Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidets are commonplace in bathrooms across Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East, but this plumbing fixture has never really caught on in the United States. For some reason, Americans prefer to use toilet paper and wet wipes to cleanse themselves instead of water.

However, more and more people—myself included—are beginning to embrace the bidet. In fact, many seniors are finding that bidets offer a safer and more efficient method of freshening up after toileting.

Bidet Attachments: The Toilet Tweak That Can Keep an Older Adult Clean

Bidet Attachments vs. Freestanding Bidets

To clarify, I’m not talking about traditional freestanding bidets. They take up lots of bathroom space, and older users would likely have a great deal of trouble transferring from the toilet to straddling the bidet.

What I’ve found very helpful are toilet bidets. These devices simply attach to the existing toilet in your home and require no remodeling, plumbing work or additional floor space. Essentially, the attachment is a small wand underneath the toilet seat that moves into position and sprays water over the perineal area.

I don’t remember how I first learned about toilet bidets, but when I found a cheap one that could be easily installed on my toilet without major plumbing expense, I decided to try it. The Blue Bidet—now a feature on every toilet in my house—retails for just $37. There are countless models, each with different features on the market. Simpler electric models allow for adjustable water temperature and pressure, while so-called “intelligent” cleansing seats offer features like a nightlight function, a heated air dryer and remote-control access (at a hefty price).

When I installed my cheaper toilet bidet several years ago, I became an instant fan. As I age (and as my symptoms of Parkinson’s disease worsen), I am more and more disgruntled when I have to use a standard toilet and toilet tissue. After returning from a recent short trip, I told my housemates I had missed them almost as much as I had missed my bidet!

Bidets Help with Better Hygiene, Safer Toileting

“As people get older and frailer, it’s harder for them to do good personal hygiene, particularly if they have arthritis,” Dr. Mary Tinetti, Chief of Geriatrics at Yale School of Medicine, explained to New York Times blogger Paula Span via email. Maneuvering around to wipe and wash becomes surprisingly difficult for people as they age. In fact, attempting to do so can even lead to a dangerous fall from the toilet.

For many older adults, a bidet toilet could mean the difference between independence and needing assistance with toileting. Many seniors refuse help with personal care because it comes with a loss of privacy and often dignity. However, this can jeopardize their safety, and poor personal hygiene can lead to an increased risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), skin breakdown and general irritation. Prompt and thorough cleansing of the genitals, perineum and anal areas after toileting is crucial for maintaining skin integrity, especially for elders living with incontinence. Bidets can provide a higher level of cleanliness, safety and modesty while toileting.

For caregivers who must assist with toileting and personal hygiene, bidets can help immensely with this delicate task. It may take some practice to get the hang of using a bidet seat or attachment, but it can be easier, cheaper, more hygienic and less awkward than assisting with toilet paper or wet wipes. Better yet, adequate cleansing after toileting can help maximize cleanliness between the shower or bath days that caregivers and seniors alike typically dread.

Explore toilet bidets and other senior assistive devices in AgingCare’s Senior Product Guide.

Source: AgingCare by Joh Schappi

Emergency Planning: Is Your Loved One’s Long-Term Care Facility Prepared?

Each year, nature pummels the United States with various natural disasters. Americans find themselves contending with tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, blizzards, wildfires, floods and heat waves that only seem to be increasing in frequency and intensity.

Individuals who are elderly, disabled or have special needs are particularly at risk during and after these events. Preparedness is crucial for those who are still living in the community and for those who reside in residential care communities like assisted living facilities, memory care units and nursing homes. When disaster strikes, long-term care facilities are responsible for ensuring the safety of all their residents and staff on site. In some cases, evacuation and transportation to another care facility out of harm’s way may be necessary.

Securing the safety of frail elders is a huge undertaking. Many long-term care residents are unable to walk on their own, connected to life-sustaining medical equipment or have severe cognitive impairments due to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia. Every senior living facility should have a comprehensive disaster preparedness plan in place that establishes protocols for both evacuating and sheltering in place.

It’s beneficial for family members who have relatives in senior living to learn about how these communities handle potential emergencies. This will help families understand exactly what the plan of action is for their loved ones and how it may or may not mesh with their own emergency preparations and plans.

Questions to Ask a Long-Term Care Facility About Disaster Preparedness

The following list highlights crucial information on emergency planning and evacuation procedures provided by The National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care. You can print these questions out and use them to help guide your discussion about emergency procedures with the administrator at your loved one’s long-term care facility.

General Emergency Planning

  • What is the facility’s emergency plan for evacuation and for sheltering in place? (Plans will be different for hurricanes, tornadoes, etc.)
  • How are these plans coordinated with community resources, the city, county and state emergency management?

Emergency Training for Staff Members

  • What staff training procedures are in place for emergency evacuations?
  • Are evacuation drills practiced with both staff and residents?
  • Are there enough staff available to execute emergency plans during all shifts? For example, if a fire breaks out in the middle of the night, will the skeleton crew be able to handle the emergency?

Family Communication

  • How does the facility discuss emergency planning with their residents?
  • How and when will families be notified about a loved one’s status and whereabouts?
  • Is there a phone number for out-of-town family members to call for information before, during and after an emergency event?

On-site Emergency Resources

  • Does the facility have an emergency backup power system or generators? If so, how long can this back-up system provide power? What parts of the facility will have electricity?
  • Are extra medical supplies, equipment and medications (at least a 7-day supply for each resident) stored on-site?
  • How much emergency oxygen is available in portable cylinders?
  • Is the facility prepared with enough potable water and nonperishable food for residents and staff?
  • If the facility is multi-level and the elevators cannot be used, what is the procedure for evacuating physically impaired residents quickly and safely down the stairs?
  • Do residents have emergency supplies and first aid kits in their rooms? (Kits should contain clothing, toiletries, a flashlight, ID and other critical items.)

