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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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November is Fall Prevention Month!

 

In 2014, a number of organizations across Canada came together to promote a campaign called Fall Prevention Month. During the month of November, this campaign encourages organizations and individuals to come together to coordinate fall prevention efforts for a larger impact. The goal is to collectively raise awareness about fall prevention strategies and to help everyone see their role in keeping older adults safe, active, independent and healthy.

 

What are the impacts of falls?

 

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury for Ontarians aged 65 and over.

 

 

Recovering from a fall can be very difficult and with an increasing number of falls, it is important we take measures to prevent them.

 

How can we prevent falls?

 

The good news is that falls are preventable injuries! There are five key factors that caregivers and seniors should consider in order to prevent falls.

 

1) Eyesight – vision is an important part of balance and good vision helps to prevent falls. Everyone who is over the age of 65 should have their vision checked every year.

 

2) Your home – if you have clutter on your floors or stairs, it increases the chance of tripping and/or slipping. Make sure cords, scattered rugs, pet toys, books, etc. are in their proper place. Also, if your home is dark it increases the chance of falling, especially on stairs. Make sure to create a space that is well-lit!

 

 

3) Exercise – the most important thing you can do to prevent falls is to stay and remain strong! Walking, fishing, gardening, tai chi. Light yoga – whatever you enjoy! – do it to increase activity levels.

 

4) Medication – some medications cause dizziness on their own, or when mixed with others. It’s important to properly manage your health! Always take medication as directed and ask your pharmacist to review them if you are taking more than 2 medications.

 

5) Eating a healthy diet – Vitamin D and calcium help to keep strong bones. A diet to include more greens, lean protein, and less sugar will help you in remaining strong. You may want to talk to your doctor about supplements or other alternatives.

 

Most of all, don’t do it alone! It takes a community to prevent a fall and we all have a role to play. Here at Warm Embrace, we have a wonderful team of caregivers who can help you and your loved one to remain safe at home.

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Collecting versus Hoarding

 

Your parents recently moved into a retirement home and you were relieved they’d now have three proper meals per day. With your mother’s progressing dementia, she hadn’t been cooking for quite some time.

 

There’s only one problem.

 

Your mom has been bringing her purse to the dining room where she stashes extra food!  She takes it back to their room and hides the food and you’ve been finding it in various states of science-experiment decay!

 

What is happening?

 

In the past, this might have been called “hoarding”.  But “hoarding” has a negative connotation and is quite different than what is happening for your mom.  A more suitable term might be “collecting”.

 

Her new behaviour is not unusual and it makes sense when you consider what is happening in her brain.

 

The drive or instinct to gather is a hard-wired human instinct.  Humans have been hunters and gatherers for millennia.  We have the instinct to gather food beyond what we immediately need to prepare for future hunger.

 

In modern society, most of us are blessed enough that we don’t have to worry about our next meal. With 24/7 grocery stores, we have access to food at any time.  But for your mother who has dementia, that option is not as viable.

 

First of all, she likely grew up in an era where stores were not open 24/7.  Secondly, she may feel particularly vulnerable that she has no way of accessing food at any given time—she likely cannot drive, she likely wouldn’t know how to get to the closest grocery store, she might not even have access to money to purchase food.  Her instinct to gather food that is available actually makes perfectly good sense.  She is gathering food because she doesn’t know where her next meal is coming from.

 

But wait!” you say. “She has three full meals daily with access to a coffee bar that has muffins and cookies and fruit—she’s never left hungry. Of course, she knows where her next meal is coming from!

 

Your response is perfectly logical.  Remember, though, that her brain’s ability to be logical is diminished.  If she has dementia, she may not remember yesterday clearly enough to remember that she did, indeed, receive three full meals.  She can’t use yesterday’s experience to reassure herself that she will likely receive three meals today.

From her perspective, she is suddenly in this new place that doesn’t yet feel familiar.

 

 

There is no kitchen that she can see. She doesn’t recall the delicious dinner she had last night. No wonder she is concerned about where her next meal is coming from!  On top of all that, one of the deeper portions of her brain—the Amygdala—continues to send out hunger-gathering instincts for self-preservation.

