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Being Factually Correct is Not the Point

 

When you break down the format of everyday conversation, you might be surprised how much it tends to be an exchange of facts.  We’re often using the old-fashioned newspaper reporter method of the W’s: who, what, where and when. Sometimes we also include the “why” and “how”, but often it’s just the first four W’s.

 

 

Conversation tends to report on who did what with whom, where they went and when.  We depend on each other to convey those “facts” in an accurate way, and we equate that with telling the “truth”.  Since we tend to consider “truth” as a value, we place a lot of importance on conveying facts accurately.

 

The reality is that any of us is only ever conveying our perspective, our experience of the world, our interpretation of events.  You know the old saying….” if there are 10 eyewitnesses, there are 10 different accounts”. I might even argue that you’d get 11 or 12 different accounts with 10 eyewitnesses!  We each have our own understanding of events or recollection of past events.

 

Oftentimes, a conversation that includes sharing past memories becomes an exercise of correcting each other’s recollections of the “facts” or telling the “truth”.  When different narratives emerge, a lot of effort is spent trying to reconcile those different narratives, assuming only one can be correct; or that details of each need to be merged and one variation decided upon.

 

The focus on “facts” and telling the “truth” makes conversation very difficult for those with dementia. 

 

Recalling the first 4 W’s is tough: who, what, where and when.  When someone’s brain has been impacted by dementia, their ability to recall precise details is impaired.  Short term memory no longer encodes details into long term memory.  When someone attempts to retrieve the details a few hours or days later, the information is no longer there since it was not encoded into long term memory.

 

 

Long term memory that was established decades ago may remain as the strongest memory.  Eventually, even long term memories are impacted by the progression of dementia. When those memories are affected, it will be the details and the “facts” of the memory that are first at risk.  Someone will continue to remember the feeling associated with a memory, but they can’t necessarily recall who was present, or when it occurred, or where exactly it was. They’re more likely to remember the “why” or the “how” of the event because those elements are typically more connected with the feelings of an event.

 

When trying to recall a memory, and someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s has an impression of the “why” or “how” of an event, their brain may fill in the gaps on some of the missing “facts” of the story to help it make sense. Their brain may provide a missing “who” or supply the “when” of the story—and those details do not line up with your recollection of the event. 

 

In fact, those supplied details may not line up with the version of the story that the person told yesterday. Each time they retell the story, their brain may have to supply a different missing detail.

 

Instead of focusing on the “facts” of the story, focus on the feelings.

  • Don’t worry about correcting the details that may have different from the last telling of the story. 
  • Don’t contradict the details or get worried about the “accuracy” of the story. 
  • Do listen to the “why” and the “how” of the story that starts to emerge.

Let your loved one explore their memory and remember that they are trying to put words to an emotional experience. The emotion of the memory may remain strong, but finding the words to express it can be difficult. If the details they supply keep being corrected by someone else, they may stop trying to articulate what they’re feeling.

 

 

Stop and consider: what is the purpose of this conversation? 

 

If it is a nice conversation between you and a parent, then enjoy it for all it is worth! Savour the clear moments, find the emotion underneath the words, and use it as an opportunity to connect.  Correcting “facts” will only inhibit the purpose of this conversation—which is to create a connection and convey love and caring.

 

If it is a conversation with your loved one’s family doctor, then the purpose of the conversation is different. Suddenly, the facts of a particular symptom are critical. In this case, having correct “facts” truly is the purpose of the conversation and being focused on precision is important.

 

When you consider the purpose of a conversation, you can remain focused on what matters most.  If exchanging factually correct information isn’t the point of the conversation, then don’t worry about correcting facts! 

 

If the purpose is to create enjoyment for your loved one, you can achieve that by supporting their feelings and their recollections.  Focus on the feelings, not the facts and you’ll find conversations far more enjoyable!

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Springing Forward!

 

It’s almost that time of year again—time to change the clocks!

