BALANCING YOUR PRIORITIES IN LIFE

BALANCING YOUR PRIORITIES IN LIFELiving a productive and meaningful life is a balancing act. With the pressures of today’s demanding and high paced world, most people struggle to find a reasonable balance. We can easily be drawn away from our priorities when one aspect of our life consumes the bulk of our time. To a large extent, it is much like walking a tightrope. When we drift too much in one direction or the other, we become unbalanced.  To sustain what we value most in our lives, we must constantly maintain our equilibrium as we move forward to achieve our purpose and goals.

Are you dedicating enough time and energy to the most important aspects of your life? Or do you find yourself focusing on one major area at the expense of the others?

Commit to finding your balance in life.
Take a good look at your life. Do you feel consistently stressed, physically exhausted, mentally drained or emotionally devoid of happiness? Are you dropping the ball with key responsibilities in your personal and professional lives?  Do you neglect your own well-being for the sake of others? If your answer is “yes” to any of these considerations, you may be out of balance. To find your balance, make a commitment to work through these next steps.

Here are some useful techniques on how to balance your priorities in life: 

1. Determine your priorities.
Set aside time to define what you would consider to be the most significant aspects of your life. Do they include such priorities as family, friends, work, community, and self? How do your priorities factor into your life? Which of them consume the most time, energy, and financial resources? Which ones are the most rewarding to you? Overall, how do they add and subtract value to your spiritual, mental, and physical well-being? Focus on creating priorities that are achievable and make the most sense to you.

2. Establish and execute an implementation plan for each priority.
You have a finite amount of time and energy in any one given day.  In response, how do you plan to implement your priorities? To develop your plan, establish specific strategies for each priority and tie them to your overall plan to maintain balance.  If one priority is to care for your father with Alzheimer’s, how can you accomplish this goal when you are working full-time with two teenagers? What specific steps will you take to manage your efforts? As you execute your implementation plan, align your actions to your words. Your priorities will be revealed to others by how you live.

3. Evaluate your progress.
Take time to periodically assess how well you are carrying out your priorities. Acknowledge your accomplishments and areas in need of improvement. If you continue to feel unbalanced, be willing to adjust your priorities or implementation strategies to bring you back into alignment. As your priorities change, alter your implementation plan to sustain your balance. This will be an ongoing process if you wish to keep moving forward.

4. Stand your ground.
You own your priorities and how they balance your life. No one else can determine what is best for you even when they may try. Be prepared to walk away from difficult situations and to say no to unreasonable requests that ultimately compromise your balance. Consider it a personal victory when you have the strength and courage to protect what is important to you. Don’t relinquish your power to the unreasonable demands of others.

5. Allow yourself time each day to center yourself.
An essential part of balancing your life is to take time for yourself. Make it a daily habit to spend some quiet time during your day to relax and let go. Turn off your cell and other distractions and just check out for even a short period of time.

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule but to schedule your priorities– Stephen Covey

Written by: Patricia K. Flanigan, Smart Strategies for Successful Living

Source: AgeGracefullyAmerica.com

3 Breathing Exercises to Fight Stress and Raise Oxygen Levels

3 Breathing Exercises to Fight Stress and Raise Oxygen LevelsBreathing is something we do without thinking, so it’s easy to take it for granted. But as people age, they’re more likely to develop respiratory complications and experience breathing difficulties. Along with this inability to breathe freely and sustain healthy oxygen levels comes a host of other ailments, including elevated anxiety and emotional stress, reduced energy levels, and compromised immune function.

Caregivers can help their aging loved ones alleviate some of these symptoms through focused breathing techniques that increase the body’s oxygen levels and ease physical and mental stress. These exercises can alleviate some of the symptoms associated with asthma attacks, high blood pressure, shortness of breath, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and sleep apnea. Furthermore, even healthy individuals can benefit from the calming and rejuvenating effects of controlled breathing.

Seniors and their caregivers can practice these techniques together to reap the benefits. Try the three exercises below to find one that is most useful for each of you.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Believe it or not, there is a right way to breathe, but most people don’t practice it. Patients with limited lung capacity often fall into the habit of taking short, shallow breaths into their chest. If a person’s chest rises as they take a breath, it is a likely indicator of improper breathing. A proper breath will draw air into the lungs, pushing the diaphragm down and visibly expanding the belly. Follow these steps to engage in deep, diaphragmatic breathing:

  1. Sit up straight, with one hand on the stomach and the other on the chest.
  2. Inhale slowly and deeply through the nostrils, feeling the stomach expand with each full, diaphragmatic breath.
  3. Exhale slowly out of the mouth.
  4. Repeat six or more times each minute for up to 15 minutes.

The 4-7-8 Technique

The popular 4-7-8 breathing method has been touted as one of the most effective (and speedy) ways to fall asleep. Some studies suggest that a person can drift off in less than a minute using this approach. Part of the 4-7-8 technique’s success lies in its ability to ease tension and promote relaxation. Practicing the following focused breathing exercise twice a day will help minimize food cravings, reduce anxiety and provide relief from insomnia.

  1. Breathe out fully through the mouth, creating a wind-like “whoosh” noise.
  2. Keeping the mouth closed, inhale through the nose and silently count to four.
  3. Hold this breath while counting to seven.
  4. Exhale through the mouth for a count of eight, repeating the “whoosh” sound.
  5. Repeat steps two through four five times.

Buteyko Nose Breathing

Buteyko breathing was invented by a Russian scientist in the 1950s to curb asthma attacks and treat other respiratory problems. Unfortunately, the medical field resisted a breathing technique that could ease symptoms without the help of medication. Since then, people around the world have embraced Buteyko breathing specifically because it is natural and very effective.

Thousands have reported relief from asthma, sleep apnea and hypertension by integrating this proven method, which balances the body’s oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, into their daily routine. As a note, it is best to have senior patients initially perform this exercise under supervision to avoid improper technique that can result in hyperventilation.

  1. In a quiet, comfortable place, sit up straight and focus on breathing.
  2. Keeping the mouth closed, inhale slowly through the nostrils to fill the lungs.
  3. Exhale through the nostrils, slowly expelling air from the lungs,until you feel compelled to inhale.
  4. Repeat steps two and three five times.

Keep it Consistent

When patients begin using daily breathing techniques and notice positive results, they often stick with the program. Missing a day or two is acceptable, unless it affects a person’s whole routine and causes them to slip back into old, shallow breathing habits. Tracking progress with a diary can help you stick to your routine, recognize improvements and note any significant changes in your health.

We breathe more than 25,000 times each day, so it’s easy to get lazy when it comes to this largely involuntary process. Using these breathing exercises, seniors and caregivers alike can shake old habits and develop new ones that lead to improved physical health and a renewed sense of mental alertness and clarity in only a few weeks.

I Have Alzheimer’s Disease – Sharing Your Diagnosis

Sharing ySharing Your Diagnosisour diagnosis with others is an important step toward integrating Alzheimer’s disease into your life. You may be hesitant to share your diagnosis with some people, given the impact such a disclosure may have for you. Keep this mantra in mind: Alzheimer’s disease is not your fault.

Why tell others about your diagnosis

As the disease progresses, you will need the support of those who know and understand you. Concealing or denying your diagnosis will limit your ability to cope with the challenges ahead. While some relationships may be tested by what you are revealing, other relationships may be strengthened.

It is normal to experience fear or discomfort about sharing your diagnosis. However, talking openly with those you trust is a powerful way to educate those around you about the disease and to engage their support.

Deciding who to tell

Some individuals choose to share their diagnosis with just their closest family and friends, while others may be comfortable sharing their diagnosis with a broader group of people. Assess your personal comfort level before making this decision. You may feel more supported sharing your diagnosis with close friends and family first before telling others.

Consider the relationships in your life and determine who should be included in your disclosure:

  • Who are the people I feel closest to?
  • Who will continue to support me with this diagnosis?
  • Who I am responsible for telling (spouse, partner, friends)?

