ComForCare Home Care Serving Somerset & Northern Middlesex Countries

Archive for January, 2019

10 surprising ways Alzheimer’s can affect vision

Monday , January 28 , 2019

10 surprising ways Alzheimer’s can affect vision

When someone mentions Alzheimer’s disease, what do you think of? Memory loss and confusion. Maybe changes to mood. But what about visual impairments?

Many people don’t realize that Alzheimer’s (and other forms of dementia) can lead to problems with vision and perception. For those already suffering from confusion and communication issues, problems with sight can be a serious safety risk.

Here are 10 surprising ways Alzheimer’s might affect vision and how you can help:

1. Increased need for light – Alzheimer’s may cause your older adult’s pupils to react slowly to light. That means that if they’re looking out the window, for example, the room might appear pitch black when they turn back around. In addition, people with Alzheimer’s need two to three times more light than others.

When coupled with changes to gait and balance, these issues can cause a huge safety risk. Maintaining adequate lighting, as well as giving your loved one plenty of time to adjust, is essential.

2. Decreased color perception – As people age, there are often changes to color perception–but those with dementia seem to have an even greater deficit. For many, this means a reduced ability to perceive the vividness of colors (for instance, red may appear pink) and a possible inability to recognize blue colors. While this doesn’t prove a huge safety risk, it can make everyday tasks like coordinating an outfit more difficult.

3. Need for high contrast – In addition to not recognizing certain colors, recognizing gradients in color can be a problem in persons with Alzheimer’s. For example, if the bathroom floor, toilet, and walls are all white, they may not be able locate the toilet. Keeping a light on can help, but also make sure the walls are painted a color that contrasts with the toilet and other objects around it.

4. Need for visual simplicity – Those with dementia may have difficulty finding an object on a patterned background or identifying an object in a crowded scene. For example, it can be impossible to locate and pick up a pill that has been placed on a patterned tablecloth. Try setting the table with plain color cloths and placements that offer high contrast.

5. Tunnel vision – People’s field of vision narrows as they age, but for those with Alzheimer’s, it can narrow significantly. They may not be able to see to either side when gazing forward, resulting in clumsiness and confusion. Be aware that they may not be seeing everything that you see: For example, if you notice that your loved on has only eaten food on half the plate, try turning the plate around. In addition, be aware of their limited peripheral vision when you approach, so you don’t startle them.

6. Depth perception– Advanced dementia can cause the brain to only see from one eye, which affects the ability to determine distance, changes in elevation, or distinguish between three-dimensional and flat objects. Simple tasks like judging the depth of water in the bathtub or navigating thresholds and steps can become dangerous. Restricting the use of multi-focal lenses when walking can help avoid accidents.

7. Reduced ability to detect motion – Some people with Alzheimer’s are unable to detect movement. They view the world as a series of still photos, rather than a moving picture, like most people see it. This can make formerly enjoyable activities, like watching television or looking out a car window, unpleasant and disorienting.

8. Illusions – Illusions occur when a person views a physical object as something other than it actually is. For instance, a shiny spot on the floor may appear as a puddle or a dark spot may look like a hole. Illusions differ from hallucinations in that when an individual hallucinates, there is no physical object present. There is nothing that can be done to prevent illusions, but it is important to be understanding and accepting.

9. Misidentifications – As many as one in six people with Alzheimer’s may suffer from misidentifications – an upsetting issue for both them and their caregivers. Misidentifications occur when an individual is unable to identify certain objects or people. For example, they may believe that their husband is actually their brother, or a fluffy pillow might get called a “puppy”. These issues occur as a result of damage to the process linking the eyes to the brain and are not the same as delusions.

10. Mood – It’s quite common for people with dementia, especially Alzheimer’s, to become agitated and anxious in the late afternoon or early evening, a phenomenon known as “sundowning.” Increasing the artificial light in a room before the shadows get long seems to help.

Final thoughts
Changes in vision may cause your loved on to act in a way that seems strange to you, but your older adult is just reacting to the world as they see it. Try to be patient and understand that things might be confusing, or even scary, for them.

For more information, visit the National Eye Institute (NEI) or the National Institute on Aging (NIH).

