Do you know a senior who has suffered a serious fall? Likely you do, since approximately 30% of seniors who live in the community suffer a fall each year. The consequences of a fall can be quite serious—injury, hospitalization, even death from complications.
Did you know that falls are the cause of 90% of all hip fractures, 50% of all injury-relatedhospitalizations in seniors, and the 5th leading cause of death in the elderly?! These numbers also double when a senior has dementia. So, it is extremely vital in keeping seniors strong and steady on their feet.
Why do seniors fall in the first place?
“Falling isn’t as much about slips and trips. It’s about the failure to recover. Slips and trips happen at all ages” (Dr. George Fernie). There are various external factors at play that contribute to slips and trips; such as:
Poor footwear (e.g. slippers)
While some falls can be attributed to tripping—such as tripping over floor mats, pets or curbs—other falls seem mysterious. The person will report that they just went down and we're not sure why. In many of those mysterious cases, the fall is due to internal factors such as:
Visual and hearing deficits
Neuropathy (abnormal sensory feedback)
Low blood pressure
Pain and foot drop
Weakness and tightness
Slowed reflexes and balance disorders
What can we do to prevent falls?
Get rid of all the external factors that cause slips and trips!
Ensure that your living space has no loose carpets or rugs, the lighting is bright for increased visibility, all chairs are sturdy with armrests, everything needed is on the main floor (no stairs), and that proper footwear is worn in the house.
Improve balance and stability!
“She says she wants to keep living in her home. We say it starts by keeping her on her feet” (American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons). The number one key to fall prevention is staying active!Physical activity has shown to mitigate the deathly consequences of falls – just walking, gardening or housework is enough for an elderly loved one.
However, when your elderly loved one refuses to do regular exercise the best option is to increase their base of support.
To remain balanced, there must be a stable base of support—the wider the base of support the more stable it becomes. The base of support is the invisible box that can be drawn around your feet when you are standing. Added to this is our centre of mass—which is approximately where our belly button is located.
When someone’s centre of mass is in the middle of their base of support, they are perfectly balanced. When their centre of mass begins to reach the outer edge of their base of support, they are more prone to falling.
For example, a ballerina narrows her base of support to be only one square inch when she is en pointe. Her balance is quite precarious because her base of support has been reduced. The only way that she remains upright is by perfectly hovering her centre of mass over her base of support. She is constantly adjusting to ensure that her centre of mass doesn't sway too far aware from her base of support.
In contrast, a football player crouches low and spreads his feet wide so that he has a wider base of support than he normally would. He may even put one hand to the ground adding a third point of contact and expanding his base of support further. He has a stable base of support, and his centre of mass is positioned in the middle of his base.
In the case of a frail senior, their feet may ache or have bunions, causing that person to only walk on the edges of their feet, which reduces their base of support and their balance. Instead of using the full surface of their foot, they have reduced their base of support more like a ballerina. As well, the senior’s posture may be more forward-leaning, pushing the centre of mass to the outer edge of the base of support, causing instability. A senior will not likely be crouching down to touch the ground for support, the way a football player does.
The best way to create a strong base of support is to use a walker. The four wheels of the walker expand someone’s base and provide the necessary support. Much like a football player, a well-balanced senior using a walker is less likely to fall than a senior who is precariously balancing on sore feet. If their posture is forward-leaning then the walker extends the base of support ensuring that the centre of mass remains in the middle of the base of support.
Encourage the seniors in your life to carefully assess their centre of mass and base of support to ensure that they are as safely balanced as possible. Every fall that is prevented is a great success and ensures a longer and healthier life for that senior.
Top 10 Tips for Resiliency in the Face of Depression
Thursday, October 8, 2020
Maintaining good mental health requires just as much attention and care as maintaining good physical health. In reality, mental health is a continuum, a scale that ranges from mental wellness to serious mental health challenges. When someone experiences drastic stress in their life, their mental distress level rises. It is important to have adequate coping mechanisms in place to help reduce one’s mental distress level and maintain mental wellness.
The Canadian Mental Health Association defines mental wellness as “a state of well-being and the ability to function in the face of changing circumstances.” This includes handling stress and loss, relating to other people, and making decisions.