 

Instead of considering her behaviour to be “hoarding” and problematic, understand that she is doing her best to provide for herself and meet her most basic human needs.

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Living with Macular Degeneration

 

Did you know that vision loss is not a part of normal aging? Normal aging might include changes in your vision, but the loss of vision altogether is not a normal part of aging. Normal aging includes changes to the body that all people will experience, provided they live long enough. Changes to hair—such as hair loss, or hair turning white/gray—is a normal part of aging. Everyone’s hair will eventually turn colour and become thinner if they live long enough. Macular degeneration, by contrast, is not a normal part of aging because it is not inevitable that someone will eventually experience macular degeneration.

 

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of vision loss for people over age 50. It affects 15% of people over age 50; it affects 30% of those over age 75. AMD is a serious condition because it can severely impair someone’s sight as it progresses.

 

The macula is an area of the eye that is responsible for detail vision. It is the bull’s-eye of the retina, and it is what allows people to read. The macula is essential for the detail vision necessary for reading; the rest of the retina cannot read; only the macula can read. If the macula is severely impaired, the ability to read will disappear; larger or stronger glasses won’t solve the problem as only the macula can provide the detail necessary for reading.

 

There are two types of macular degeneration—dry and wet.

 

Dry AMD is much more common, accounting for 85% of all AMD cases. Its impact is less severe because those with dry AMD typically only lose 10-20% of their vision.  Wet AMD is less common, but its impacts are more severe. Only 15% of those with AMD experience the wet version, but they will typically lose 80-90% of their vision and become legally blind.

 

Dry AMD always precedes wet AMD. Sometimes people ignore symptoms and by the time they see an ophthalmologist, the dry AMD has become wet and is much more severe. With dry AMD, the peripheral vision is maintained and will not be lost. The visual detail provided by the macula is what may be affected. Reading will become difficult, but most people will not become blind as a result of dry AMD alone. In fact, only 5% of people with dry AMD will progress to vision that measures as legally blind, and that typically requires 10 years of progression. Dry AMD typically progresses quite slowly.

 

What are the risk factors for AMD?

 

Heredity — almost half of all AMD cases are genetic. It isn’t as simple as having a specific gene; it is a series of genes that are responsible for AMD.


Smoking — increases risk by 3-4 times the rate of a non-smoker. Smoking also increases the risk of wet AMD. Combine the hereditary risk with smoking, and the risk rises to 34%!


Age — while you cannot control the risk factor of age, you can control sun exposure. AMD is the wearing out of the macula. Overexposure to the sun can expedite this process.

 

Nutrition maintaining excellent nutrition is important for eye health. Once diagnosed with AMD, patients are advised to eat a nutrient-rich diet that is high in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants (or supplement as needed). When patients follow this regimen, there is a 25% reduction in vision loss.

 

Wet AMD — if someone has wet AMD in one eye, they have a 50% risk of also developing AMD in the other eye.

 

Those with AMD are well aware of vision changes and how that impacts detail activities such as reading or needlework. What people underestimate is how AMD can impact practical elements of day-to-day living and increase risk in other areas of life.

 

 

Older adults with vision loss have:

  • Twice as much difficulty with day-to-day living compared to their peers
  • Twice the risk of falling
  • Three times the risk of depression (often linked to the loss of reading ability, a key enjoyment activity for many people)
  • Four times the risk of a hip fracture

Vision loss affects more than just vision! With increased risk of falls, fractures, depression, and difficulty with daily living, someone’s life could be severely impacted.

 
How do you prevent AMD?
 

Regular eye exams are crucial to ensure that AMD or any other vision concerns are detected early and treated in the most effective ways possible. Of Canadians who do not wear glasses, 50% have not had their eyes checked in the past 5 years, if ever! Even if someone does not wear glasses, they should still visit an optometrist occasionally to check eye health.

 

If you know a senior with vision loss who is at risk of falls, fractures, depression or having trouble with daily tasks, we can help! 

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The Answer is Always “Yes And…”

 

What does exceptional dementia care have in common with an Improv Drama 101 Class?

