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Making the home safer

Most hazards around the home are obvious once you are made aware of them. But they are easily overlooked in the course of day-to-day living. Don’t let your loved one get injured because of a simple oversight! Here’s a home safety audit you can do yourself.

 

Lighting
In every room of the house, you want to be sure there is even light from the center and to all corners. Those little objects that cause a stumble frequently hide in the shadows. A common location for a fall is moving at night from the bedroom to the bathroom. Place nightlights along the path to light the way for sleepy eyes and a body in a hurry. Stairs and wet or icy walkways also pose extra dangers for a fall, so be especially sure to keep those areas well lit.

 

Floors
Remove all throw rugs if you can. Or put sticky tape on the underside to pin corners down and keep the rug from slipping. Keep pathways open and tidy. Pick up piles of paper, shoes, boxes, towels and trip hazards. Find alternate paths for cords and wires, or tape them down to the floor.

 

Stairs
Be sure to fix uneven or loose stairs. Handrails should be securely fastened to the wall.  The edge of the stairs should be painted a bright color with non-stick tread on the surface. If stairs are carpeted, be sure the carpet is securely nailed down.

 

Bathroom
Bathrooms are particularly dangerous as they combine hard and often wet and slippery surfaces. Be sure to use rubber-backed non-skid rugs and apply a non-skid mat or decals in the tub or shower floor. Grab bars by the shower and toilet are a must. And a toilet seat riser is a good idea if your loved one is at all unsteady rising up from a chair in the living room.

 

Would you like a home assessment?
We at Senior Care Management Services can spot a trip hazard the minute we walk into a room. It’s not rocket science, but you may simply be so used to your parent’s house, that you don’t notice. As the Northern Virginia expert in aging well, we can help you identify the fixes needed to spare your loved one the consequences of a fall. Give us a call at 703-329-0900. We know home safety!

Preparing for Hip or Knee Replacement

If your loved one is slated for joint surgery, don’t underestimate the impact.
Expect that he or she will have reduced energy and greater needs. Limited mobility will create surprising challenges. Things you take for granted will need extra care and attention. Plus, the body simply needs time and energy to rebuild bone, muscle, and nerve connections.

There is much you can do ahead of time to help prepare a smooth path for recovery.

Support physical preparation for success

  • Opt for an outpatient procedure if possible. It’s less invasive. Plus, recovery at home reduces the risk of complications.
  • Consult a physical therapist. There may be exercises your loved one can do now to tone key muscles that will be needed after surgery.
  • Support your relative in trimming excess weight and cutting down on alcohol and tobacco. They all impede healing.

 

Make practical arrangements

  • Plan to provide daily help the first two weeks. The grogginess of pain meds and the difficulties of bathing, dressing, and walking make it unwise for your parent to go solo.
  • No driving! A “chauffer” is needed for 3 to 6 weeks for errands and medical appointments.
  • Stock up on easy-to-reheat meals. High-protein and high-fiber foods are wise—to promote healing and reduce any constipation from pain medicine.
  • Plan to have a trusted friend or family member at the hospital, especially if there are mood or memory problems.

 

Rearrange the house

  • Create a center of operations on the first floor. Ensure phone, remote, computer, books, meds, and water are all within easy reach.
  • Devise a downstairs bed that is low (feet can touch the floor when sitting on it) and firm.
  • Place a commode at bedside for the first week or so. Really. It makes life MUCH easier!
  • Remove throw rugs—a serious trip hazard—and create wide thoroughfares. Your relative may be clumsy when using crutches or a walker.

 

Round up assistive devices

  • Put a toilet seat riser in place.
  • Get a bath bench to make showering safe.
  • Buy a grabber for reaching things that have fallen.
  • Purchase sock aids to reduce the need to bend when putting on socks.

 

Is surgery on the calendar?
Most people with painful hips or knees eventually opt for surgery. As the Northern Virginia expert in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services can help you prepare so that the person you care for can come home and enjoy a more comfortable, speedy, and solid recovery. Give us a call at 703-329-0900.

Signature Strength: Wisdom

Each of us has strengths . . . and, well, areas that could use improvement. As a family caregiver, you may often feel inadequate. Or guilty. Or think that you aren’t doing enough. Such negative self-assessments are common. A more balanced assessment would acknowledge that you also have qualities that shine.

Most of us believe that to be better people, we need to focus on our trouble spots. Over the next months, we will be drawing on the science of “positive psychology,” which shows that cultivating what works is just as productive as scrutinizing the things that aren’t working well. For example, each of us has characteristic “signature strengths.” Wisdom may be one of yours.

