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4 Ways to Achieve Well-being

What is "well-being"? 

Well-being is all about having a positive outlook on life, maintaining a purpose despite stress or loss, having a realistic sense of control over one’s life, and having a strong sense of self. These conditions are not constant but instead fluctuate constantly. It is possible to achieve a sense of well-being even amidst declining health.

 

young lady watching a hazy sunset

 

But how is well-being achieved?

 

Some practical ways to achieve well-being would be eating well, exercising, drinking less alcohol, not smoking, and stimulating your mind. But there are also other ways to achieve well-being!

 

1. Being Optimistic

Optimism is about taking “the sourest lemon life has to offer and then turning it into something resembling lemonade.” Optimism is often associated with happiness or with a positive person but it is much more than that! Practicing optimism has shown to build resiliency, increase goal achievement and increase overall well-being.

2. Being Grateful 

Dr. Peter Naus – an advocate for positive views on ageing – says to be sure to “count what you have, and not what you lack,” and by doing so you are one step closer to achieving well-being. Gratitude impacts well-being positively because it has shown to reduce anxiety and increase positive emotions. It is a powerful experience to count what you already have rather than focusing on what you don’t have!

 

3. Seeking Adventure

Believe it or not, old-age can be a time for adventure. In the midst of an adventure, you can discover new insights and experiences!  Simply having a vision and a dream can inspire you to experience new adventures – big or small – these memories will hold value, novelty and positive emotions. Dr. Naus encourages us to live well at every stage of life and remember that it is never too late for a change! 

 

4. Sharing Wisdom

Sharing wisdom creates a sense of purpose and meaning for many retired seniors! Wisdom is developed over time as you gain insight, practice good judgment and most of all live through varying experiences.

 

elderly lady wearing a floral blouse and glasses

 

There are pervasive negative connotations throughout Canadian society regarding ageing. There is a strong market for “anti-ageing” products and services, but the term alone is problematic. By deeming a product or service “anti-ageing” it is suggestive that there is an inherent problem with ageing.

 

However, the wisest group in Canadian society is our ageing population! As wisdom is passed down to younger generations, the experience of ageing becomes purposeful and meaningful. Even though abilities may change, health may fluctuate and losses may occur, prioritizing your personal well-being can truly lead to you living your best life.  

 

Seniors are valued for the wisdom they can share with others. They are living proof that ageing is not synonymous with being sick and helpless. Instead, old age can be a time for deep fulfillment and pleasure, a time for personal well-being! 

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Your Role in Creating an Inclusive Community

Inclusion is a hot topic and a very important one for our elderly population. It emphasizes the importance of inviting the active participation of all citizens, including our elderly population, into our social fabric. Our current social fabric has changed with the pandemic making it difficult for seniors to be active participants. It’s important we protect our elderly population by practicing social distancing and by wearing PPE, but we must also take next steps to protect their wellbeing.

 

Social Isolation and Loneliness 

 

Studies have found that social isolation and loneliness are major risk factors linked to increased blood pressure, heart disease, diminished immune system, depression, anxiety, and poor cognitive functioning. Social isolation has a profound impact on older adults' health and wellbeing!

 

The Canadian Network for the Prevention of Elder Abuse (CNPEA) has reported (before COVID-19) that:

  • Being socially isolated is a common affliction among older adults. More than 30% of Canadian seniors are at risk of becoming socially isolated.
  • Isolation and loneliness are as bad for your health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
  • And, social isolation can put seniors at increased risk for elder abuse.

 

What can you do to help?

 

1. Welcome your elderly loved one into the online world

 

black and white photo of an elderly lady with glasses sitting on a bench using her cellphone

 

Don’t assume your elderly loved one can’t use a smartphone, tablet or computer, instead encourage them by writing out instructions so they can connect online with their friends and loved ones. They will pleasantly surprise you! When they get the hang of it pay attention to their feedback and advocate for technological improvements.

 

Technology is a powerful tool but it needs improvement to include everyone – not just the abled. It’s time for developers and creators to involve older adults and family caregivers in the creation process. There are millions of apps out there but the majority of them aren’t suited for the elderly. The first step, you can take is leaving reviews on google or the app store.

