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Exercise is Key to Health Living!


When asked “how much do you exercise?” the answer is invariably “not enough!”  We know that we should exercise more, but do we know what the consequences are if we fail to exercise regularly?

 

Lack of physical activity is a risk factor for heart disease and stroke (as well as other many other illnesses such as diabetes and even dementia).  It is a risk factor that we have control over, so we should reduce our risk!

 

How much exercise do we really need?


The official guidelines from the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology recommend a minimum of 150 minutes per week of aerobic physical activity. That’s it!  That’s an attainable goal—within reach, even for people who aren’t accustomed to exercise. Even 10-minute increments of activity count toward the total of 150 minutes.


Asian couple smiling as they hike on a boardwalk with backpacks.


Of course, 150 minutes doesn’t need to be a limit.  More activity is even better.  The guideline is a base limit for how much activity adults (middle age, baby boomers, seniors, and even the frail elderly) require each week.

Which activities count toward your 150 minutes? 

The good news is that going to the gym is not your only option! Walking is a simple and easy heart-healthy activity and counts toward your minutes.  Even household activities can count—vigorous cleaning, gardening and yard work all elevate your heart rate and get your blood pumping, and that’s the goal of physical activity!

 

Read our blog on how you can disguise exercise for your elderly loved one.

 

older woman wearing a sun hat as she prunes pink flowers

 

I find it encouraging to measure exercise in terms of 150 minutes weekly because it allows for flexibility.  In contrast, if you measure exercise as ’30 minutes most days of the week’, the focus is on 30-minute intervals, and missing a few days in a week can feel like an overall failure.


For the frail seniors who are utilizing our Triple Vitality program, they appreciate the flexibility in measuring total minutes over the course of a week.  Ten-minute increments feel very accessible.  Frail seniors can manage 10 minutes of light exercise!  Thirty minutes may be out of reach when we first start, but 10-minute activity sessions throughout the day add up quickly!


Our clients are so encouraged by the progress that they experience.  You can feel the benefits of exercise very quickly.  Increased energy and stamina, renewed interest in activities, reduced stress, better sleeping and digestion, are all immediate benefits to exercise.  Knowing that you are contributing to improved overall health and reducing your risk factors for heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other illnesses only increases the incentive to continue being active!


older woman in a navy shirt and a older man in a light blue shirt doing bicep curls with dumbbells


Be sure to track your minutes of activity this week and see how close you are to the recommended minimum of 150 minutes.  Remember that 10 minutes of activity at a time can count toward your total!

If you know someone who is elderly and they are unsure about how to become active, be sure to contact Warm Embrace.  Our Triple Vitality program is specifically designed for the frail elderly who need assistance to become active.  We love to make a healthy, proactive difference in people’s lives, regardless of age!

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Warning Signs to watch when driving with Dementia

 

Warm sunny weather brings more summer driving!

 

Driving is a very personal issue that involves strong emotions. For many seniors, driving is a privilege they’ve had for decades, and their personal sense of identity and independence is often linked to their ability to drive. When driving seems so second nature, it can be difficult for people to remember that driving is truly a privilege, not a right.

Elderly man wearing glasses smiling, sitting in a car with his hands on the steering wheel.

So, when is it time to give up the privilege of driving?

 

Oftentimes, the person who is suffering from dementia is the least aware that anything is wrong. They may not notice that their reaction time has changed, or that their judgment is off. The family are often the first ones to be concerned about driving, and rightfully so, as research shows that someone with dementia is eight times more likely to be in an accident than the average population.

 

Some warning signs to watch for if you have an elderly who is driving with dementia:

  • Damage to the car
  • Traffic tickets
  • Difficulty navigating familiar routes
  • Simple errands taking hours longer than necessary with no explanation
  • Mixing up the gas and brake pedals
  • Missing stop signs or traffic lights
  • Problems with lane changes and merging
  • Passenger input is required
  • Family refuse to get into the car

Consider the “grandchild question”: do you feel comfortable allowing the grandchildren to ride with their grandparent behind the wheel? If your answer is no, there are likely significant concerns about your loved ones’ driving ability.