How to share your diagnosis

After deciding to share your diagnosis, consider when to tell your news. You may want to tell others about the diagnosis as soon as you get it. Or you may want to wait until you have had time to come to terms with your diagnosis.

o increase the likelihood of a comforting reaction when you tell your friends or family about the diagnosis, find a time when you can be alone and relaxed together. Give some thought to the conversation — what do you want to say? Consider writing your thoughts on paper and bringing that with you.

When you share your diagnosis, you may want to talk about planning for the future or about how family and friends can help; you also may wish to explain more about Alzheimer’s.

Help those closest to you come to terms with your new situation by considering these questions:

  • How do I think this person will react? If the reaction is something unexpected, how might I feel? What can I do in response?
  • How do I want this person to treat me? The diagnosis represents a big change, but it’s only gradually that my needs will change. What do I want from this person right now?
  • What does the person need from me now? What can I provide that will help?

Tips from individuals in the early stage

  • Go slowly.
    You don’t need to talk about everything in one sitting if the person is having a reaction that is difficult for you.
  • Let the person know that both of you will be having different reactions about this over time.
    You both can continue to talk about your thoughts and feelings throughout your relationship.
  • Provide educational brochures about the disease.
    You can also direct him or her to alz.org for additional information.
  • Let the person know that you are still you.
    Even though you are now living with this diagnosis, who you are and what has made you close to each other continues unchanged. Continuing your commitment to the relationship you have can be comforting to both of you.
  • Let people provide assistance when it makes your life easier.
    Just like it helps you to feel useful and needed, helping may make them feel better, too. Accepting help is not an all-or-nothing proposition, and letting others help is not the same as being helpless. They are trying to make life easier for you, and it may help you to let them do that when it feels appropriate.

Responses to diagnosisEarly stage dementia

Consider how you felt after hearing your diagnosis for the first time. Just like you, the people with whom you share your diagnosis will likely experience similar reactions including fear, anger or relief that there is an explanation for symptoms. You may encounter unexpected or negative reactions. Family and friends may react with denial, or with comments or behavior that reflect their misconceptions abo

 

ut Alzheimer’s disease. Responses may include, “But you seem to be fine” or “You’re too young to have dementia.”

Denial is a common response to the disclosure of a serious illness; it provides distance from overwhelming feelings. Stigma or misconceptions about Alzheimer’s may exist due to a lack of information. These reactions reflect the person’s need for more time and/or education before they can respond to you in helpful ways. Allow your family or friends time to digest your news so everyone can move forward together in a positive way.

Your first conversation about your diagnosis may grow into an ongoing dialogue about your experience living with Alzheimer’s. Honest communication about your experience and your expectations of each other can help strengthen your connection. Learn ways you can help your family and friends adjust to your diagnosis.

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

I Have Alzheimer’s Disease – Just Diagnosed

Just DiagnosedReceiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s is never easy — it’s life changing. It is normal to experience a range of emotions. Acknowledging your feelings can be an empowering first step in coping with the challenges ahead.

Emotions you may have

You noticed symptoms. You made a doctor’s appointment. You took tests. And you felt a roller coaster of emotions — fear, hope, despair, denial. Then you received a diagnosis. You may have felt numb, unsure of how to respond or where to turn.

You also may be grieving over the present losses you are experiencing, or the expectation of future changes as the disease progresses. It can be helpful to identify and understand some of the emotions you may experience after receiving your diagnosis.

These emotions may include:

  • Anger. Your life is taking a different course than the one you and your family had planned. You cannot control the course of the disease.
  • Relief. The changes you were experiencing were cause for concern. A diagnosis validated these concerns by assigning a name to your symptoms.
  • Denial. The diagnosis seems impossible to believe. You may feel overwhelmed by how your life will change as a result of Alzheimer’s.
  • Depression. You may feel sad or hopeless about the way your life is changing.
  • Resentment. You may be asking yourself what you did to deserve your diagnosis or why this is happening to you and not someone else.
  • Fear. You may be fearful of the future and how your family will be affected.
  • Isolation. You may feel as if no one understands what you’re going through or lose interest in maintaining relationships with others.
  • Sense of loss. It may be difficult to accept changes in your abilities.

If these feelings linger week after week, you may be dealing with depression or anxiety. Feeling depressed or anxious about your diagnosis is common, but both can be successfully treated.

Taking care of your emotional needs

Coming to terms with your diagnosis and the emotions you are feeling will help you accept your diagnosis, move forward, and discover new ways to live a positive and fulfilling life.

You are the only person who can change how you feel about your diagnosis. So it’s important to find healthy ways to deal with your emotions. This can be difficult at the beginning. But once you make the commitment to take care of your emotional needs, you may find that you can rise to the challenge and face your diagnosis. This is a new phase of your life, and you can choose to experience it with sense of connection to your emotional health.

When working through your feelings, try a combination of approaches. The following tips may be helpful:

  • Write down your thoughts and feelings about your diagnosis in a journal.
  • You may find your friends and family struggling with your diagnosis and their feelings. Learn more about how you can help family and friends.
  • Share your feelings with close family and friends. Speak open and honestly about your feelings.
  • Surround yourself with a good support system that includes individuals who are also living in the early stage of the disease and understand what you’re going through. Join our ALZConnected message boards or learn more about support programs.
  • Join an early-stage support group. It can provide you with a safe and supportive environment of peers. To find a support group in your area, check with your local Alzheimer’s Association chapter.
  • Talk to your doctor if you or others are concerned about your emotional well-being. Your doctor can determine the most appropriate treatment plan to address your concerns.
  • Seek help from a counselor or clergy member. He or she can help you to see things in a new way and help you understand more fully what you are feeling.
  • If you are feeling misunderstood or stereotyped because of your diagnosis, learn what you can do to overcome stigma.
  • Stay engaged. Continue to do the activities you enjoy for as long as you are able.
  • Take the time you need to feel sad, mourn and grieve.
  • No two people deal with their diagnosis in exactly the same way. There is no right approach. Some days may be more difficult than others, but don’t be discouraged. Learn coping tips to help you manage challenges.

You are not alone

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease can leave you feeling disconnected, isolated or abandoned from others. You may feel unsure of where to turn and that no one can possibly understand what you’re going through. People living with early-stage Alzheimer’s have stated that one of the most important lessons they learned early on in their diagnosis is this: they could not just wait for others to help them – they had to go out and help themselves to the best of their ability.

Whenever facing difficult times, having a good support network you can turn to for advice and encouragement may help you feel socially connected and give you a sense of belonging and purpose. Make sure your network includes other people who are living in the early stage of the disease. Connecting with others like you may help put your own experiences living with the disease in perspective, and provide you with the support and encouragement necessary to move beyond your diagnosis.

Questions for your doctor

After receiving your diagnosis, it’s normal to leave your doctor’s office unsure of what questions to ask. You just received life-changing news, and you need time to absorb this information and understand what it means for you and your family.

Your doctor is an important member of your care team. Use the opportunity to ask your doctor questions about your diagnosis, all the available options, and the benefits and risks of each choice you make.

You may be asking: “How do I know what to ask my doctor?”

Members of our Alzheimer’s Association National Early-Stage Advisory Group have shared their own experiences and questions they wish they had asked their doctors. You may find this information helpful as you develop your own list of questions.

Download these questions and others as a PDF

Example questions:

The diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease

  1. What test(s) or tools did you use to determine my diagnosis?
  2. What are you measuring with the tests you performed?

Alzheimer’s disease

  1. How will the disease progress?
  2. What can I expect in the future?

Treatments

  1. What treatment options are available?
  2. Which symptoms are being targeting by each medication?

Clinical trials

  1. What clinical trials are available?
  2. Where can I find published information about clinical treatment studies?

Care team

  1. How familiar are you with Alzheimer’s disease? Will you be managing my care going forward?
  2. If I need to be hospitalized, will you be able to provide care in this setting?

Care and support

  1. What resources are available to help me learn more about my diagnosis? My family?
  2. What support services are available to help me live well with the disease, for as long as possible?

Source: Alzheimer’s Association

Carefully Consider the Implications of Moving an Elderly Loved One Closer to You

Carefully Consider the Implications of Moving an Elderly Loved One Closer to YouThese days, family members are often scattered in various cities and states throughout the country. This poses a serious challenge when a loved one requires increased care or assistance. There almost always comes a point in time when long-distance caregivers give serious consideration to moving their loved ones closer to them. This can occur when aging family members are still healthy and able to live independently, following a sudden change in health status, or even once they are already living in an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.