 

The springtime change has a hopeful element to it; the days get longer and you have more daylight to enjoy in the evening hours.  It almost feels like you can measure the increased daylight every day!  It signals that spring is truly on its way.

 

There is one big challenge first though.  That’s the loss of one hour!  For most of us, that means the loss of an hour of sleep.

 

 

It would seem as though losing one hour of sleep shouldn’t be that detrimental. Surely we can handle one less hour of sleep.  And yet, statistics indicate that losing one hour of sleep does impact us, and not for the better.   It’s a well-known fact that there is a higher incident rate of automobile collisions on the Monday following the spring time change. Some studies have indicated an increased risk of heart attack too!  

 

If losing one hour of sleep can cause us to drive poorly and increase our risk of heart attack, what does it do for someone with dementia who may not understand what is happening with the time change?

 

Adjusting to the time change is essentially like dealing with jet lag. While it is only a one hour difference, it is enough to throw us out of whack for a few days as we slowly adjust. Our bodies are finely tuned mechanisms that follow a very careful circadian rhythm.  When that rhythm is interrupted, it takes us a while to get back on track.  If that much adjustment is needed for those of us who can cognitively understand the time change, how much more difficult is it for someone with dementia who cannot tell time?

 

 

Someone with advanced dementia may not be able to tell time anymore. Some days, it may seem as if they don’t have much routine if they are waking at odd hours and sleeping during the day. But even if their routine has shifted from what it was years ago, they still have an internal sense of the passing of time. Suddenly missing an hour throws off that internal sense, and it can feel disorienting and confusing.

 

Sleep is critical for brain functioning in all people, and especially so for those with dementia.  The brain needs a chance to recover and it is during sleep that memory is encoded. When someone’s brain is impacted by a disease that impairs memory, they may require extra sleep to encode even minimal memory.  Sleep is essential, and losing an hour of sleep can have an enormous impact on how someone functions. 

 

As much as possible, try to adjust bedtime and waking time in advance of the time change to make it a more gradual adjustment rather than a one-hour change overnight.  On the eve of the time change and the subsequent nights, ensure that your loved one still receives their usual allotment of sleep, even if it means going to bed a bit earlier or getting up a bit later.

 

 

When caring for someone with moderate or advanced dementia, just knowing what to expect can make a difference.  Recognize that the time change is just like dealing with jet-lag and it will be an adjustment for your loved one. Expect that they may exhibit some unusual behaviour or feel agitated and anxious the week following the time change.

 

Prepare as much as possible by making the adjustment gradual. And remember, these adjustments will be helpful not only for your loved one but also for you!

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Speeding Up Spring

 

Are you experiencing a case of cabin fever?

Don’t be discouraged and let the cabin fever get to you—instead, speed up spring!

 

 

One of the best ways to bring spring to you is to start your gardening early—indoors! Rather than waiting on mother nature to cooperate for a display of spring colours, get things started yourself by forcing bulbs.

 

Indoor gardening is a very accessible way to garden. There is no need to bend over or kneel on the hard ground. Bulbs require very little maintenance or effort. Indoor gardening is a great way to connect with an elderly loved one’s passion and hobby without being overwhelming or too physically demanding. It can also be a great intergenerational activity, drawing children and grandparents—or even great grandparents—together over a common task.

 

Forcing bulbs indoors mimic the outdoor environment that causes a bulb to grow and bloom. Unlike large, potted house plants, bulbs do not need big pots. A small, shallow dish is sufficient. Many bulbs are easily forced using only water and pebbles, rather than soil, resulting in much easier clean up when gardening indoors. It is also more fun to watch the roots develop and see the bulb change as it grows. New growth development is exciting to see—at any age!

 

 

Using your shallow container, fill it half full of pebbles or marbles, then place the bulbs on top of the pebble layer. Gently fill the rest of the container with pebbles or marbles to secure the bulbs in place, but do not completely bury the bulbs. Put enough water in the dish so that the water touches the bottom of the bulb, but do not submerge the bulb in water or it will begin to rot.