 

elderly lady wearing a plaid shirt driving a car.

If you are concerned about your loved ones’ driving, you need to speak to their doctor. It is ideal to attend a doctor’s visit with your loved one; you may also write letters to inform the doctor of the changes your loved one is experiencing.

 

The family doctor is required to notify the Ministry of Transportation, and it is the MTO who will revoke the licence (not the family doctor). After being notified by the family doctor, the MTO will send a letter directly to your loved one (not to the family doctor). The letter will state whether they may continue to drive, they need an assessment, more medical evidence is required, or the licence is revoked.

 

What happens when their licence is revoked?

 

If the licence is revoked, it is HIGHLY advised that your loved one’s car be removed from the property. Someone with dementia may no longer remember that they are not allowed to drive. Disabling the vehicle is an option, though it is remarkable how handy and mechanically-minded many seniors from that generation can be, so the simple options of unplugging the spark plugs or draining the battery may be insufficient. The most ideal solution is to have the vehicle removed from the property altogether to ensure that your loved one is safe, and to ensure that others are safe as well.

 

It is important to understand how devastating the loss of a licence can be for many seniors. It can result in loss of independence, reduced social interaction, loneliness, lowered self-esteem, depression, and increased stress on family and friends. For all of these reasons, family doctors do not just send letters to the MTO easily; they must have concrete evidence of imminent safety concerns. To minimize the negative impact of losing a licence, family and friends can assist by providing alternate means of transportation and socialization.

Young lady helping a senior citizen out of a red car.

There are volunteer driving services that can be accessed through your local community centres or the Alzheimer’s Society. Taxi companies are often able to offer discounts to “frequent riders”. However, if your loved one is uncomfortable with public transportation, we offer driving services to help isolated seniors with grocery shopping, doctor appointments, personal appointments, and etc.  

 

If you are interested in learning more about our errands and transportation service contact us today!

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Are You at Risk for Incontinence?

 

Urinary incontinence. It’s not a topic people like to even think about, much less discuss. And yet, it is far more common than people realize.

 

Among seniors who are living in the community, 5-10% experience urinary incontinence.  If someone is in acute care, such as a hospital setting, that number increases to 10-20%.  And the highest proportion of all is within long term care with 50-70% of all residents are incontinent.

 

caregiver assisting elderly woman

 

These numbers increase so markedly for a number of reasons.

 

For starters, there is such a wide range in percentages precisely because people fail to report urinary incontinence.  Many people attempt to hide it, and sadly, only 25% seek medical attention for incontinence. Urinary incontinence is not inevitable and it is not a necessary part of ageing.  There are many different causes and possible treatments to improve urinary incontinence and people should always seek medical attention for incontinence. It is not something to be embarrassed about; it is important to discuss the issue openly with a doctor.

 

Among the frail elderly, 11% are incontinent upon their admission to the hospital. They were previously living with urinary incontinence. The astounding part is that upon discharge from hospital, 23% of the frail elderly are incontinent.  And extended hospital admission puts a frail elderly senior at higher risk of becoming incontinent.

 

In many cases, seniors are effectively put on bedrest while in hospital. They are not getting up, and they quickly lose their muscle mass and strength to be able to get up and go when they need to.  Added to that, they may have worn incontinence products without attempting to use the washroom. After a few days or possibly weeks of failing to follow their body’s urges, they may not be as attuned to their body’s toileting needs. 

 

elderly man in hospital bed

 

Worst of all, if someone is catheterized for extended periods, their bladder muscles have been held open to accommodate the catheter. Once the catheter is removed, the muscles do not always return to their previous condition and this greatly increases the risk of urinary incontinence.