There are obviously logistical and psychological challenges in such a decision. This can include deciding which family member the senior should move to be close to and whether or not this family member is willing and able to meet their loved one’s care needs. However, there are even more significant factors to take into account. Sometimes families do not think through the financial, legal and medical implications of such a move. It is important to consider whether it will cost more for a loved one to live and receive quality care in a different city or state, and these expenses are not always obvious.

Let’s look at some possible scenarios to see what factors might influence such a decision. Keep in mind that these situations can change rapidly, so it is important to give all of the following questions and factors proper consideration, even if they do not apply yet.

Scenario One: The Preemptive Move

At some point in time, multiple generations within a family may sit down together and look at the possibility of everyone living in the same time zone or zip code. This discussion may arise when your elders are still healthy, because visits are few and far between. There are certainly benefits to such an arrangement, but what about the drawbacks and contingencies of moving your elders closer to you?

Considerations

  • What is the availability of primary care physicians (PCPs) in your area?
  • Do available PCPs routinely accept new Medicare patients? Check with your own physicians to see if your family member might have preference in being admitted to their practice.
  • Are there particular specialists that your family member must have access to? Even if your loved one is still living independently, they may have a chronic disease or two that needs more specialized monitoring or attention.
  • Does your family member’s current PCP or specialist have any recommendations for colleagues near you?
  • Does your loved one still drive? If not, or if they lose this ability, how will they access transportation? What are the costs for the bus system, subway, cabs, etc.?
  • What are their expectations in terms of your involvement in their health care and medical issues? Do they want you to accompany them to physician visits, or are they used to doing these things themselves? They may appreciate the opportunity to have you more involved. However, you may see this move as a way to limit the time you need to devote to long-distance travel, not an opportunity to set up a whole list of new responsibilities and obligations!
  • On the other hand, are you assuming they will help you with child care, babysitting or similar tasks?
  • Be clear about boundaries before entering this new situation. Will you be having family meals or gatherings on a regular basis, or will you be taking a “live and let live” approach?
  • If they are going to live with you, will they share expenses?
  • Do they have a houseful of furniture and personal belongings that they will have to move? Are they open to downsizing? How do they plan on moving their things? How much will this cost?

Scenario Two: The Reality Check

After a loved one experiences a significant change in their health status, family members tend to think more seriously about moving them closer to provide support and assistance more regularly and be available on shorter notice. This arrangement also allows for easier monitoring of a loved one’s health and overall situation. Depending on a senior’s current status and prognosis, there are a number of factors to take into account before making a decision.

Considerations

  • If your loved one has been living independently, can they continue to do so safely? Has the family considered assisted living? Are there facilities in your area to choose from? Do they meet your standards? What are the costs?
  • Does your loved one have a long-term care insurance policy or veterans benefits that can help cover the costs of housing and/or care?
  • If they have a limited income, does your community have subsidized or senior housing for which they might be eligible? What is the waiting time? Should you be filling out applications now, even if the move is more than a year away?
  • What is the availability of home care services in your area? Keep in mind that rates and sliding scale fees for personal services can vary greatly from one state or area to another. A person who was eligible for Medicaid in one state will need to reapply in their new state, and they may not qualify. Ask questions! Do not assume that what is available for them now “at home” will be transferable once they change residences.
  • What kind of health insurance do they have now? Areas with large concentrations of seniors often have reasonably priced Managed Care/Medicare Advantage/Medicare Part C plans. If you move your loved one to a rural area or a place with limited choices, you may find that their health insurance expenses will rise because they need to have original Medicare (Parts A and B) and a supplement (sometimes referred to as Medigap). (Please note: Moving from a Medicare Advantage plan to original Medicare is not always easy or possible. Leaving a service area begins a special enrollment period, but the options and pricing for supplemental coverage could be much different than expected. For more information, see the article “Time to Re-Evaluate and Change Medicare Plans.”
  • Following a new diagnosis or illness, a loved one’s health status may require a different type of coverage. If they are seeing lots of specialists, a Medicare Advantage plan that was useful “back home” may not be cost effective at this point. Speaking to a SHIP (State Health Insurance Program) counselor at your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center may be a good place to start. The counselor can give good basic information about plans that are available and projected costs.

Scenario Three: The Facility Move

Many families find themselves balancing life at home and caring for a loved one in an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Unfortunately, distance often complicates this situation even further. If you are thinking about moving your loved one to a facility nearby where you can be regularly involved in their care without extensive travel or disruption to your work or daily life, be sure to consider the following factors.

Considerations

  • If your loved one is already in a senior living facility and they are accessing Medicaid, you need to check with the Medicaid office in your state about whether they can transfer to a new facility and automatically and retain this coverage. Your family member will have to qualify for Medicaid all over again in their new state of residence, and this may involve paying out of pocket for some time before they are approved. You may be reimbursed retroactively, but it might not amount to much. Medicaid regulations vary from state to state, so be sure you understand any differences between programs. It may be wise to contact an elder law attorney just for an informational session.
  • If they must reapply in their new state of residence, are there different asset and income limits for Medicaid eligibility? What are the differences in coverage and benefits between the state programs?
  • If you are taking someone out of an assisted living or continuing care community, are there deposits that were paid that are nonrefundable? Furthermore, are there any contracts that might interfere with a move?
  • Are there similar facilities in your area that only charge monthly fees and do not require another buy-in or down payment? (These monthly fees may be higher than what the individual was paying before.) Can your loved one afford such fees?
  • If your loved one has Alzheimer’s, dementia or another serious condition, will they be able to mentally, physically and emotionally handle a move? Will they require specialized transportation? How much will it cost?
  • Thinking more long term, what are the estate tax and inheritance laws in your state compared to where your family member lives now? If they are considerably different, will your loved one need to reevaluate and update their estate plan and other legal documents? Are there any reputable elder law attorneys in your area to assist with this? What do they typically charge?

There can be many advantages to having a care recipient live closer to family, but it is important to research some of the financial, medical and legal implications before making a commitment. This will ensure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible and minimize the likelihood of surprises. If there are significant concerns, you may want to reconsider such a decision or proceed very carefully.

Source: AgingCare.comhttps://www.agingcare.com

Saying “No” to Family Drama while Caregiving

Over the years, there have been many posts in the Caregiver Forum about the questionable things family members do and how deeply these actions affect elders and their caregivers.

It seems that every family has a “difficult” member: the one who is never around but somehow knows everything; the one you can never please, no matter how hard you try; or the one who makes every conversation and situation about themselves. These people would never consider helping you in any tangible way with caregiving. Yet, like I said, they consider themselves to be experts. They know it all and have done it all.

My wife, Phyllis June, and I have a few of these people in our family. The strange thing is, it has always been these few who seem to stick together through thick and thin. One could lie, and the others will swear to it. Everything is always about them, and they do nothing to help anyone else. When something happens to them, they always add their own flare to the story so it’s much more dramatic than it would be if they told the truth.

How are caregivers supposed to handle family and friends like this? Back in the day, before I was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s, I just let their nonsense roll off my back. I didn’t give them a second thought until my health and my outlook changed.

When I was diagnosed, one of the things everyone told my wife and me repeatedly was that I had to stay away from stress of any kind. We immediately made some adjustments, including retiring from my career in law enforcement and EMS. Some modifications were easier than others, but the hardest part was making changes based on another person’s behavior—especially when it’s someone you are related to. Most people can and do put up with a lot, especially from their family, but our new circumstances meant that had to stop.

Ignoring our family members and their antics only worked for a couple of years. Then they did something that neither my wife nor I could put up with. I won’t go into details, but it was a deal breaker for us. We have washed our hands of these people, and we are better off for it. It is a sad thing to do, but we have accepted that they are never going to change. Now, when we see them, they look the other way, which is fine with me. I suppose they know they should leave well enough alone after the events that have transpired.

