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8 Ways to Renovate Your Home to Ensure it’s Senior-Friendly

There are many advantages in electing to have at-home care for seniors rather than hospice, convalescent, or other off site options. With that, come many opportunities to improve and protect the seniors’ living situation. The FCA (Family Caregiver Alliance) offers online resources with links to workshops, webinars, and educational classes to assist caregivers with strategies for providing better care for seniors and dealing with issues in their unique profession.

Here are eight ways to make changes at home that are beneficial for seniors as they continue to age:


  1. BATHROOM: Install grab bars near toilets, inside shower stalls and bathtubs so that seniors can steady themselves and help them rise from the commode and tub. If the bathroom floor is tile or vinyl, place carpeted mats that are either skid-proof or self-adhesive to help reduce slip and falls. For fully carpeted floors, ensure that any mats are tacked down to prevent tripping.
  2. STAIRS: Almost always, stairways and stairwells will have handrails, but ensure that they extend past the top and bottom for extra stability. Also, place colored tape on each of the steps and use a different color to distinguish the top and bottom steps. For smaller steps through doorways, consider installing ramps.
  3. LIGHTING: Increasing the wattage of lighting throughout the residence ensuring that they can handle the higher watts. Add nightlights in bedrooms, hallways and bathrooms, especially along the route from where the senior sleeps and takes a nightly journey to the bathroom.
  4. GLASS: As mental cognition begins to deteriorate and vision worsens, windows and glass doors can be dangerous. Mark them with masking or colored tape to lessen the possibility of accidental breakage or misjudgment of distance.
  5. FURNITURE: Place as much furniture as possible against walls and remove or place padding on end tables, sharp corners, and edges on coffee tables. You may consider removing them altogether. Avoid moving furniture that the elderly has become accustomed to their location and keep chairs pushed in under tables or counters.
  6. ELECTRICAL: Tape or tack down electrical wires or wiring, especially on flooring, and when possible, remove them from walkways. Ensure faceplates and switches are secure and working properly. Check smoke and carbon monoxide alarms regularly. The usual rule of thumb is to change the batteries when the time changes in Spring and Fall.
  7. TELEPHONES: If the senior is active, make sure they carry a cell or smartphone with them at all times. For the home phone, put it in an easily accessible location and make sure a phone is installed bedside. While some people are opting to have only a cell phone rather than a landline, having a telephone near a bed for seniors is a necessity.
  8. MEDICATIONS: Use pill organizers, a checklist, and/or a daily calendar that makes doses and frequency of taking medications clear and simple.


A mindful caregiver can help in many different ways, including ensuring that the environment is safe for the aging resident. Taking these extra steps can reduce falls and injuries for our loved ones in their home.

“Felicity Dryer is a women’s and senior health journalist from Southern California. She has had the great pleasure of being published in many great publications both on the web and in print. She hopes you enjoy this article and welcomes you to reach out to her on G+.”

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Raising, Spreading, and Sharing Dementia Awareness

Much like any other mental health illness, dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have an ugly stigma that surrounds it. People fear what they don’t understand. One way of reducing this fear is by educating the masses about these diseases. Awareness for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia have come a long way from when it was first discovered, yet there’s still more we can do. Here are some great ways to help spread awareness.

Twitter Chats
If you’re unaware of what a Twitter Chat is, think back to the early stages of the Internet when chatrooms still existed. Twitter Chats are essentially chatrooms for like-minded people that utilize a specific hashtag to categorize the chat. There are plenty of chats for caregivers and health-related issues, and it’s a great opportunity for them to come together with one another without actually having to be in the same room. It’s a safe, welcoming environment that let’s people talk freely.

Of course, these chats can also be used to share information. What better way to spread awareness for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than by sharing the information from the people who see it everyday. We encourage you to go out and research some of these Twitter Chats. There’s a lot of great information being passed around, but unfortunately it falls on deaf ears. Look up when they’re occurring and do your best to participate. At the very least, if someone types out a well thought response, retweet it to your followers. Spread that information! There is so much that we can do on social media in order to inform people about dementia.

Promote Events
There are plenty of events that help raise funds for dementia research. Whether it be running a 5k, a half marathon, or even promoting someone’s personal crowdfunding page, these events are a good opportunity to meet people and discuss the major issues surrounding dementia as well as raising the necessary funds for research. However, these events, much like the information shared in TwittercChats, can fall on deaf ears. There are many ways you can help promote these crucial events. Word of mouth, distributing flyers around your local neighborhoods, and taking to the Internet to promote them on social media is a great way to help promote awareness.

