Don’t be discouraged and let the cabin fever get to you—instead, speed up spring!
One of the best ways to bring spring to you is to start your gardening early—indoors! Rather than waiting on mother nature to cooperate for a display of spring colours, get things started yourself by forcing bulbs.
Indoor gardening is a very accessible way to garden. There is no need to bend over or kneel on the hard ground. Bulbs require very little maintenance or effort. Indoor gardening is a great way to connect with an elderly loved one’s passion and hobby without being overwhelming or too physically demanding. It can also be a great intergenerational activity, drawing children and grandparents—or even great grandparents—together over a common task.
Forcing bulbs indoors mimic the outdoor environment that causes a bulb to grow and bloom. Unlike large, potted house plants, bulbs do not need big pots. A small, shallow dish is sufficient. Many bulbs are easily forced using only water and pebbles, rather than soil, resulting in much easier clean up when gardening indoors. It is also more fun to watch the roots develop and see the bulb change as it grows. New growth development is exciting to see—at any age!
Using your shallow container, fill it half full of pebbles or marbles, then place the bulbs on top of the pebble layer. Gently fill the rest of the container with pebbles or marbles to secure the bulbs in place, but do not completely bury the bulbs. Put enough water in the dish so that the water touches the bottom of the bulb, but do not submerge the bulb in water or it will begin to rot.
The step that is most often overlooked when forcing bulbs is the chilling step. Your freshly “planted” bulbs need to be chilled in a cellar or in the fridge to mimic the winter season. Some bulbs only need a few days of chilling, and others need a much more extended chilling period of several weeks. Be sure to check the specifications on the bulbs that you purchase.
NOTE: Please do NOT store bulbs in an elderly person’s fridge. If that person has dementia or mild cognitive impairment, the bulbs (or pebbles) could be mistaken for other produce. Likewise, if your loved one has impaired vision, the bulbs could appear similar to onions. Senses such as taste and smell become dulled for many people as they age; the smell or bitter taste that might alert you to food being harmful may not alert an elderly loved one.
When roots begin to show you will know that your bulbs are ready to begin their growth cycle and it is time to remove them from the chilling stage. With roots now showing, your bulbs are ready to be moved into warmth and sunlight. You need to introduce them to sunlight slowly, just the way that the spring sunlight is soft at first and then gradually gets warmer. Place your bulbs in a cooler area of your home, away from direct sunlight. When your plants begin to grow and the stems take on a healthy green colour, then it is time to move them to a sunny windowsill to watch the beauty unfold!
In theory, any bulb can be forced to grow indoors, but some varieties are easier to force than others. Paperwhite narcissus grows well indoors and does not require a very long chilling period. They grow well in water and pebbles and are quite fragrant. Amaryllis are very easy to force and the blooms are giant and colourful. They grow so quickly that you can see growth daily.
The warmer the environment, the faster the amaryllis will grow. Once it blooms, it is best to move the plant to a cooler, shaded area for the blooms to last longer, as they can remain for up to a month. Hyacinth and crocus can also be forced and take eight to ten weeks to grow. Although tulips are a favourite spring bloom, they are probably best enjoyed out in the garden as they can be trickier to force and require a long chilling period of sixteen weeks.
Enjoy your head start on spring by forcing your favourite bulbs indoors, and use this easy, timeless, and ageless activity to connect various members of your family. You will have spring beauty unfolding in your own living room—no matter how much snow remains on the ground outside!
You want what is best for your parents, and you worry that they need additional help. Your parents believe that they’re managing just fine on their own.
So, Who decides?
First of all, you need to consider whether your parents are cognitively well and capable of making sound decisions. A “sound decision” is not necessarily a decision you agree with—two people of sound mind can arrive at different decisions!
Capacity to make decisions is based upon someone’s ability to understand the choices with which they are faced, and the consequences of their decisions. For example, as an adult with capacity, you are aware that your chance of winning the lottery is very limited, and yet you choose to spend your hard earned money on a lottery ticket. Someone could say that is an unwise decision because the consequences are not in your favour; however, you understand the risk involved and the likelihood that you will not win. The reason that minors are not permitted to gamble is that they do not fully understand the consequences of their decisions. As a capable adult, you are permitted to make decisions that others might judge to be unwise, but it is your prerogative to do so.