What I am trying to get at is, when you have dementia or another serious medical condition, you simply cannot put up with any nonsense. The stress that some family members bring to the table is entirely unnecessary and unacceptable. Furthermore, it is harmful.

The same applies for caregivers. You and your loved one are under an enormous amount of pressure just dealing with the emotional toll of dementia, daily hands-on care and any other serious health issues. Additional drama has no place in the caregiving equation.

I simply do not have the time or the inclination to deal with insensitive people. I would never go out of my way to be mean or hateful to anyone, but there comes a time when boundaries need to be set and respected.

The bottom line is you cannot change people. Balancing your own sanity, your loved one’s wellbeing and the duty you feel to relatives is an immense challenge. However, your number one concern is your loved one’s welfare. Because they depend on you, that means your mental and physical health is also a high priority.

You can try to sit these people down and be rational about your feelings and their treatment of you, but most will never see the light. I want to be clear: I am not promoting family break-ups or estrangement. Everyone faces familial challenges and handles them in their own way. However, since I was diagnosed, my outlook and approach have changed.

Two simple questions helped me reflect on my troubled relationships. If you are experiencing difficulties with a family member, sit back and ask yourself, “What does this person bring to my life and my loved one’s life? What have they done to make this journey easier on us?” If you are honest with yourself, the answers will speak volumes about your relationship.

If you can come to an understanding where they realize you will not tolerate such behavior, then that is a wonderful thing. Open communication and appreciation of other points of view are vital to healthy relationships. However, your family member may not entertain either of these notions. They may not even be capable of doing so. If they were, they probably would have examined their behavior and made efforts to change already.

Instead, it is up to you to make the adjustment. Change your situation for the better. If that means altering who is involved in your life and the extent of their involvement, so be it. You will be surprised how much better off you will be by eliminating unnecessary negativity.

Stress is an inevitable part of life, but stress that is brought on for no reason is unacceptable. Sometimes we just need the courage to say, “What you are doing to me is not right, and I am not taking it anymore.”

Source: AgingCare.com

Without safety net of kids or spouse, ‘elder orphans’ need a fallback plan

Without safety net of kids or spouse, 'elder orphans' need a fallback plan

It was a memorable place to have an “aha” moment about aging.

Peter Sperry had taken his 82-year-old father, who’d had a stroke and used a wheelchair, to Disney World. Just after they’d made their way through the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, nature called. Sperry took his father to the bathroom where, with difficulty, he changed the older man’s diaper.

“It came to me then: There isn’t going to be anyone to do this for me when I’m his age, and I needed to plan ahead,” said Sperry, now 61, recalling the experience several years ago.

Sperry never married, has no children and lives alone.

About 22 percent of older adults in the U.S. fall into this category or are at risk of doing so in the future, according to a 2016 study.

“This is an often overlooked, poorly understood group that needs more attention from the medical community,” said Dr. Maria Carney, the study’s lead author and chief of the division of geriatrics and palliative medicine at Northwell Health in N.Y. It’s also an especially vulnerable group, according to a recently released survey of 500 people who belong to the Elder Orphan Facebook Group, with 8,500 members.

Notably, 70 percent of survey respondents said they hadn’t identified a caregiver who would help if they became ill or disabled, while 35 percent said they didn’t have “friends or family to help them cope with life’s challenges.”

“What strikes me is how many of these elder orphans are woefully unprepared for aging,” said Carney, who reviewed the survey at my request.

Financial insecurity and health concerns are common among the survey respondents: a non-random sample consisting mostly of women in their 60s and 70s, most of them divorced or widowed and college-educated.

One-quarter of the group said they feared losing their housing; 23 percent reported not having enough money to meet basic needs at least once over the past year; 31 percent said they weren’t secure about their financial future.

In the survey, 40 percent of people admitted to depression; 37 percent, to anxiety. More than half (52 percent) confessed to being lonely.

Carol Marak, 67, who runs the Facebook group, understands members’ insecurities better than ever since suffering an accident several weeks ago. She cut her finger badly on a meat grinder while making chicken salad for dinner guests. Divorced and childless, Marak lives alone in an apartment tower in Dallas. She walked down the hall and asked neighbors a married couple to take her to the emergency room.

“I freaked out and this wasn’t even that big of a deal,” Marak said. “Imagine people like me who break a hip and have a long period of disability and recovery,” she said. “What are they supposed to do?”

Sperry has thought a lot about who could be his caregiver down that road in a circumstance like that. No one fits the bill.

“It’s not like I don’t have family or friends: It’s just that the people who you can count on have to be specific types of family and friends,” he said. “Your sister or brother, they may be willing to help but not able to if they’re old themselves. Your nieces and nephews, they may be able, but they probably are not going to be willing.”

The solution Sperry thinks might work: moving to a continuing care retirement community with different levels of care when he begins to become less independent. That’s an expensive proposition entry fees range from about $100,000 to $400,000 and monthly fees from about $2,000 to $4,000.

Sperry, a longtime government employee, can afford it, but many people aging alone can’t.

Sperry also has a short-term plan: He wants to retire next year and relocate from Woodbridge, Va., to Greenville, S.C. a popular retirement haven in a home with design features to help him age in place. Those plans could be upended, however, if his widowed mother in Pennsylvania requires extra care.

In the meantime, Sperry is resolved to be pragmatic. “Do I look at my situation and say ‘Gee, there’s not going to be anyone there for me’ and start feeling sorry for myself? Or do I say ‘Gee, I’d better figure out how I’m going to take care of myself?’ I’m not going with pity I don’t think that would be very pleasant,” he said.

Planning for challenges that can arise with advancing age is essential for people who go it alone, advised Sara Zeff Geber, a retirement coach and author of “Essential Retirement Planning for Solo Agers: A Retirement and Aging Roadmap for Single and Childless Adults.” A good way to start is to think about things that adult children do for older parents and consider how you’re going to do all of that yourself or with outside assistance, she said. In her book, Geber lists the responsibilities that adult children frequently take on: They serve as caregivers, help older parents figure out where to live, provide emotional and practical support, assist with financial issues such as managing money, and agree to serve as health care or legal decision-makers when a parent becomes incapacitated. Also, older parents often rely on adult children for regular social contact and a sense of connectedness.

In New York, Wendl Kornfeld, 69, began running year-long workshops for small groups of solo agers four years ago. Though married, she and her 80-year-old husband consider themselves future solo agers living together. “We figured out a long time ago one of us was going to survive the other,” she said.

At those gatherings, Kornfeld asked people to jettison denial about aging and imagine the absolute worst things that might happen to them, physically and socially. Then, people talked about how they might prepare for those eventualities.

“The whole purpose of these get-togethers was to be fearless, face issues head-on and not keep our heads in the sand,” Kornfeld said. “Then, we can plan for what might happen, stop worrying and start enjoying the best years of our lives.”

Kornfeld took her program to New York City’s Temple Emanu-El three years ago and is working with several synagogues and churches interested in launching similar initiatives. Meanwhile, elder orphans have begun meeting in-person in other cities, including Chicago; Dallas; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; and Seattle, after getting to know each other virtually on the Elder Orphan Facebook Group.

Kornfeld applauds that development. “So many solo agers identify as being introverted or shy or impatient with other people. They have a million reasons why they don’t go out,” she said. “I tell people, this may be hard for you, but you’ve got to leave the house because that’s where the world is.”

Source: Chicago Tribune, By Judith Graham

Should They Stay or Should They Go: Home Modifications and Selling Your Home

Living with a disability, whether because of age or another lifestyle factor, makes life significantly more challenging. One place where all individuals should feel comfortable is at home. However, most homes are not designed with wheelchair, walker or other mobility assistance devices in mind.

If you or someone you love is dealing with limited mobility, or if you are caring for a senior in your life, you may need to make some modifications to allow them to live comfortably and independently at home. As you consider these modifications, you will also want to consider the impact they have on the resale value of your home, should you need to sell your home at a later date. Here’s what you need to know about home modifications and resale value.

Common Home Modifications for Those That Need More Assistance

Those who are older and those who have mobility or sensory disabilities sometimes need home modifications to help them navigate their homes independently. From assisting with navigating stairs to ensuring someone with visual concerns can safely move around a home, sometimes these modifications require an actual change to the house, its structure or its features.