 

 

2. Advocate for an age-friendly community

 

Being age-friendly means that there are no barriers to accessing services in the community, regardless of age or ability. A city that is designed to include and be accessible for its elderly residents is automatically factoring in the needs of its younger population.

 

For example, if a community is accessible for someone using a walker or wheelchair, it is also accessible to a parent pushing a stroller. The examples that we think of quickly are usually about physical accommodation such as ramps, wider doorways, longer crosswalk signals, accessible parking etc. You can advocate by attending virtual town halls, writing emails to your local MP, and voting at the next municipal elections.

 

3. Challenge ageist stereotypes and bias

 

Dr. John Lewis, professor at the University of Waterloo, points out that currently, one-quarter of Waterloo Region’s population is age 55 plus. That number is only going to increase in the next few decades. It is not acceptable that there are ageist prejudices towards 1/4 of our population! If we want to have a community that is inclusive to all members, it needs to be designed to suit those who are age 55 and older.

 

Often, these issues relate directly to coping with ageism. Ageism is the stereotyping of and prejudices against someone because of their age. It might include automatically treating someone in a certain way, just because they appear to be a senior.

 

For example, assuming someone is hard of hearing because they have gray hair is an ageist stereotype. Another example is the way that professionals often speak about a senior to their family members, as though the senior is not even in the room! The conversation should be directed to the relevant person, regardless of age.

 

Age is just a number. There are stories online of incredible seniors thriving in their 80s and even 90s! For example, Gladys Burrill at the age of 86 completed her first Honolulu Marathon. She was also a world traveller, a licensed pilot, an avid hiker and a prolific gardener. Read stories online and share them on social media to challenge ageism and other stereotypes. 

 

4. Respect and include those with Dementia

 

black and white portrait of an elderly man with glasses

 

In addition to physical challenges, some people experience cognitive changes. These people deserve the same level of respect and inclusion as all other members of society. Brenda Hounam, dementia advocate and spokesperson, highly advises communicating about dementia itself. Rather than hiding her challenges with dementia, she has decided to be very public and make others aware of her disease.

 

Hounam suggests that people “open the doors for communication—just ask”. She feels that it is much better to ask for clarification and to communicate clearly with someone who has dementia; do not just make assumptions. She asks that people do more than just listen; she wants people to truly hear and validate what she is saying. Hounam’s overarching message is that “we are all unique, and we all have something to contribute until the last breath.”

 

Being inclusive and respectful of all citizens—regardless of age, ability, or illness—better allows us to fully acknowledge and appreciate the contributions of all members of society.

 

5. Encourage community and support

 

Your elderly loved one is socially distancing but they don't have to be socially isolated! Reach out to your loved one regularly by chatting on phone or by setting up a safely distanced date. If you can't visit them in person, try contacting an organization for support. At Warm Embrace Elder Care, there are wonderful caregivers who can safely visit your elderly loved one! Our caregivers wear PPE and encourage proper nutrition, physical exercise and mental stimulation.

 

During this pandemic, social distancing has become a safety protocol but it shouldn't have to coincide with social isolating. Let's take the necessary steps together to protect our elderly population. If you have questions or comments, write a comment below or contact us!

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10 Life Choices You Can Make to Protect Your Heart

February is all about hearts. . . but not just the cupid and chocolate kind of hearts. It’s also heart awareness month as the Heart and Stroke Foundation promotes heart health and disease prevention.

 

Did you know that every seven minutes someone in Canada dies from heart disease or stroke? And 32% of all deaths are attributed to heart disease or stroke? With heart disease this rampant, it is bound to affect you personally through someone that you know.

 

Here are the Top 10 healthy living choices you can make to help prevent heart disease

 

1. If you smoke, become smoke-free.

 

2. Be aware of your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels and keep them in the healthy range.

 

a person walking upstairs

 

3. Engage in regular physical activity for a minimum of 150 minutes weekly– choose activities you find fun so you’ll stick with them. Bouts of 10 minutes of exercise at a time count toward your 150 weekly minutes.

 

Research conducted by Dr. Poulin with women over 65 demonstrated that active women have 10% lower blood pressure and 10% higher brain function on cognitive tests. The active women were engaged in aerobic activity, such as walking, for at least 150 minutes per week.

