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Reducing the risk of falling

Has your mother fallen recently? She’s not alone! One out of four adults 65 and over experiences a fall each year. That makes falls the leading cause of injury for older adults.

Falls are serious business
A few statistics: In the U.S. an older adult dies once every 20 minutes as a result of a fall. Disabilities from a fall include injuries that can be life changing: a traumatic brain injury or broken hip. Especially for seniors, falls pose a danger to an independent lifestyle. They often usher in a permanent need for daily assistance.

Who is at risk for falling?
Has Mom or Dad fallen twice in the past year? Have you noticed balance or gait problems? Has there recently been a severe fall? These are signs of “high risk.” Other signs involve poor vision, or taking medicines that list dizziness as a side effect.

A fall risk assessment
To be safe, ask your relative’s doctor to do a fall risk assessment. This includes a review of

  • underlying medical conditions. Many chronic diseases affect and the ability to get around.
  • the home environment. The doctor can write an order for an occupational therapist or other trained professional to do a home assessment. They can identify simple ways to remove hazards and make the home safer.
  • medication use. Some types of drugs, or daily use of four or more prescription drugs, increase the risk for falling.

 

Preventing falls
A recent review of numerous studies show that some strategies are better than others. The most effective measures for preventing a fall include:

  • Exercise, especially activities that promote balance.
  • Getting regular eye exams and following through with corrective procedures.
  • Removing hazards around the house.
  • Wearing sturdy shoes and slippers. A firm sole is better than a soft cushy one because it’s easier to feel the ground below.

 

Are you worried about a fall?
As the Northern Virginia expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services understand the difficulty of your situation. You can’t be too forceful about changes. And at the same time, the consequences can be pretty serious. Put our experience to work for you. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.

“I don’t need help” – Part 3

It’s not easy to lose abilities and admit you need help. The reluctant elder in your life is more likely to ease into acceptance if you provide good listening, compassion, and a commitment to working together. In this third installment of our series, we look at elders’ concerns around privacy and pride.

Privacy
Having someone underfoot can feel intrusive, especially if your relative is used to living alone. Perhaps he or she fears being judged, or that word of unhealthy food choices or alcohol use may get back to the family. Maybe your relative tends toward hoarding and is embarrassed. Or has worries about safety with a stranger or the risk of theft. All of these are reasonable concerns for any adult who values their independence. You can address privacy concerns by

  • starting with part-time help;
  • hiring a friend;
  • working with an agency that does background checks and drug testing.

 

Pride
“Do you think I need a babysitter?!” Our culture values self-reliance. Anything that implies a need for help suggests weakness or incompetence. When you approach your relative,

  • shift from “we think you need help” to “we want to help you stay in charge of your life.” As noted in Part 1 of this series, working with your relative toward a common goal is a welcome and respectful approach;
  • clarify what type of care is needed. For instance, a nurse to dress a wound is different from someone who cooks and cleans;
  • start with a short-term arrangement, framed as “while you recover” or “just to see how it goes.” Then consider a more permanent arrangement;
  • talk about getting help as a way to liberate your loved one’s energy to do other activities he or she really enjoys;
  • emphasize your relative’s other abilities. If Mom can no longer do housekeeping, make sure to praise her often about her cooking talents.

 

Would a little coaching help?
At Senior Care Management Services we understand what a delicate line you have to walk— respecting a relative’s concern while at the same time addressing real issues of health and safety. As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we can help you grapple with your own frustrations and find the balance you need to take the next step with your loved one. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.

When you need an energy boost

When caregiver fatigue strikes, many of us reach for caffeine. Whether it’s coffee, cola, chocolate, or an “energy shot” drink, the effects are immediate. Like a reliable friend, caffeine seems to help us keep going.

 

Pros and cons
Studies have shown many benefits from caffeine. It can enhance performance. It increases productivity and elevates mood. It may even reduce or delay Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases.

On the other hand, caffeine can be hard on the heart. It’s like giving your heart a stress test on a regular basis. It’s known to cause a rapid or irregular heartbeat and can contribute to high blood pressure. Insomnia and anxiety are also common side effects.

 

Too much of a good thing?
High-caffeine energy shot drinks are increasing in popularity, especially among older adults. Take caution. In a four-year time span, the number of adults going to the ER because of energy drink intake doubled. Among adults age 40 and older, the rate quadrupled! Although the numbers are small, clearly there is a trend. Symptoms ranged from palpitations and anxiety to actual heart attacks.

The Food and Drug Administration says that 400 mg of caffeine per day is likely safe. A 5 oz. cup of caffeinated coffee has about 100 mg. A can of cola about 50 mg. Energy drinks, by contrast, vary dramatically, having from 200 to 500 mg of caffeine.

 

If you want to quit
Caffeine can be addictive. Tapering off, or down, is easier than going cold turkey. One approach is to make your coffee or tea half decaf. Or switch to smaller servings or fewer drinks per day.

Another option is to respect your fatigue. Try to get enough sleep at night. And if life allows, consider a short nap midday. Listening to your body may be a wiser approach than reaching for a cup of joe or a high-impact energy shot.

 

Struggling to juggle it all?
If you are “self-medicating” with caffeine, perhaps it’s time to get some caregiving help. Too often, we at Senior Care Management Services see family members stealing from their sleep to find those extra hours needed in the day. Burning the candle at both ends is not a sustainable long-term strategy. At the same time, as the Northern Virginia expert in family caregiving, we understand! It’s hard to get it all done. Give us a call at 703-329-0900. We can help share the load so you can live a healthier rhythm and drink that cup of coffee only because you want to, not because you need it.