 

The step that is most often overlooked when forcing bulbs is the chilling step. Your freshly “planted” bulbs need to be chilled in a cellar or in the fridge to mimic the winter season. Some bulbs only need a few days of chilling, and others need a much more extended chilling period of several weeks. Be sure to check the specifications on the bulbs that you purchase.

 

NOTE: Please do NOT store bulbs in an elderly person’s fridge. If that person has dementia or mild cognitive impairment, the bulbs (or pebbles) could be mistaken for other produce. Likewise, if your loved one has impaired vision, the bulbs could appear similar to onions. Senses such as taste and smell become dulled for many people as they age; the smell or bitter taste that might alert you to food being harmful may not alert an elderly loved one.

 

 

When roots begin to show you will know that your bulbs are ready to begin their growth cycle and it is time to remove them from the chilling stage. With roots now showing, your bulbs are ready to be moved into warmth and sunlight. You need to introduce them to sunlight slowly, just the way that the spring sunlight is soft at first and then gradually gets warmer. Place your bulbs in a cooler area of your home, away from direct sunlight. When your plants begin to grow and the stems take on a healthy green colour, then it is time to move them to a sunny windowsill to watch the beauty unfold!

 

In theory, any bulb can be forced to grow indoors, but some varieties are easier to force than others. Paperwhite narcissus grows well indoors and does not require a very long chilling period. They grow well in water and pebbles and are quite fragrant. Amaryllis are very easy to force and the blooms are giant and colourful. They grow so quickly that you can see growth daily.

 

 

The warmer the environment, the faster the amaryllis will grow. Once it blooms, it is best to move the plant to a cooler, shaded area for the blooms to last longer, as they can remain for up to a month.

 

Hyacinth and crocus can also be forced and take eight to ten weeks to grow. Although tulips are a favourite spring bloom, they are probably best enjoyed out in the garden as they can be trickier to force and require a long chilling period of sixteen weeks.

 

Enjoy your head start on spring by forcing your favourite bulbs indoors, and use this easy, timeless, and ageless activity to connect various members of your family. You will have spring beauty unfolding in your own living room—no matter how much snow remains on the ground outside!

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Are you doing everything for your elderly parents?

 

You’ve been managing your own household, your parents’ household and now your in-laws need some help too.  You already feel stretched too thin, and your parents’ needs keep increasing. You need homecare support for your parents, but they refuse to even consider it.

 

Your father says he “doesn’t need a babysitter” and your mother declares that she can “do everything just fine myself”.  And by that, what she really means is that you are doing everything just fine for them!

 

Your parents think they’re managing just fine because you’re filling in all the gaps.  They don’t realize just how much you’re doing. They just benefit from the fact that everything gets done.

 

 

For years, you’ve been trying to follow your parent’s wishes.  You respect their decisions and do your best to help support them in those decisions. They keep saying they don’t want or need any help and you’ve been trying to respect it.

 

The problem is, they not only need the help, but they are also already receiving help.  The help is coming from you, and it’s now more than you can manage on your own.   It is okay to acknowledge that you can no longer provide all the assistance that they need.  You aren’t failing to respect their decision, you are making a decision that is necessary for your own health and wellness.

 

You can explain to your parents what you are able to do, and outline the tasks that are now becoming too much.  You can outline options for how your parents can fill the remaining gaps and empower them to make a decision that best suits their needs. For example, you are willing to do the weekly grocery shopping and visit with your parents after putting all the groceries away, but it is no longer feasible for you to be cooking dinner for them every day.

 

You can then outline meal options for them.  They could order Meals on Wheels or another meal delivery service. They could move into a retirement home where meals are provided. They can have a caregiver cook meals together with them in their own kitchen, using their own preferred recipes.

 

You can help outline the pros and cons of each option, and how each option would fit into their lifestyle.