 

When someone is discharged from hospital with the additional personal care need of incontinence care, their risk of being moved to long term care increases.  One of the top reasons for long term care admission is incontinence—that someone simply cannot manage their personal care needs at home, and their elderly spouse or other relatives cannot supply the increased care.

 

Within long term care, the high rates of urinary incontinence (between 50 and 70%) are partly due to this being a reason for admission. But others lose their ability to toilet within long term care. If they moved to long term care due to advancing dementia, they may have trouble learning their new surroundings. Finding and identifying washrooms can be a challenge. Within the washroom, nothing looks the same as their home bathroom and they can be easily confused. If they require toileting assistance either with physical transferring or cognitive cueing, they may have trouble waiting for staff who are attending to other residents. They may start to wear incontinence products and slowly their continence abilities are reduced.

 

Of course it is not as simple as saying “just don’t go to the hospital and don’t go to long term care and you won’t become incontinent.”  If someone needs acute hospital care, they would be foolish not to seek medical help!  And for some people, long term care is where their needs can best be served.

 

caregiver assisting elderly woman in wheelchair

 

Overall though, urinary continence is largely a function of “use it or lose it”.  Bladder muscles must continually be used to maintain their strength and form.  As much as possible, elderly loved ones should be encouraged to toilet frequently and continue toileting independently.

 

To further support bladder health there are some natural ways to reduce an overactive bladder, as well as functional toileting support for those with dementia to help maintain toileting independence for as long as possible.

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How Does Dementia Impact Incontinence?

 

Your mother hasn’t been going out as much lately. She even declined a few outings with you recently, which is unlike her. Then you noticed a pair of soiled underwear shoved behind the toilet…and another soiled pair under the bathroom sink.

 

 

What she may be hiding is trouble with urinary continence.  She may be feeling embarrassed and is trying to hide it, or if she has dementia, she may be confused about how to cope with this new change.

 

There are many possible reasons and treatments for urinary incontinence.  Ensure your mother sees her doctor and speaks openly about what she is experiencing.  Many causes of incontinence can be addressed medically, and those should be addressed immediately.

 

You may be able to suggest some lifestyle adjustments that will help to support your mother’s bladder, rather than irritate it. Read our other blog that addresses natural ways to support the bladder. If your mother has dementia though, the source of her challenge may be related more to her functional abilities than to her bladder directly.

 

As your mother’s dementia advances, she may not be as responsive to the signals her body is sending.  By the time she realizes that her bladder needs relief, it may be too late to respond and she may not be making it to the washroom in time.

 

 

Another challenge can be complicated clothing. Buttons, snaps, zippers or belts may be proving a challenge in the washroom. The more barriers there are to quick washroom use, the more likely your mother is to be slowed down and not make it in time. Be especially aware of skirts or dresses with back closures since it may not be self-evident how to undo the zipper. Modified and accessible clothing may make it easier for your mother to be quick and self-sufficient in the washroom. Drawstring or elastic-waistbands are often the easiest to manage.

 

If your mother’s dementia is advanced, it is possible she is confused about where to find the washroom.  Washrooms are not always easy to find, especially for someone with dementia.  Often, washroom doors remain closed, even when unoccupied.  Someone with dementia may not think to open closed doors to see what is behind the door. They may not have an intuitive sense of where a bathroom is likely to be located within a home or apartment. Although she may have lived in the same home for years, or decades even, dementia can cloud her memory and obscure what was once familiar. If she cannot easily find the washroom, she will not make it in time when nature calls.

 

 

Once she is able to locate the washroom, she may be confused about what to do once she’s in there.  For some people with advanced dementia, the washroom can feel very confusing and overwhelming.  If the toilet seat lid is down, the toilet may not look familiar. A white toilet and white sink may look very similar and can be confusing.  A wastepaper basket may seem more familiar and is often mistaken for the toilet itself.