Evacuation Procedures

  • How will residents be evacuated? Are there contracts in place with transportation providers to relocate residents?
  • Where will residents be evacuated to? Are there contracts in place with other facilities to provide temporary housing for displaced residents?
  • Do family members have the right to evacuate their loved ones on their own if they choose? How would this decision affect a senior’s residency in the facility and associated costs?
  • How are elders who are on life-support or receiving hospice care transported?
  • If the building must be evacuated quickly, what procedures are in place to ensure that no residents are misplaced or left behind?
  • How will residents be identified during and after an evacuation?
  • If the facility is evacuated, how are residents’ charts, medical information, medications and other supplies transported and when?
  • Can family members meet residents at a designated location? Can they assist loved ones at the facility to prepare for evacuation?
  • Will a trained employee ride with residents on each vehicle to oversee their care as needed?

Source: AgingCare by Marlo Solitto

8 Odd Assisted Living Rules to Be Aware Of

The world of elder care is fraught with countless rules, regulations and guidelines. It’s enough to make even an experienced caregiver’s head spin. The myriad of complex laws that apply to the different levels of senior housing often makes an already difficult decision even more challenging.

There are federal guidelines in place for long-term care facilities that are certified by Medicare, licensing standards and Medicaid regulations enacted on the state level, and unique in-house rules that individual communities elect to follow (these are usually detailed in a facility’s contract or admission agreement). These policies and procedures are used to calculate costs for services, set staffing ratios, determine when care plans must be updated, define the level of care a facility can provide and much more.

Because assisted living is an intermediate level of long-term care that varies widely by state, gaining even a cursory understanding of some of the unique rules these providers must follow will be invaluable when making care decisions for an aging loved one.

  1. The Band-Aid application ban: Most assisted living facilities (ALFs) are only able to provide “limited health care services,” which are carefully regulated. For example, ALFs in the state of Rhode Island are not allowed to provide even basic wound care, such as the application of a Band-Aid, unless it has been ordered by a physician and it must be applied by a qualified, licensed staff member. While this regulation may seem frivolous, it helps control what level of care an assisted living community can legally provide. Compared to a skilled nursing facility, which offers around-the-clock medical care, ALFs follow less strict staffing, licensing and training requirements. It’s important to educate yourself on what medical care services a particular community can provide, especially when accounting for future changes in your loved one’s condition, before making the decision to move them there.
  2. The care plan command: Many states require assisted living staff to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment of each resident upon admission to develop a personalized care plan. In Georgia, this must be done within 14 days of an elder’s admission, and the plan must be reevaluated at least once a year (or every three months for those residing in memory care units) and whenever an elder’s care needs change.
    In California, an aging adult’s care plan must also include an assessment of their likes and dislikes, as well as suggestions for appropriate community-run social activities for them to engage in.
    It’s important to inquire about prospective facilities’ care plan policies. You should be able to receive a written copy of the current plan at any time and request care team meetings to discuss any issues and potential changes.
  3. The medication adherence mandate: Residents have the right to control their receipt of medical services based on informed decision making, including the refusal of medications. However, ALF residents in Idaho must take their medications as prescribed by their doctor or risk being discharged. A reputable facility will document the refusal and contact the resident’s physician and authorized family members to work on a solution, but these facilities are not obligated to retain residents who endanger their own health.
    Rules regarding who can dispense and administer medications in assisted living communities can be especially tricky. The key is to determine which staff members are allowed to help a resident with their medications, how much assistance they can legally provide and how related issues are handled. This will enable you to determine whether a prospective facility can provide adequate assistance to ensure your loved one’s regimen is followed.
  4. The continuous medical care cut-off: In most states, the cut-off point for an individual to be able to reside in an assisted living community is whether they need around-the-clock skilled nursing care. Assisted living communities may be able to offer residents increased help with certain medical tasks, such as medication management, insulin administration and blood glucose testing, at an increased cost. However, even those facilities that employ certified nursing personnel are not allowed to admit residents who require full-time medical care. If your loved one needs 24/7 care, you may want to consider hiring home health care or placement in a skilled nursing facility.
  5. The leisure activities requirement: Assisted living communities in Georgia require their residents to be capable of participating in the social and leisure activities they provide. Obviously, staff members cannot demand that your loved one actually engage in these events, but it’s often advisable to encourage an elder to pursue an active social life when moving to senior living.
  6. The toe nail care condition: In Idaho, there are restrictions on which staff members can clip a diabetic resident’s nails. Only licensed medical professionals may assist with this personal care task because individuals with diabetes tend to heal slowly and experience limited sensation in their extremities. Even a minor cut or abrasion can become dangerously infected. This is one example of how a loved one’s unique needs directly influence your search for a long-term care provider.
  7. The dementia training directive: States typically require anyone working in an assisted living community to undergo formal training in how to interact with residents who have dementia. In some cases, this mandate may extend beyond the obvious medical staff and personal care aides to encompass all employees who have regular contact with residents, including kitchen, housekeeping and maintenance staff. If you’re caring for a loved one who has Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, be sure to ask all prospective communities what type of initial and ongoing dementia training is mandated for their employees. This can have a big impact on a resident’s safety and the overall quality of care they receive.
  8. The ineffective CPR exemption: In the event that an ALF resident in Georgia becomes unresponsive and it is apparent that any effort to revive them would be futile (i.e. their body is stiff, their skin is blue/grey and cool to the touch, etc.), staff members do not have to perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). There is a great deal of controversy surrounding the effectiveness and advisability of CPR on seniors. For example, an independent living facility in California came under intense scrutiny when a nurse refused to give a dying woman CPR.
    When it comes to emergency resuscitation efforts, the best way to avoid confusion is to encourage your loved one to fill out an advance care directive. Also, be sure that you fully understand the policies and procedures a particular community has regarding CPR and do-not-resuscitate (DNR) orders.