 

 

Stepping back and acknowledging what you need for yourself does not take away your parents’ ability to make their own decision. It just eliminates one of the options from the list—the option of you cooking the meals daily.

 

As long as you continue to be the primary option, as long as you continue to cook dinner daily, your parents will not seriously consider any other option on the list.  You need to clearly articulate what you can and cannot do, and then guide your parents through the decision making process about how to solve the remaining gaps.

 

Homecare can address many of those gaps and provide the individualized attention and assistance they are accustomed to receiving.  Homecare is not always just about the senior client; it is often about alleviating family members who have been doing far more than is sustainable. 

 

A wonderful caregiver—or team of caregivers—can take care of your parents’ to-do list so that it doesn’t all fall on your shoulders. 

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The Historical View of Exercise

 

If I were to ask you “is exercise important” you would almost undoubtedly say “yes”.

 

You’ve been exposed to the concept of fitness and exercise your whole life. You see celebrities openly brag about their fitness routines; on social media, you see selfies of people at the gym; every few years there’s a new fitness craze—from aerobics in the ’80s to pilates in the ’90s, to yoga and boot camps and HIT (high-intensity training). 

 

 

Whether you actually do any of these activities is a separate point, but you are most definitely aware of fitness as a priority.

 

When talking about “fitness” or “exercise” to someone who is older than 85 years, you may find that the context is totally different.  They did not grow up in an era when fitness was promoted as an activity in and of itself. It didn’t need to be. Fitness was just part of everyday lifestyles.

 

We served a lovely couple who met in Kitchener, when it was still known as Berlin.  They married young, as couples of that generation did, and moved into their first home together on Queen St. S.  Their home was past where St. Mary’s hospital is today; it would have been the suburbs on the edge of town at that time.  They each worked at a factory in downtown Kitchener. Every day, they walked kilometres up Queen St., kissed each other goodbye for the day once they reached Charles St. and worked for the day at the factory.

 

At the end of the day, they met up again on the corner at Queen St and walked home.

 

Besides being rather romantic (he carried her lunchbox and everything!), it was also a built-in form of exercise. There was no way that a young couple could possibly afford a car; that was out of the question. Rain or shine, all through the frigid winters, it didn’t faze them—they walked to work daily. Once they got to work, they were on their feet all day, working factory jobs that were moderately demanding physically.

 

What a contrast to today’s jobs!  Most of today’s jobs involve sitting at a desk, staring at a computer screen. You’d be hard-pressed to find youth today determined enough to walk kilometres in the driving rain or freezing cold to get to a factory job.

 

No wonder we need to make such a concerted effort to focus on exercise today when our lifestyles are so sedentary otherwise.  In past eras where daily routines required so much physical activity, there was no need to expend energy strictly for the sake of expending energy.

You can see why the concept may continue to feel foreign to someone who is 87 or 92 or 99. They were raised in an era where people worked hard because they had to, and you reserved your energy when possible.  No one was expending energy just for the sake of it!  And once you had worked hard, you earned the right to sit down and relax and take a load off.

 

That mentality sometimes persists, even though their lifestyle has changed.  Most 87-year-olds are not walking kilometres every day to get to a physically demanding job. But if they did that for decades, they may feel that they’ve earned the right to no longer be active—or do anything once associated with “work”. The catch is that our bodies continue to need physical activity regardless of our age.

 

 

Don’t get frustrated if an elderly loved one seems dismissive about exercise. Remember that they grew up in an era where energy was only expelled for productive purposes. The idea of expending energy just for exercise is a foreign concept that may seem strange. While they may nod and say “yes I know I should do more” they may not be following through because deep down, it just doesn’t fit with their decades-ingrained view of energy preservation.

 

Understanding the context and background can be helpful in recognizing why a loved one is not overly enthusiastic about physical activity. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not important to get moving!

 

Be sure to read our other blogs on how to inspire more physical activity.

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Heart and Stroke Awareness Month

 

February is all about hearts!

 

Did you know that every seven minutes, someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke?  