 

Sometimes people attempt to sit down facing the toilet, rather than with their back to the toilet tank, as it is typically used. Because it feels so unusual when facing backwards, there is no long-term memory to cue what to do next.  It can also be dangerous since balance is impacted and there is a risk of falling.

 

If someone needs cueing through each step of toileting, their apparent challenges with incontinence may be more related to functional abilities and less so to their bladder or bowel function. They may be able to hold their bladder or bowel and may even be aware of when they need a washroom, but the confusion sets in with how to use the washroom.  If someone is experiencing functional decline, various support measures can be implemented to promote independent washroom use.

 

 

Cue cards can be helpful for those who can read and interpret directions. If your mother is inclined to read instructions and follow the directions, a cue card in the washroom to cue each step may be helpful.  In some cases, colour coding the toilet seat vs. the sink can be helpful. Contrasting colours can make it easier to see which item is which. If cue cards and colour coding are insufficient, your mother may need a caregiver to cue her through each step of the toileting process. 

 

When functional ability is preventing someone from toileting successfully, look for which step is causing the confusion, or which component of mobility is posing the challenge

 

By solving that specific component, you can help support someone to toilet as independently as possible.  Engaging the support of a professional caregiver may also help in identifying precisely where the needs exist. For more ideas on supporting independent toileting and continence, contact us at Warm Embrace Elder Care.

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8 Tips to Stay Cool this Summer!

 

We are all relieved when the snow finally melts, and the mucky spring weather turns into the balmy days of summer. But do you know how to stay cool and healthy in the summer heat?

 

Many people are aware of the dangers of too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays, which can cause sunburns. Wearing sunscreen is always advised! But there are other concerns about heat, even if you avoid direct sunshine.

 

 

Heat exhaustion can occur from prolonged exposure to high temperatures and insufficient fluid intake. It can range from heat cramps to a severe form of heat stroke. Symptoms may include excessive sweating, cool, pale, and clammy skin, weakness, nausea, headache, dizziness, and elevated body temperature. If someone is exhibiting these symptoms, they need to be moved to a cooler place, have their clothing loosened or removed, and they need to drink plenty of cool liquids.

 

8 Tips to keep seniors (or anyone else!) safe in the summer heat:

 

1. Keep well hydrated! Drink eight or more glasses of water daily. Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink! Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic and sugary beverages, as they may dehydrate rather than hydrate.

 

 

2. Dress Appropriately! Wear loose-fitting and light-weight clothing.

 

3. Air Conditioning is your best friend! Remain indoors in the extreme heat and utilize air conditioning. If you do not have air conditioning in your home, go to a public place such as a library or shopping mall. Even a few hours of relief from the heat can prevent heat stroke.

 

4. Electric fans aren’t always the best. Keep the house as cool as possible by keeping shades closed during the hottest part of the day. An electric fan may feel comfortable, but it does not prevent heat-related illness if temperatures soar into the mid-30’s Celsius.

 

5. Cool down! Take a cool bath, shower, or sponge bath to lower your body temperature. Don’t have the time? Then wet washcloths or towels with cool water and put them on your wrists, ankles, armpits, and neck.

 

6. Enjoy outdoor activities in the early morning or the evening when the heat is not as severe. Don’t forget to use the broad-spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher, and if it’s sunny wear a hat and a pair of sunglasses.

 

 

7. Stayed Shaded when you are outside. Even in the early mornings and evenings, stick to the shade so you aren’t as exposed to the sun’s rays.

 

8.Know the signs of heat exhaustion so that you can get immediate assistance. Some symptoms to watch for are throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, hot dry skin with no sweat, muscles weakness, cramps and trouble breathing,

 

Enjoy a safe and healthy summer!
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Tips to Support Your Bladder

 

Talking about your bladder may not be appropriate at a dinner party, and yet it’s an important topic! Many people experience a “leaky bladder” and struggle with a frequent and urgent need to urinate.

