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Posts Tagged aging in place

There’s No Place Like Home – But Is Yours Senior Safe?

Monday , April 6 , 2020

There’s No Place Like Home – But Is Yours Senior Safe?

Is aging at home a good thing? That depends! Our homes provide a sense of comfort, familiarity, and security.

But, according to one report from Age Safe America, 85% of older adults have done nothing to prepare their homes for aging in place.

Why does that matter? Because falls account for 25% of all hospital admissions and 40% of all nursing home admissions – and 56% of those falls occur in the home.

Let that sink in: More than half of all falls that result in a hospital admission happen in the home.

Luckily, steps can be taken to keep you or your older loved one safe from falls and other dangers in the house. Use this list to assess your home and keep it senior-friendly:

  1. Look for fall hazards. Falls are the leading cause of injury in older adults – and most of them occur in the home. One of the most important things you can do to make your home senior-safe is to remove fall hazards. Here are some things to look for:
    • Loose throw rugs. Rugs without non-slip backing are a serious fall risk. Also look for frayed, torn, or turned up edges, which can lead to unintentional trips and tumbles.
    • Clutter and debris. Make sure walkways and common areas are clear of items such as loose clothing and shoes, magazines, books, trash, electrical cords, and any other clutter.
    • Decorative furniture. Sure, that antique end table from Aunt Betty looks pretty . . . but it’s just one more thing to trip over.

  1. Eliminate fire risks. Did you know that people ages 65 to 74 are almost twice as likely to die in a fire, people between the ages of 75 and 84 are almost four times as likely? Therefore, keeping your home senior-safe also includes removing fire hazards. Here’s how:
    • Keep fresh batteries in the smoke and carbon monoxide detectors (experts recommend changing them twice a year, when the time changes)
    • Replace and frayed or damaged electrical cords and limit the number or cords plugged into one outlet or power strip
    • Don’t leave unattended candles burning in the home (better yet – don’t use candles at all!)
    • If you use a space heater, keep it at least three feet away from furniture, drapes, bedding, and other flammable items

  1. Safeguard the bathroom. According to the National Institute on Aging, almost 80 percent of falls by people 65 or older occur in the bathroom. Yikes! To ensure your (or your loved one’s) safety, do this:
    • Install grab bars in the shower and near the toilet
    • Consider a walk-in bathtub and a handheld shower
    • Place rubber mats in the shower to prevent slipping
    • Use a bathing chair in the shower or bathtub
    • Set the thermostat to no higher than 120 degrees Fahrenheit to prevent accidental burns
    • Replace the toilet seat with a raised toilet seat with handlebars to make it easier to sit and stand
    • Install a nightlight in the bathroom to make overnight trips to the loo a bit safer

  1. Consider the kitchen. Many adults spend a large amount of time in the kitchen. Therefore, it makes sense to make this room as safe as possible.
    • Move frequently used items to lower levels
    • If reaching for items is necessary, use a stepstool rather than standing on a chair
    • Install non-slip mats in front of the sink, stove, and any other areas where you frequently stop and stand
    • Replace standard water faucet handles with single-lever models

  1. Update lighting. The average 60-year-old needs at least three times more light than the average 20-year-old. With that in mind, look around the house: Is the lighting adequate? If not, these tips can help:
    • Replace any burnt-out light bulbs
    • Install new light fixtures or lamps in too-dim rooms
    • Install motion-detecting lights in commonly used areas (such as the bedroom and bathroom)
    • Put light switches where they’re easily accessible, for both safety and ease of use

  1. Make stairs safe. Ideally, a senior’s home would be one level – but that’s often not the case. To avoid unnecessary trips and falls, try the following:
    • Tighten and secure all stair railings. If they wiggle back and forth, they’re not going to stop a fall!
    • Use a contrasting paint color or colored tape to differentiate stair tops from risers. Many seniors have vision issues and are unable to separate one step from the next.
    • Keep the stairs (both indoors and out) clear of debris and clutter
    • Consider a stairlift if physical limitations make it difficult to climb up and down

Although this list is by no means comprehensive, it’s a great place to start! If you’re unsure of whether there are risks in your home, consider calling in a care manager – they will assess the house for safety and point out any red flags!

Posted in: Aging

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Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

Monday , November 18 , 2019

Helping Older Adults Have A Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving

With the holidays right around the corner, many older adults and their loved ones are anxiously awaiting Thanksgiving. But even though the holiday is a joyous time for gathering with family and enjoying a meal, it can be overwhelming for some.

Many seniors deal with physical limitations, dietary restrictions, emotional health issues, and more that can make holidays difficult. Some are facing their first Thanksgiving without their spouse. Others don’t have family nearby and will be spending the holiday alone.

If you’re a family member or caregiver for an older adult, a little advance planning can help make all the difference. Here are some tips for making Thanksgiving a stress-free, special day for the seniors in your life:

Get Their Input

Many younger adults feel like taking on the holiday meal planning takes the stress off older adults, finally giving them a chance to “rest.” Unfortunately, a complete lack of input can actually make your older loved one feel left out and ignored. Regardless of their current health status, help your older adult feel involved by asking for suggestions on menu, décor, guest list, or anything else they may be able to help with.

Make Travel Arrangements

If your older loved one is travelling from a long distance to get to your house, consider enlisting some volunteers to bring them along. Many older adults are no longer comfortable driving, especially at night. Keep in mind that they may need trunk space for a wheelchair or walker, and items such as a lumbar support cushion or travel pillow may be appreciated. (Note: If they’re coming from an especially long distance, plan for a few bathroom breaks!)

