Care & Share

Welcome to our Care & Share blog! This blog features care advice for caregivers, family members, and friends of those with dementia. We also have information on caring for caregivers. If there’s a topic you would like to see addressed, please let us know! You can give us a call at 901.854.1200 or email our Program Director, Sheri Wammack at sheri@pagerobbins.org.

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  • April 15, 2020

    The Surprising Benefits of Exercise

    In these uncertain times when we are all confined to our homes, we try to fill our days with engaging activities that will pass the time and minimize stress, anxiety, and worry.  Although board and word games are a great way to pass the time, we must not forget good ol exercise!  Daily physical activity is important for strengthening our bodies and minds.  Studies show that exercise plays a central role in our overall physical and mental health.

    Did you know?

    • Exercise reduces the risk of heart-related illnesses, such as heart disease and high blood pressure.
    • Exercise increases strength, which in turn promotes safe mobility and decreases the risk for falls.
    • Exercise promotes healthy bones and joints.
    • Exercise decreases the symptoms of anxiety and depression.  It fosters a better mood and sense of wellbeing.
    • Exercise reduces joint swelling and pain associated with arthritis.
    • Exercise increases bowl motility and decreases instances of constipation.

    Exercise does NOT have to be weightlifting 50 pounds or a 100 yard dash.  For seniors and/or those with many health concerns and limitations, exercise may include activities like walking to the mailbox, walking around the block, or simple chair yoga.  Remember to consult your doctor before beginning a new physical activity program.

    Even the most simple activities can increase movement and encourage positive engagement between you and your loved one.  Also, exercise can be fun!  We all need some fun in the midst of a crazy, changing world.

    Where should you start?  We suggest pushing away any tripping hazards and putting on a favorite song. (We suggest “These Boots Were Made for Walking.” It’s been stuck in my head the whole time I’ve been writing this post!) Then, dance like nobody’s watching.  Seriously… we’re in quarantine, so nobody is watching.  It’s dancing time! So please, make time to put on those boots and get to walking, dancing, and moving.

    April 2, 2020

    Respectful Communication

    It’s so important to be intentional and kind when we communicate with individuals with dementia.  There are many things that we can do to improve our communication, such as set a positive tone, be clear, and keep sentences short.  You can learn more communication tips from our previous blog post here.

    Another very important aspect of good communication is RESPECT.  At times, caregivers can use what is called “elderspeak,” or baby talk.  Elderspeak is communication that is significantly slowed and simplified, spoken in a sing-song voice, and/or includes endearing terms (miss, little lady, honey, etc.).  Elderspeak can also include unnecessarily using the pronouns “we” and “us” in place of “you.”  For example: “How are we doing today?”

    Elderspeak is often unintentional.  A care provider is genuinely trying to be supportive, but their communication comes across as patronizing.  This is why it’s so very important to be intentional about how you communicate with your loved one with memory loss.

    Reasons to Avoid Elderspeak

    • It can be confusing.
    • It can be embarrassing for your loved one.
    • It can lead to agitation, upset feelings, or episodes of lashing out.
    • It can be damaging to your loved one’s mental health and wellbeing.  It can lead to decreased self-esteem, depression, and withdrawal.
    • It assumes your loved one is childlike, weak, and/or incompetent.
    • It assumes that the speaker has more power and knowledge than the listener.

    4 Simple Tips for Avoiding Elderspeak

    • Remember that your loved one is an adult and deserves respect. 
    • Put yourself in your loved one’s shoes.  Before you say anything, ask yourself: How would I want to be spoken to.
    • Be Aware.  We all do better when we pay special attention to the words we are using and our tone of voice.  It’s okay to slip up and say the wrong thing, but we can learn from those mistakes and do better in our next communication.
    • Choose your words carefully – especially when talking about everyday items!