 

Heart disease is not just a single condition. 

 

Heart disease is a group of conditions that all combine to affect the heart and how it functions. Some common heart conditions that are part of heart disease are coronary heart disease, congenital heart disease, angina, heart attack, and heart failure, just to name a few. 

 

Someone with heart disease may be weak and have difficulty with daily living tasks.  Chores that were once simple—standing long enough to cook, using a vacuum cleaner, showering—become monumental tasks. Homecare services are required as someone with heart disease has increased weakness and difficulty breathing.

 

 

A stroke is quite different from a heart attack. 

 

A stroke is a sudden loss of brain function that is caused by lack of blood flow to the brain, or a rupture of blood vessels in the brain.  Most strokes are caused by a blood clot that blocks the blood flow to the brain. Blood clots form when there is a buildup of plaque in the arteries.  The clot may either be in the arteries leading to the brain, or the clot can form elsewhere in the body and travel to the brain. 

 

Strokes do not just affect seniors or the elderly.  In fact, 25% of all strokes happen to people under age 65.  The rate of stroke is escalating among those aged 19-55 and can affect both men and women.

 

Some of the risk factors for heart disease and stroke cannot be changed (such as age, gender, family history, or ethnic background).  The majority of risk factors can be controlled though, and the earlier people implement healthy lifestyle choices, the better their chances of preventing heart disease or stroke. There are steps you can take to prevent heart disease. Learn more about how you can protect your heart!

 

Starting and sticking to new habits can be difficult - especially when done alone. However, you don't have to do it alone! We are fabulous caregivers who will encourage and guide you - or your elderly loved one – in staying on track. Your heart health is important, it’s never too late to introduce new living choices, start today!

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Pet Therapy

 

What will draw a smile and an “awwwww!” from most people?

 

Puppies!

 

 

You can count on a puppy to draw a smile from even the most hardened of hearts.  Animals often have an appeal that crosses generations, cultures, languages and social groups in a way that draws people together.

 

Interacting with a dog or cat or any other pet also has the added benefit of being entirely in-the-moment.  Petting a dog does not depend on past memory. It doesn’t require the ability to plan for tomorrow. It is truly in-the-moment.

 

 

This may be part of the reason that many people with dementia gravitate toward pets and thoroughly enjoy interacting with pets. A dog doesn’t judge.  A dog doesn’t ask difficult questions. A dog isn’t comparing you to how you were yesterday. A dog is just there, in the moment, wagging his tail, utterly delighted to interact with you for this moment.

 

People of all ages and ability levels can benefit from visits with pets. Even if someone cannot adequately care for their own pet, they might appreciate visits from someone else’s pet.

 

Many long term care homes provide occasional pet therapy through volunteers who have trained their animals with St. John’s Ambulance Pet Therapy Program.  These pets are calm and well-behaved and able to cope with all the activity in a long term care home.  Pet therapy is increasingly being used in other settings as well; some airports now have therapy dog stations where you can interact with a friendly dog before flying to help reduce the jitters.

 

 

Interacting with an animal has been proven to reduce stress and reduce blood pressure in those who love animals.  If someone is coping with a chronic illness or physical condition, interacting with a pet may reduce their stress.  In some studies, interacting with an animal was shown to reduce people’s perceptions of pain. While their physical condition hadn’t changed, their perception of their condition had shifted. 

 

For those with memory impairment, interacting with a pet allows them to thoroughly enjoy this moment without requiring memory.  They may talk to the dog knowing that the dog will not contradict or correct them. They can talk about the dog to everyone else around—commenting on how cute the dog is or how well-behaved the dog is—and it keeps the conversation rooted strongly in the moment.  Impaired cognition is no longer at the centre of the interaction. The person with memory impairment can just enjoy the moment, just like everyone else is also enjoying the moment with the dog.