Start Your Own
Perhaps being a part of an event is not necessarily your style. Maybe you want to be on the forefront of leading the fight against Alzheimer’s and dementia? You certainly can do that. There are many options when it comes to creating your own event. There are a lot of websites that can help you get started and find out who to contact, how to get it registered, and where it can be held. This is a fantastic way to truly help spread awareness for an issue that doesn’t get the attention it deserves. We encourage everyone, whether it’s by starting your own event, or just by word of mouth, to increase dementia awareness in your community!

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National Nutrition Month: Learn What to Eat

March is known as National Nutrition Month. It’s an informational 31-day observance dedicated to making sure people eat the right amount of nutrients to stay healthy. It’s no mystery that as you age, your body needs less energy. However, that does not mean the body needs less nutrients. In fact, it’s important as ever to keep up with that healthy eating lifestyle in order to age happily and healthy. Here is a list of important foods to do just that!

Vibrant Fruits
When at the grocery store shopping with your senior loved one, try to pick out the most colorful fruits on the stands. The brighter they are, the more vitamins and antioxidants they have. Antioxidants are important in a senior’s diet, because they boost the immune system which ultimately keeps your senior healthy for longer!

Look for those red peppers, bright bananas, and dark blackberries. These are the fruits that hold all of those wonderful nutrients in their colorful complexion.

Dairy Products
Osteoporosis is a common disease that affects many older adults. Specifically, it affects their bones, making them weak and frail. That’s why dairy products should be incorporated into their diets. Milk contains plenty of calcium to ward off any adverse effects to your elderly loved one’s bones. Three glasses of milk a day should be enough calcium to keep them healthy. It’s also a great source of Vitamin D, which gets harder to absorb via the sun as you age.

Low-fat yogurt is another healthy dairy snack that’s great for you and your senior loved one. You can even cut up some of the vibrant fruits and place them in there. It’s a delicious treat that’s sure to tickle the tastebuds and keep everyone healthy and satisfied.

Grains
Looking for a good source of fiber for your senior’s diet? Try incorporating more whole grain products into their meals. Oatmeal in the morning is a good start. The key is to not load them up on empty carbs. Try to buy whole grain bread rather than white bread. It contains much more fiber and is less processed. It also includes more Vitamin B which helps with cells metabolism for more energy during the day.

Protein
Protein is tricky. You can find it in nuts and beans, but mostly in meats. However, a lot of meats contain saturated fats which result in high cholesterol. It’s important to find lean meats that don’t contain a lot of saturated fats. Fish is a good start. Fish also contains Omega 3’s also known as “healthy fats.” Omega 3’s can curb stiffness and joint pains when it comes to Rheumatoid Arthritis. Additionally, they’ve been linked to the prevention of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Unfortunately, there have not been enough studies done to prove such a thesis, nevertheless they are still very good for your senior’s diet.

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Dementia Aid: The Power of Music

As our nation continues to age, dementia becomes one of the premier social care challenges of the 21st century. Luckily, breakthroughs have been made and one of those breakthroughs is music. Even in our lives’ now, a soft melody can be powerful enough to boost our mood. Listening to a familiar song is just as powerful as seeing a familiar face. Music does wonders for us, and similarly, for those with dementia.

The beauty of music is that a specific song can be associated with a specific emotion or memory. This can best be seen in people who are in their later stages of dementia. Those in the later stages of dementia have a tough time recognizing family, yet a familiar song can evoke powerful memories.

If your senior loved one is still in the earlier stages of dementia, try asking them about some of their favorite songs. Write down their responses and create a playlist for them. It can prove to be very useful over the course of their dementia.

Music can also be used to calm down patients. It has been noted that a person with dementia, when given the opportunity to pick their own music, becomes less agitated throughout the week. This also a good activity to try if your loved one is in a bad mood.

Again, ask about their favorite music. It’s a very personable subject for most people. Often times, it feels like we don’t select the music we like, it selects us, which creates a very special relationship when it comes to people and art. Play these special songs for your senior loved one. You might just see their mood increase as each song gets played.

Be aware that music also has the ability to decrease their mood and make them agitated; so be prudent with your song selection. However, music has a strong place in most peoples’ lives. There has been a strong showing that musical therapy does wonders for anyone, whether they have dementia or not. It’s a wonderful activity for any caregiver and their caree, and it’ll help you get to know a loved one even better!

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Engagement: A Vital Element of Well-Being While Living with Dementia

By Karen Love


image001 I spoke on the phone recently with a gentleman in Florida who is living with advanced early stage dementia. I was struck by the high level of excitement and joy in his voice as he explained what he was doing (dementia advocacy work). I asked him how he might feel if he wasn’t doing this engaging work. He was silent as he considered my question – then responded that he likely would be depressed.