In both cases you should never say “no”.  Instead you say “yes and...

 

Drama workshops will have participants interact in a group. One person starts the conversation and activity.  It’s up to the next person to carry it on and not let the dialogue or action fall flat.  If in doubt, you respond with “yes and...”

 

If the first drama participant says “did you see that dog run past?” and the second participant responds with “no” it completely shuts down the improv drama.  Instead, the second participant is supposed to respond “yes and I think he was chasing a cat.” This creates an opportunity to keep the conversation going. The first participant now has something to build on. “Oh really? I hope it wasn’t my cat he was chasing.” Now the second participant can build on that “Oh you have cat? What type?” and the conversation continues.

 

Believe it or not, this skill set is highly useful in advanced dementia care. Those two simple words can open up an entire world of dialogue, just as though it were an improv class.

 

When someone has advanced dementia, their brain operates differently than your brain.  Someone with dementia cannot match your thinking, but if you try to understand what they are perceiving, you have the chance to tap into their world just a little bit.

 

When your mother with advanced dementia declares “I got married last weekend you know.” You might be tempted to respond with the facts: “No mom. You got married 61 years ago and you haven’t been to a wedding in years.”  You are factually correct, but you have also lost the opportunity to have a great conversation.  Your mother might even become agitated trying to get you to understand her perspective.

 

The conversation will be far more effective when you use the drama concept of “yes and.

 

Instead, when your mother says “I got married last weekend you know,” you might reply: “yes, and I’ll bet you were a beautiful bride.” Instead of focusing on the facts on when the wedding took place, you’re answering in a way that promotes conversation.  Your mother might just sigh wistfully and say “I think I was…”  If she’s enjoying this reminiscing, go with it: “yes, and did you wear a veil? What did it look like?” guide your mother down memory lane, and if the memories are embellished, that’s okay too!

 

However your mother remembers a happy moment is hers to have; facts are less critical than feelings. The “yes and” concept can be applied in many situations and it’s not limited to just “yes and…”   It’s the concept that counts.  In many cases, asking questions can be very helpful to better understand the reality that your loved one is living in that moment.

 

When your mother asks “Who are the children that are playing in the yard?” and you look out the window and don’t see anyone and say “No one is there Mom. I don’t see anyone,” the conversation ends and you lose the opportunity to see her reality at that moment.  In this case, more questions might work better than “yes and.”

 

 

You might respond: “Oh, what are the children playing?” and see where it takes you.  It gives the chance to have a conversation that matches your mother’s world and reality. She may reply: “I think they’re playing hopscotch.”  Again, a question might be helpful: “Is that right….do you recall how to play hopscotch? I haven’t played in years! Want to try?”   The next thing you know, you’re having a discussion about hopscotch or something else from a walk down memory lane. It’s a precious moment that would have been lost without the improv-style interaction.

 

When you’re interacting with someone who has advanced dementia and they may be trying to communicate something to you that doesn’t match your reality, or that doesn’t align with your recollection of an event, pause and use the “yes and…” strategy to explore your loved one’s memory.  What matters most at that moment? Is it correcting the “facts” of a story, or sharing a moment of connecting emotionally and gaining a glimpse into your loved one’s reality?

 

 

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Family Caregiver Bill of Rights

 

Family caregiving includes a broad scope of activities. It is not only hands-on personal care, though that can certainly be part of family caregiving. Also included are activities like driving to doctor’s appointments, running errands, cleaning the house, doing laundry, cooking meals, sorting the mail, paying bills, setting up appointments, etc. A primary family caregiver may not be doing all of these activities, but they may oversee the completion of these tasks and arrange to have assistance in these areas.

 

Family caregiving can also happen from a distance when family members are spread out across a province, or even across the continent. Although the caregiver is not physically present all of the time, they feel the primary responsibility for the care of their loved one, and so they are the advocate and spend many hours on the phone or on email arranging help across the country.

 

 

The role of the family caregiver can be incredibly exhausting and sometimes rather lonely. People often do not know where to turn for assistance and attempt to manage everything on their own.