Of course, only a few of these sample regulations may apply to an aging loved one who is looking to move into an assisted living community. However, being aware of the varied and complex policies that govern this type of residential care will assist you in your research and help you determine which questions to ask when evaluating potential providers.

Source: AgingCare Anne-Marie Botek

Caregiving is the Greatest Teacher for Future Planning

Our Guest Author this month will help many who are facing aging alone once their family caregiving role comes to an end. Carol Marak is the founder of CarolMarak.com, the Elder Orphan Facebook group, and @Carebuzz Facebook Live events. She is an expert about everything aging. Herself a former family caregiver, Carol is personally equipped with aging alone expertise.

No matter what stage of caregiving you’re in, if you’re past it, in the middle of it, or it’s a paying job, the lessons learned will equip you for your own older life.

That’s what happened to me.  After caring for both parents, I realized, “There’s no one here for me to do all that I’ve done for them.”  A thought like this will quickly jolt anyone into scrambling for a plan. I’ve always been the independent sort, and now I face growing older without a spouse, partner, or adult children.

Like me, there are many women, and men, who find themselves in the similar circumstances. Growing older alone. And most of you, I bet, are caring or have cared for a relative as well.


          Carol Marak,
      Aging Alone Expert

The lessons learned give insights into what’s ahead.  At first it’s scary, but soon you’re grateful because you know so much and feel prepared, sort of. You know how to respond in an emergency, what’s needed when making serious medical decisions and legal matters, how to prepare for a medical treatment, the out-of-pocket costs of medical and other necessities, what to expect when you ring a doctor at 2:00 AM, and how to arrange for extra help.

Above all, you know that one day you will need help!  That’s wisdom you cannot buy.

But what people like me, aging alone, don’t learn from helping parents is, who do we count on for assistance, to help us respond to an emergency, make medical decisions, bring us a cup of soup, take us to the doctor, run errands, and more.

We learn what’s to come. But we don’t know where to start when planning for it or even thinking about it.

Growing older for my parents was totally different than what it is for me. They didn’t feel the need or urgency to prepare.  Growing older was part of life and they had no doubts about knowing who would step up for them.

Caring for an older person is hard. Period. No ifs buts or maybes. And making a plan for that is even more difficult. Period.  It’s takes time, effort, and patience. But making a plan when aging alone, well, that’s titanic. We question:

  • Will my money outlast me?
  • Who do I call in case of an emergency?
  • Who will be my health care proxy?
  • What if I’m all alone and lonely, who will come over?
  • What if I’m sick, who will look in on me?

That’s the short list.

Future Planning

These are the tough questions and they’re the reason I started working on my future plan soon after my dad passed away.  I’ve created a FREE starter kit for people who have the urgency to prepare. It’s yours for free to download here.

The thing about planning, it’s not meant to be a once and done deal. Instead, it expands our understanding of the kind of world we want and shows us a path we’d need to take to get to a better place–or, at minimum, the paths we need to avoid.

I believe we all need to have a sense of what’s next, and a vision of the kind of world we want. Planning for the future should deal with tomorrow’s problems–which if not addressed will inevitably leave us weakened, vulnerable, and blind to challenges to come.

Source: Senior Care Corner

Taking Risks Can Be Empowering

We want autonomy for ourselves and safety for those we love. That remains the main problem and paradox for the frail. Many of the things that we want for those we care about are things that we would adamantly oppose for ourselves because they would infringe upon our sense of self.” ~ Atul Gawande

While keeping people—especially those who are living with chronic conditions and physical challenges—safety is important, there can be benefits to risk also.

One expert cautions that there is such a thing as being too safe and that occasionally a little risk is a good thing. Dr. G. Allen Power, author of Dementia Beyond Drugs and Dementia Beyond Disease, recently hosted a webinar, “Negotiating Autonomy and Risk: A Relational Approach,” in which he explained the benefits of risk.

Three Pillars of Dementia Care

Dr. Power’s approach to dementia care rests on three “pillars” which he describes:

“The first pillar is redefining dementia, not simply as brain disease but in a more holistic sense. I define dementia as a shift in the way a person experiences the world around her or him.”

“The second pillar is to stop this trying to mitigate disease and instead work on a more proactive strength-based approach which is to try to enhance a person’s well-being regardless of their diagnosis or how much disability they may have. There’s always a way that we can improve people’s well-being to some extent.”

“The third part is the so-called culture change part…we have to transform the systems of care. The systems of care could be a nursing home, but they could also be how care is provided through home/community-based care.”

The Importance of Autonomy

“We don’t repress people because we’re mean, but because we are caring people. And sometimes in our caring we can be a little bit over-caring and we can actually oppress people without realizing that we are doing so.”

“If you have a failed sense of identity and connectedness, then your autonomy is going to be less. If there’s a good sense of security, it can help with autonomy but an over-reliance on safety can actually decrease autonomy; there’s a very fragile dynamic between these two. Autonomy is directly supporting meaning and growth. In order to do things that are truly meaningful, you have to continue to grow as a person. We need to have a sense of autonomy.”

