Friday, December 17, 2010

10 Ways to make your Holiday Season Brighter

If you are caring for a family member, most likely you are feeling the pressure to create the perfect holiday experience for them. This stress added to the usual stress you feel can quickly lead to depression. Here are some tips to help cope with the demands of the season so that your holiday can be enjoyable and happy.

1.) Put first things first-If you always get depressed during the winter or around the holidays, see your doctor. There are therapies for this syndrome of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). See a counselor or find a friend to talk to.

2.) Simplify the season-Cut back, if you find the season overwhelming. Simplification is often the most effective tactic.

3.) Be honest with yourself and others-Be up front about what you can or can't do. Try to make people understand that your lives have changed and sometimes holidays and traditions might have to change as well.

4.) Listen to your favorite Music-Tunes can relax and help us get "into" the season. Be sure to include your favorites as well as your family's. If your loved one is in a nursing home, bring them a CD player so they can enjoy the music as well.

5.) Set soothing light-Try lighting candles with decorating for the holidays, baking treats or wrapping gifts.

6.) Get quiet time alone-Get up early, or go to bed late to find some "me" time. Take a walk, meditate or go to the gym for a quick work out.

7.) Delegate-Ask your spouse, a friend or a relative to take over some of your duties. You don't have to do everything yourself, and you will be surprised how willing others are to help out if you just ask.

8.) Remember the good times- Take time to walk down memory lane and remember your loved ones before these difficult times.

9.) Allow yourself to feel-The holidays can spotlight the things your elder can't enjoy any longer. The pain is real, allow yourself to feel it. Talk about it with other caregivers, friends or family.

10.) Let go of perfection-Life hasn't always been perfect, do the best with what you have. Take care of yourself along with others and do your best to enjoy the holiday season.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Making Life Changing Decisions

It’s inevitable, and will happen to all of us at one time or another. As we age, we begin to need more and more assistance doing everyday tasks. Chores like housecleaning, cooking, driving, yard work and caring for pets can become virtually impossible as we age. That’s when the decision making process comes into play for those of us who are children with aging parents. There comes a time as children, we must step in and help our parents through the aging process. Decisions to be made are not easy, but keeping our parents quality of life and best interest in mind will help guide us down the right path.

If you’ve kept up with my blogging over the past few months, you will have noticed a trend in my Mother’s health. She was diagnosed early in 2008 with Ulcerative Colitis and her health has been deteriorating slowly since the diagnosis. While on my way to Chicago for a Thanksgiving celebration with friends, she became ill and was hospitalized. I immediately flew from Chicago to Phoenix to help care for her. I stayed for three weeks bringing her home from the hospital during that time and was her full time caregiver during her recovery. I left reluctantly after three weeks knowing I would be back for a scheduled visit over the Christmas and New Year holidays.

Talking and webcamming via computer daily with her helped to ease my mind that I had made the right decision to return home for a couple of weeks. I felt she was doing ok during my absence and the time quickly came for me to return. I thought this trip over the holidays would be much more pleasant, including a visit to my sister and her family in California.

Upon my arrival, I realized what a good front she had been putting on. Her health had deteriorated since my last visit and I felt now she was unable to do even the smallest of chores around the house due to her weakened state from the disease. I knew deep in my heart that something had to change. Was it time to move her to an assisted living facility, hire someone for full time in home care, move her to be with me in Florida, or with my siblings in California or Nebraska? My head was spinning from all of the options. The first step in the decision making process was to talk to Mom and find out what she wanted to do. I found the right time to have the discussion. Ultimately, I found out that under no circumstances, was she ready to leave the home that she and my Father occupied for the last fifteen years. Right or wrong, that’s how she felt. How could I not honor her wishes? I felt we had made good progress. Now at least I knew what I was dealing with. She wanted to stay in her own home for now.

I started researching in home care agencies but also started to think about my own personal situation. I was at a place in my own life where I had no ties to where I was living. Of course I had made friends living in South Florida, but felt no strong ties that would keep me there. I started to think about what would be best for my Mom, and how I would be able to manage her health and care living almost twenty-five hundred miles away. If I did move to Arizona to become her caregiver, would it work? All kinds of questions were filling my mind about the feasibility of it all. Sure, the move itself would be easy enough, but once arriving in Arizona the difficult part would begin.