Your parents have the same right. If they have the capacity—meaning they understand their options, and they understand the risk associated with those options—they are entitled to make decisions.
My parents won’t face reality — they won’t decide anything!
While it might appear that your parents aren’t planning because they aren’t changing anything, they might just be sticking with the status quo because they aren’t aware of all possible options. You feel that your parents require more help—have you suggested various sources or types of assistance?
It is possible that your parents view the decision as a dichotomy—living at home and “getting by” as they always have, versus complete institutionalization in a nursing home. While these may be two possible options, there is a myriad of other options that fall somewhere in between!
Help educate your parents on some of the options for assistance that won’t feel like such extremes. If your parents are cognitively well, it is their right to choose the type of care that they feel will best meet their current needs. Engaging your parents in the research and ensuring that they feel in charge of their own decisions will ease the process. When your parents realize that you’re not just trying to force them out of their beloved home (as so many seniors fear!), they might be more open to alternate care options.
To start your research journey, you can learn about some homecare options that emphasize health and wellness.
Top 5 Reasons Families Need a Caregiver for Parents in LTC
Friday, August 17, 2018
You can imagine that someone living in a nursing home wants a regular visitor, but can you think of reasons why their families also benefit?
Here are top 5 reasons that families need a caregiver for their parent in long-term care:
1. To Supplement Family Visits
You know how important it is for your father to have a regular visitor, but you just can’t keep doing it all yourself. You can’t manage your own household and your career while also being at the long-term care home daily. He thrives with one-on-one support, but it can’t be you every day.
Warm Embrace caregivers supplement family visits. We never replace family, but we can provide support when a family cannot be present. We ensure that your loved one has a wonderful day and is in better spirits so you don’t feel guilty about not visiting.
2. Family dynamics
Let’s be honest—your family wasn’t exactly the Brady Bunch (don’t worry, neither was mine!). Deep down, you love your parents and your siblings, but loving someone doesn’t mean you get along well! Decades of history aren't erased just because parents become elderly and require more care. Sometimes, those long-standing family issues become even more emphasized when the patriarch or matriarch becomes ill.
You want the best for your parent, and you believe regular visits would benefit your father. Truth be told, you’re not the best person to be doing the visiting. It may not be the most beneficial for your father, and it definitely won’t be good for you. The kindest thing you can do is provide a visitor who can appreciate your father unconditionally—no strings attached, no history, no family dynamics.
3. Families Spread out Geographically
Today’s families are spread across the country and even across the globe! It is not uncommon to have siblings living in different time zones and various countries. With families at a distance, it can be difficult to visit your parent in a nursing home regularly. A local caregiver can provide the tender, loving care that you wish you could provide, if only you lived closer.
Maybe your siblings visit often and you feel bad that you’re not able to contribute. You can send a substitute on your behalf! Of course, we can’t fill your shoes, but we can provide a visit that alleviates your siblings from feeling like everything has been left up to them.
4. Interrupting Patterns
This fits closely with family dynamics, but it is slightly different. Family dynamics are what happens between people; interrupting patterns has more to do with your parent’s personal pattern. Your parent does not yet have a pattern with us, so we have the chance to have a completely fresh start.
Does your mother have a pattern of complaining every time she sees you? We hear this all the time. Your mother complains endlessly to you, but the nurses tell you that she is a sweetheart to deal with. How is it that she can seem like two different people? Your mother may have an ingrained pattern; when she is with you, she complains about anything and everything.
We can’t promise to change your mother’s pattern. What we can do is interrupt that pattern by starting from scratch. Our visits can remain focused on the positive which will keep her in better spirits and prevent you from feeling frustrated over constantly negative visits.
5. Extended family
Your great-aunt listed you as her Power of Attorney and she’s now been moved into a long-term care home. You visit when you can, but all she talks about is how lonely she is and how she wishes you would visit every day. Your own family and career already keep you busy and now your own parents are starting to need some assistance. . . there’s just no way you can visit your great-aunt as regularly as she’d like.
Having a caregiver visit regularly is the perfect solution for those who do not have a close family. We become their proxy family members. We can visit daily and provide the companionship and stimulation that they are seeking—while alleviating you of the guilt that you can’t visit more often.
Remember—the caregiver who is visiting your parent may be enlisted as much for your sake as for your parent’s sake, and that is perfectly okay. We would be honoured to visit your loved one in Long-term Care!