    Some examples:

    • Disposable brief vs. diaper
    • Toilet vs. potty
    • Bedside toilet vs. potty chair
    • Butt or rear vs. hiney
    • Cup with a lid vs. sippy cup

    Adults with dementia and seniors are adults and deserve to be treated with respect.  Let’s do everything in our power to make sure they get the respect they need!

    February 28, 2020

    Prioritizing Foot Care

    Feet are usually the last thing on our minds when we think of health and wellness.  They are “the low item on the totem pole.”  Our feet are almost always covered and serve their purpose with little fuss.  We may take extra care when sandal weather arrives, but otherwise, they aren’t a priority in the daily routine.  And this is unfortunate!

    Foot care is vital to overall health and wellness and should be a priority – especially for seniors.

    Over time, feet flatten and become wider.  The fatty padding naturally wears down and leaves bones and joints more exposed to wear and tear.  This can make individuals more vulnerable to falls.  For the elderly, falls may lead to complications because their bodies are not as equipped to withstand trauma.  They can’t heal as rapidly.  Even simple foot injuries like blisters, corns, ingrown toenails, and calluses can impair mobility, balance, and overall function in older adults.  

    Here are a few tips for optimal foot care for your loved one. 

    1. Keep feet clean.  Sounds overly simple, but it’s important!  Wash daily with soap and water.  Dry between the toes.
    2. Keep feet moisturized.  A good lotion helps to prevent cracks and breaks in the skin.
    3. Trim nails.  Overgrown and ingrown toenails are painful, and foot pain increases the risk for a fall tremendously. 
    4. Those with diabetes need to take extra care.  Diabetics should trim nails straight across and avoid cutting into the corners.  Diabetics can have decreased sensation in their feet, making it more difficult to feel pain.  You might opt to visit a podiatrist periodically to avoid cutting nails too short.  Nails that are cut too short can lead to infection and then potentially loss of limb if not caught early enough.  Check feet daily for blisters, cuts, scratches, and sores.
    5. Ensure footwear properly fits.  Ill-fitting shoes, whether too small or too large, may cause problems for your loved one.  Shoes that are too small can cause blisters and cut off circulation.  Shoes that are too large make movement difficult and increase the risk of falls.  A rule of thumb when buying shoes: there should ½ inch between your big toe and the end of the shoe, and the shoe should be just as wide as your feet.
    6. Protect your feet.  Bare feet may be comfy, but we encourage wearing socks and shoes as much as possible, especially while walking outside.  Wear shoes that protect your feet from cold and wet weather conditions.  Ensure socks are made of natural fibers like cotton or wool.
    7. Check circulation.  As we age, circulation decreases – especially if we have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, heart conditions, or other health concerns.  Encourage your loved one to elevate his/her feet whenever possible to encourage return circulation to the heart.  Monitor color and temperature of feet.  This will give you helpful clues on the condition of circulation.  Also, foot massages help with circulation.  (This is a good opportunity to check their feet in a natural, non-threatening way.)

    February 7, 2020

    Backup Plans

    Life is rocking along (not easily because you’re a caregiver, and caregiving isn’t easy).  But you are caring for your mom, and she is enrolled in an adult day program and enjoying it.  Or you are caring for your spouse, and you have in-home care to help several days a week.  Or your dad is living with you, and he is in the early stages of his disease, so he is fine to be left home alone.

    Whatever the case, your current situation is working.

    Until…

    • You, the caregiver, get pneumonia and are hospitalized.
    • Your sister, who helps you care for your parent, is in a serious car wreck and is hospitalized.
    • Your adult child is diagnosed with a major illness, and you have to care for him/her too.
    • Your mom stops sleeping at night, and no one in the house can get rest.
    • Your loved one becomes incontinent, and you can’t manage his care at home anymore.

    What’s your plan?

    What if your current situation doesn’t work tomorrow?  We don’t want to think that something tragic might happen in our family or that our loved one might suddenly decline, but these things happen all too often.