Wisdom and knowledge
Are you the type of person others turn to when they need advice? If so, you probably have the strength of wisdom and knowledge:

  • Curiosity and a love of learning
  • Willingness to look at all sides
  • Ability to change your mind
  • A tendency to take time to reflect, look inward
  • An understanding of social dynamics
  • Empathy

 

Wisdom is more than being smart.
It’s a special kind of intelligence that blends the heart and the brain. The more life experiences you have had—including losses—the more opportunities you have had to develop a wider perspective. The wise individual is able to listen to the heart but not be overcome by emotional extremes.

Using both sides of the brain
Wisdom is commonly associated with age. Brain studies reveal that older adults use both sides of their brain—the analytical side plus the more intuitive side— more equally than do younger adults. As one scientist put it, “they are in all-wheel drive.”

Cultivate your wisdom
Learning from the habits of wise individuals can help you foster this strength. Explore something unfamiliar. Try a new perspective. Pause and reflect. Strive to interpret the actions of others with kindness and compassion.

Would an outside perspective help?
Sometimes that wider perspective is most readily accessed by working with others outside the family system. As the Northern Virginia experts in family caregiving, we at Senior Care Management Services can help you gain new insights and cultivate your own wisdom for the tasks ahead. 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.

Travel tips when your loved one is disabled

It’s difficult to know what to anticipate when traveling with a family member who has trouble getting around. Here are tips from experienced, disabled travelers to reduce your road-trip stress this summer.

If your travel includes hotel lodging:

  • Talk directly with the hotel. Many hotel chains have a centralized reservation system. Get a direct, on-site number instead. Then ask to speak with the head of housekeeping or engineering. With their intimate knowledge of the building, you can ask them to describe the disability features: How wide are the doorways? Does the bathroom have grab bars? And don’t forget to ask about access to the hotel from the street!
  • Reserve the room. Confirm that you are guaranteed an “accessible” room. Reconfirm a few days in advance of your arrival. If your room is not available or not accessible, ask to speak with the manager. It is the hotel’s responsibility to find you suitable alternate lodgings.

You might also consider bringing these items. You’ll find them sold online or at medical supply stores.

  • A folding ramp. An easy way to eliminate a short flight of stairs when visiting relatives or stores not equipped to accommodate people with disabilities.
  • Safety items for the bathroom. Consider a lightweight toilet seat extender. (Sitting higher up on the “throne” reduces the chance of falling when getting on or off the toilet.) For bathing, look for a suction-based grab bar or folding shower bench and slip-on shower hose. Add nightlights to improve visibility after dark.
  • Chair comfort. Bring a lap blanket and special pillows if your family member will be spending a lot of time sitting. Or a small fan to help with cooling. A swivel seat cushion may help a lot with getting in/out of the car.

To help your loved one join in excursions, consider a transport wheelchair. These lightweight wheelchairs have smaller wheels and can preserve your family member’s energy. All transport chairs fold, but some are made specifically for travel and can pack easily in a small bag.

Unsure whether travel is wise?
It’s natural to feel cautious. But sometimes the window of health is such that this may be a last opportunity to visit others. As the Northern Virginia expert in aging well, we at Senior Care Management Services help our clients prepare for trips and marshal resources so they can give their family members a truly precious memory. Call us at 703-329-0900.

Web Resources When Caring for an Older Adult

In our internet age, locating help and information as a caregiver is often just a few clicks away. Below are some useful web resources to research, especially if you are looking for guidance in caring for an older adult.

AARP   Website: www.aarp.org

Or, to go directly to specific caregiving resources.

Eldercare Locator  Website:  www.eldercare.gov

The Eldercare Locator, a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, is a national site that can connect you to services for older adults and their families.

Mayo Clinic   Website: www.mayoclinic.com

Use this site to research health issues.  This site has up-to-date information in multiple diseases and categories.

The Aging Life Care Association (formerly the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (NAPGCM)   Website: www.aginglifecare.org

Aging Life Care specialists (formerly known as Geriatric Care Managers (GCMs) are health care professionals, most often social workers or nurses, who assist families in dealing with the problems and challenges associated with caring for the elderly.  In addition to showing the many ways an aging life care specialist can help families facing long-term care decisions, the site also provides a database to search for an aging life care specialist in your location.

Web MD   Website: www.webmd.com

WebMD provides valuable health information, tools for managing your health, and support for those who seek information.

National Council on Seniors Drug & Alcohol Rehab – Website: RehabNet.com

A site dedicated to helping older adults with this “quiet epidemic” of drug and alcohol addiction.

Medicare – Website: www.medicare.gov

Everything you need to know about Medicare.

This article was updated in December 2017.