According to Dr. Power, the ways that well-meaning people (both family members and professionals) can erode autonomy in those for whom they care include exclusion from discussions, exclusions from decisions, segregated living environments, maintaining low expectations, inconsistent staffing patterns, segregated living environments and more.

How Autonomy is Imperiled

Two common practices that erode autonomy: all-or-none thinking and surplus safety.

“All-or-none thinking is basically black-and-white; you can do this or you can’t do this; you can decide this or you can’t do that; you are capable or you’re not capable. We don’t have any in between, we just say you can or you can’t. And there’s a lot of that thinking that goes on with dementia care both with families and professionals in all care environments,” Dr. Power explains. “It comes from many things—those stigmas, those deficit-based views of dementia, our need for black-and-white solutions so that we don’t have the ability to get the grey areas to say, maybe you can do some of this, maybe there’s a way we can have some nuances in what you’re able to decide.”

This all-or-none approach can come from a misunderstanding of the role of a caregiver—either family or professional.

“We think our job is to take over,” he says. “We think our job is absolutely to keep the person 100% safe and not take on any risk and that’s a misunderstanding.”

No Such Thing as Zero Risk

“Surplus safety is too much concern with upside risk as opposed to downside risk,” Dr. Power explains. “There is never just an upside or a downside. Every decision we make, whether it’s you, me, or a person we care for with dementia, every decision has an upside and a downside.”

And when it comes to dementia, “nearly all of the focus is on downside risk.”

Rather than aim for no risk or take an all-or-none approach, Dr. Power recommends practice with different scenarios:

  • You can say a person with dementia absolutely can drive or can’t drive and you can just leave it at that.
  • Or you can say, there’s a lot of things in between, depending on the individual.
  • You can say, you can drive but only in your neighborhood, maybe only to the local store or a place of worship, maybe only during the daytime or only when the weather’s nice or only when there’s somebody with you.

“So, there’s many different parameters you can put on the choice to make it safer than just all or nothing,” he says.

Next, “you’d like to make a decision in as collaborative a way with the person with dementia as possible trying to maximize both autonomy and minimize risk knowing that risk will never be zero.”

Further, you want to document and follow your results.

“Document because if things don’t go well you want to show that there was a thought process behind it, that you can back and examine,” he says. “And you want to monitor because if things don’t go perfectly, you may need to go back to the drawing board and say okay that didn’t go so well, what if we add this additional guideline, this additional aspect, maybe we can make it safer. And the other reason you monitor results is because people’s abilities change over time so the plan that works today may not work six months from now.”

When caring for another, consider their autonomy as well as their safety, and be prepared to make changes as their needs and abilities change over time.

“The truth is that failure-free activities are meaningless,” Dr. Power states. “None of us has ever had an experience of meaning or growth because we accomplished something that didn’t have a chance to fail. So we can’t have a zero risk environment.”

Source: Homewatch Care Givers

10 Farmer’s Market Foods That Are Senior Approved

10 Farmer’s Market Foods That Are Senior Approved

Spring is finally in the air! If you’re like most people, you and your loved ones may have fallen off the health and nutrition bandwagon this winter. With the harsh weather and indulgent holiday gatherings, it’s common to slip up and make poor diet choices that you normally wouldn’t.

If you’re looking for ways for your family to kick off spring on a healthier, more wholesome note, buying groceries at a farmer’s market is an affordable and fun way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables into your diet. The produce sold at these markets is usually locally grown, more likely to be organic and can even reduce your carbon footprint.