Dealing with stress though is not an innate trait in humans; it is a learned behaviour. Whether good or bad, we learn coping skills from our environment. Adding positive and healthy coping skills to our lifestyle is crucial to maintaining or gaining back mental wellness.
Depression is not always something that you can control—it may be related to a specific situation or it could seem to appear for no apparent reason. Depression may be triggered by loss—loss of a loved one, an important role in life, a job, loss of health or independence. Any of these losses create increased stress. Without coping mechanisms, someone’s mental distress level will climb and they may experience depression.
Depression after any type of loss is likely due to situational depression, and having the right coping skills will be highly beneficial. It is important to note that clinical depression is an illness that many people experience regardless of their coping skills. In either case, it is important that you speak to a doctor.
The Canadian Mental Health Association recommends a few key coping skills to help maintain mental wellness. By implementing these coping methods when you are feeling your mental distress level begin to climb, you may be able to maintain a higher state of mental well-being.
1. Read and Research
The more you know about depression and mental illness, the more empowered you are to protect your own health. You don't have to do this alone! Research can be overwhelming, ask someone you trust to help you learn more about mental health.
2. Change Your Thinking Patterns
Many depressed people have negative and anxious thought patterns. Learning to redirect your focus can improve your mental health. A great tool is to journal your thoughts and to track how you got to that negative thought. Remember to celebrate your successes; focus on your achievements rather than focusing on what you are unable to do.
3. Ask for Help
Requesting help is not a sign of weakness; rather, it requires courage to reach out to others when you are in need. Create a support system of caring people whom you can call when you are feeling low. Have a list of 5 close friends you can count on; if one person doesn’t answer, you have 4 more names you can call.
4. Use Problem Solving
Determine which problems are stressing you, explore possible solutions, try a new solution (as the same old solutions will yield the same old results), evaluate the effectiveness of your new solution, and focus on the progress of your problem solving rather than on the problem alone.
When you are depressed, the last thing you may feel like is exercise, but the results make the effort worthwhile. Exercise increases the blood flow not only through your body but also to your brain. Increased oxygen flow to the brain improves mental functioning and mood. Your endorphins are also elevated through exercise.
6. Eat and Sleep
Eat a properly balanced diet, even if you have no appetite. Aim to maintain a regular schedule where you eat healthy food at regular intervals. Sleep on a regular schedule as well. Ensure that you get enough sleep, but do not oversleep. Most adults need an average of eight hours of sleep nightly.
Schedule yourself time to rejuvenate. Prioritize activities that bring you peace and pleasure. This may include: meditation, being outdoors, various hobbies, caring for a pet, having a massage, etc.
Do not cut yourself off from social connections. If large groups are overwhelming, go out for coffee with just one or two people at a time. Isolation only perpetuates depression. Socialize with close, caring friends who are compassionate and supportive. Be sure to hug these close friends; physical touch should not be underestimated.
9. Relax Your Standards.
Many people experience anxiety and stress because they are holding themselves to unrealistic standards. Determine to not expect more of yourself than you would expect of anyone else. Be kind to yourself—sometimes, we are hardest on ourselves!
A sense of humour can go a long way. Sometimes, laughter truly is the best medicine. You don't even have to wait for a comedy act to come to town; through the internet, you can search endless comedies on YouTube and select comedies that suit your particular sense of humour.
If implementing these coping skills does not improve your sense of mental well-being or if you are currently experiencing other symptoms as well, you should see your doctor. Medication may be appropriate for you, or there may be a physical explanation for the mental distress you are experiencing. Your doctor can advise you best.
It is important to know that help is available. You do not need to live in a state of mental distress. To learn more about healthy coping strategies and ways to reduce stress, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Locally, in Waterloo Region, we are blessed to have Here 24/7 — a service that is available 24/7 to assist with addictions, mental health, and crisis situations. The number is: 1-844-HERE247 (1-844-437-3247)
Autumn is a wonderful time of year filled with fall colours, harvest crops, hearty comfort food, warm fuzzy sweaters, and long walks rustling your feet through the leaves. Really, all the sights, sounds and smells of fall time are lovely! Even during these unprecedented times, why not try a fun and festive activity with an elderly loved one.