Home Modifications for Seniors

These home modifications make life easier for senior citizens:

  • Installing grab bars in bathrooms
  • Installing walk-in or roll-in tubs/showers in bathrooms
  • Swapping out doorknobs with pull handles
  • Installing ramps for exterior access
  • Installing stair lifts for access to other stories
  • Eliminating stairs where possible
  • Additional handrails on stairs without stair lifts
  • Addition of first-floor laundry facilities
  • Adding a bath or shower to the first floor bedroom
  • Addition of portable shower seats
  • Levered faucets in sinks and showers
  • Adjusting windows so they are easy to open
  • Installing automatic openers on the garage
  • Adding peepholes or viewing panels to exterior doors
  • Strategic lighting to increase visibility
  • Installing non-slip tape on exterior steps and ledges
  • Installing an elevated dishwasher to limit bending

Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

Disabled individuals of all ages may need home modifications to help them get around. Some of these may include:

  • Widening doorways for wheelchair or walker access – Aim for 36 inches wide
  • Lowering countertops to wheelchair height
  • Lowering light switch height
  • Roll-in showers
  • Grab bars in bathrooms
  • Wheelchair ramps for a home’s exterior
  • Lift for accessing other areas of the home
  • Lowering height of handles and locks
  • Limiting transitions between flooring types
  • Removing carpet in favor of hard flooring options
  • Elimination of chairs where possible

Here is additional information about home modifications:

How Do Home Modifications Affect Resale Value?

When it comes to home modifications, the only thing on the mind of most homeowners is making the home accessible for those they love. While that roll-in shower may have been beneficial and even critical to your loved one’s self-care, it may not be an asset to a potential buyer. There usually comes a point when moving is inevitable, and at that time you must consider the resale value of the home. Here’s how you can determine the effect on your home’s resale value of the various modifications you’re considering.

Factors that Impact Whether Modifications Are Beneficial to Resale Value, or Harmful

Will accessibility changes affect your home’s resale value? Here are some factors that will impact the answer to that question.

  • Your Location – If your home is located somewhere with a large number of disabled or senior individuals, such as near a good veteran’s hospital serving disabled veterans or in an area of the country where people want to retire, you may see more resale value from your modifications.
  • The Modification Type – Does the modification significantly change the function or flow of the house? If so, it may hurt resale value. If not, it may help.
  • Your Potential Future Buyer – Finally, the potential demographic of your future buyer may play a role. As Baby Boomers reach retirement, they are seeing an increased desire for accessible homes. Also, those between the ages of 35 and 55 have the greatest demand or desire for accessibility.

Places Where Accessibility Is Valued

Certain parts of the country place a higher value on accessibility, and as such tend to draw a large number of disabled or elderly individuals who capitalize on those accessible features. In these parts of the country, accessibility modifications are more likely to have a positive impact on the home’s value.

These areas include:

  • Denver, CO – Denver may not be the retirement place of choice for most retirees, but the city has a number of adaptability features throughout its public areas and public transportation.
  • Berkeley, CA – This city stands as a model for independent living.
  • Seattle, WA – Mild weather and a number of accessible features make Seattle a popular place among those who need disability assistance
  • Gainesville, FL – It’s no secret that seniors flock to Florida, and Gainesville has a low cost of living combined with a strict disability-friendly building code that can help make it popular among those needing accessibility.
  • AZ – Arizona is also a popular place to retire, and many 50-and-older communities cater to the specific needs of those who need additional disability assistance. The demand for accessible housing can be large in these areas.

 

So what impact do specific modifications have on resale value? Approximately 75% of people assume that home modifications hurt resale value of a home, but this is not always the case. The reality is that some modifications, especially if they are done tastefully and in line with the home’s architectural style, can have a positive impact.

It’s not possible to put a dollar value on specific modifications, because the impact varies depending on the style of home, its location and the target buyer demographic. However, one principle that can impact the overall impact is the principle of Universal Design.

Universal Design refers to a home design that is safe and usable for people of all ages and abilities, including those with disabilities. Universal Design is built into the home’s basic design, rather than added as an afterthought. This means that Universal Design elements work with the home’s architecture. Some features of a Univebrsal Design home include:

  • Safe and accessible bathrooms
  • Lever door and faucet handles
  • Non-slip surfaces in the bathroom
  • No steps at entrances
  • Maximum rise of 1/2 inches at thresholds
  • Minimum of 5 feet by 5 feet at entrance doors on both sides
  • Proper lighting for entry doors
  • Ground floor bedroom, bath and laundry
  • Room for installation of a platform lift near stairs
  • Contrasting colors between floor and trim or different floors that require different navigation
  • Avoidance of glossy surfaces

These types of changes do not change the look or architectural design of the home much, and as such do not hurt its resale value. In fact, studies have shown that Universal Design modifications can actually help your home’s resale value. Additions that change the look or architecture of a home and make it stand out as “accessible,” such as a large wheelchair ramp outside a home, can have a negative impact.

For more information on Universal Design, home modifications and resale value, visit:

Your Potential Buyer

With baby boomers rapidly retiring or reaching retirement age, there is a niche housing market emerging that you can likely tap into if you’re selling a modified home. Advertise modifications and be prepared to discuss the details of how they were installed, as well as what needs to be done to modify them further. You may also wish to consider renting your modified home as a means of income, and a way to leverage the modifications you made.

Hottest Home Modifications for Disabled Individuals

If you’re working to make a home more accessible for a disabled loved one, you may have to pick and choose the modifications you use based on budget or because of concerns about resale value. Here are some of the hottest home modifications to consider, which both help your loved one and potentially help your resale value.

Accessible Bathroom

An accessible bathroom is one with at least a five-foot diameter turning space, which allows someone in a wheelchair or with a walker navigate independently. Accessible bathrooms may have roll-in tubs or showers and adjustable seats, and they will have grab bars. To make the bathroom as resale friendly as possible, work with a pro to add these modifications in a way that works with the bathroom’s design and architecture.

First-Floor Bedroom and Laundry

People with mobility issues can’t go up and down the stairs every time they need to do laundry. Adding a first-floor laundry is essential, as is a first-floor bedroom. Sometimes you can add this by converting a den into a bedroom or a closet into a laundry area. Because this will require the addition of closet space for a bedroom or power and venting for a laundry room, this will require the help of a professional contractor.

Widening Doorways

A home can’t be accessible with doorways that an individual can’t navigate. Widening the doorways has little impact on resale value if done well, and can make a home much more navigable. Again, this requires a professional to do well.

Changing the Flooring

Hard floors are easier to navigate than soft floors, and the great thing about this change is that it’s a resale-friendly change. Most homebuyers want to see hard floors, which are easier to clean and care for, than old, tattered carpeting. Laminate and hardwood are better choices than tile, which is much harder and more slippery. By making this change, you can increase the resale value and make the home a bit safer. Some laminate can be done as a DIY project, while others are best left to the pros.

For more information about the best modifications to choose, visit:

 

What to Do About Modifications That Hurt Resale Value?

Sometimes you have to make a modification that has the potential to impact your home’s future resale value. If your choice is between having a home that your loved one can’t live in or hurting your home’s resale value, the answer is clear: your loved one always comes first. However, you will need to consider what to do about those modifications should you decide to sell the home.

Wheelchair Ramps

A wheelchair ramp is essential if your home’s entrance is not flush with the ground. An individual in a wheelchair can’t navigate steps. But a wheelchair ramp makes a home stand out in a negative way, so what can you do? Here are some ideas:

  • Work with a design professional to ensure the design works with your home’s architecture.
  • Add a ramp that does not remove the existing steps and can be removed for resale.
  • Invest in a ramp that is aesthetically pleasing.
  • Install a ramp on a back entrance to use when the home’s on the market, allowing for the removal of the front ramp.