Healthy Springtime Produce Options for Caregivers and Seniors

  • Fava Beans
    Your loved one may remember eating fava beans boiled with a dollop of butter or margarine, but this method of cooking completely strips them of all their nutrients. Instead, try quickly sautéing the beans in a little olive oil. You can even mix cooked fava beans with steamed basmati rice, chopped dill and freshly minced garlic for a savory whole-grain dish that will surely wake up your elder’s taste buds.
  • Asparagus 
    Asparagus is another great spring vegetable that is naturally rich in glutathione, an antioxidant that fights aging and can potentially lower one’s cancer risk. Asparagus is usually harvested in the spring, making it a perfect pick for the farmer’s market this time of year. Try chopping the stalks into bite-sized pieces and adding it raw to salads. For a healthy alternative to French fries, you can also roast asparagus spears in the oven with a little olive oil, garlic powder and salt. Unlike roasted potatoes, asparagus won’t cause spikes in blood sugar.
  • Mint
    Many herbs flourish in spring, thanks to milder temperatures and plentiful rain and sunshine. Mint is a popular springtime herb that is not only refreshingly tasty, but it also has medicinal properties. Mint is a natural digestive aid that can soothe nausea and upset stomachs, which can be common in seniors as they age. Try adding fresh mint leaves to a salad. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can mix mint, garlic, salt and diced cucumbers into plain Greek yogurt for a tangy tzatziki sauce to serve with chicken or beef or to use as a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables. Additionally, steeping fresh mint leaves in boiling water with a few slices of lemon is an easy way to make a caffeine-free herbal tea that can be served hot or cold.
  • Radishes
    Usually root vegetables like carrots and potatoes are harvested in the fall, but radishes have a crisp bite to them that makes them perfect for spring. They are versatile, fiber-rich vegetables, packing pack up to two grams of dietary fiber per cup. Increasing a senior’s fiber intake can help ease constipation and improve digestion. Radishes are often an acquired taste, so try introducing them into your loved one’s diet gradually. They can be served raw, roasted or sautéed, and the peppery green tops are edible and nutrient dense as well!
  • Peas
    Green peas are no longer the vegetable you hated as a child. In fact, they are actually legumes that are low in calories and contain an impressive amount of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Peas are one of the best foods for reducing dangerous inflammation in an elder’s body that can contribute to conditions like indigestion, heart disease and even Alzheimer’s disease. Garden peas are also relatively high in protein and can be served as a side dish or added to salads, soups and pastas. My personal favorite use for peas is tossing them into a hearty chicken salad!
  • Strawberries
    Strawberries are one of the sweetest fruits to feed your loved one during spring. Loaded with vitamin C, they contain antioxidants which can help with all sorts of health problems and ailments. If your elder bruises easily, the high vitamin C content in strawberries is thought to alleviate their severity and aid in faster healing. Don’t be afraid to get creative with strawberries, as you can easily add them to oatmeal or cereal, layer slices of strawberries in a delicious yogurt parfait, blend them into a nutritious smoothie, or dice them with red onion, cilantro, jalapeno and some lime juice to create a zesty strawberry salsa.
  • Green Onions
    Also known as scallions, green onions add a punch of freshness to any dish. Unlike white onions, which can be rather pungent and acidic, scallions are much milder in flavor and texture. Topping a bowl of chili or soup with a handful of chopped scallions is an easy way to instantly elevate the dish. While most people usually use scallions as a garnish, keep in mind that the heartier white bottoms of the stalks can be used in the same way as white onions in a variety of recipes. Try sautéing green onions in a tomato sauce, adding them to an omelet, or incorporating them into Asian entrees like stir-fries, noodle dishes, and salads for subtle yet distinguished flavor.
  • Arugula
    As seniors age, their sense of taste and smell are likely to diminish over time. Instead of bland lettuce mixes like iceberg and romaine, opt for a bitter, leafy green like arugula. Arugula is rich in selenium, which is what gives it its peppery flavor. It’s also rich in a crucial B-vitamin called folate, making it a great base for spring salads. You can also use arugula in sandwiches and wraps, as a pizza topping, wilted into pasta dishes, and even as the main ingredient in a bright pesto sauce (in lieu of basil).
  • Artichokes
    Artichokes are one of the most overlooked veggies available in the spring and summer months. They are high in vitamins C and K and pack plenty of dietary fiber, but most people buy them canned or jarred because they aren’t sure how to prepare them fresh. Surprisingly, these large, intimidating looking flower buds aren’t all that difficult to cook. After washing, simply trim off the tight tops of the buds, trim and lightly peel the stalk, and carefully snip off the sharp thorns on the tips of the remaining petals. Prepared artichokes can be boiled, steamed, baked, grilled and even microwaved with your seasonings of choice. (Lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and herbs are popular accompaniments.)
    The cooked petals don’t yield much flesh, but the tender, sought-after artichoke hearts can be used in pastas, dips, spreads and sandwiches. Just be sure to avoid eating the hairy-looking choke! Everyone loves a warm spinach and artichoke dip, so why not use fresh artichokes when they’re in season? If your loved one enjoys sandwiches and wraps, try adding artichoke hearts to roasted red peppers and low-sodium turkey for a healthier take on an Italian cold cut.
  • Apricots
    These bright, sweet fruits are high in vitamins A and C, potassium, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. The nutritional value of apricots makes them an excellent dietary choice that helps to prevent eye diseases and promote cardiovascular health. Their small size makes them perfect for snacking, but they can also be made into jams, butters and other condiments. Another surprising use for apricots is grilling or roasting them alongside lean protein like chicken to produce an entrée with balanced sweet and savory notes.

Use the start of spring as an opportunity to wake up your taste buds and reestablish healthy eating habits. A farmer’s market is a great place to seek culinary inspiration, and attending one can be a fun outing idea for caregivers and their aging loved ones. Keep these ingredients and recipe ideas in mind the next time you hit your local farmer’s market!

Source: AgingCare  by Taji Mortazavi

What Happens When a Senior Can No Longer Care for Their Pet?

Howard Cutler knows the joy animals can bring to people. His childhood memories are filled with stories of his family’s two beloved dogs and cats. After moving into a senior housing complex in Atlanta, Georgia, Cutler acted on his love of animals and adopted a Shih Tzu named Ollie from a fellow resident who could no longer care for the animal. For seven years, the pair was inseparable until Cutler’s Parkinson’s disease forced him to move to a different assisted care facility that didn’t allow pets.

“He was my friend and my companion, and giving him up was very difficult for me,” Cutler explains. As much as he wanted to keep little Ollie, Cutler knew he needed to rehome his beloved pet. He began looking among his neighbors in the senior complex to find a new owner. “Ollie was loved by everyone there, but I was worried that I wouldn’t find the right person.”

Cutler was fortunate to find the perfect fit in his friend and neighbor Nancy Markovich. “Howard was heartsick that he had to give up Ollie,” Markovich recalls. “So, I offered to adopt the dog and promised to take good care of him.”

Ollie’s veterinarian, Dr. Duffy Jones, says pets provide much-needed comfort and companionship to people of all ages, especially seniors. “The value that animals bring to people is amazing,” he says. “I’ve seen older pet owners who are struggling financially choose not feed themselves so they can feed their animals. Their pet is the reason they get up in the morning.”

