- to Late-Stage Alzheimer’s Sufferers

As Alzheimer’s disease progresses, people often becomes confused and have difficulty communicating. They may struggle to find the right words to express themselves, or may forget the meaning of words and phrases. They also may rely more and more on gestures, especially as their verbal skills decline. Home care that is focused on the patient and aligned with that individual’s choices ideally includes communication between the individuals living with the disease and their entire care team. Despite the challenges, there are ways to communicate more effectively with a loved one or client who has Alzheimer’s disease, even when they completely lose the ability to put their thoughts into words. There are several strategies you can use to improve communication. In addition to what is said, remember the importance of non-verbal communication. The presence, touch, gestures, and attention of caregivers can help to communicate acceptance, reassurance, and love to a person with Alzheimer’s disease. In all cases, do your best to treat the patient with dignity and respect, no matter how frustrating communication may become. 15 Tips for communicating with mid- to late-stage) Alzheimer’s patients or loved ones: Make eye contact. Always approach from the front and speak face-to-face. Speaking from the side or from behind can be startling. It is vital that you know their attention is focused on you. Read what they are saying with their eyes. Try to understand what is being said based on the context. If the person is struggling to get an idea out, offer a guess. Be at their level. Move your head, bend your knees or sit down to be directly in front of them. Don’t stand or hover over them. That can be intimidating and scary. If they are focused on their fear, they can’t focus on you and what you are

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