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ElderCare Solutions of MI

Tag: Family Caregivers

I can’t believe that Thanksgiving has come and gone, Hanukkah is almost over, and Christmas and New Years are right around the corner!  The best part of any holiday celebration is visiting with family from out of town.  While it’s always fun for everyone to catch up with each other, all too often my phone rings the following week because  people get an unexpected surprise…their parents do not seem to be doing as well as they were last year, or as well as they seemed over the phone.  Changes can happen suddenly if someone has a fall or other serious illness, but most often changes happen very gradually, with cumulative effects that become more pronounced over time.  And while they may go unnoticed from week to week, if it’s been several months since your last visit, the difference can be very surprising.

But how do you know when your parents might need a little help?  Here are a few clues that you might see on your visit:

  1. Stacks of unopened mail
  2. Old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt in the fridge
  3. Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  4. Difficulty walking or precarious balance
  5. Fatigue and lethargy
  6. Confusion or forgetfulness
  7. Misplaced or lost items

The tricky part is knowing what to explain away and what to consider concerning.  Any one of these signs by itself  may not be worrisome, but if you’re seeing more than one, it may be time to talk with your parents and other family members about getting some support.  If you’re not sure,  meeting with a geriatric care manager can help you decide, and arm you with recommendations to put in place before you leave or have at the ready.  Although this may be a conversation you’re dreading, it’ll make getting on the plane to go home much easier.

Feeling thankful,

Lynn

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Fall is in the air…even if the temperature will be 92 degrees here in Michigan tomorrow!  And many of us have favorite fall activities that we like to participate in.  Missing out on many of those activities can cause older adults to feel isolated.  Here are a few ways to incorporate the seniors in your life into your family’s fall festivities:

Take a trip to the local cider mill - there’s nothing like hot donuts and cold cider to welcome in the change of season.  If the trip is too physically taxing, bring a jug of cider and a bag of donuts with you the next time you visit an older adult.

Take a drive to look at the leaves – whether just a few miles away, or taking a trip up north,  driving to look at the fall colors is a favorite past time for older adults, and is usually comfortable for people with mobility issues.

Take in a football game – while getting into the stadium and climbing bleachers may be a thing of the past, today’s big screen HD TVs make watching at home almost as good as being there…and the seats are much more comfortable!  Make popcorn and hot chocolate and cheer for your favorite team as a family.

Stroll (or wheel) through an art fair – the last fairs of the season will be happening over the next few months.  For a listing of art and craft fairs visit http://www.artscraftsshowbusiness.com/shows.aspx?state=MI

Create multi-generational fall art projects – When you get ready to rake those leaves in your yard, have your children select the prettiest ones and set them aside.  On your next visit to Grandma and Grandpa’s, bring the leaves, construction paper and a glue stick and create some seasonal decorations.

However you choose to spend your fall family time, I hope you enjoy, and make memories to last a lifetime!

Going to the cider mill,

Lynn

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Long distance caregiving…that phrase certainly sums up my week!  It seems as though everyone I spoke with this week lives out of town, but is coming in for the holidays and is worried about their parents. I am very fortunate because both my in-laws live locally.  and unlike my sister-in-law, I don’t have to get on a plane every time there’s a problem.

When that dreaded role reversal happens and our parents begin to need help, it’s hard under any circumstances.  All of us deal with the uncertainty of wanting to help, but not wanting to step on our parents’ toes.  But the emotional stress takes on another dimension when you’re not there to check on your parents yourself.  This week I spoke to daughters who feel guilty about not being more available, and to sons who feel helpless…both feel anxious and burdened by worry.

As difficult as these first few conversations can be, I’m always so uplifted when I get off the phone.  People’s relief at having found someone, willing and able to be there for their parents long term, is almost tangible.  Someone who can not only help put supports in place but will be there to follow up as their needs change over time.  At those times, I’m grateful to be a Geriatric Care Manager!

Talk to you next week,

Lynn

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When caring for an older adult, there can be many different areas where they need attention and support.  If your family is like most families, the most critical needs get addressed first.  But after that’s done, usually people forget to get back to those less urgent issues, which often include bill paying assistance.