Why are there Private Caregivers in Nursing Homes?
Friday, August 10, 2018
People are often shocked to realize that Warm Embrace provides service within long-term care homes (previously known as nursing homes). We have numerous clients who live in long-term care homes all across the region—in Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Elmira, even all the way out to Palmerston!
If people move into nursing homes to have everything taken care of, then why do they need a Warm Embrace Caregiver?
One-on-one undivided attention
You might think “there are tons of staff at the nursing home, why would we bring in another caregiver?” You’re absolutely right—there are many staff within long-term care. There are nurses and PSWs, housekeeping staff and maintenance staff, administrative staff and social workers—the list goes on and on! Sure there are many people buzzing around, but none of them are there exclusively for your parent.
People know when a visitor is there just for them, versus someone who is there for the whole group. Staff must pay attention to all the residents; even hired entertainers must try to engage the whole audience. The residents inherently know that those visitors are for everyone. It is no different than attending an event at Centre in the Square—the performance isn’t for you personally, it is for the whole audience.
A personal, private caregiver, by contrast, is there for your parent exclusively. They are not rushing out of the room to assist anyone else; they are not turning away from your parent to converse with someone else. They are there to provide undivided, one-on-one attention. It is amazing to see how people KNOW the difference. Someone with advanced dementia who can no longer speak will absolutely light up when her caregiver arrives—she knows the difference between her personal caregiver and any other visitor who is there for the group.
Matching Individual Needs
Residents in long-term care centres have a huge range of needs. Some people are there because of cognitive needs—their brain has been affected by an illness such as dementia. Others are there due to physical needs such as incontinence or requiring a Hoyer lift for transfer. Others may have a combination of both physical and cognitive needs such as those with Parkinson’s or stroke survivors.
The Activity Director has the very challenging job of trying to find group activities that match as many needs as possible. Naturally, the activity director has to cater to the average so that as many people as possible can participate. However, residents on either end of the spectrum may feel left out. Those who are very sharp mentally may feel that activities are too basic or childish. Those with advanced dementia may find activities too complicated or frustrating.
A caregiver matches the individual needs of the resident whom they are helping. The activity can be scaled to suit the ability of their client so that the client never feels frustrated while also ensuring that the client is not bored or under-challenged. Maintaining just the right level of mental stimulation is a delicate balancing act—one that can be managed by a caregiver who is assigned to meet the needs of just one client at a time.
Managing Behaviours (expressive communication)
Moving into long-term care can be a frightening experience for someone with dementia. Suddenly, everything is different. Routines have changed, the environment has changed, and everything seems to be moving so quickly. Someone with dementia may not be able to articulate how they are feeling. Instead of saying: “I feel frustrated and overwhelmed right now” they may instead act in a way that you’ve never seen before.
Their new behaviour is a form of communication. They are trying to tell you something. . . the hard part is to figure out what they’re trying to say. Nursing home staff who are rushing from resident to resident may not have the time or undivided focus to figure out what your loved one is communicating.
Instead of just seeing “challenging behaviour” we see a form of communication. We consider ourselves to be detectives—we are looking for clues to decode what your parent is attempting to tell us. If we can start to pieces together the clues, we might be able to decode a legend of sorts—a legend that will help interpret future communication.
Nursing homes are large facilities with tons of staff coming and going. Warm Embrace Caregivers work alongside long-term care staff to provide the best possible care for your loved one! As a team, we work to ensure all your parent’s needs are being met. Long-term Care staff may focus on their immediate physical needs but our caregivers will take the extra mile to provide your loved one social and emotional support.
I remember working in a facility and wishing I had more time even just to talk with residents who had stories to share. We just couldn't spread ourselves any thinner. Your service would fill some of that gap.
It’s a beautiful summer day, and you want to enjoy the gorgeous weather with your elderly parent or grandparent; the big question is, what can you do together? While the heat and sunshine sometimes send the elderly indoors, there are safe ways to enjoy the summer weather (in small doses!). Be sure to select days that are not too hot or humid and remain in the shade as much as possible. Drink lots of water and ensure your loved one is wearing a hat and loose-fitting clothing. Once all the precautions to stay cool are in place, you can enjoy some summer fun activities outdoors!
Here is a Top 10 list of activities that will appeal to older generations and that will spark reminiscing of summers gone by.