Posted in: Aging

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Creating a safe environment and support network to keep elders at home

Monday , January 21 , 2019

Creating a safe environment and support network to keep elders at home

Now that we’ve made it through the holiday bustle and 2019 is underway, many families are catching their breath and pondering the changes they’ve noticed in their parents. As aging occurs, many seniors experience diminished reflexes and other health problems that leave them prone to accidents.

According to the AARP, 89% of Americans over 50 say they want to remain in their own homes: For most, this is quite possible, but with some extra help.

If you don’t already have a support network in place, it may be time to build one. The following safety and support modifications can help give you and your loved one peace of mind.

Physical changes to the home
About one in four adults aged 65+ falls each year: Many seniors have sensory impairments, like poor hearing and vision, or a physical limitation that contributes to this risk. To help create a safe environment, consider:

• A stair lift or electronic chair lift
• Handheld shower hoses
• Shower benches
• Raised toilet seats
• Wider doors for wheelchair access
• Ramps to replace (or in addition to) stairs leading into the home
• Better lighting (a typical 85-year old needs three times more light than a teen)
• Placing commonly used items where they can be reached without stooping or reaching
• Grab bars wherever necessary (they’re not just for the bathroom!)

Nutritional support
Maintaining a nutrient-dense diet is important in older adults, yet many of them have a hard time preparing their own meals or even eating on their own. Here’s how to help them get the nutrition they need:

• Arrange for more meals to be provided by family members or friends
• Stock the fridge with protein-rich foods and meal-replacement shakes
• Sign up for a meal delivery service
• Contact Meals on Wheels or a similar program if you are unable to help on your own
• Show your loved one how to use an online grocery shopping app
• Ask their doctor about switching medications which may suppress appetite

Medication monitoring
According to a recent national survey, one in four Americans over the age of 65 take between 10 and 19 pills a day. That’s a lot to keep track of! How can you help?

• Sign up for prescription delivery
• Schedule reminder phone calls
• Purchase an automatic dispenser with an alarm
• Routinely clean out the medicine cabinet and get rid of expired or discontinued medications
• Use separate medicine cabinets if more than one person is living in the home
• Make sure a step stool isn’t needed to reach those cabinets
• Save all of the written information that comes with the medications in one place

Transportation assistance
Without a reliable way to get to doctor appointments or go grocery shopping, seniors can’t realistically stay in their homes as they age. It’s essential that affordable transportation be available to help them maintain their independence. Options include:

• Local senior centers
• County public transportation
• State Department of Health and Senior Services
• Family and friends
• Volunteers from a church or synagogue
• Ride-sharing services (there are several options just for seniors)
• And for those in our local area, there are these two fantastic choices:

– Middlesex County Area Transit (MCAT)

Somerset County para-transit services and community transportation

Help with household chores
Due to pain, illness, injury, or other health issues, many older adults can no longer complete certain chores on their own. These tend to be the most difficult:

• Carrying hampers or laundry baskets
• Making the bed
• Taking the trash or recycling to the curb
• Cleaning the floors
• Scouring the bathroom
• Organizing/dusting high shelves

Services that come to the home
Today, many healthcare and personal care services can be provided in-home to help extend a senior’s independence, including:

• Doctors who make house calls (even simple x-rays can be completed in the home!)
• Traveling podiatrists and dentists
• Hairdressers and nail technicians
• Mobile pet grooming and veterinary services

An emergency response system
A new 92-year old client came to us recently after a brief hospitalization. A driver passing by her house happened to notice an arm waving from the driveway by her porch: She had been attempting to carry a folding chair up the steps and found herself on her back in the driveway, with no idea about how long she had been there.

If that sounds scary, consider this: With a medical alert system, help would have arrived within minutes. There are many companies that make products which allow people to call for assistance with just the simple click of a button–if your loved one is ever stuck alone in an emergency situation, an alert system could keep them safe, or even save their life.

Final thoughts
Planning ahead is the key to helping older adults live their lives to the fullest. A strong support system and adequate safety measures can keep your loved one independent for a longer time.

For many seniors, in-home care is the right answer. If you or a loved one are considering in-home care services, we can provide non-medical support and assistance to adults with disabilities or those recovering from an illness or surgical procedure. In addition, home care services often complement other types of care someone may already be receiving in their home, such as hospice or skilled home health care.