    As a caregiver, it is a good idea to have a backup plan that you can implement quickly.  If a backup plan is not in place, you may find yourself without options in a crisis.  And it’s difficult to make quick decisions when you’re under emotional strain.

    Make a backup plan that works for your family and your situation, and don’t delay.  Here are some examples:

    Family and/or Friends

    Who would come over at the drop of a hat to care for your loved one if necessary?  These are people who could come to your home and stay with your loved one for a few hours or days (or who would let your loved one stay at their house).  Maybe it’s a family member, neighbor, friend, or fellow church member.  Get a list together, and let those people know that they are your backup.

    In-Home Care

    Set up services with an in-home care agency.  Interview agencies, pick the one you like, sign a contract, and have them ready to start services when/if needed.  You could start off with having an agency caregiver provide services once or twice a week to get your loved one used to the idea.  Or you could just have a contract in place when/if the services are ever needed.

    Residential Memory Care

    This level of care is a facility with a secure unit, where your loved one can move in.  These facilities are staffed with direct care staff, nurses, and often social workers, who assist and monitor your loved one.  Your loved one will receive bathing/hygiene services, meals, activities, housekeeping, etc.  There are many facilities that provide this level of service.  You could tour facilities now, narrow down to the one you like, and put down a deposit.  Putting down a deposit does not mean you have to move your loved one in soon.  It means you are interested.  If you get offered an available space but don’t need it yet, you can say, “We aren’t ready right now, but keep us on the list.”

    You may never use your backup plan, but it is good to have one just in case.  Your future self will thank you.  If you would like to talk more about backup plans and get some feedback and advice for your particular situation, give us a call at 901-854-1200 and/or make an appointment to come by and see us.

    December 27, 2019

    Communicating with Your Doctor

    As dementia progresses, your loved one’s physician will be an invaluable resource for you. You need to be able to ask questions and effectively communicate your concerns. These are our tips to make the most out communication with your loved one’s doctor:

    Have a physician that you trust.

    This is SO IMPORTANT! Because your loved one has a complex health concern, you need a doctor who won’t rush you, who will listen, and who will act upon concerns when appropriate. If you don’t feel like you can trust your loved one’s doctor or if you feel like the doctor doesn’t have your loved one’s best interest at heart, go to a new doctor.

    As much as possible, avoid discussing issues in front of your loved one.

    If possible, communication with the physician should not be conducted in front of your loved one.  No one likes to be talked about, and it can be embarrassing to have your issues discussed like you’re not there.  Be sensitive to this.

    Work with the physician’s office on how to communicate concerns.

    The doctor may prefer you send a message on the patient portal, call, or hand in a note when you arrive.  Ask the nurse if their office has a preferred method of communication.

    Be honest with the doctor.

    Now is not the time to protect your loved one’s reputation.  Be honest with the physician about what is going on.  If your love done is drinking alcohol, don’t hide it.  Alcohol could affect many medications and your doctor needs to know.  If a new issue has come up, don’t downplay it in the hopes it will resolve itself.

    Be descriptive but concise.

    It is one thing to say, “My husband is aggressive.”  It is another thing to say, “My husband verbally threatens me;” or “He throws things and shoves me.”  Aggressive does not paint a clear picture.  Be specific without being long-winded.

    Ask questions.

    If you don’t understand the need for a medication, ask.  If you don’t understand what test results mean, ask for clarification.  If you don’t understand a diagnosis, ask for more information.

    Report significant changes.

    Examples could be a sudden increase in libido, changes in appetite, increased gambling, etc.

    Keep a list of questions and concerns.

    Jot them down in a notebook or on your phone.  You may forget your questions in the moment, so it’s always good to have a reminder.  Your family might find it helpful to use a calendar to jot down things you notice – especially if multiple family members care for your loved one.  Then, you can all compare notes.  You might find that other family members notice similar or different behavior changes to what you observe.

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