 

4. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight loss of 5-10% of your current weight can have significant health benefits.

 

5. Consume at least five servings of vegetables and fruits per day by including vegetables with every meal and fruit for dessert. Boomers are notorious for failing to eat enough fruit and veggies; 80% of all boomers do not eat the recommended five veggies daily.

 

6. Develop and maintain personal relationships to help reduce any stress that can lead to unhealthy habits such as overeating and lack of physical activity.

 

7. Choose lean meat, fish, poultry and meat alternatives such as beans along with low-fat milk.

 

a healthy salmon sandwich

 

8. Include a small amount of soft non-hydrogenated margarine, vegetable oils and nuts each day.

 

9. Make at least half of your grain products whole grain each day.

 

10. Choose foods that are lower in sodium and limit the amount of salt you add in cooking or at the table. Begin using fresh herbs or spices to flavour your food, rather than depending on salt.

 

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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Safety Tips for Winter Walking

One of the best ways to avoid the winter blues is to get out and be active while enjoying some of the beauty of winter. Winter walking is great for physical activity as well as providing relief from cabin fever. Winter walking must be taken seriously though and approached carefully.

 

Over 12,000 Ontarians land in the hospital each year from falling on the ice. Half of these falls occur in January or February—apparently the two most slippery months of the year. One-third of those falls happened to people who were age 60-79 and resulted in an average hospital stay of 7.6 days.

 

 

What you might not expect to find out, is that another one-third of those falls happened to people who were 40–59 years old, and their average hospital stay was 3.6 days. Fall prevention, especially in the winter, is not just an issue that affects the elderly. Winter safety is important for any Canadian who is willing to venture out into the cold!


Here are some basic safety tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this winter.
 

Footwear: good quality winter boots are essential! They need to be waterproof and insulated, have a thick and non-slip tread, have low and wide heels, and be light in weight.
 

Ice grippers: you can attach ice grippers to the bottoms of your boots for added grip on hard-packed snow and ice. Warning: the grippers are terribly slippery on smooth surfaces like tile, stone, or ceramic. You should always be seated when attaching the ice grippers to the bottom of your boots.
 

Hip Protector: wear a hip protector when walking outdoors. A hip protector is a lightweight belt or pants that have shields to guard the hips to give you added protection should a fall occur.


Carry sand: carry a small bag of grit, sand, salt, cat litter—in your pocket or purse so that if you must cross a particularly icy section you can sprinkle some grit first.

 

Cane or Urban Poles: use a cane, a set of Urban Poles, or ski poles to help with balance. Attach an ice pick to the end of your cane or poles for added stability.

 

Buddy System: walk with a friend or family member. Canadian winters are unpredictable and for your safety, you should always walk with another person. Let others know which route you will be taking and when you expect to be home again. 

 

Resort to the Indoors: in the truly Canadian winter storms, exercise indoors. Utilize an indoor walking track where there will be no ice or snow for you to battle.

 

Triple Vitality: enroll in the one-on-one exercise program offered by Warm Embrace Elder Care—right in the comfort of your own home! You can remain safe and warm at home while still maintaining your fitness and mobility.


Have a safe and happy winter!

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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 take a warm bath, or play an instrument, or read a book.  It doesn’t matter what you choose to do; it matters that you take time for yourself and prioritize your own self-care.

 

tea cup, book and blanket on couch

 

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 ones.  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 burnout.  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.

 

couple holding hands

 

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 are 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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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?

elderly woman's hands

 

In the past, this might have been called “hoarding”.  But

 “hoarding” has a negative connotation and is quite different than what is happening to 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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Surviving the Holidays when you’re grieving

For many people, the holidays can be hard enough as it is. But if you have lost a loved one in the past year(s), then this holiday season might be particularly difficult.

 

blue Christmas tree

This is the year to eliminate the stress of all those commitments.

 

Below are the top 5 strategies to help you survive this season.

1. AVOID COMMITMENTS

 

Decline invitations for events that aren't particularly meaningful for you personally. For invitations that you would like to accept, only make conditional acceptances—you will attend IF you are feeling well that day, and don't commit to bringing or contributing anything. 