 

There are many possible causes and treatments for urinary incontinence or frequent need to urinate. Anyone who is experiencing incontinence at any level—even minor “bladder leakage”—should discuss it with their doctor.  Sadly, only 25% of those with incontinence seek medical assistance. People often feel embarrassed or think that it’s just a part of ageing.  If you find yourself, or someone you know, feeling like you suddenly have to go and you don’t have enough warning, talk to your doctor!

 

 

In addition to seeking medical attention, there are some tricks that may help you to support your bladder rather than fight it.

 

Drink more water

 

This sounds crazy. If you’re having trouble with your bladder, the last thing you want to do is flood your bladder with more liquid. But it can help!

 

When someone is worried about making it to the bathroom on time, they often start to limit their fluid intake. They drink less because they don’t want to urinate frequently, or they’re afraid they won’t make it to the washroom in time. What they don’t realize, is that they’re actually making the issue worse. They are aggravating their bladder even more.

 

 

Concentrated urine irritates the bladder. The more concentrated the urine, the more desperately the bladder wants to dispose of the urine. Since urine is flushing toxins out of your kidneys, concentrated urine is full of toxins and your body is designed to get rid of those toxins quickly. Even a small amount of concentrated urine will irritate the bladder and signal the need to urinate.

 

 

Diluted urine, on the other hand, does not irritate the bladder.  The more liquid you put in the bladder, the more diluted the toxins from the kidneys. The bladder can hold a surprising amount of diluted urine without feeling the same strong urge to urinate.

If someone is chronically dehydrated, it will take a little while for their bladder to adjust to being suddenly flooded with a lot more liquid. But soon enough, the bladder will accept the increased volume and may not trigger the need for washroom use quite as frequently.

 

Alcohol, Caffeine & Artificial Sweeteners

 

The bladder is sensitive to other irritants as well.  Alcohol, caffeine and artificial sweeteners are all bladder irritants.  You’re probably not surprised that alcohol irritates the bladder; there is typically a long washroom line up at any bar!  And caffeine may not be surprising either. Have you ever noticed how badly you need the washroom after your morning coffee or tea?  The lingering caffeine may continue to irritate your bladder, even after you’ve been to the washroom already.

 

 

The irritant that you may find more surprising is artificial sweeteners.  From packets of sweet-n-low to processed foods labelled as ‘diet’ that contain sucralose or other artificial sweeteners, these non-sugar sweeteners can irritate the bladder and cause frequent urination.  Drinking so-called-diet soda might be adding lots of fluid, but the artificial sweetener in that soda may cause your bladder to want to release it quickly! Aim to reduce or remove all artificial sweeteners.

 

To further support bladder health and prevent an overactive bladder, reduce caffeine intake, abstain from alcohol, and check all medications for side effects. 

 

Medication Side Effects

 

Be sure to check all medications for side effects.  Increased urination, or increased urge to urinate is a common medication side effect. If any of your medications list this side effect, talk to your doctor or pharmacist about possibly switching to a different version of medication that may not have the same side effects.

 

 

It is always worth having your pharmacist review all your medications. It is possible that the combination of numerous medications has caused a side effect that is not listed on any particular medication but taken in combination, new side effects can occur. 

 

Be sure to review ALL medications, vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter medications that you are taking.  Natural supplements can have side effects too! Natural does not mean ‘no side effects’.  Have your pharmacist review everything that you’re taking and have them make recommendations on what you might adjust to limit the impact on your bladder.

 

Action Plan

 

If you, or someone you know, is experiencing the frequent need to urinate, start by scheduling a doctor’s appointment. Urinary incontinence can greatly impact the quality of life; it is worth seeking medical assistance to ensure every possible source of incontinence is checked.

 

 

In the meantime, go for the low-hanging fruit!  Drinking more water and reducing caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners are relatively easy treatments to implement: they don’t cost anything, and have numerous other health benefits as well.  It doesn’t hurt to try increasing water intake as a way to reduce urinary incontinence or frequent washroom use.