 

When interacting with an animal is not possible, the next best substitute can be photos of pets or other animals.  Many people find comfort in photos of beloved pets.  In fact, recognition of pets sometimes extends beyond the recognition of people. For someone with advanced dementia, photos of family members may not provide comfort if they cannot recall who the people in the photo are; a photo of a pet may feel more familiar.  Having photos of cute puppies or kittens or any other animal of choice may help to create a welcoming space and induce a smile.

 

If there are elderly animal lovers in your life, look for opportunities to help them engage in that long-standing love of animals.  Bring your own pet to visit when possible; go on outings to a pet store to see the latest litter of kittens; if in retirement living or long term care, prioritize attending Pet Therapy visiting days.  Consider updating the photo selection in your loved one’s home to include favourite pets from years ago, or even just cute photos of animals that will create a sense of comfort.

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No Hallmark Families

 

It’s easy to assume that every family but yours is a Hallmark family—you know, the families for whom all those rosy greeting cards are written.  You stand in the aisle at the greeting card store, reading card after card, thinking “who is this stuff written for?” You step back and assume that everyone else’s family must match the Hallmark ideal. . . otherwise, who buys all those cards?

 

Then you go home and watch Modern Family or Keeping up with the Kardashians just to feel normal again. At least your family isn’t as messed up as THAT! No wonder people binge-watch series about messed up families or reality television series full of exaggerated drama.  Compared to all that, your family is golden!

 

 

After more than a decade of helping families who are in the throes of family caregiving or a health crisis, I can tell you this—there is no such thing as a Hallmark family.  There are no Cleavers or Brady Bunches.  Every family has its ups and downs, its complexities and its dramas. Every family has an image they present to the world, and that image is usually different than the comprehensive version that emerges if you could see all the nuances.

 

In the world of eldercare, we see this all the time. 

 

A health crisis occurs—a hip fracture, a fall, a hospital admission, a diagnosis of dementia—and cracks start to appear.  A health crisis puts a strain on the entire ecosystem of a family; it can ripple across generations, affecting everyone to varying degrees.

 

It’s like the old saying—“when you get bumped what’s on the inside comes out.” 

It isn’t uncommon for old patterns to emerge, or childhood woes to resurface, or grudges and resentments be dredged out.  It’s exactly this type of stuff that makes families complex and entirely unique—and nothing like the fantasy world of The Brady Bunch.

 

 

Of course, these emotionally draining issues are utterly exhausting, which further reduces your resiliency to deal with the crisis at hand.  Later you’ll look back and think “why couldn’t I just keep my mouth shut?” or “that wasn’t the right battle to choose….what was I thinking?” 

 

You weren’t thinking, you were just responding emotionally—and so was everyone else in the situation. It’s easy to look back and edit what should have been said and done, but at the moment, through the fog of high emotions, lack of sleep, uncertainty, confusion and exhaustion, things are said and done by various members of the family.  Next thing you know, it feels like there’s drama!

 

Through it all, you may be relieved to know, that your family is not that crazy after all!  In fact, you’re probably more normal than you think.  If normal means standard, regular, average then your family IS normal by having complex dynamics because every other family also has complex dynamics.  There are no Hallmark families, so stop worrying about trying to attain that status.  Acknowledge the absurdities that make your family what it is, and aim to work with those absurdities—rather than hiding them—to find your way moving forward.

 

 

Even families who appear strong and tight-knit, devoted and loyal to each other with abundant love and joy—even those remarkably blessed families have their unique dynamics that are rattled under the pressure of a health crisis.

 

If you’re really lucky, the glowing version that you present to the world may not be too far off the real version. Years go by—maybe even a decade or two—and you’ll believe that façade has become the reality.  Beware though, when a crisis emerges, so do the cracks in the façade. 

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A New Year to be Generous

 

The holidays are over now, and here we are, at the start of a fresh new year. Did you make a list of New Year’s Resolutions? Have you ever noticed how self-centred our resolutions tend to be? Most resolutions focus on losing weight, exercising more, or watching less TV. These are certainly healthy suggestions that are great for self-improvement but they are rather self-centred.