 

Schedule personal time for yourself. You will need periods of personal rejuvenation to give you the strength to socialize. Grief is a roller-coaster and unfortunately, you cannot predict when you will feel like socializing, and when you would prefer to be alone. Grant yourself the freedom to make last-minute decisions based on how you are feeling at the moment, rather than feeling locked into any specific commitment.

 

2. REDUCE DECISION-MAKING

 

You may feel like you are in a fog; everything is cloudy. Even simple decisions have become laborious. The holiday season is full of decisions to be made. This year, offer yourself the relief of reducing as many of those decisions as possible. Ask a trusted loved one to help you with decisions, or remove yourself from stressful situations that require decision making.

 

Avoid shopping. Shopping is rife with decisions—from the moment you arrive at the mall and need to find a parking space to the point where you’re selecting a check-out lane, you are forced to make decisions that are exhausting. It's okay to take a year off from gift-giving. Selecting gifts (even when shopping online), can seem unbearably overwhelming. Maybe you’d like to give gifts at a different time during the year when you don’t feel as stressed. 

 

Even the small decisions add up. Decisions that seem inconsequential —which wrapping paper to use, where to string lights, red sprinkles or green—can begin to accumulate and feel overwhelming. By eliminating as many of these details as possible, you will be reserving your strength for the more important elements like seeing people who are important to you and allowing yourself to heal as you grieve.

 

The people who love you most will understand and they will likely be relieved to know that you are sparing yourself the stress of shopping and wrapping. They will feel honoured that you trust them to understand.

 

3. ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR EMOTIONS

 

This holiday season needs to be about you and the others most affected by your loss. Remember—it is okay to cry. It is okay to not be as merry or joyful as others around you. Acknowledge to yourself how you are truly feeling at a given moment, and grant yourself the freedom to react to those feelings in whatever way you need. 

 

Crying is allowed, even at happy moments. You will not ruin the holidays for anyone else by shedding tears. Smiling and laughing are also allowed. You may feel moments of joy or happiness; enjoy those moments and savour them. You don't need to feel guilty for having happy or sad moments.

 

You might discover that there are certain times of the day or week that are particularly difficult for you. Allow yourself the freedom to take that time as personal grieving time, and let others know that those times are challenging for you. Your feelings will fluctuate, and that is expected. Acknowledging those feelings and allowing yourself to experience the range of emotions will assist you in your journey of healing.

 

4. ENLIST THE HELP OF OTHERS


Enlist the help of others, both for holiday-specific tasks, and just daily living tasks. Delegate anything you can—grocery shopping, cleaning, running errands, cooking, etc. Others may offer to help, but they don’t know what to do specifically.

 

It may also be helpful to let others know how you are feeling so that they don’t inadvertently pressure you. Let others know about your preferences. Family and friends will not know if you prefer to do holidays exactly as you previously did, or if you want everything to be different. Either option is perfectly fine, just let others know what is best for you this year.

 

5. HONOUR YOUR LOVED ONE

 

It's important that you acknowledge the loved one who has passed away in a way that is meaningful to you. There are countless ways to do this, and they can be as unique as you and your connection to your loved one. Select something that is meaningful to you.

 

For instance, incorporate parts of traditions that were meaningful to your loved one—favourite foods or music or decorations. Create new traditions that include elements of your loved one’s personality or values. Light special candles, hang a meaningful ornament, play an important song, watch a favourite movie.

scrap book and polaroid pictures

 

If you’re ready, you might 

decide to look through photo albums, create a scrapbook, read/write letters, etc. Create something tangible in honour of your loved one—sew a quilt, paint, write poetry, carve wood, weld metal, blow glass, whatever your medium is you can create an expression of love.

 

Honouring your loved one may take many different forms and may change from year to year. The important part is that you and your family always know that your loved one was—and still is—a vital member of your family.

 

Grief is a journey. It is not a race. It cannot be fast-forwarded or skipped. Although you may be comforted in knowing that your loved one is in a better place, that does not take away your pain. Your grief demonstrates the love you had for that person, and the way you grieve will be unique—just like your relationship with that person was unique. Although the journey is difficult with many ups and downs, it is a healing process.