But when aging pet owners find themselves unable to care for their animals, surrendering the pet is often the best course of action. “Most owners understand they’re sick and their pet needs more care than they’re able to provide,” Dr. Jones says. “They want to make a plan for their pets; It’s a real source of comfort.”

Senior Pet Owners Must Plan for the Unexpected

Dr. Jones encourages all pet owners to devise a succession plan for their animals as early as possible. Having a “plan b” in place before the pet owner becomes too ill, needs to move to a care facility or passes away will offer invaluable peace of mind for the owner and added security for their pet. He offers the following tips for creating a contingency plan for a loving animal:

  • Consider adoption. Ask friends and family who are familiar with the pet if they are willing and able to offer the animal a new home. Those who interact with the pet regularly will be better equipped to determine if the animal’s size, personality, routine, etc. would fit well with their schedule and lifestyle.
  • Talk to a vet. Veterinarians have many resources at their disposal and can often help rehome a pet. No-kill shelters can also be a useful option, and there are many non-profit rescue organizations around the U.S. that will also assist older adults in finding new homes for their animals.
  • Get the owner’s input. Be sure to let the pet owner have a say in the decision. Ask them who they would like to look after their pet. “In some cases, older people don’t have a lot of family around and their friends are going through similar transitions, so they worry what will happen to their pets,” explains Dr. Jones. “Animal owners are visibly relieved when we tell them we’ve found their pets a new home. It’s not uncommon for them to cry.”
  • Allow for a smooth transition. Ideally, the current owner will be able to help the pet transition to its new home. The goal is to help the animal and new owner build trust and become familiar with one another incrementally. Try having the new owner come for extended visits with the pet, take the animal for walks and care for it in the new home for short periods before full-time ownership begins. Small steps are easier on everyone involved compared to an abrupt change.
  • Rehomed pets aren’t gone forever. While evaluating prospective adopters, discuss the possibility of allowing the original owner to continue visiting with the animal. Even a monthly visit with a cherished furry friend can brighten up a senior’s day.

Dr. Jones says euthanizing a pet should be the last resort. “Some older people think that putting a pet down is best because the animal is so bonded to their owner,” he says. “We usually try to talk them out of it, explain that there are so many other options and then we work with the owner to rehome their pet(s).”

When Is It Time to Rehome a Senior’s Pet?

With so much research touting the physical and mental benefits that animals provide to humans, Dr. Jones advises that older people keep their pets for as long as possible. Unfortunately, though, circumstances do change. If either the pet or their elderly owner is living in a neglectful situation or experiencing a reduced quality of life, then it is time to explore alternative options. It can be difficult to balance the health, safety and happiness of both the senior and their pet, but it must be done.

Dr. Jones sympathizes with family members who don’t know what to do about their aging loved ones and their furry friends. “For caregivers, the thought of taking care of a person and their pet can be overwhelming,” he notes. “Sometimes older people haven’t trained their pets well, which can amount to behavioral problems and unsanitary conditions. But what people don’t see is that these animals mean so much to their owners. Separation often causes physical and emotional decline in both parties.”

Balance What Is Best for the Senior and Their Pet

Markovich has no regrets about adopting Ollie. She tried to make the transition as smooth as possible for both pet and owner. Cutler now receives the care and assistance he requires while Ollie gets the love and stimulation that dogs thrive on. Markovich inherited Ollie’s food and water dishes from Cutler and even places them in the same spot in her apartment at the senior housing community. The twosome goes for daily walks and Markovich hopes that she’s kept Ollie trained to Cutler’s standards.

Every month, Cutler gets to see his favorite companion when Markovich brings Ollie for a pet therapy visit at the assisted living community. “When he comes to see me, he’s overjoyed,” says Cutler. “When Nancy is ready to leave, he goes to her side to let me know he was happy to see me, but he is leaving with Nancy. I feel sad about that, but also happy that I was able to find a good home for him.”

Markovich is equally grateful for the opportunity to help a friend in need and to find the loving companionship that a pet brings. “Ollie sits by me on the sofa, sleeps on my bed and we are thick as thieves. He is a true blessing for me,” she remarks.

Source: AgingCare  by Candace Rotolo

Should You Quit Your Job to Care for Your Elderly Parent?

As parents age and need more assistance, most adult children do what they can to help. For many, the first step is a weekly stop by Mom and Dad’s home to assess the situation and perhaps help with some chores and errands. Often, these check-ins increase in frequency until it becomes a routine part of each day.

Family caregivers typically look into community services and in-home care for assistance. They research adult day care centers and assisted living communities. However, most seniors are adamant about wanting to remain in their own homes and receive assistance from their own children. They don’t want “strangers” in their house or driving them to engagements.

Sick days and paid time off begin to dwindle. Performance suffers and unpaid leave becomes the only option for taking time away from work to handle emergencies and doctor’s appointments. Eventually, like so many other family caregivers, you consider quitting your job, putting your career on hold. While it won’t be easy, it’ll just be a temporary solution, ideally with minimal impact. Right?

The Benefits of Leaving Work to Care for a Family Member

You already know what may be gained by giving up your job and becoming the primary full-time caregiver for your parents. You would benefit from knowing firsthand how they are faring day and night. You could save them from paying for in-home care or adult day care. You wouldn’t have to worry about the quality of care they are receiving from outside sources. You could likely delay, if not eliminate, their need for nursing home care. You may be able to deepen your relationship with your parents and grow closer to them.

Keep in mind that every family is unique. For some, these benefits are realistic yet short-lived. For others, these benefits are simply unattainable ideals. Caregiver burnout, financial strain and changes in health and relationships can severely undermine even the best laid care plans.