Posted in: Aging

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Common reasons seniors refuse to bathe and how to help

Monday , January 14 , 2019

Common reasons seniors refuse to bathe and how to help

With advancing age, many seniors become reluctant to bathe. The reasons why can vary greatly from person to person. Though illness and disease are often to blame, for others it may be a case of embarrassment or depression.

Below, we’ll discuss those and other reasons your senior may be avoiding bath time.

Weaker Senses
With age, the senses of sight and smell decrease. Body odors and stains may be obvious to you, but your loved one may not even notice the most unpleasant smells. This is especially the case when it comes to their own odor, as people become “nose blind” to smells after only a few minutes of exposure.

Depression can make simple tasks seem like impossible feats–and while personal hygiene is important, those who are feeling down often cannot muster up the energy to do something as simple as brush their teeth.

If you notice that your senior is reluctant to bathe, it’s wise to rule out depression as the cause right up front. Keep an eye out for these other common warning signs and consider a trip to see their doctor.

Fear and pain

For many seniors, the bathroom can be a downright scary place–especially at bath time. Wet, slick floors are a recipe for disaster, and every bath or shower offers a new opportunity to slip and fall (perhaps breaking a hip, or worse). In addition, the bath itself can be uncomfortable for the elderly. Many seniors become cold easily, and joint pain can make it difficult to find a comfortable seated position.

For dementia patients, these issues are often amplified. Your loved one may not understand why there is water running on them and become afraid or hallucinate. They often don’t understand what you’re trying to do and think you want to hurt them.

Lack of control
As people age, they lose more and more control over their own lives. From driving a car to something as simple as opening a jar by themselves, lost abilities are a part of everyday life. The one thing elders often cling to longest is their own personal hygiene, and they can be very reluctant to give that up. For many, it can seem like a final step towards death and they fight it as long as they can.

Tips for helping a senior bathe
There are many different approaches once you’ve figured out why your senior is reluctant to shower or bathe. It can take some trial and error, and often involves compromise, but you can find a solution.

Here are some of our best tips:

Keep the environment safe
If your loved one is avoiding bath time out of fear, there are several things you can do to ease their mind.

• Check the water temperature beforehand to make sure it’s not too hot or cold
• Use a hand-held showerhead to avoid water on the face
• Make sure there is a rubber bath mat and safety bars in the tub
• Start by washing the least sensitive parts of the body first, such as feet & hands
• Keep toiletries and other supplies within easy reach
• Use a sturdy shower chair to help a senior who has trouble standing
• Keep the bathroom floor clean and dry to help avoid falls post-bath
• And, most importantly, NEVER leave your loved one alone

Ease embarrassment

For many seniors, getting help with bathing is embarrassing. It’s vital to do what you can to help them feel comfortable.

• Use a large towel or shower curtain to cover your senior while they undress
• Keep a towel over their private areas while bathing and use a sponge or washcloth to clean underneath
• Give them a washcloth to hold and allow them to do as much as possible on their own
• Distract them with conversation if they become upset
• Note that sometimes it is less embarrassing for a senior to be bathed by a stranger, so bringing in a third party may help

Make hygiene fun
If you find yourself in a power struggle with an elder who simply will not bathe, try making it into a game. Bribery may seem silly, but sometimes the promise of something fun to look forward to can do the trick.

• Turn bath time into a “spa day” by using scented products and your loved one’s favorite lotions
• Get “spruced up” to go out to lunch or to a favorite park
• Reach out to an old friend and set up a special dinner date for bath day
• Put on some happy music and sing your way through bath time
• Don’t forget to say how wonderful they look and smell after their bath

If all else fails, compromise
Above all else, maintaining a loving, trusting relationship is key. When it comes to hygiene, sometimes you have to lower your standards and meet in the middle. Do not expect or insist on a bath or shower to happen every time it’s on the schedule: sometimes it’s just not going to work out.

Final thoughts
If personal hygiene has become too overwhelming for you or your loved one, we can help. At ComForCare, we not only have the professional experience to ease your troubles, but we’ve been through it ourselves.

One of our favorite parts of the job is educating you and your family about senior health and caregiving. The more you know about the prognosis, care, and treatment of your family member’s condition, the more in control you can feel.

Posted in: Aging, Caregivers, Home Care

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