 

May you find peace and comfort this holiday season as you respect your own personal needs and honour the person you miss so dearly.

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Holiday Traditions

 

It’s no secret that the holiday season has become increasingly stressful this year for several reasons. In the midst of all the wild events happening in our world, there's still this pressure to orchestrate a picture-perfect holiday dinner.  As we all scroll on Pinterest boards for inspiration, we adding more tasks to our to-do lists for the perfect Instagram worthy Christmas party.

 

a Christmas tree with gold ornaments.

 

While some people may enjoy making detailed desserts that look like a Martha Stewart display or the hours of Christmas shopping, many others find it stressful. According to the mental health charity called, Mind, at least 1 in 10 people struggle to cope with the pressure of having the "perfect Christmas."

 

I am sure if you ask your grandparents what Christmas used to be like, I’ll bet they would tell you a different story.  If they were of the generation that lived through the depression era, you can be certain that there was very little—if any—Christmas shopping to be done.

 

Let's take a pause, a breath and reflect on what matters the most. This holiday season doesn't have to be stressful, you can change that by adopting these three tips inspired by our elders.  

 

1. Focus was on being together with loved ones and participating in activities together. 

 

Rather than rushing around trying to have everything in perfect order, focus on doing fun things together as a family. You can play board games, share funny stories around the dining room table, bake homemade goods together, watch funny and heartfelt Christmas movies, and so on. If you can't be with your family physically this year, you can always connect online.

 

a young family decorating a christmas tree

 

2. Simplicity is key

 

Decorations were much simpler years ago! Popcorn was strung and used as a garland hung outside for the birds to enjoy. Fruit featured prominently in décor—orange peels were used creatively as little baskets, or peels were dried and cut into shapes. These simple traditions are low-cost and allow everyone to focus on quality time together, rather than stressing about fancy décor.

 

3. Take a breath and slow down

 

Perhaps this year you can slow down the pace of the holiday season by practicing the art of saying no. You don't have to do it all, you don't have to host a family dinner again, and most of all it doesn't have to be picture perfect. Be present, slow down, and enjoy the everyday moments. Enjoy your fresh cup of coffee an extra five minutes, read your favourite book in the evening snuggled in a warm blanket, cuddle your furry friend, or whatever helps you to slow down from the holiday rush. 

 

What I've learned from our clients is that there's something special about holiday traditions. Maybe it's time to slow down and revert to some time-honoured traditions from your grandparents’ era.

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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.

 

older man walking in the autumn weather

 

How do falls impact seniors?

 

Unintentional falls are the leading cause of injury for Ontarians aged 65 and over. About 20 to 30% of seniors experience 1 or more falls each year. 

 

Falls cause:

  • 85 % of seniors' injury-related hospitalizations
  • 95 % of all hip fractures 
  • 50% of all falls causing hospitalization happens at home

  • Over 1/3 of seniors are admitted to long-term care following hospitalization for a fall

  • The average Canadian seniors stay in the hospital 10 days longer for falls than any other cause
  • Falls result in chronic pain, reduced mobility, loss of independence and even death 

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 you 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.

 

Eyesight – Vision is an important part of balance and good vision helps to prevent falls. Your elderly loved one could be experiencing vision loss or a condition, such as macular degeneration which is not a part of normal ageing. Everyone who is over the age of 65 should have their vision checked every year. 

 

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! 

 

someone wearing orange running shoes and walking upstairs

 

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. At Warm Embrace elder care, our caregivers can help encourage and motivate your elderly loved one to stay active through our program called Tiered Exercise Program.

 

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.

 

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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Why do Seniors Fall?

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-related hospitalizations 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.

 

dark hospital room

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:

 

  • Loose carpets/rugs
  • Poor lighting
  • Unstable chairs
  • Steep stairs
  • 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
  • Vestibular dysfunction
  • Cognitive impairment
  • Neuropathy (abnormal sensory feedback)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Edema/swelling
  • Pain and foot drop
  • Weakness and tightness
  • Decreased flexibility
  • Slowed reflexes and balance disorder 

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.

 

older man walking on street and he is wearing a mask

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. 

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