1. Watch the Sunset at the Beach — regardless of age, watching the sunset shimmering over the water can be relaxing. If your loved one is up for a challenge, go for a walk along the beach and collect seashells, or build a sandcastle. If the beach is too far away, watch the sunset over the Grand River, or the ponds at your local park.
2. Play Miniature Golf — for avid golfers who can no longer handle the demands of an 18-hole golf course, mini-golf is a way to enjoy putting, without the twisting action of driving the ball.
3. Be a Tourist — sometimes, we overlook some of the greatest local attractions, simply because they are right in our own backyard! Pretend to be a tourist in your own community. Take a train tour around Waterloo Region with the Waterloo Central Railway or take a cruise with Grand River Cruise in Caledonia. Tours are a fun way to see your town from a different angle without being required to walk far distances. You might be surprised about what you can learn about your own community!
4. Make Lemonade from Scratch — this would have been the only way to have lemonade 70 or 80 years ago! Your elderly loved ones may even remember a favourite family recipe. You can always modify the recipe to accommodate diabetic needs by reducing sugar or replacing sugar with sweeteners.
5. Go Fishing — many grandfathers have taken their children and grandchildren on fishing expeditions. Now, it might be your turn to take your grandfather out fishing. Tip: fishing off a pier or stable dock might be more accessible (i.e.: able to use a walker or wheelchair) than fishing from a boat or riverside.
6. Attend a Live Sports Game — the energy of a live sports game can be contagious and exciting! There is accessible seating at all major sports centres, so your loved one can use whatever assistive devices are necessary for safety. If a major league game is too long or intense, attending a grandchild’s (or even a great-grandchild!) team sport might be just as fun!
7. Win a Prize at the Fair — who says that fairs are just for children? Appeal to the inner kid by trying a few midway games. Tip: if your loved one’s gait is unsteady, it might be wise to use a wheelchair throughout the fair as the pushing and shoving of the crowd could pose a safety threat.
8. Have a Picnic at the Park — a good old-fashioned picnic basket filled with favourite treats will always bring a smile! You can be sure to accommodate special dietary requirements when packing the picnic basket. Be sure to look for a picnic table or bring along a lawn chair (sitting directly on the ground might be difficult; getting up from the ground could be even harder!).
9. Pick Wildflowers — who doesn't love a vase full of fresh flowers? It’s even better when you pick the flowers yourself and create the arrangement! Best of all, this fun summer activity doesn’t cost a penny.
10. See a Movie at the Drive-In Theatre — this will feel like a flash from the past! Drive-In theatres still operate and often feature classic movies from varying eras. The drive-in has many benefits for the elderly—they can remain in a comfortable seat in the car, they don’t have to fight any crowds on foot, and the volume can be set to the level that suits their hearing. Of course, it does mean a late night out, but that’s all part of the fun!
Hopefully, you now have an idea or two of a fun, lighthearted way to spend time with elderly relatives while enjoying all that Canadian summer has to offer!
There are over 5.9 million seniors in Canada right now and that number will double in the next twenty years. Today’s retirement is certainly not synonymous with passivity. Rather, most retired people will tell you that they wonder how they ever had time to work! Today’s seniors are actively involved as both formal and informal volunteers, caregivers for their grandchildren, hobbyists, part-time employees, travelers, and many other roles.
Seniors month is our opportunity to recognize and celebrate these seniors and their contributions to our community. The consistent volunteering of our seniors—often in behind-the-scenes, unacknowledged positions—contributes to the maintenance of our major institutions. For example, St. Mary’s hospital has over 300 regular volunteers, and Grand River Hospitals has nearly 1000 volunteers. Many of these volunteers are dedicated seniors who wish to help others. You will find countless seniors engaged in volunteer and mentorship capacities across the city, and their contribution is vital to the success of our growing community.
Seniors Month in June is not only about formal government recognition through specific awards; it is also about truly appreciating all of the seniors that you personally know! Take the time to acknowledge their contributions to your life and your community.
Here are a few ideas for how you can celebrate a senior in your community!
1) Nominate seniors for local awards.
If you know a senior who is contributing to the fabric of your community, why not brag about their achievements to others by nominating them for an award?! You can nominate them for the Ontario Senior of the Year Award, the Ontario Senior Achievement Award, the Ontario Medal for Good Citizenship, or any other award in your local community.