Remove Safety Hazards

If you’ll have an older adult visiting your home for the holiday, keep in mind that many seniors have physical limitations. Before their arrival, remove any hazards (such as loose cords or area rugs) that could lead to trips and falls and make sure the bathroom is easily accessible. Also consider seating your loved one at the end of the table, so they can easily et up and move around if necessary.

Offer Appropriate Meal Options

Just like you wouldn’t invite over your vegan friends and only offer turkey, you shouldn’t invite seniors without considering their dietary needs. Most older adults have limitations to what they can and cannot eat – for instance, many seniors are on a low-sodium diet and should be offered an appropriate option.  In addition, older taste buds can make certain foods intolerable, and dentures can make it difficult to chew things like meat and especially crunchy vegetables.

Note: Many older adults get tired earlier in the evening than their younger compatriots and a nighttime meal can be exhausting. It can be especially tough for those who suffer from dementia, as they often become more confused and agitated in the evening hours. If you’re hosting an elderly guest this Thanksgiving, consider having lunch instead of dinner!

Help Them Feel Included

Large holiday meals often find several generations all seated around the same table. It’s easy for any one person – especially if they’re quiet – to get lost in the shuffle. Make sure that doesn’t happen to your older loved one by making it a point to include them in conversation and activities. One idea I love: During the meal, try to bridge generation gaps by asking everyone to share something, like their proudest moment of the year, or the thing they are most thankful for.

Final Thoughts

Holidays and other events that change the daily routine can be quite stressful and tiring for the elderly. Providing your older loved one with the support they need can help make the day more enjoyable for everyone.

One option? Consider hiring a caregiver to help out just for the day. They can make sure your older loved one has everything they need, while also allowing you the time to tend to dinner, socialize with other guests, and keep the party moving along!

Posted in: Aging

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If you’re spending your “golden years” caring for your  aging parents, you’re not alone

Monday , November 11 , 2019

If you’re spending your “golden years” caring for your aging parents, you’re not alone

You had your retirement all planned out: Working in your garden, visiting grandchildren, and plenty of travel. Not on your agenda? Caring for your elderly parents during your own golden years.

But many retirees are doing just that.

Longer life spans mean that many people are living well into their 80s and beyond – and their aging children are often their primary caregivers.

If you’re in your 60s or 70s and spending your days giving baths, making meals, and scheduling home aides for an aging loved one, you’re not alone.

In honor of Family Caregivers Month, we’re going to discuss the pros and cons of taking on this monumental task – and teach you how to take care of your own health at the same time.

Longer life spans mean many retirees are still caring for their parents 

Older adults are now living much longer than generations in the past – and many adult children and their parents are now aging together. For some, this is both a blessing and a curse.

Longer life spans mean that children in their 60s and 70s are now caring for parents in their 90s and beyond. And while it can be a true gift to still have that relationship in your older years, it can also create unforeseen hardship.

Why? Because many adults assume that their late 60s and beyond will be a time of life when they can finally give up some responsibilities and relax. But the work that goes into caring for an aging loved one can make that nearly impossible.

Family caregiving can take a financial toll 

One of the most difficult parts of caring for an aging loved one can be the financial responsibilities. Besides forcing many to abandon their retirement dreams, family caregiving can also quickly deplete saving and other financial resources. In fact, more than a third of caregivers say they began saving less after taking on the role.

Even though money from Social Security and state programs can help pay for expenses, the funds are often not enough.

For many retirees, covering the remainder can mean dipping into a nest egg or even selling their own home. Once the money is gone, they may have to cut back on home aides or skimp on other necessities, furthering their own stress.

Even for those who still work a “regular” job, financial hardships can hit in other ways. Many (especially women) are forced to cut back on hours or completely give up their career. Others miss out on promotions or face constant reprimands due to missed time at work or excessively arriving late and leaving early.

Given the choice, however, of giving up their own retirement or putting their parents in a nursing home paid for by Medicaid, many older adults will choose the former. Difficult as it can be, most feel incredibly fortunate to still have their parents by their sides.

 Older caregivers often suffer from health problems of their own 

Money problems aren’t the only hardships that come with caring for an older parent: Many retirees in a caregiving role report significant amounts of stress and anxiety, in addition to more serious health problems.

Studies show that boomer women have it the worst. When surveyed, women in a caregiving role report that they are 78% more stressed than before (compared to 66% of men). Half of them also say they sleep worse, 43% have gained weight, and 42% have stopped exercising.

In addition, many late-in-life caregivers are also suffering from their own health problems, unrelated to the role. These issues (ranging from Type 2 Diabetes to Congestive Heart Failure and more) can worsen due to the stress, physical demands, and social isolation that often accompany caregiving – and research indicates that these harmful effects can last long after a parent’s death.

Taking care of yourself 

The act of caregiving can be draining both emotionally and physically, and it often feels like a thankless task. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed and frustrated, it’s not just your own wellbeing that suffers – the quality of your care is also likely to diminish.

To alleviate overwhelm and keep yourself healthy, experts recommend taking regular breaks, getting routine physicals, maintaining social connections, and keeping up with exercise.

Many caregivers find self-care impossible due to the demands of their role, but there are ways to make it work. Depending on family members willingness and ability to help, others may be able to offer respite for a few hours. Other options include home aides and adult daycare programs (Medicaid often picks up some costs for those with limited resources).

To find out what’s financially doable, it may make sense to seek professional advice.  An accountant, for example, can help find tax breaks for home care and other services.

Bottom line

Caregiving is an act of love and sacrifice, and a very generous thing to do. Despite the hardships, many people consider it an honor to be able to care for those that cared for them.

When you are feeling overwhelmed, take a step back and look at the big picture: Your time, attention, and effort are proving comfort to a loved one during their final years. It is a truly priceless gift.

Posted in: Caregivers

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