The Costs of Quitting a Job for Caregiving

While the benefits seem straightforward enough, the true costs of deciding to quit your job to care for Mom or Dad are much more complex.

A deficit in or loss of monthly income is likely the biggest factor in this decision, and that change can usually be tolerated on a temporary basis. However, caregiving can drag on for months and even years. Many caregivers do not think about the long-term effects of this choice, but it’s crucial not to forget about or ignore your own financial future.

Yes, stepping in to help your aging parents may feel good and help them save money. If they have significant assets and don’t outlive their savings, you may even recoup some of the financial resources you gave up by inheriting part of their estate when they die. But, my best advice to family caregivers is never to rely on that outcome.

It is highly likely that your parents will still need care in a senior living facility at some point, regardless of whether you embrace unemployment to personally spearhead their care. When the time comes for placement in long-term care, their financial resources will dwindle quickly unless they are fortunate to have a very good long-term care insurance policy or abundant savings. Therefore, assuming that you will financially recover after “it’s all over” is very risky. Even if a personal care agreement is put in place very early on to compensate you for your services, there is still no guarantee that your parents’ funds will see them through.

Obviously, this decision involves giving up a paycheck for a certain amount of time, but that’s not the only thing that’s on the line. Consider the following implications that may not initially occur to family caregivers who are contemplating quitting their jobs.

  1. Social Security Benefits: Even though family caregivers work very long, hard hours, these work hours do not show up on one’s Social Security record. Depending on the number of years you spend officially unemployed, you not only lose your take-home wages, but you also lose the opportunity to work toward earning hundreds of dollars a month in Social Security retirement benefits.
  2. Retirement Savings Plans: Without a job, you’ll miss out on the ability to participate in an employer’s retirement plan or 401(k) match. Unless you had a healthy retirement plan before you quit your job, your financial future is likely to be bleak. In fact, most family caregivers who give up their jobs end up withdrawing funds from their savings and retirement accounts prematurely to offset their lost income and cover monthly expenses.
  3. Job skills: As other colleagues in your field move up and gain experience, your skills are likely to wane during your unemployment. Countless people have left the workforce and been unpleasantly surprised to find that new educational requirements, technological expertise and training are now required for jobs similar to the ones they held before.
  4. Re-entering the Workforce: It’s easier to get a new job when you already have one, compared to job hunting while unemployed. In today’s tight job market, re-entering the workforce may not be easy, especially with a significant gap in employment on your resume.
  5. Ageism: As your parents age and you care for them, you, too, are growing older. Age discrimination is illegal, but when you’re finally able to work again, potential employers can find other ostensible reasons for not hiring you, such as out-of-date skills.
  6. Caregiver Isolation: Not everyone is cut out to be a full-time caregiver. You may find that, while you are glad not to be juggling a job and caregiving responsibilities, you miss the work atmosphere, your paycheck and the social interaction you had as an employed person. Caregiving can be a profoundly lonely job.

As with all issues in caregiving, there is no black and white answer. For some, leaving work for caregiving is the only right thing to do. For others, it can lead to financial ruin and a lost sense of purpose and identity outside of providing care. As a nation, we need more affordable elder care resources and better support from employers so that gainful employment, financial security and dedication to family are attainable goals that can coexist. Until more options are made available to Americans, adult children who wish to care for their aging parents will continue facing heartbreakingly difficult decisions like this one.

Source: AgingCare Carol Bradley Bursack

5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiver

Caregiving is a labor of love, and love is about selflessness and sacrifice. Spouses give up so much for each other, parents constantly put their children’s needs before their own, and when those 5 Ways to Be a Healthy Alzheimer’s Caregiverchildren become grown adults with aging parents, they want to return the love and care they received.

If you find yourself consistently making sacrifices to care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease, your heart is certainly in the right place. But such devotion can also take its toll on your health and well-being.

According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, caregivers of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease are more likely to report higher levels of burden and stress than other caregivers due to the cognitive and physical limitations experienced by the care recipients. And, a word of caution: a study from the National Alliance for Caregiving (PDF 2.6 MB) found that as care recipients’ dementias get worse, the health of their caregivers tended to diminish significantly as well.

Consciously taking steps to care for yourself is important both for your sake and your loved one’s. Feeling physically, emotionally and mentally refreshed will help you be the best caregiver you can be.

    1. Say Yes to Help
      It might require swallowing some guilt or pride, but if you feel overwhelmed, stressed to the max and exhausted, it’s time to ask for help. Talk to your other family members and come up with a solution together. Maybe the others can pitch in more regularly to give you a respite. Or maybe you’ll decide to hire outside help. Non-medical in-home senior care agencies like Home Instead Senior Care specialize in finding just the right caregiver to match your loved one’s needs, interests and personality. They can provide care for just a few hours per week or as much as 24/7 care. You’ll find peace of mind when you can take a break from caregiving and attend to your own needs knowing your loved one is with a well-trained, trusted caregiver.
    2. Stay Informed
      Knowledge is power when it comes to caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s. Arming yourself with information will reduce worry and stress while boosting your confidence and ability to take control of your situation.

    3. Find Support
      This could mean joining a caregiver support group in your community, taking part in an online community for Alzheimer’s caregivers, or just finding a good friend willing to listen and lend a shoulder to cry on. You need a safe space to vent your frustrations (without taking it out on your family) and a source of encouragement. Caregiving for a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease or other dementias is one of the hardest jobs out there, so it may help to hear other caregivers’ stories and take the journey together.
    4. Take Care of YourselfMuch easier said than done, of course, but taking time to take care of your own needs is absolutely essential.
      • Avoid skipping or putting off your own doctor appointments
      • Take time to yourself everyday to do something you want to do
      • Listen to your body and give it what it needs—rest, exercise, a chance to cry, a nice massage, healthier food, a doctor’s check-up, etc.