His response was no surprise because part of human nature is to seek out meaningful activity. Prisoners of war, for example, describe some amazing things they did to relieve the boredom of inactivity such as writing books in their heads and doing hundreds of sit-ups. Research is slowly making its way to providing the science and evidence base of what many have known for decades – being engaged in meaningful activity improves how we feel.

The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley is studying the science of meaningful life. Another research center conducting work in this area, the National Institute for Play, was founded by psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD. Dr. Brown’s research found that ‘play’ renews emotional energy. Doing something enjoyable for just a short amount of time leaves an individual feeling upbeat and happy.

“Play is what lifts people out of the mundane. Play can be compared to oxygen – it’s all around us, yet goes mostly unnoticed or unappreciated until it is missing.”
-       Stuart Brown, MD


When people have cognitive impairments such as those experienced with dementia, they lose the ability to themselves initiate ‘play’ and find meaningful and interesting things to do. If others don’t engage them in meaningful and enjoyable things to do each day, feelings of frustration and depression are likely to emerge. Jiska Cohen-Mansfield, PhD and colleagues in Maryland are international pioneers in studying the value and benefits of meaningful activity for people who are living with dementia. Individuals with dementia who are unoccupied, isolated, or bored often exhibit behaviors such as distress, agitation, frustration, depression, restlessness, irritability and aggression. For a small percent of individuals, these behaviors are rooted in psychiatric causes. For the majority of people, these behaviors are a result of boredom and a lack of meaningful activity.

I’ve been in the field of dementia care for over thirty years, and worked with hundreds of people living with dementia. About 15 years into my career my father developed Alzheimer’s, so I have some personal family familiarity with it also. I’ve experienced first-hand the direct impact of meaningful engagement and happiness. For most people, short periods of an enjoyable activity or social interaction are plenty. Other people need more sustained activity and engagement. I think of my friend’s brother-in-law who runs five miles each morning, works a demanding job, then comes home and kayaks around the lake near where they live for an hour. Should he develop dementia, he’ll likely be one of those people who need sustained activity!

We created FIT Kits™ to make engaging someone living with dementia simple, easy and fun. Helping family members and other care partners experience the difference simple engagement can make in bettering the lives of people with dementia is one of the joys in my life.

References
Brown, S., and Vaughan, C. (2010). Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. Penguin Group, New York, New York.
Cohen-Mansfield, et al. (2010). Can persons with dementia be engaged with stimuli? American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 18(4):351-62.

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Know the Warning Signs: Does Your Senior Need at Home Care?

Seniors don’t like to admit they need help. The last thing they want to be is a burden. Therefore, they’ll continue with their lives independently to the best of their ability. Unfortunately, some seniors will need help. It’s up to you to know the warning signs when at home care is needed.

Weight Loss
Weight loss can be caused by several factors. It can be attributed to a loss of taste buds from various medications a senior loved one is taking. It might even be a deeper problem such as lacking the energy to prepare meals. If this is the case, explore your elder care options. A well-balanced diet is essential to healthy aging and weight loss should not be viewed as a temporary problem. If a senior loved has lost the ability to cook for themselves, consider the benefits of hiring. Good nourishment is necessary for aging happily.

Poor Hygiene
This is another proper warning sign that an elderly loved one may need help around the house. Our daily routines are so ingrained into our minds that it should seem odd that a loved one is forgetting to shower or brush their teeth. How well an older person can structure their day is a great indicator to see if they can still efficiently live on their own. If a person’s daily schedule is falling apart, at home care may be the best option to maintain their quality of life.

Cluttered Home
No one likes a messy home. If an older loved one is struggling with keeping their home clean and organized, consider what may be causing this. It could be a sign of depression, as loneliness tends to affect many older adults. Another possibility is that your older loved one may not be in the best physical shape. A caregiver can help by providing the necessary muscle around the house to keep things clean, as well as providing comfort and support to aging loved ones.

Forgetful Behavior
Does your loved one have bills piling up? Does he or she forget to fill their prescriptions? These are the warning signs you should look for in forgetful behavior. Many older adults could greatly benefit from having an extra mind help them remember to keep up with their daily calendar.

There are many signs and symptoms of aging and the come on a big spectrum. However, it takes extra care and observance from your behalf in order to determine if your senior loved one needs at home care.

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National Eating Disorder Awareness Week

The final week of February is dedicated to raising awareness for people with eating disorders. In a previous post, we told you that anorexia and other eating disorders are not solely found in young people. In fact, eating disorders have been steadily increasing in older adults.