Now I’m not talking about financial need, but rather help with the physical task of sitting down a few times a month to pay bills, keeping an accurate balance in a checkbook, and avoiding finance charges.   Sometimes an older adult’s cognitive functioning can really limit their ability to pay their bills on their own.  We often see people who pay the same bill twice, or mistake a solicitation for a bill.  After all, fundraisers are getting savvy…they put a return address envelope and tear-off pledge sheet right in the envelope so, in fact, it looks like a bill!  Often times an older adult may be paying for a service they don’t even use, such as high speed internet bundled in with their cable tv.

That’s the not so great news.  However, help is available.  If family members want to help by setting critical bills up for auto pay by the bank, that’s a good first step.  But for those who need a little more help, there are services that can step in and take over this responsibility.  The Fiscal Concierge is a company that puts an individual’s bills on a secure web page, viewable by family with an older adult’s permission.  They will check balances, contact the family if a bill is due and there are insufficient funds available thereby avoiding bank fees, and pay bills on time.  For those who prefer a more hands on approach, Daily Money Managers and retired accountants often offer in-home bill paying assistance.  They can set up files and stop in 2-3 times per month to go through the mail and help write checks.  Obviously, security is a number one priority when dealing with finances, so be sure to go with a personal recommendation from a trusted source.

Grabbing my checkbook,

Lynn

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Now that spring has arrived and summer is around the corner, I often find myself refilling my water bottle several times throughout the day.  And unlike me, my clients usually don’t have a water blottle with them when we’re out and about.  As we get older we become less aware of thirst, so I thought this beautiful weather week would be a great time for a quick dehydration reminder.  Many times dehydration is caused by inadequate water intake, but that’s not the only cause.  Other culprits include medication side effects, sweating or diarrhea.  

If you’re not sure of the signs of dehydration, here is a list from The Mayo Clinic:

  • Dry, sticky mouth with thick saliva
  • Sleepiness, weakness or a general feeling of being unwell
  • Decreased urine output with a dark or deep yellow color
  • Dry skin
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Feelings of dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Cramping in the limbs
  • Breathing faster than normal
  • Low blood pressure
  • Acute confusion

While water is the best option for hydration, here are other ways to increase fluids in the body:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Flavored gelatin
  • Watered down juices
  • Sparkling or flavored water
  • Soups
  • Ice pops
  • Limit salt intake
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Minimize the number of beverages with caffeine.

The goal is not to change your loved one’s behavior, but to be creative in finding ways to keep them hydrated.  As they say, timing is everything.  It is best to drink often instead of in large amounts.  After a trip outdoors, during meals and with snacks are all good times to offer a beverage.  While most older adults may not think to  ask for a drink, if you offer them one while getting one for yourself they’ll most likely agree, and remember, every sip counts! 

Don’t forget, if you have questions, concerns or suspect dehydration be sure to check with their doctor.

Refilling already,

Lynn

Contributing author Christie Schoenwald

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The holidays are a much anticipated time of year for most of us.  Whether you celebrate Passover or Easter, chances are you’ll be seeing family this time of year.  However, for some the holidays bring unexpected surprises if they live out of town and haven’t seen the older adults in their life for some time.

An older adult’s level of functioning can change significantly over the course of a few months, even more so if it’s been longer since you were last together.  Here are some potential red flags that might indicate more support is needed:

  • Stacks of unopened mail
  • A fridge full of old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt
  • Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  • An older adult seems to:
    • have more difficulty walking
    • have precarious balance
    • have less energy
    • tire easily
    • be confused or forgetful

It can feel overwhelming when you first realize that all is not well, but there’s no need to handle it on your own.  Their physician might be a resource, and a Geriatric Care Manager can help you identify and put in place local resources that will make it easier for you to board that plane for your return flight.

Happy Holidays,

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As Geriatric Care Managers we often talk about helping improve quality of life for our clients, many of whom have dementia.  And often times this involves providing companionship and offering choices.  But yesterday, while attending a networking meeting for professionals who work with seniors, I heard about a program that is a tangible quality of life enhancement and I couldn’t wait to tell you about it!