Here are Five Fun Activities to try this Fall Season!
1) Prepare Homemade Treats
Baking, mixing and preparing treats are fun activities that many older adults enjoy. You can follow a family recipe or flip through some cookbooks to discover new recipes. You can make something as simple as apple crisp or a no-bake pumpkin cheesecake. Another idea is decorating sugar cookies with your loved one! If baking is too messy, you can always pre-bake the cookies and just decorate them with your elderly loved one.
To follow social distancing rules, you can prep and make these treats for your loved one and surprise them with a special delivery. Another idea is prepping and decorating premade cookies outside on a nice sunny autumn day.
2) Pumpkin carvings and painting
Pumpkin carvings are a must tradition every fall season. You can carve all sorts of patterns on pumpkins but if carving is too much strain on wrists and hands you can always introduce painting on pumpkins to your elderly loved one. You can have an assortment of paint colours to design a unique pumpkin and then you can put them on display so that everyone can see. This is a great activity you can do outside and from a distance with your loved one.
3) Enjoy the natural scenery and fresh air
Bundle up and breathe the fresh autumn air! You can go on a short walk in the park to admire the beautiful coloured leaves that fall brings. You can go to a local park like Victoria or Waterloo Park and walk a scenic trail hearing the crunch of the fallen leaves under your feet.
If you can’t take your loved one out too far why not go somewhere nearby? You can relax in the backyard, front porch, or go on a short walk to pick up the mail. If it’s too cold outside for your loved one, you can always go on a relaxing country drive to see all the colours or simply open up some windows and blinds to let the fresh air inside.
4) Get festive with fall decorations
Crafting and decorating are always fun activities! With proper social distancing rules, you can help an elderly loved one to decorate their home with fall colours. You can introduce neat craft ideas with dried up fallen leaves, such as collecting them to make cards.
5) Hang out online
If visiting your loved one in person is not an option, you should consider an online hang out! There are several ways you can connect online with your family member. You can video call your loved one, play an online game together, or watch a movie!
This autumn season introduce a new activity to your elderly loved on - it may be cooler weather - but it's a lovely season to spend quality time with friends and family.
Why is it so challenging to communicate with my loved one?
Wednesday, August 12, 2020
What is the greatest challenge for a family caregiver of someone with dementia?
Likely, the number one challenge is communication.
Why is communication so difficult? The person with dementia is still able to speak—in some cases, the person with dementia may talk incessantly. His or her ability to speak is not affected. Uttering sounds, pronouncing words, even using complex vocabulary is still quite possible, and yet, communication is an enormous challenge.
When someone has dementia, speech is not hampered, but language is affected.
Speech is the physical ability to produce meaningful sounds. It is the complex interaction of muscles and nerve endings all interacting together to produce sound.
Language is not about the sounds being produced; language is the meaning behind the words. In any language, there is a set of rules about how to use words: grammar dictates that words must agree with each other, syntax ensures meaningful placement of words into sentences, semantics is a mental dictionary of words that have meaning to us.
When someone has dementia, their language can be affected. Their dictionary of words may become scrambled and finding the right word is impossible. When the correct word cannot be found, people with dementia often substitute the next available word…but because the dictionary is so scrambled, the next available word may not be related at all to the word for which they are searching. Interpreting the conversation can become difficult!
Language and the words associated with it are not the only element of communication that is affected for people with dementia. Communication relies on extensive non-verbal cues as well, such as posture, body language, facial expression, etc. Understanding and interpreting all of these signals can be difficult for someone with dementia, and their ability will fluctuate over time.
The person with dementia or Alzheimer’s is communicating in the only way that he/she is able to, at that moment. Throughout the various stages of dementia, there are different strategies that can improve communication between family caregivers and those with dementia.
You’re busy working from home watching the clock, mentally calculating whether you have enough time to check in on your mother, pick up some groceries, and cook dinner for your teenager. . . or will you be ordering pizza yet again tonight?