After spending some time weighing the pro’s and con’s I felt that I should move my household into storage and make the trek on Route 10 from Florida to Arizona to become her primary caregiver. Even before going home to pack up everything there was much work to do in Arizona. I set up a physical therapist to come in twice a week and work with her on strengthening, and my sister and I hired an in home caregiver to come in the alternate days of the week to spend time with Mom and to do light housework. Additionally, I set up meals on wheels to come in daily to ensure she had at least one balanced meal per day during my absence. I actually felt comfortable leaving for a few weeks knowing all of the actions that we had taken to ensure her safety and wellbeing during my absence.

I returned home, secured storage and movers, began the process of packing up my household. Once that was complete, I began my journey from Florida to Arizona. Once arriving at Mom’s, I found that all my work setting up the services for her was well worth the effort. She enjoyed the company of the caregiver, the physical therapist had seen her improving in the weeks I was gone and the meals on wheels worked out great for her. I felt she had been well cared for.

Now I’ve been here about two weeks and we are still in the adjustment phase I think. Both of us are used to living alone and having our own space and way of doing things and each of us must compromise occasionally, which at times is difficult for both of us. I know she is happy that I’m here to help her out, but she is determined to get herself back to the point where she can live an independent life and return to her normal lifestyle.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Making Home Modifications for Seniors

I always thought my parent’s home would be a great place for them to grow older. It’s single level, not too big with plenty of open space and no barriers that I perceived would get in the way of their mobility as they got older. A recent hospital stay left my Mom in a weakened condition and simple things like bathing and getting around the house became difficult for her. With my Mom now in the house alone, I soon realized that there are some modifications that needed to be made.

Thirty-five percent of people sixty-five and older don’t perceive a need to make modifications to their home to ensure their safety. Many of the changes I figured out on my own but I’m finding that it takes an outsider to sometimes point out modifications that can be made to help make life easier for our aging parents.

With my Mom now using a walker until her strength returns, I needed to clear pathways to ensure there was nothing that could cause her to trip or stumble. I quickly removed throw rugs, baskets of dog toys, and anything else that might get in her way.

The biggest problem with the walker was that it wouldn’t fit through doorways. She would “park” it at her bedroom door when entering that room and use the walls and furniture to help with her balance. I knew that could be a disaster waiting to happen.

The first day her physical therapist came, I mentioned that to him. He told me that was an easy fix and just removed the wheels from the outside of the walker and replaced them on the inside. It was a quick fix and something I should have thought of!!!! Oh well, that’s what he’s getting paid for right?

Below are some other tips for modifying your aging parent’s home to ensure their safety:

Lamp Placement Lamps should be place close to the bed or chair for easier reach. Also night lights should be used to light pathways that may be used during the night when it’s dark

Overhead lights Make sure the top and bottom of stairways are well lit and be sure to have switches at the top and the bottom of the stairs

Widen doorways Be sure doorways are wide enough to accommodate any walkers or wheelchairs. If the doorways can’t be widened, see if the walker or wheelchair can be modified to fit. Be sure not to compromise safety making these modifications, always double check with the manufacturer before making them

Light Bulbs Use brighter light bulbs to ensure the best possible lighting

Skid Strips Install skid strips on stairs to ensure no slips occur

Throw Rugs and Carpets Remove throw rugs or use double stick tape to secure carpets and throw rugs to the floor

Faucet Knobs Replace faucet knobs with levers

Small kitchen appliances Place small kitchen appliances on lower tables or shelves for easier access.

Bathrooms Add shower bench and handrails to shower or tub. Install raised toilet seat or place free standing bedside commode over existing toilet to enable easier access to the toilet

Convert Dining Room If bedrooms are upstairs, consider converting the dining room to a bedroom

Some of these modifications are simple no brainers, but making these changes can enhance the living experience of our aging parents. I’m sure most seniors are like my Mom and want to stay in their own home as long as possible living independently. These changes can help extend that time and help them to more easily care for themselves safely.