The Detroit Institute of Arts, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, is offering a free 6 week program called Minds on Art for people living with Alzheimer’s and their companions.  The program will offer the opportunity to engage socially, cognitively and artistically, and will be held at the DIA.  The format includes a one hour gallery tour and discussion followed by a short break, and then time in the art studio.  The program will be led by DIA staff and volunteers, and a member of the Alzheimer’s Association staff will be there as well.  This program struck a powerful chord for me because I have worked with several clients living with dementia, for whom artistic expression remains a source of joy, long after the onset of dementia.

The sessions will be offered on Mondays for people in the mid-stage of dementia and their companions, and on Tuesdays for those in the early stages.  The 6 week courses begin in April and run through the end of the year, however space will be limited as these are very small group activities.  To register or for more information please contact Jean Barnas at (800)272-3900 or jbarnas@alz.org.

Calling my clients with the news,

Lynn

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Doctors…the average older adult sees many different medical specialists.  So why is it often a good idea to switch from an internist or family practice doctor to a geriatrician?  And the answer, of course depends! 

A geriatrician is a physician who specializes in treating older adults. Many of us took our children to a pediatrician when they were young, because we recognized that the very young need specialized care.  Well, the same concept applies to older adults.  Our physiology changes as we age, including the way we metabolize medications.  In fact, many commonly used medications have a different set of side effects when taken by older adults.  Geriatricians are generally more aware of what medications to use (or not to use) when treating older adults.

Another difference you can expect to see is that geriatricians usually schedule fewer appointments each day, so they are able to spend more time with each patient.  They are also likely to screen for cognitive changes, depression and anxiety on a routine basis.  But perhaps the biggest difference is that geriatricians will often tackle difficult topics outside the scope of a traditional appointment including driving, moving to a more supportive environment, and bringing help into the home.

If an older adult and their family feel that all their needs are being met by their current physician, then there is no need to make a change.  But all too often I hear stories from clients who feel that their doctor is too busy to be able to spend as much time with them as they would like.

Passing this on to my in-laws,

 Lynn

 

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A new year…a time for new beginnings and resolutions…anything seems possible!  As you make those New Year’s resolutions be sure to include ways to not only care for the older adults in your life, but to be sure you care for yourself as well.  In addition to all the old standbys like “Lose those extra 10 pounds”, you might also consider some of the following:

  • Be honest with yourself
  • Create resolutions that are realistic
  • Vow to make time for a little fun each week
  • Be sure you laugh, loudly and often
  • Ask for help when you need it
  • Be proactive whenever possible

None of us can escape the complexities of aging, whether we’re experiencing difficulties ourselves, or with someone that we love.  But the one thing we can control is how we react to those changes.  Are you being proactive or reactive?  Let’s all plan to age well and live well in 2013.    

 Ringing in the New Year,

 Lynn

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The holidays are a much anticipated time of year for most of us.  Seeing family and friends, exchanging presents etc. make it a very exciting time.  However, for some the holidays bring unexpected surprises if they live out of town and haven’t seen the older adults in their life for some time.

An older adult’s level of functioning can change significantly over the course of a few months, even more so if it’s been longer since you were last together.  Here are some potential red flags that might indicate more support is needed:

  • Stacks of unopened mail
  • A fridge full of old, expired or moldy fruits, veggies, milk and yogurt
  • Unanswered messages on the answering machine
  • An older adult seems to:
    • have more difficulty walking
    • have precarious balance
    • have less energy
    • tire easily
    • be confused or forgetful

It can feel overwhelming when you first realize that all is not well, but there’s no need to handle it on your own.  Their physician might be a resource, and a Geriatric Care Manager can help you identify and put in place local resources that will make it easier for you to board that plane for your return flight. 

Happy Holidays,

Lynn

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  • Does an older adult's family live out of town?
  • Are local family members overwhelmed and need help?
  • Is an older adult about to be discharged from the hospital or rehabilitation center?
  • Do family members have differences of opinion regarding a senior's care?
  • Is a senior living in an environment that needs aging-in-place modifications?

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ElderCare Solutions of Michigan is a division of Jewish Family Service of Metropolitan Detroit, a non-sectarian not-for-profit organization that has served the metro Detroit area for more than 80 years.