 

Be sure to review your medications, supplements and vitamins with your pharmacist to look for any possible side-effects or medication interactions.

 

Now go fill a large glass of water and ‘CHEERS!’ to a healthy bladder!

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Summer Vacations are Self-Care Days!

 

Vacation time! That time that you’ve been excited and waiting for all year. But when vacation time finally arrives you feel hesitant to leave because you are concerned about your elderly parents or your in-laws. This month on July 24th marks International Self-Care Day (ISD). Self-care is “any activity that we do deliberately to take care of our mental, emotional and physical health.” So, going on a summer holiday break counts as self-care!

 

 

It hardly counts as a vacation when you have your cell phone and your laptop at the cottage in case of an emergency. Family caregivers may be the most deserving of respite care but they are often the last ones to actually book time off and go on vacation. The mental break away from everyday stress and demand is desperately needed, but there never seems to be a good time to go on vacation.  

 

Good self-care is key to improved mood, reduced stress and anxiety, and improved relationships with others! What family caregivers really need is peace of mind. They need to feel reassured that their loved ones are in good hands and will be well cared for.

 

Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we’ve assisted many clients during an adult child’s holiday, and the client falls in love with the caregivers so much that the client is disappointed when the holiday is over! To think, families have delayed holidays and felt immense guilt over leaving for vacation, and yet their loved one benefits from the holiday as much as they do.

 

 

Vacation time doesn’t have to be associated with guilt. Instead, it can be an exciting opportunity for everyone involved—family receive the much-needed mental break of being on vacation, and elderly relatives enjoy a new friendly visitor, someone who hasn’t yet heard all the great stories!

 

If you or someone you know is over-due for a vacation due to concern about leaving elderly relatives, be reassured that there are options! For more information, call us at Warm Embrace Elder Care and we’d be happy to help. Everyone needs a break now and then.

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Grieving the Loss of Your Health

 

When a loved one is diagnosed with a chronic illness or a degenerative disease, the diagnosis affects the whole family.  It is easy to overlook the ways in which other family members are also impacted by chronic illness because the focus is upon the person who is unwell. 


In the flurried rush of attempting to care for the person with the new diagnosis, families are often unaware that the emotional response they are experiencing is grief.  People sometimes assume that grief only applies if there has been a death in the family, but people experience grief from many types of losses.


Grief is our human response to a loss.  It is primarily an emotional response, but it can also have other dimensions too (physical, cognitive, social, spiritual, etc.).  When a loved one is diagnosed with a serious illness, family members may grieve.  For many family members, the grief is complicated by the fact that they are still in the throes of family caregiving, and they may be expected to remain “the strong one” for the sake of the family.

 


Grief is not a linear process that moves predictably through various stages.  While there may be stages to grief, those stages are not sequential; there is no graduation from one step to the next.  Each individual may experience various elements of grief at different times and remain with one stage for a long time, or they may move through various stages rapidly all within one day. There is no correct way to grieve, and there is no such thing as “failing at grief”.  It is an individual journey and process for each person.


There can be triggers for grief, and those triggers are as individual as the grief process.  A trigger could be something like hearing a favourite song that you once danced to with your spouse, and grieving that your spouse can no longer dance.  A trigger might also be a daily routine that has suddenly become difficult, and grieving the loss of ability or independence that changes gradually. 

 

For many families, there is grief over the loss of a role within the family.  It might be the role of primary provider if employment is reduced; it might be the role of fix-it-man around the house and no longer being able to operate tools; it might be the role of coordinating family events and family members feel scattered and disconnected. The change of roles and responsibilities can be a difficult transition and grieving those changes is a normal—even healthy and expected—response.

 

 

Grieving is an action.  It requires effort and work.  The goal of grief is not “to get over it”.  Unfortunately, many families feel that the message from friends and sometimes even health care professionals is that they should “get over it” or “get back to normal.”  When a family member is coping with a chronic illness, returning to “normal” is no longer an option. 