Grab Bars and Rails

Grab bars are essential safety additions to a home, but sometimes they make the home look more functional than comfortable. Stark chrome grab bars in the bathroom can give it an institutional feel. Some solutions to this include:

  • Using grab bars that double as something else, like toilet paper holders that have a grab bar
  • Using grab bars that fit the decor
  • Removing the grab bars before listing the house

Walk-in Tubs

Safety tubs are a great innovation for the senior or disabled innovation, as they allow for bathroom independence. However, for those who don’t yet understand the need for this type of modification, they can seem unsightly and cumbersome. So what’s the solution? Consider these ideas:

  • Instead of a walk-in tub, opt for a roll-in shower which is a common design choice regardless of disability.
  • Cover the walk-in tub with an attractive shower curtain.
  • Ensure the color of the tub works with the bathroom’s overall design.

Lifts

Lifts to get a wheelchair upstairs are simply part of the puzzle when dealing with home modifications, but again these can be a bit cumbersome, and therefore negatively affect resale value. To get past this, consider removing the lift while the home is on the market. There is no good way to camouflage this particular modification, so consider putting the main features of the home on the main floor and just doing away with the lift while the home is on the market.

For more information on your home’s resale value, visit:

 

DIY Fixes to Maximize Home Resale Value and Accessibility

Sometimes budgets are tight, especially when you’re planning for the sale of a home. What can you do to get the most value out of your home’s sale if your budget is too tight to hire a pro? Are there modifications you can make that keep your home accessible without a pro? Are there ways you can reduce the impact of modifications on your own? Consider these DIY tasks that can make your home more valuable and more accessible.

  • Install Accessible Home Security – Home security is an asset to your home, and accessible home security helps keep your loved one safe. Installing a chain at a lower level or a home security system that your loved one can reach are all great options.
  • Reorganize for Accessibility – If your budget prevents a kitchen remodel, make the kitchen more accessible by reorganizing. Put everyday items in lower drawers and cabinets, and rarely-used items up high. Do the same in closets and other storage areas. Rearrange and reorganize furniture to maximize mobility through the home.
  • DIY Bathroom Modifications – A major bathroom remodel is costly, but you can tackle some jobs on your own. Add no-slip flooring to the shower or tub, consider investing in a shower seat and don’t forget to add grab bars near the toilet. Replace the existing vanity with a pedestal sink to provide maneuverability for wheelchairs or walkers.
  • Improve the Lighting – People with disabilities may need more lighting to ensure they can see well. You can improve the lighting in your home on your own. As an added bonus, a well-lit home shows better than a dim one, so this change has a positive impact on resale value!

Source: Better Homes

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Making a home safe for a senior loved one does not have to be a massive or costly project. There are small changes you can make each day that, over time, will dramatically reduce the risk of falls. For many, it may be difficult to know what changes to make, especially if we have lived in the same home for decades. Things like furniture placement, a lack of adequate lighting, and clutter on the floor are just a few of the commonly overlooked risks that can cause you to lose your footing. These factors should not be taken lightly. According to the National Council on Aging, falls are the most common cause of fatal injury and the leading source of trauma-related hospital admissions among the elderly. The good news is that most of these falls are preventable.

The start of any good fall prevention strategy begins in the home. It’s where seniors most frequently suffer a fall injury. As you get older it’s important to assess your residence for senior safety. You will want to go room to room, scanning the ceiling to the floor for any potential hazards. However, with dozens of hidden dangers, it’s not easy to identify them all. That’s why we’ve written this guide with 100 simple and easy things that you can do to organize your home and make it safe for seniors.

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Organize for Safety

The more organized you are, the safer your home will be. However, organization and storage strategies vary in different parts of the home. What you need in your bathroom is going to be very different than in the kitchen. Here, we go room by room providing simple organizational strategies to help prevent falls.

Fall Prevention & Mobility: Practical Safety and Organization Strategies for Seniors

Organize Your Kitchen

  • Store items on the lower shelves where they are easier to reach.
  • Use open shelves and cabinet without doors, if it’s easy to remove the doors.
  • Replace the cabinet knobs with lever style handles to make them easier to open.
  • Use a lazy-susan cabinet to maximize your storage space.
  • Use plastic or wooden dishware instead of glass. This will prevent your dishware from breaking if it falls on the floor.
  • Use a loud cooking timer that is easy to hear. This will help you keep track of anything you are cooking.
  • Use a water-absorbent kitchen mat near the sink. This will prevent any slips and falls after you use the sink.
  • Throw away old or unused items like herbs, spices, and other dry food items to make more room.
  • Throw out unused kitchen equipment like any large platters or plates, especially if you haven’t used them in a year.
  • Clear out the refrigerator of uneaten items. Foods like jams, pickles, and condiments can sometimes last years. They often take up much-needed space. Consider throwing some out.
  • Clear out the freezer of uneaten foods. It’s easy to leave items in the freezer for a long time, but they take up much-needed space.
  • Store frequently used items in easy-to-access drawers. Any utensils or cooking equipment that you use frequently should be kept at waist height. Also, try to keep them near where they are used. For example, you want to keep the pots and wooden spoons near the stove.
  • Put heavy items in easy-to-reach places. Never keep anything heavy stored up high where it can be difficult to take out or put away.
  • Keep your countertop clean and clear. Try not to use this space to store items that could fall off the counter.
  • Keep cords safely tucked away. If you have appliances like a coffee pot or a toaster, make sure the cords are neatly tucked behind the appliance and not near any heat or water sources.

Organize Your Bedroom

  • Put a lamp near your bed. Ensure that it is easy to activate the light. Touch lamps, clappers, or another remote system is ideal. You want to make it as easy as possible for you to see at night. That way you won’t step on the cat or stub your toe on the way to the bathroom.
  • Clear a path to the door. Don’t place any furniture between you and the door. You want to make sure you have an unobstructed path when you need to exit the room.
  • Sleep near the bathroom. If you have a large bed, sleep on the side closest to the bathroom.
  • Adjust your bed height if it is easy to do so. You want to make sure your legs are parallel to the floor when you sit on it. This will make it easier to get in and out of bed.
  • Replace your doorknob. If your door has a round door knob you may want to replace it with a lever-style knob. This will make it easier and quicker for you to move around your home, especially if you feel rushed to use the bathroom.
  • Organize the closet by tossing out any clothes or shoes you haven’t worn in the last year. This will make it much quicker and easier for you to find what you need. You may also want to look into purchasing a closet system that will help keep you organized.
  • Use nails to hang items in your closet, like a sock aid, shoe horn, or dressing stick.
  • Clean out items under the bed and don’t use that space for storage. It will be difficult for you to pull items in and out.
  • Clear out your nightstand. It’s important that you never have too many items on your nightstand that could fall over. You want enough room to place a glass of water and book.
  • Keep a phone by your bed. It’s a good idea to have a phone near your bed, preferably on your nightstand.
  • Use a wireless charging pad or a secure charging dock if you use a cell phone. You will want to check to see if the wireless charging pad or charging dock is compatible with your cell phone model. But if it is, this will make it easier to keep the phone charged.

Organize Your Bathroom

  • Use a water absorbent bath mat that stays in place. Most mats that are designed for the bathroom have a rubber underside so they won’t slip out from under you.
  • Use a non-slip bathtub mat for inside the tub to prevent you from slipping while you shower. You can also have a professional apply a non-slip coating to your bathtub.
  • Install grab bars and safety rails inside the shower to prevent falls.
  • Use a secure shower caddy to hold your soap and shampoo in place.
  • Throw away your shampoo bottles. A lot of people find it difficult to throw out bottles with a small amount of shampoo or conditioner in them. These bottles can take up precious shower space. Consider throwing them out or be better about using the whole bottle before opening a new one.
  • Use a pill box to organize your medication. Pill boxes will make it easy for you to remember to take your medicine.
  • Throw out any empty pill bottles that may take up space, but be sure to keep the dosage instructions in case you need to reference them. Make sure you properly discard any unused medication. Your pharmacy should be able to assist with that.
  • Keep towels near your shower so that they are easy to grab. Make sure you don’t use the towel rack for support. If you find yourself reaching for it, consider installing a grab bar.
  • Properly store electrical appliances like a curling iron or hair straightener. Keep them in a place where water won’t get on them. It’s safer to not have these in your bathroom at all. Make sure you have bathroom appliances with an automatic shut-off timer.