 

What if this year, resolutions centred around helping someone else? We often think to volunteer over the holiday season. For instance, cooking at a soup kitchen or singing at a nursing home, but then we wait until the following December before volunteering again. This year, we can resolve to assist others starting in January!

 

There are 24 hours in a day, why not take a couple minutes from your day to help someone else? You just might make their day!

 

 

We all know at least one senior – a family member, a neighbour, a fellow church member – who might be feeling alone.  You can start with a simple act of kindness, such as placing one phone call per week to someone who might be lonely or make a personal weekly visit to someone who is shut-in. You can always send a card by mail – the good old-fashioned way!

 

If you want to go above and beyond - winter is the perfect time to reach out to seniors and to offer any assistance that you can. You can assist with shovelling snow and/or salting their driveway and walkway, you can offer to run errands during snowy days, or you can cook an extra-large dinner one evening and take leftovers to someone who has difficulty cooking.

 

 

The more you look for ways to bless other people, the more you will be blessed yourself. Resolutions focused on giving will make such a difference to the recipient, that you’ll be inspired to actually adhere to your resolution. Setting just one resolution this year—to bless at least one person per week—has the potential to multiply and reach many people. You will find it so rewarding that you are bound to successfully achieve your resolution!

 

We at Warm Embrace Elder Care wish you a very blessed 2020 and we hope you find joy in reaching out to bless others in this upcoming year.

 

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The Art of Disguising Exercise for Seniors

 

At what age is exercise no longer important?

 

That’s a trick question—there is no age when exercise isn’t important.  Just because someone is elderly doesn’t mean they’re exempt from exercise!

 

 

It does mean the exercise needs to be modified to match ability level and possible injuries or conditions such as arthritis.  What qualifies as exercise also shifts as someone ages.  When someone is young, it may take a jog or run to get their heart rate up, whereas an elderly senior may increase their heartrate just by walking. The important thing is to increase the heart rate and to get the blood and oxygen flowing.

 

Sadly, many seniors lead highly sedentary lives.  All too often, the lazy boy recliner becomes the centre of seniors’ worlds. They settle into the recliner first thing in the morning and watch television for a significant part of the day. They nap in the chair…they may even sleep in the chair all night as a surprising number of seniors tend to do.

 

The most activity they get is a few steps to the washroom and back.  Even then, I’ve met many seniors who intentionally limit their fluid intake to reduce the number of washroom trips required!  Going to the washroom may be the only activity they’re getting, and even then they’re limiting that.

 

 

A senior who has become accustomed to such a sedentary lifestyle will need to reintroduce activity gradually. Compared to their currently sedentary day, it does not take much effort to suddenly double activity levels! Simply getting up and out of their chair becomes a form of activity that cannot be taken for granted.

 

If you’re visiting someone who tends to be overly sedentary, encourage as much movement and activity as possible.

 

As a precaution, you might avoid suggesting “exercise”.  Calling it “exercise” may be a barrier to some elderly people. If they don’t have the same context as you do for prioritizing fitness and exercise, they may not be inclined to want to “exercise”.

 

Instead, integrate basic activity into your visit.  Suggest sitting at the kitchen table together for a bit. Ask them to show you around. Step outside into the backyard.  While it may not qualify as exercise for you, it is most definitely an increase in activity for them. Be mindful to not push too hard too quickly, but continually suggest more and more activity—and increasing lengths of time out of the lazy boy chair.

 

 

When you’re in the kitchen together, ask them to reach items out of the cupboard. Bending, stretching, reaching are all basic movements that are necessary to maintaining a range of motion.  Ask for help folding laundry and putting it away.  The “excuses” you use to call your loved one into another room, or get them up and out of their chair are only limited by your imagination.

 

Before you know it, you might start getting a little devious in the creative ways you encourage more activity during your visit. The better you can disguise the increased activity as anything other than exercise, the more successful you’ll be!

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June 7, 2018
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