 

Often, this may not be a realistic goal as the care of their loved one may be too demanding for any individual to take on single-handedly, and so to preserve the health and mental wellness of everyone involved, it may be best to enlist the help of others—be it other family and friends, the LHIN, or a private agency. To advocate for the health and wellness of family caregivers (who are often too busy advocating for their loved one to speak for themselves!), we at Warm Embrace Elder Care have provided a Family Caregiver Bill of Rights.

 

FAMILY CAREGIVER BILL OF RIGHTS:  I HAVE THE RIGHT…

 

To take care of myself. This is not an act of selfishness. It will give me the capability of taking better care of my loved one.


To seek help from others even though my relatives may object. I recognize the limits of my own endurance and strength.


To maintain facets of my own life that do not include the person I care for, just as I would if he or she were healthy. I know that I do everything that I reasonably can for this person, and I have the right to do some things just for myself.


To get angry, be depressed, and express other difficult feelings occasionally.


To reject any attempts by my loved one (either conscious or unconscious) to manipulate me through guilt, and/or depression.


To receive consideration, affection, forgiveness, and acceptance for what I do from my loved one, for as long as I offer these qualities in return.


To take pride in what I am accomplishing and to applaud the courage it has sometimes taken to meet the needs of my loved one.


To protect my individuality and my right to make a life for myself that will sustain me in the time when my loved one no longer needs my full-time help.


To expect and demand that as new strides are made in finding resources to aid physically and mentally impaired persons in our country, similar strides will be made towards aiding and supporting Caregivers.

 

… and most of all, TO BE MYSELF

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4 Survival Tips for all Family Caregivers

 

When you think of family caregiving which words come to mind? 

 

 

Burden

Stressful

Sad

Depressing

Exhausting

Frustrating

Honour/devotion

Meaningful

Blessing

Joyful

Humour

Fulfilling

   

 

What creates the difference between the first column experience and the second column?  How can family caregiving be both frustrating but joyful, a burden and a blessing?

 

Here are 4 survival tips to take your family caregiving experience away from the first column and into the second column.

 

1. Take care of yourself

 

 

It may sound trite, but self-care is crucial.  If you don’t care for yourself, you’ll have nothing left over to give to anyone else.  You need to allow yourself time to refuel. How you re-energize will be unique to you; there is no right or wrong answer.  Maybe you exercise, or enjoy dinner out, or attend a rock concert, or read a book, or travel.  It doesn’t matter what you choose to do; it matters that you take time for yourself and prioritize your own self-care.

 

2. Allow yourself to be “off-duty”

 

It is not reasonable to expect yourself—or anyone else for that matter—to work or be on-call 24/7. And yet, when in the midst of family caregiving, people often hold themselves to an unrealistic standard of doing it all, all of the time. You need time when you are not “on-call”.

 

This includes elderly spouses who have assumed the caregiver role and who live together. It can be tough for the caregiving partner to feel “off-duty” when they are at home together with their partner who requires care. Respite care is critical to help both halves of a couple remain healthy—both physically and mentally. 

 

Feeling “off-duty” also applies to family members who are receiving constant phone calls from their elderly loved one.  They need time when they can turn off the ringer and not field any phone calls—a timeframe when they are “off-duty” from repeated calls.

 

3. Enlist support before a crisis emerges

 

 

All too often people will say: “Dad won’t accept help from anyone else, so I have no choice!”  Then a crisis occurs and it is Dad who has no choice—he must accept help from another source because you, the family caregiver, are now experiencing your own health issue related to burn out.  Sure enough, Dad does accept the help, although it might have been a smoother introduction to care had it not been a crisis situation.

 

It will be a kinder transition for your father to accept outside support in a graduated care plan, rather than abruptly. With advance notice and the luxury of time, caregivers can be selected to match your father’s personality and preferences. In a crisis situation, you might have no choice but to get a caregiver—any caregiver—in place the same day.  A more ideal match could have been made with advance planning.

 

Best of all, your burnout can be prevented in the first place! It is far easier to prevent burnout by providing support early on than it is to recover after burnout has occurred. 