However, some people believe that these new diagnoses in older adults aren’t necessarily new, but have always been a part of this person’s life. If you notice your caree is losing weight rapidly or has less energy than normal, ask them about their eating habits.

There are various triggers that cause eating disorder to occur. Several are similar in older adults as they are in the younger generation, however one potential reason is medication. An older adult’s medication can numb or dull their taste buds which makes food less enjoyable. They can even eliminate appetite, and if an older adult doesn’t have anyone to cook for them, they might just skip eating all together. If this is the case, you must explain to them the importance of being well nourished. A lack of appetite does not necessitate a lack of nutrition. Spend some time with them at dinner, you can even organize a cooking night where the two of you learn new recipes together. That way the new flavors can excite their taste buds!

Another contributing factor to older adults eating less is that a stigma may be attached to food. The reason being? A deceased loved one might have been the one who prepared all of their meals. If this is the case, then every time food is prepared, the caree gets hit with a blast of nostalgia about all the great meals he or she shared with their loved one. It can be painful, bringing up memories of past loved ones, which is why they might do everything in the power to avoid such feelings.

This is a tricky scenario to get around, but your best bet is to replace these remorseful feelings with new, positive ones. Again, have a cooking date night. Learn new recipes together and explore new foods. Meals bring people together. It allows multiple people to come together and share in an experience.

The one main factor found in all eating disorders is stress. This stress can come from many different circumstances, but it’s up to you, the caregiver, to determine where it’s coming from. By eliminating these stress factors and providing positive feelings back in sharing meals, you can help eradicate eating disorders in the elderly.

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Communicating with Someone who has Alzheimer’s Disease

The question, “Is it okay to lie to someone with Alzheimer’s disease?” gets asked a lot. It’s difficult telling the truth to someone when you know the answer is one that hurts. Often times, a person with dementia will ask about their spouse when they may have been deceased for years. They might ask about their own parents when they, too have been deceased for many years. A person with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease loses touch with reality, and sometimes reality throws a lot of harsh things our way; so harsh that we don’t even want to mention them. Unfortunately, that doesn’t fully answer the question. There are multiple factors that play into this topic.

The first factor is about the person’s safety. You want to make them feel the most comfortable if possible. There is potential that a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s might not recognize their caregiver. They might see that person as a potential spouse or family member. However, there is no reason to make them believe that their caregiver is someone else. You want your senior loved one to feel comfortable around the one caring for them. There is no need to lie, because you want what’s best for your loved one.

On the other hand, if you’ve moved a parent or loved one into a smaller house in order to make their lives’ more manageable, they might have a lot of questions about their old house, especially if they had been living there for many years. They might ask, “When are we going home?” or “When do we get to leave?” They might even have their bags packed when you come to visit them, because they feel like a stranger in their new home. This is when it’s best to deflect such questions. Again, the idea to do what’s safest for them. The last thing you want is for a loved one with dementia to get into a car and attempt to drive away. That puts multiple people at risk.

As stated previously, when these tough questions are asked, it’s best to deflect them. If you tell them this is their home, they might panic due to the unfamiliarity of it. Of course, deflecting questions isn’t a loophole around lying. You’re still withholding the truth, so you’re not being honest. Nevertheless, you shouldn’t feel so bad about it because you’re not deliberately lying to a loved one for bad intentions. You want what’s best for them.

The moral of the story is morality. It’s not a static line that tells you, “If you do this you’re bad. If you do this you’re good.” It’s not so black and white. It alters and changes much like the world around you. Do what’s best for your loved one and your emotional well-being. If you can’t bring yourself to lie to a person with dementia then don’t. However, in your heart, if you truly believe you’re doing what’s best for them, then that’s okay, too. After all, we’ll whatever we can to make our loved ones happy.

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The Differences of Home Health Care and Home Care

As people get older or suffer with one or more chronic illnesses, there comes a time they’ll need help at home. Whether the extra care attends to personal assistance or their medical care, it’s available.

For example, if a person needs care after a surgery, home health care is accessible. Medically trained and licensed professionals will administer health-related tasks ordered by a physician.

In addition to recovery after a hospital visit, a person may need extra help around the house. In-home care is an option that offers custodial care, homemaker services, and companionship services. They’re delivered by professional caregivers employed by agencies, family members, or privately hired caregivers.

The Differences of Care
Home Health Care: Administers medical services delivered by a nurse, home health aide, certified nurse assistant, licensed vocational nurse, or a doctor. A physician prescribes these services.