While you will inevitably still make some personal sacrifices, limit them to the ones you feel are most important. Keep your stress levels in check by taking the Caregiver StressMeter assessment and learn what you need to do to maintain your own health and spirits.

  1. Focus On the Positive
    Make a point each day to note the things that went well, focus on what your loved one can do rather than dwelling on the difficulties, and don’t hesitate to break out your sense of humor! Never underestimate the power of a good, hearty laugh to ease tension and melt away stress. Negativity, on the other hand, will just drag you down, so strive to maintain good moods and attitudes to remain at the top of your game.

Even if it seems like caring for a loved one with Alzheimer’s demands all your time and energy, know that you’re entitled to take personal time for yourself. It’s not only allowed, it’s necessary. Start right now—choose one thing you can do to feel better today and you’ll be on your way toward a more rewarding caregiving experience.

Source CaregiverStress.com

LOOK FOR THE GOOD AND YOU’LL FIND IT

LOOK FOR THE GOOD AND YOU’LL FIND ITThe dishwasher overflowed last night, you woke up to a kitchen floor full of suds and were late to work.

You found out two days ago that the mole on your Dad’s ear was malignant.

A monster typhoon slammed into the Philippines and left 10,000 dead.

It seems that everywhere you turn these days there’s more than enough stress, chaos, and bad news. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, anxious, and just flat-out disgusted with it all.

How in the heck do you find the good, happiness, and joy in the midst of so much bad?

You have look for it, notice it, and take it in.  That’s how.

Noticing the Good
In his book, Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, Rick Hanson explains that our brains don’t automatically recognize the good for two reasons.  First, there isn’t a stimulus to catch your attention usually in something good.  There’s no threat, no fear, nothing to make your brain take notice.  Your brain doesn’t automatically note all the bad things that didn’t happen.

Second, through a process called habituation, your brain filters out the run-of-the-mill happenings that don’t change every day whether it’s the refrigerator’s constant hum or, thankfully, the routine absence of major disasters in our daily lives.

While habituation is an efficient use of your brain’s neural resources, it causes a lot of the good that’s around us all the time to simply go unnoticed. According to Hanson, to counteract the brains’ natural tendency, we have to look for, put emphasis on, and create good experiences.  To do this, you have to become aware of what good is present in your life and make the thought an embodied experience accompanied by good feelings, sensations, desires, and actions.

Hanson’s not talking about making anything up here.  He only asks that we see what’s true and already right there in front of our eyes. It’s a shift in perspective.  Noticing the good doesn’t mean denying the bad realities.  It means choosing to focus your attention on anything that could yield a positive experience.

Hanson writes:
Often we see a good fact but don’t have any feelings about it.  This seemingly small step – from idea to embodied experience – is critically important, for without it, there’s not much to install in your brain.  In terms of building neural structure, what matters is not the event or circumstance or condition itself but your experience of it.  

How to Take in the Good
So how, exactly, do you do this?

You take in the good by noticing a positive that’s already present in your life or creating one.  He suggests finding good facts in your current setting, recent events, ongoing conditions, personal qualities, the past, and the lives of others.

  • You’re alive.
  • You ate today.
  • The sun is out.
  •  That trip to the beach last summer was awesome.
  • You exercised yesterday.
  • You have always been a hard worker.
  • You’re smart.
  • You earned a college degree and nabbed that award at work last year.
  • Your cousin just had a healthy baby boy.

These seemingly small, but good things can be turned into embodied experiences by tuning into your body and allowing yourself to really feel the positive emotions and sensations accompanying the thoughts.  It’s important to follow through on any positive actions that might occur to you, like writing a note or making a phone call.

Good facts are all around you every moment of every day.   Even “bad” facts often contain seeds for good experiences.  You have to intentionally look for the good in the bad.

  • What lessons did you learn?
  • Are you stronger for having had the experience?
  • What did you gain?

Sometimes, it’s impossible to find good or create a good experience. You might be in terrible pain, have suffered a tremendous loss, be buried in depression or in a panic. That’s OK.  That’s being human.  With compassion for yourself, accept where you are, ride out the storm, and look for the good when you can come up for air.

Finding the Good in My Life
After a suicide attempt years ago, I was left seriously brain injured and lost custody of my two sons who moved to a different state with their father.  As part of my emotional recovery in the years that followed, I had to consciously look for the good around me because there wasn’t much readily apparent anymore.

At times, I had to get out the magnifying glass, but good was always still there.  I just had to notice it.  The sun warming my cheeks as I walked the dog on a chilly morning; the silkiness of the cat’s fur as I scratched her rumbling chin with her curled up on my lap; a really good tune playing on my iPod were the smallest of joys, but joys nonetheless.

Noticing the good has become an invaluable staple in my mental health toolbox. It’s a choice, costs nothing, and anyone can do it anywhere at any time. With practice, making a conscious effort to notice the good and internalizing it becomes a habit making it easier to activate and maintain a positive state of mind even in the midst of chaos or upsetting events.  Over time and through neuroplasticity, the practice actually changes the neuronal structure of your brain hardwiring it for happiness.

Look for the good, and you’ll find it. Promise.

Written by: Debbie Hampton

Source: Age Gracefully America