 

The previous version of normal doesn’t exist.  Illness has redefined what normal will be like.  The goal is to adjust to a new normal—adjusting to the illness as a new reality of life, and recognizing that this will alter many aspects of life.  Once families have begun to adjust to their new normal, they can begin to see hope for a newly defined future.


Instead of looking for a reason that the illness is present within the family, seeking meaning can be a lot more helpful.  Seeking meaning is looking for a silver lining—acknowledging that a difficult situation is the reality, but perhaps there can be some wonderful moments that are significant. 

 

 

While this may seem like a subtle shift in mentality, it can result in vastly different feelings.  Looking for reasons suggests that someone had to experience the illness in order to learn a certain lesson; looking for meaning is acknowledging that the illness has happened, and finding glimmers of hope will make the journey more meaningful.


How can you best support someone who may be grieving because of an unwell family member? 

 

The most important thing you can do is to remain connected.  Family caregivers constantly report that their closest friends and even other family members distance themselves because they don't know how to help, or they don’t want to impose. 

 

One gentleman laments that while his wife was palliative, she had so few visitors.  She felt the greatest relief from pain while a visitor was present, and her husband expressed this to friends and family, but few visitors came to the house because they did not want to impose.  Visitors weren’t seen as an imposition, but as a welcome relief. 


The greatest thing you can do is to ask how you can best be supportive, and then LISTEN!  Truly listen.

 


Allow family members to tell you what they need and what they want.  Most of all, they will appreciate a listening ear who acknowledges their challenges and validates their feelings and experiences.  Pre-judging or assuming what someone is thinking/feeling is not helpful. 

 

A woman remarked that the comment “but you look so well!” (or that her husband, for whom she cares, “looks so well”) to not be helpful.  While it is intended as a compliment, it shuts down any conversation about how she is truly feeling.  She would prefer that someone just ask her how she is feeling, and be open to a conversation.

 

To best support someone else, be a listening ear and don’t distance yourself.  Remember that the person with the illness as well as the whole family is adjusting to a new sense of normal. 

 

Be wary of judgmental statements such as “things happen for a reason”, and instead help others to see some of the meaningful moments that have touched you and might also touch them.

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How is someone with dementia impacted by COVID-19?

 

I think it’s safe to say that COVID-19 has thrown everyone a curveball. In a matter of a few short weeks, our society as we know it has been completely altered. And while it may only have been a few short weeks, it somehow feels like it’s been much longer. Routines are completely upended, we’re all glued to the news and social media updates, and we’re attempting to keep up with the constantly changing guidelines and recommendations.  For you and I, it can feel exhausting and tiresome.

 

How does it feel for someone who has dementia?

 

Depending upon which stage of dementia someone is in, their ability to fully comprehend the pandemic will be impacted. For someone in the very early stages of dementia, they may be managing to live independently but may require notes posted on every door reminding them to remain at home.

 

 

For someone who is much more progressed in their dementia journey, such notes would not be effective.  Attempting to comprehend a world-wide pandemic would be quite difficult, if not impossible. You and I may have difficulty fully comprehending the scope and impact of COVID-19, and we have the benefit of our brain still providing executive functioning with insight and reasoning and processing. For someone whose dementia has impaired their brain functions, it is not fair to ask their brain to process information that requires interconnected executive functions.

 

For someone with advanced dementia, comprehending the pandemic is further complicated by the fact that there is no context for a global pandemic that is easily relatable. They do not have life experience that is easily understood.  The closest comparison would have been the Spanish Influenza, but even that was before their lifetime, or certainly before their own lived experience and memory. While they may have heard stories from their parents, it is unlikely that the long-term memory would be vivid enough to remain without lived experience to coalesce the memory.

 

 

So, for those with advanced dementia, trying to understand a global pandemic is very challenging. But that does not mean that they are unaffected by the information of the pandemic, as we all are.