If this scene feels at all familiar to you, then you’re likely one of the 2 million Canadians who fit into the infamous “sandwich generation”. According to Statistics Canada, 28% of all caregivers in Canada are part of the sandwich generation. The sandwich generation generally applies to those in their late 30’s to early 60’s who are simultaneously caring for their ageing parents as well as their growing children.
Advances in healthcare are allowing people to live longer lives, though not necessarily healthier lives. The end of one’s life may include more intensive care, further demanding the time and energy of the sandwich generation who is caught between their parents and children. The increased life expectancy has led to another possibility—the club sandwich generation. The club sandwich refers to people who are assisting their ageing parents, while also being involved in their children’s, and grandchildren’s lives.
Four living generations is no longer a rare scenario.
It is now possible for families to have two generations who are both in their senior years at the same time! The club sandwich can also apply to someone who is in her 40’s who has teenagers at home, while also assisting her 68-year-old parents and her 92-year-old grandparents. A woman in this situation is caring for two senior generations simultaneously, while also raising her own family.
Add to this the pressures of working from home, parenting, homeschooling, marriage, personal life, and personal health—no wonder there is concern about the sandwich generation suffering burn-out! Often people feel that they should be able to manage all of the simultaneous caregiving because previous generations managed to do so. In reality, previous generations did not experience the sandwich generation phenomenon to the same degree, and they certainly did not experience club sandwich generations or a pandemic!
Recognizing the unique challenges faced by today’s sandwich generation - especially in such unique times, will help to alleviate guilt and replace the sense of “I should be able to do this” with “where can I find meaningful assistance?". Acknowledging that you cannot do it all alone and that you deserve assistance is the first step. There are services available to help so that you don't have to this all alone!
Caring for your own health and well-being is crucial!
Managing to eat healthy meals, and getting exercise needs to be a personal priority, not just something to do if you have time left over—because there is never time left over. If you are feeling completely stressed and burned out, you are not in the best condition to care for loved ones.
Instead, think about accepting homecare assistance so that you are able to lead a balanced lifestyle that cares for you too! Put support systems in place to assist you in caring for your parents and grandparents. A loving companion aide might be just the solution to support your parents while caring for your health at the same time.
With support systems set in place, you can avoid burn out, and enjoy your free time for some personal self-care or a well-needed vacation.
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.
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!
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!
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!
thank you for the email.. it has been quite some time since I received your emails. I found this exercise information interesting. I just started the wellness program for diabetics at the Y and am slowly getting more active again.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
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,
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.
June is Seniors’ month, and it’s the perfect time to recognize and appreciate seniors! Seniors prove that aging doesn’t need to prevent anyone from leading fulfilling lives, instead they outline that aging enhances life experiences.
Every day seniors are breaking the mold by leading fulfilling lives! So, let’s put to rest those negative stereotypes when it comes to aging. Instead, we should all celebrate and appreciate the contributions that seniors are making in our communities.
Seniors are an important part of our community because they contribute their wisdom, friendship and experiences. As a community, it is our responsibility to ensure that we create an environment where all citizens are valued and respected throughout the life process.
How do we create that environment?
The key to creating this environment is prioritizing intergenerational opportunities, between the young and the old. When we create intergenerational opportunities, we are creating this space where seniors have the ability to pass along their wisdom and advice to generations. This environment then breaks down barriers between generations and puts to rest negative stereotypes that surround aging. When those barriers are removed, open and honest conversations are shared between different generations. When founded upon mutual respect, intergenerational learning can be deeply impactful for everyone involved!
Why is celebrating our Seniors so important?
When we celebrate our seniors, we are affirming that their contributions are ever so important to the fabric of our communities. Without our seniors’ accomplishments, our communities would not be what they are today!
This June, in honour of Seniors’ month, make an effort to spend time with someone who is from a different generation than you—or maybe even two or three generations! Pause, and truly listen, and learn from each other and you will reap the rewards of intergenerational sharing.
Here at Warm Embrace Elder Care, we want to thank all of the wonderful seniors that we see on a daily basis. We are continually learning from you and are enlightened by your viewpoints. It is an honour to serve you!