Keep Your Furniture Organized

  • Anchor heavy furniture like a dresser or a bookshelf to the wall. This will prevent it from falling.
  • Reorganize furniture. Do you often have to walk around a furniture to get through a room? It’s important to have a clear unobstructed path when moving around your home. Push the furniture against the wall or reorganize it so that it is not in the way.
  • Put furniture in storage if you’ve reorganized and you still don’t have plenty of room, consider putting valuable furniture item in storage
  • Donate furniture if organizing and storage isn’t an option, you can always donate your furniture.
  • Throw out furniture. It may be easier and safer to throw furniture away. Especially if you have an item that is old and worn.
  • Don’t store belongings too high on a bookshelf or a tall dresser. Anything relatively heavy should be stored between the height of your waist and chest.

Organize Your Hallways

  • Clear the hallway. The hallway should never be used for storage. Keep clutter and any other belongings off the floor. Any small furniture items like a cabinet should be removed. You want an easy and unobstructed path.
  • Keep stairs clear of debris. Don’t store anything here, whether it’s books, trinkets, or a pet toy. Keep the stairs clear and clean at all times.
  • Remove large hanging items like decorations, large picture frames, or other belongings that could make your path through the hallway more narrow. Also, make sure to not lean against any hanging items for support.

Fall Prevention Strategies Throughout the Home

Crooked floors, bad lighting, and clutter are a disaster waiting to happen. These fall hazards can be found in any room of your home and should be addressed right away. If you follow these simple actions you can greatly improve the safety in your home.

Improve Your Floor Safety

  • Remove area rugs.When rugs are not secured to the floor they can be a major safety hazard. A loose area rug is susceptible to slipping out from underneath you. It can also move and bunch up, causing you to trip when you walk across it. It’s best to discard rugs that you can’t securely fasten to the floor.
  • Secure carpeting. If you have any carpet that is frayed or has rolled up edges, find a way to secure them. You can use nails or double-sided tape. Your carpet should be flat, secure, and undamaged.
  • Secure cords. Appliances and other devices that need to be plugged in have cords that can cause you to trip and fall. Ensure that cords to permanently plugged in devices like a television or a lamp are secured along the edge of the wall. If you have to step over a cord, it’s a safety hazard. You will also want to avoid running a cord beneath a rug.
  • Fix uneven flooring. Old floorboards, broken tiles, and crooked stairs are fall hazards that should be addressed immediately. They may have been a known issue for a while that you have been putting off, but as time goes on the issue will get worse.
  • Use non-slip floor pads. Ensure that you have non-slip floor pads inside your home where you enter in from the outside. These pads can help you remain balanced when you walk into your home on a rainy day. It can be especially useful where your floor is tile or linoleum.

Improve Your Lighting

  • Replace light bulbs that aren’t working. Ensure that there are no empty sockets in the house.
  • Test your light switches. You want to make sure that your switches are working. If lights don’t go on when you flip a switch you may have to reset the circuit breaker or replace the light bulbs.
  • Use bulbs with high lumens. A well-illuminated room will help you see potential fall hazards. High lumens light bulbs emit more light, enabling you to see throughout your home.
  • Use LED or incandescent lighting over fluorescent lighting. LED and incandescent bulbs don’t take time to warm up and illuminate a room like a fluorescent bulb does.
  • Use night-lights throughout the house so you can see when it’s dark. It’s ideal to have them in your bedroom, bathroom and the hallway in between.
  • Use rocker light switches. They are wide and easier to activate that traditional light switches.
  • Use illuminated light switches. You can install illuminated rocker light switches that are not only easy to turn on or off, but they are easier to see.
  • Place a lamp near your bed so that you can illuminate your bedroom before you get out of bed.
  • Use a touch lamp near your bed. These lamps are activated simply by touching them. These are much easier to use than traditional lamp switches.
  • Use remote-controlled lighting. It is much safer for you to activate the light in your home from the safety of your couch or bed.
  • Use timed lighting to turn your lights on in the morning and off at night. You can set it to activate at the same time every day.
  • Open shades and curtains to let in the daytime light. You can use remote controlled curtains to open them up.
  • Use light colored curtains and shades that block less sunlight from coming into your home.
  • Keep flashlights handy in case of a power outage. Store them in various places in your home that are easy to reach.
  • Use wireless motion-sensor lights to light up areas outside of your home, like the driveway and walkway.
  • Ask for help when changing hard to reach light bulbs. Don’t hesitate to get assistance when it comes to improving your lighting.

Remove the Clutter and Downsize

  • Downsize your clothing and shoes at least once a year. If you haven’t worn it in over a year or it no longer fits, you can get rid of the unused items to make more room.
  • Document items you cherish. If you need to get rid of an item that you have difficulty parting with, you can take photos of the items and put them in a scrapbook for you to remember.
  • Put items in storage. There might be some items that have a lot of meaning and value. Maybe you want to put it in safekeeping for your children or grandchildren. Consider putting these items in a safe storage location.
  • Donate unused items. Your garage or storage shed can be full of unused items like sporting equipment, an old bicycle, a kayak and other miscellaneous gear. Clearing out these areas of your home can make it safer to walk around in and easier to find things.
  • Clear counter space. Remove small items that are seldom used from counters and windowsills. Try to minimize the number of ornaments and decorations throughout your home.
  • Clear junk drawers. Many people have drawers or cabinets in the home where we store miscellaneous items like batteries, mail, chargers, etc… It’s a good item to clean out some of these drawers to increase your storage space for items that are more important.
  • Get rid of duplicate items. Do you have more than one of the same item? Like two toasters, two coat racks or several fruit baskets? Consider getting rid of these duplicate items.
  • Hire help to manage your yard: This will enable you to get rid of lawn care tools like a mower and hedge trimmer, which can take up a lot of space and can be difficult for seniors to use. Consider hiring someone who has their own equipment to maintain your yard.
  • Downsize your possessionsDecluttering your home can make your life very manageable. You may know right away which items to get rid of, but what about items you’re not so sure about? Let’s break down some common items you may be struggling with:
    • Books – Are you going to read them again? If not can you donate them?
    • DVDs and movies – Do you have a pile of movies you haven’t watched in ages? Try donating them.
    • Newspapers and magazines – Have you read them already? Are they taking up much-needed space in your home? Consider throwing them away.
    • Furniture – Is there a couch or a nightstand that you never use? If it’s in good condition you might want to sell or donate it.
  • Hire a professional organizer. A professional organizer can coach you through the organizational process. It’s their job to point out the non-essential items in your home that are taking up space.

Risk Factors for Falls 

With age comes risks. As you already know, the older we get, the more likely we are to fall and the more dangerous a fall becomes. Another vital step you can take in your fall prevention strategy is to understand the risk factors for falling.

Be aware of your physical risk factors

There are a host of physical changes associated with aging. Some, like wrinkles and muscle loss, are natural effects of growing older. Other changes are the health problems that arise with age. These can greatly increase your risk of falling, like osteoporosis, arthritis, a prior injury, or a recent surgery. These factors can cause you pain and weakness. Other conditions like a stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or dementia can alter cognitive function and cause you to lose coordination. 

Seniors are also more susceptible to memory loss, which is associated with confusion and problem-solving difficulty. This can affect your ability to judge risky situations, take precautions, and recognize hazards. Circulatory diseases like hypotension, heart disease, and cardiac arrhythmia can create imbalances in blood pressurecausing dizziness. Be aware that some medications can be a risk factor too. Prescribed opioids, sleeping pills, sedatives, antidepressants, or antipsychotics can make you very tired or fatigued. Also be mindful of conditions that affect your perception and spatial awareness like a loss of hearing or sight.­­ It’s best to check with your doctor to address these risks.

What are your behavioral risk factors?