2) Listen to their stories and oral history.
Many seniors are natural story-tellers! They have years of wisdom, knowledge and experience to share with younger generations. So, why not take some time to listen to these incredible stories?! You can always share a cup of tea with a senior in your community and engage in a conversation filled with storytelling.
3) Write a simple thank-you card.
These days the only mail people seem to receive are bills and statements, so sending a thoughtful thank-you card could brighten up a senior’s day! Simply writing a thoughtful and heartfelt letter could make a senior feel celebrated and appreciated.
4) Take your appreciated senior on an outing.
You can plan a fun outing to the theatre, a church service, a senior’s dance, a strawberry social, or even just out for a nice dinner together; to demonstrate your thankfulness and appreciation for their contributions to your community.
5) Plan an event in honour of your senior loved-one.
Maybe there’s a milestone to celebrate like a 90th birthday or a 60th wedding anniversary; an event honouring them would be perfect! You could even host a family reunion that would allow you to recognize many loved ones at once.
6) Spend quality time together.
The simplicity of spending quality time together can demonstrate your care and appreciation. The way that you choose to demonstrate your gratitude is up to you and allows you to be as creative as you wish!
People appreciate recognition at every stage of life and you can never offer too much praise. You may be surprised at what you can learn about the seniors in your life and discover some of the activities with which they are involved. So, this June, take the opportunity to encourage the seniors in your life by acknowledging their accomplishments—you, in turn, will be inspired.
Who doesn’t live with stress these days?! There’s no such thing as a completely stress-free life, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. A certain amount of stress is necessary to get through life. Many life events can produce stress—both positive events (getting married, having children, or retirement) and negative events (loss of a loved one or being laid off at work).
Stress is a risk factor for both heart disease and stroke. It is a two-fold risk—the state of being stressed, especially over a long period of time can result in higher cholesterol and increased blood pressure. Additionally, people who are highly stressed often turn to unhealthy habits to ease the stress (such as smoking, over eating, too much alcohol, etc.), which further increases the risk! Stress is one of the controllable risk factors for heart disease and stroke. Reducing your stress also reduces your risk for heart disease and stroke.
How many symptoms of stress do you experience regularly?
Common symptoms include: anxiety, headaches, stomach issues, depression, muscle aches, insomnia, weight gain, frequent colds or illness, low energy, agitation, etc. Does this list seem all too familiar?
For women who fit into the sandwich generation, a major stress factor can be the dual caregiving of raising children, while also providing care to aging parents. Today’s healthcare system is increasingly difficult to navigate, and advocating for a loved one can become a full-time job!
In an effort to be the sole caregiver for their parents (while also maintaining all of their other commitments), today’s women are often placing their own health at risk by increasing their stress levels. Women are notorious for taking care of everyone else that they neglect their own needs. Receiving help with family caregiving can be an important component to reducing your stress. Completely eliminating stress is not an option. Instead, we must focus on reducing our stress, and managing the stress that remains.
There are several ways to manage and reduce our stress!
A few common tips include: exercise (such as daily walks, cycling, yoga classes, etc.), meditation and prayer, engaging in a favourite hobby (such as reading, knitting, painting, etc.), and most of all, reaching out for support.
Professional caregivers can provide hands-on help to your parents, freeing you to focus on your own health and wellness!
Reducing stress is sometimes seen as a wish-list item. One day, you hope to be stress free. You might be thinking your stress will evaporate “when the kids move out of the house” or “once I retire.” But that could be years from now! You can’t afford to put your own health in jeopardy for years, and just hope that the stress you experience is not leading to either heart disease or stroke. Stress is a preventable risk factor. Support your own health by reducing your stress levels starting today!
You’re sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, watching the clock, waiting for your mother’s medical tests to finally be over. Mentally you’re calculating whether you have enough time to drive your mother home, 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 712,000 Canadians who fit into the infamous “sandwich generation”. The sandwich generation generally applies to those in their 40’s to 60’s who are simultaneously caring for their aging 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 aging 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 work, marriage, personal life, volunteer commitments, 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!
Recognizing the unique challenges faced by today’s sandwich generation 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 in not in the best condition to care for loved ones.
Intead, think about accepting homecare assitance 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 being toasted, and enjoy as many of your “sandwich” years as possible!