  • Manage the medication and teaching adherence
  • Manage pain
  • Skilled Assessments and Training
  • Disease management and education
  • Injections, IV infusions
  • Catheter care, tracheotomy care
  • Ventilator patient care
  • Diabetes management and care
  • Post-op rehab – occupational and speech therapies
  • Discharge planning
  • Facilitating support groups, grief counseling
  • Wound care
  • Enabling durable medical equipment


Non-medical home care: The non-medical care tasks are performed by professional caregivers and address the following needs:

  • Assistance with personal care such as feeding, bathing, toileting, dressing, ambulation and transferring
  • Provide help with light housekeeping, laundry, grocery shopping, errands, meal preparation, medication reminders and companionship
  • Personal assistance with bathing, grooming, and incontinent care
  • Friendship and companionship for social outings, playing cards, visiting and conversation, reading books, activities, and hobbies, leisure, and travel
  • Light transportation
  • Assistance with medical appointments
  • Respite Care that gives a family caregiver a break


Paying for Care at Home
Paying for either type of care at home takes budgeting skills and a thoughtful strategy. The options are:

  • Out-of-pocket
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Medical health insurance
  • Medicaid and Medicare
  • Cash and Counseling Programs
  • Veterans Administration


Get the scoop on all pay for home care options.

People Who Use Home Health Care
  • Individuals discharged from a hospital or nursing home but needs medical attention
  • People living with terminal health conditions
  • Those with short-term health needs
  • People living with a disability

People Who Use Home Care
  • Those want help with meal preparation
  • Individuals with bathing and dressing requests
  • People with toileting and transferring demands
  • Older adults who need light transportation to appointments, etc.
  • Those living alone and craving companionship and company
  • Individuals who want help around the house – housecleaning and laundry

Carol Marak is a contributor for the senior living and health care market. She advocates older adults and family caregivers by writing on tough topics like chronic issues, senior care and housing. Find her work at AssistedLivingFacilities.org and HomeHealthcareAgencies.com and contact Carol on LinkedIn and Carol@SeniorCareQuest.com.

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What Dementia Can Teach Us

There are countless studies on dementia and all the various forms of it, that no one ever really sits back and realizes what this disease can teach us. We spend all of our time figuring out how to stop it, that we never realize how powerful the mind is. We only notice the degradation. A person with dementia is just that: a person. They’re still mind, body, and spirit. In fact, a person with dementia can teach us a lot about ourselves.

Strength
Have you ever been assigned a task that seems so impossible that the thought of giving up right at the start enters your mind? Of course, we all have. Giving up is one of the easiest decisions to make. We can come up with a million and one excuses as to why we should stop, yet we can’t think of one good reason as to keep going.

A person with dementia faces many tough challenges. It might be something such as getting out of bed in the morning or bathing by themselves, but strength isn’t measured by the amount of difficulty in the task. It’s measured by the amount of perseverance in the person completing the task. Dementia can teach us about true strength. No matter how difficult the task may seem, there are always ways to overcome and achieve your desired result.

Mind
The human brain is an incredible organ. It controls everything in your body. If you’re trying to pick up a glass of water, it sends signals to every part of the body and within milliseconds the body responds. It’s one of those things that’s so unbelievable we take it for grant it. We’ve all had those moments where we lose our train of thought or can’t quite place a finger on the word we’re looking for, but we can always recognize loved ones. We can always close friends when we see their faces.

The brain makes those connections for us, because they’re so familiar. Unfortunately, those in late stages of dementia don’t get that luxury. It destroys those connections the brain makes. What seemed so simple is now a difficult task. It’s something we take for grant it everyday. Our loved ones provide comfort for us and bring us that feeling of familiarity. It’s a great feeling walking into a new space and recognizing faces. Could you imagine a world where everyone is foreign? A person in the late stages of dementia must deal with it everyday.

The Little Things
Sometimes, a warm conversation with a stranger is enough to brighten our day. Sometimes, just listening to a story from a stranger is enough to brighten theirs. Whatever it may be, people with dementia enjoy the attention they receive. They’re thrilled to have someone come and hold their hand as they relive past memories, talk about relatives, and genuinely appreciate the comfort of being heard.

Contact and communication are two overlooked aspects of life. There’s nothing better than a gentle embrace from a close friend or relative, coupled with engaging conversation shared by both parties. However, not everyone receives that gratification. Could you imagine a world where you don’t get to converse with someone everyday? We need contact with other people, yet sometimes we don’t realize how important it is. Enjoy the small things in life. It’s just one of the many lessons we can all learn from people with dementia.

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