 

4. Protect Family Roles and Relationships

 

Caregiving can upset the long-ingrained roles and family dynamics.  A husband who is suddenly thrust into the position of caring for his wife may feel ill-equipped for the role of the family caregiver. He doesn’t feel like a husband. . . he feels like a caregiver.  And she doesn’t feel like a wife. . . she feels like a patient. Their interaction as husband and wife has been interrupted and they begin to interact as patient and caregiver, which may start to stress their marriage.

 

 

It is important that key family roles and relationships are preserved. That couple needs to continue to feel like a married couple.  A parent and child need to preserve their mother-son relationship.  It may be best to let certain elements be provided by a professional caregiver so the family relationships can remain intact. 

 

Family caregivers are SO important to the health and well-being of their loved ones.  It is crucial that their health and sanity is protected.  If the family caregiver burns out, then there are two people requiring care! 

 

The only way to survive family caregiving and find the positive is to take care of yourself, have time that you are “off-duty”, get help in place before it’s too late, and aim to protect family roles and relationships for as long as possible.

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4 Reasons to Leave the Hospital Quickly

 

They’re discharging mom...TODAY?!

 

4 Reasons to Get Elders Out of the Hospital Quickly!

 

Your mom just had surgery and you thought she’d be in the hospital for weeks, but she’s being discharged today! You may feel as though your mother is being pushed out of the hospital door just to make space for the next patient, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

 

Here are four reasons why you don’t want an elderly relative to remain in hospital any longer than necessary:

 

1. Bedrest is TERRIBLE!

 

 

When someone is sick or recovering after surgery, it is tempting to pamper them while they remain in bed all day long, but that is actually the worst thing for recovery.  For every day of bed rest, the frail elderly lose approximately 5% of their mobility.  After only a week of bedrest, they could be down by 35% of their mobility—and they may not have started with 100% prior to surgery. Getting up and out of bed is crucial to retain mobility and strength. Encouraging someone to get up periodically throughout the day will prevent the 5% mobility loss that comes with complete bedrest.

 

2. Hospitals make you sick!

 

The risk of contracting an additional illness while in hospital increases the longer you remain in hospital. Those with weakened immune systems are most likely to contract superbugs such as MRSA or C-difficile which are antibiotic resistant.

These illnesses can cause severe diarrhea which often leads to dehydration, which increases the risk of delirium—the next item on the list.

 

3. Delirium, Dementia or Despair?

 

 

Delirium is a state of confusion that can be mistaken for a sudden case of Alzheimer’s Disease. It is NOT a form of dementia, but it can mimic dementia.  The frail elderly are at high risk of developing delirium in the hospital.

 

Here are some of the risk factors:

  • Medication changes—their regular medication routine may be changed to  help with diagnosis
  • Interrupted sleep—injections in the middle of the night, a nurse checking in, etc.
  • Day/night reversal—orientation to time of day becomes difficult when lights are on all night and circadian rhythm is interrupted.
  • Lack of social interaction—while nurses and doctors may conduct a test or provide care, they cannot remain at a patient’s bedside for hours at a time. The loneliness and sense of isolation can cause the elderly to despair. With a sense of time interrupted, someone may believe they have been abandoned for days.

4. Get back on the john!

 

If an elderly person is at risk of falling or they need assistance, they won’t be permitted to toilet independently.  They can press the buzzer to request help, but hospital staff may not be immediately available. In many cases, it is easier to catheterize a patient to ensure that they are not attempting to get out of bed and risk falling on their way to the bathroom.

 

The longer someone is catheterized, the greater the risk that they will become incontinent. The catheter holds open the muscles that usually contract to block the bladder. Those muscles will essentially become lazy. The catheter might be removed, but the muscles may have lost their ability to retract and no longer be able to contract sufficiently to contain urine.

 

Losing the ability to hold one’s bladder has enormous ramifications. Beyond the increased care needs, someone’s confidence and quality of life can be negatively impacted by incontinence.

 

The hospital is the right spot for someone who is acutely ill or injured, but it’s a terrible place to recover! Returning home as soon as possible will prevent these four risks of a prolonged hospital stay. We can help your loved one remain healthy and well!

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