Behavioral risk factors are personal characteristics or habits that can contribute to a fall. These factors can be difficult to identify in oneself. For example, some seniors are hesitant to ask for help with challenging activities like using a ladder, lifting heavy objects, or shoveling snow. Others may be reluctant to use mobility devices like a cane or walker. Sometimes a health condition, medication, or a prior fall can make you too tired or fearful to stay mobile. This leads to inactivity which, over time, will cause you to lose strength and bone density. Seniors do tend to lose height due to bone loss with age. This can make your clothes loose or ill-fitting. Your pants may drag on the floor and added fabric on your sweater might snag on something in your home. Also, take note of your footwear. Shoes that don’t fit properly or ones with slippery soles are not safe options. Drinking too muchalcohol is another factor that can cause you to lose balance. Alcohol could also affect your sleep, memory, and blood pressure, all contributing factors that might make you fall.

Daily Activities That Can Preserve Balance and Mobility

Preserving your balance and mobility are great preventative measures in fall prevention. You’ll want to monitor your health and take steps to preserve it so you can live a long and healthy life. Here are the most important ways to be mindful of your well-being:

Improve your strength & balance. Look for low-impact exercises that are designed to increase your strength, maintain muscle and improve balance. Staying in shape even has the added benefit of lowering blood pressure and improving mental health. Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor to ensure that your workout routine is safe. But if you get a green light, here are some ideal workouts for seniors.

Check your medications. There are many drugs that can actually increase your risk of falling. You want to avoid medications that have drastic side effects, negative interactions, and that make you fatigued.

  • Know the side effects: If you find that a new prescription is causing you to have adverse side effects that increase your risk of falling, let your doctor know, there may be alternative medications that are safer.
  • Be wary of interactions: If you are taking multiple medications, you may want to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure that you are taking them properly and that they won’t interact negatively.
  • Some cause fatigue: Some medications that affect brain function can make you feel drowsy or confused. If you can, try to take these medications before you go to bed instead of in the morning

Maintain your vision and hearing. Your sight and hearing are extremely important to ensuring you stay on your feet.

  • Get regular check-ups: Make sure you are seeing your eye doctor regularly.
  • Update your glasses: Update to new prescription glasses if needed and make sure to purchase a few extra pairs in case you lose them.
  • Use hearing aids: If you are having trouble hearing, ask your doctor about hearing aids. These can greatly improve your safety and quality of life.

Take supplements and vitamins. A healthy combination of supplements and vitamins can help keep your body in shape. Supplements like glucosamine and chondroitin can improve joint health and help you stay flexible. Vitamin D and calcium are recommended to improve bone health and omega-3 fatty acids have numerous heart and cardiovascular benefits.

Get physical or occupational therapy. In many cases, it is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, or your insurance provider. Ask your doctor if you qualify. Physical therapy can relieve pain and improve conditions for seniors suffering from chronic health conditions or a recent injury. Occupational therapists work one-on-one with seniors to find out what they need to avoid a fall. They also offer the following:

  • Safe-landing classes are designed to teach seniors how to land safely in case of a fall. These strategies have been proven to reduce injuries.
  • After-a-fall programs are designed to teach seniors how to safely get up after they have fallen down.
  • Vehicle safety: an occupational therapist can teach and recommend ways for seniors to safely get in and out of their specific vehicle.
  • Bed safety: an occupational therapist can teach and recommend ways for seniors to safely get in and out of their bed. They can even prescribe bed rails or suggest modifications to your bed.
  • Home assessment: an occupational therapist can assess your home and determine what you need to do to make it senior-safe. It’s best to find an occupational therapist that specializes in senior care.

Medical mobility equipment can help you stand, walk, and move around your home. If you find yourself leaning on furniture or reaching for the wall when you walk around your home, it may be time to start using a mobility device.

  • cane or walking-stick is the most basic tool to help facilitate walking.
  • walker is great for seniors who need more support than a cane. Walkers can help you stay balanced and stable.
  • Mobility scooters are an option if you need mobile assistance outside the home. These motorized devices are battery powered and can help you get around faster and safer.

Install household helpers. If you are having difficulty getting up from the lying or sitting position, you might want to consider these options:

Enlist help. Let others handle routine tasks or use their expertise to help you.

  • Running errands: Whether it’s walking your dog or getting groceries, don’t hesitate to ask someone for help with errands. This is especially important during inclement weather or during the nighttime when it’s more difficult to see.
  • Get pet training: If you have a pet it’s a good idea to send them to obedience school. Let the trainer know your needs. Make sure your pet is trained to not run underfoot.
  • Use delivery services: Look into pharmacies that can deliver or mail your medication to your home. Many grocery store chain can deliver goods to your doorstep. Check with your local market to see if they offer this service. The less you are getting in and out of your vehicle to run errands the less likely you will fall in the process.

Small changes can make a big difference

Seniors who take fall prevention seriously can prolong their independence and quality of life for many years. Organizing your home is one of those necessary steps. Although it isn’t going to be an overnight fix, you can get started right away. Begin by cleaning clutter one drawer at a time. Try to make purging and downsizing an ongoing activity. You’d be surprised at how much additional room you have and how neat your home can look.

You should also consider incorporating other habits into your life like stretching and exercising for just a few minutes a day. Try to eat a well-balanced diet and make sure you’re taking your medications as prescribed. The principles of fall prevention should be a welcome addition to your existing lifestyle. If you’ve previously fallen, make sure you take the time to fully recover before you take on any major tasks. One of the biggest predictors of a future fall is a past fall. Lastly, don’t hesitate to ask for help. Downsizing can be a large project, depending on the size of your home. Find relatives that are happy and willing to help. You’ll find yourself relieved at the progress you’ve made. An organized lifestyle will greatly reduce your risk of falling and can provide you with independence and happiness for years to come.

Source: Your Storage Finder

Being a Healthy Caregiver

Caregiver

As a caregiver, you may find yourself with so many responsibilities that you neglect taking good care of yourself. But the best thing you can do for the person you are caring for is stay physically and emotionally strong. Here’s how:

See the doctor

Be sure to visit your physician regularly (at least annually), and listen to what your body is telling you. Any exhaustion, stress, sleeplessness, or changes in appetite or behavior should be taken seriously. Ignoring these symptoms can cause your physical and mental health to decline.

If you are caring for someone in the late-stages of Alzheimer’s, talk to your health care provider about the seasonal flu shot. Being vaccinated protects both you and the person you are caring for.

Get moving

No doubt you know that exercise is an important part of staying healthy — it can help relieve stress, prevent disease and make you feel good. But finding the time to exercise is another story.

Use these tips:

  • Take friends and family members up on their offers to help.
    You can get in a good workout in a short amount of time — even a 30 minute break. Use our Care Team Calendar to help coordinate a schedule where you have breaks to exercise and take care of your health.
  • Start small.
    While it is recommended that you get 30 minutes of physical activity at least five days a week, even 10 minutes a day can help. Fit in what you can, and work toward a goal.
  • Exercise at home.
    When the person with dementia naps, pull out a yoga mat and stretch, set up a stationary bike, or try exercise tapes.
  • Find something you love.
    If you enjoy the activity, it will be easier to make it a habit.

There also are many ways you can be active with the person with dementia. Here are a few ideas:

  • Take a walk together outside to enjoy the fresh air
  • Go to the mall and take a stroll indoors
  • Do seated exercises at home
  • Dance together to favorite music
  • Garden or do other routine activities that you both enjoy

Eat well

Heart-healthy eating patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet, are good for overall health and may help protect the brain. A Mediterranean diet includes relatively little red meat and emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, nuts, olive oil and other healthy fats. Try new recipes and involve the person with dementia.

Need ideas on how to go healthy?
Try these resources:

Five tips to help you cope

  • Manage your level of stress.
    Consider how stress affects your body (stomach aches, high blood pressure) — and your emotions (overeating, irritability). Find ways to relax.
  • Be realistic.
    The care you give does make a difference, but many behaviors can’t be controlled. Grieve the losses, focus on positive times as they arise, and enjoy good memories.
  • Give yourself credit, not guilt.
    It’s normal to lose patience or feel like your care may fall short sometimes. You’re doing the best you can. For support and encouragement, join ALZConnected, our online caregiver community.
  • Take a break.
    It’s normal to need a break from caregiving duties. No one can do it all by themselves. Look into respite care to allow time to take care of yourself.
  • Accept changes.
    Eventually your loved one will need more intensive kinds of care. Research care options now so you are ready for the changes as they occur.

 

Source: Alz.org