 

While the facts of the pandemic might be difficult to comprehend, people with dementia are often highly attuned to emotions.  The content of a conversation or a news story may be difficult to follow, but the underlying emotions are abundantly evident.  So, while a person with dementia may not be able to recite the number of local cases or even recognize that people are sick in the hospital, what they can feel is the anxiety, nervousness, sense of helplessness and fear of the unknown.

 

These emotions are evident on newscasts and probably seep through your own interactions more than you realize.  If you’re discussing the pandemic with someone else, your brain is distracted by the content of the conversation—the number of cases, which protocol has been updated, what to do next. You may be subliminally processing some level of emotion, but the content of the conversation has your brain focused on facts more than emotion.

 

 

Someone with dementia who is observing that conversation is experiencing it quite differently.  Their brain is not able to process the facts; they are left strictly observing and absorbing the emotions. They are reading the uncertainty and fear; they can hear the anxiety and stress. They recognize and may begin to reflect these emotions, but do not recognize the source of the emotions and cannot connect it to the pandemic.

 

Just because someone does not remember the details around the pandemic does not mean that they are failing to process the situation. They are processing all the emotions that you are; they are just missing the context for the cause of the emotions…which makes the emotions even more upsetting.

 

It is important to recognize that the emotional experience is always valid—whether someone has dementia or not.  The emotions are always real, even if the source of the emotion is not fully understood.  Even though your loved one does not know the latest update about COVID-19, they are likely still processing many complex emotions and need your reassurance now more than ever.

 

 

Families require professionals who are trained and equipped to assist those with dementia during difficult times like these.  Caregivers to the elderly are an essential service and can continue to provide professional dementia support.  For more information on how to support a loved one through this crisis, please contact us at 519 954 2480.

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It's Okay to Ask for Help

 

When self-isolating at home, have you found yourself scrolling through random online updates more often than you want to admit?  If so, you’ve probably seen articles and posts about parents who are going crazy being cooped up with their children for weeks on end. Both the parents and the children are feeling the strain.

 

It isn’t just the parents of young children who are feeling the parent-child relationship strain. It can be felt at all ages but is showing up particularly strongly for those who have been thrust into a caregiving role that is more extensive than they anticipated.

 

 

Adult children of ageing parents who have dementia or other high-care needs may suddenly find many of their regular support systems removed. The Adult Day Program that your mother attended a few days weekly is now closed; her regular social groups at the church have shut down; even the PSW who usually comes to bathe her has not been coming. Your mother’s schedule is in upheaval and you have become the primary—and only—caregiver.

 

It can be pretty overwhelming to suddenly find yourself in the full-time position of caring for someone with dementia. While you’re happy to help sometimes on some days, being the only support person day after day is wearing you out and you’re starting to feel the strain.

 

 

It is okay to admit that, just like your mother, you’ve experienced a massive upheaval in your schedule and routine, with newly added responsibilities.  And though you may be tempted to think “I’m not working at the moment so I should be fully available to care for mom,” providing 24/7 dementia support is more than one full-time job.

 

Providing care to a loved one with dementia is more than just physically taxing. It can be emotionally exhausting as well. There are certainly very meaningful moments with laughter and joy, but when it is your parent or your spouse whom you’ve known for decades, it will undoubtedly be emotionally exhausting as well.

 

 

Just because you are home at the moment and may not be working does not mean that you are equipped to provide 24/7 dementia care. It is okay to acknowledge that sometimes, a professional is required and someone who is not related to your mother may be better able to provide the assistance she needs right now.

 

Fortunately, caregivers to the elderly are essential and permitted to continue caring for seniors. Here at Warm Embrace, we continue to serve our longstanding clients and we are also equipped to help families who are now finding themselves in need of more care.

 

As an essential service provider, we’re here to help your family through this difficult time. Contact us for more information.

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